FALL ON ROCK-OFF ROUTE, DARKNESS
Colorado, Eldorado Canyon, Anthill Direct
On October 21, Angus McInnes (39) and his companion, a young Russian man (17) who had emigrated with his family to the U.S. four months earlier, were climbing Anthill Direct (5.9) when apparently they got off route.
McInnes was experienced, but he had not climbed the route previously. As daylight faded with the crux still ahead, McInnes started looking for a descent route. Instead of rappelling from their current anchor point, he decided to work left, perhaps in hope of gaining access to the easier route Red Guard in order to complete the climb.
The second lost sight of McInnes, who soon yelled, “Watch me.” Shortly after, the second felt the leader pull lots of slack. Moments passed and then the rope came taut. The second radioed and yelled to McInnes but got no reply. The second did not know how to tie off the taut rope, so he began lowering the leader. After feeding several feet of rope, he felt his partner come to a stop. The second then removed the rope from his belay device, tied the rope off, and yelled for help.
Bystanders reported hearing cries for help from climbers 350 feet above the ground. RMRG was in the middle of another climbing rescue on the Flatirons to the north, but responded along with several other agencies. The second spoke limited English, which combined with darkness, slowed the rescue. Only when rescuers arrived at the position of the second did they find out about the predicament of the leader. Another rescuer rappelled 50 feet west and found the leader who was deceased. He was several feet down a gully with a hex from his gear sling caught in a crack. The gear sling was around his neck and positioned in a way that restricted his breathing. There was also a laceration under his helmet on the left side, but the coroner determined the cause of death was asphyxiation.
RMRG assisted the second off the cliff and evacuated the body of the leader that night, finishing at 0330 hours. It took a total of eight hours and required 45 rescuers from RMRG and several other agencies.
The victims were climbing very late in the day and may have felt pressed by the rapidly fading light. By climbing off route, the lead climber entered unknown ground which quickly became very difficult. Sometimes it is better to continue with the plan you started with, or a safer bet may be to rappel. The lead climber was probably unconscious after his fall, thus could not respond to the second’s attempt at communicating. Unable to communicate and with rapidly approaching darkness, the inexperienced second decided to lower McInnes. (Source: From a report by the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group)
(Editor’s Note: Two other fatalities and one serious injury were a result of separate incidents at Boulder Canyon in October. This popular area is attracting scramblers. They see climbers and want to give it a try themselves.
There was a fatality on Snowmass Peak—14,092 ’—in June. The victim, Mark Golden, 32, was probably trying to find a “shortcut” on the way down. He fell about 2,000feet. This is normally a mountain one climbs by hiking on trails, as the rock is not good for climbing.)