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Fall on Rock, Miscommunication, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Lumpy Ridge, Whiteman

FALL ON ROCK, MISCOMMUNICATION

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Lumpy Ridge, Whiteman

On March 20, there was a very nasty accident up at Lumpy Ridge that happened to a very experienced climber (in his 30’s). He fell about 110 feet from the top anchor of the first pitch of Whiteman (11c, Guillotine Wall at Lumpy) due to apparent miscommunication between himself and his belayer on the ground.

He led the first pitch (Whiteman, 11c) successfully and arrived at the anchor (fixed slings, etc.). He thought he was going to be lowered. Meanwhile, the belayer was still on the ground and NOT tied in. He thought the leader was going to bring him up. So when the leader got to the anchors, he took him off belay. The leader leaned back ... and fell in a horizontal position. Upon nearing the ground, his upper body struck a tree, which rotated him into a vertical (feet first) position, which probably saved his life.

He suffered multiple broken bones and internals, but his skull and spine are intact. He’s going to be ok in time. What a miracle.

Analysis

It’s another one of these cases we’ve been hearing about lately—someone getting grievously hurt for lack of proper communication or attention to ordinary details.

During the examination of the scene, two camming (SLCD) devices placed on a “zig-zag” section of the pitch were found to have signs of been put under force/tension (inverted and “locked” in place). The friction of the rope running through this “zig-zag” may have helped to slow the acceleration of his fall. He may have also fallen through or hit the branches of a tree which is immediate to the base of the rock where he landed.

His partner does not usually carry a cell phone when climbing, and says that the phone was taken on this day as an after thought. During interviews with both climbers, they retrospectively acknowledged their mutual lack of maintaining clear communication and/or discussing choice of tactics to use. (Sources: William Alexander—Park Ranger, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Leo Paik)