American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection, Colorado, Eldorado Canyon, Bestowal Crack

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE PROTECTION

Colorado, Eldorado Canyon, Bestowal Crack

My son Chris (17), our friend Eric (17), and I traveled to Eldorado Canyon for guided climbing July 5th. After completing Bestowal Crack, we were in the process of walking off the backside and down the talus slope adjacent to the west face of the Bestowal, when, at 0930, we witnessed and were first responders to a 25-foot ground-fall, resulting in injuries and subsequent evacuation by ambulance.

As I recall, our guide Duncan Burke and I, had descended about half way down the talus slope with the boys following about 30 feet behind us. I think we were midway between the “Out To Lunge,” and “Hair City” routes, as we passed a climber and belayer on the west face of the Bestowal. A quick glance at them left me thinking, “How asinine is that,” because [there he was] 25 feet up, either setting a piece of pro or clipping into a piece, with one piece clipped about ten feet below him and an arc in the rope nearly reaching the ground, then going to the belayer standing on top of a five-foot boulder ten to 15 feet from the face being climbed.

As I looked back down to pick my footing I remember a flash of movement on the edge of my peripheral vision snapped me back to see the fallen climber on the bounce or just as he hit. He appeared nearly horizontal and about two feet off the ground at that instant.

We scrambled over to find him dazed, lying on his back on a hump of ground and rock. The rope ran loosely from him up to the first piece of pro about 15 feet up, and then down, still in a pronounced arc, to the belayer on the boulder above where he landed. The belayer stood looking down and fairly calmly said, “Bummer, man,” but seemed pretty dazed by what he had witnessed and apparently was unable to render assistance at that time.

The boys ran down to the ranger hut at the entrance to the park to summon help. Duncan and I remained with the climber to prevent him from moving and packed our ropes under either side of his torso to take some of the weight off his back, which was lying directly on a ridge of rock.

After about 15 to 20 minutes, a ranger or park employee arrived, said he had EMT training, called in a request on his radio for an ambulance, and began assessment of the climber. By this time both ankles had swollen considerably, but on removal of his shoes, he could move all his toes.

As more assistance arrived, we left to continue our climbing. It appeared to taken a considerable length of time before the climber was finally loaded into an ambulance; my guess is around two-and-a-half hours, in spite of his being approximately 100 to 150 feet from the road, and as I remember, there was some sort of dispute over jurisdiction between different ambulances that arrived. (Source: Randy Roberts—50)

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