FALLING ROCKS AND OBJECTS, INADEQUATE COMMUNICATION
Colorado, Eldorado Canyon, Bestowal Crack
I was on Werk Supp at the belay after the first pitch when a party on Bestowal Crack decided to set belay anchors in the Choss Gully (5.5-5.6 rated last pitch of Bestowal Crack). They managed to rain down a bucketful of pebbles and a brand new (with price tag and unslung!!!) Friend without calling, “Rock.” Unable to contact the party in trouble and with no communication attempt being made by them, my partner and I decided to retreat from the climb by rappelling down to the top of “March of Dimes” pitch below us. We decided to do this because of the increasing amounts of debris striking us and bouncing on the rock around us. After my partner Vince (a very experienced climber from Switzerland) had made the rappel, I watched in horror as a 3’x4’x6' block slid down the gully (the second pitch of Werk Supp) and collected everything out of the gully—marked “slot” in Rossiter’s “Rock Climbing Eldorado Canyon.” At the end of the gully where the second pitch of Werk Supp starts, everything became airborne as it then fell to the roadway below, clearing my partner at the anchors below by a few feet. The main block broke in two pieces mostly going over the road with a piece striking (but not severely injuring) a father of a family of five walking along the road. Had a vehicle been on the roadway, it would have surely been destroyed.
The party causing the incident—a man and woman—then rappelled the entire route, throwing rope on two parties below as they descended without calling.
The proximity of the roadway to the Bestowal provides ample opportunity for observers and waiting parties to be injured by falling gear and/or rock.
The party in distress failed to communicate their situation to any other party. Assistance could have been easily gained from my party or another party as there were over ten parties on the various routes of the Bestowal that day Pride is probably at fault here with the gentleman failing to call for assistance in the presence of his female partner.
I hate speculation, but the best account I have from a local climbing shop (Neptune’s in Boulder) faults several anchors all placed behind the large, already loose block. When the anchor(s) failed under weight of the man, he fell and was only arrested by the woman tackling him on the ramp between P3 and P4 with no anchors remaining on their rope. Still roped together, she would have saved both of their lives.
Unfamiliarity with the route and a lack of understanding of the forces generated outward by a loaded cam are probable the core issues. All were multiplied by the other issues previously mentioned.
I was wearing a helmet that day and always do now for my own safety and to make others around me feel comfortable wearing their helmets. I can only thank the Lord that we did not continue along the route, as we certainly would have been killed by the block that washed the gully. I no longer climb below or nearly below any other parties. (Source: Ray Bloch)