Fall on Rock, Colorado, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Scenic Journey

Publication Year: 2007.


Colorado, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Scenic Journey

On May 17, Craig Smith (21) was leading the eighth pitch of the 13-pitch climb Scenic Journey (5.10+), when he wedged his hand into a crack in the rock face to gain a hold. The move was awkward and he couldn’t make it stick. He fell both the ten feet to his protective anchor and the ten feet below it. His rope caught him, but his right foot slammed into the wall with a bone-splintering crunch. Over the next seven hours, the men managed to rappel 1,000 feet.

They reached the canyon floor by 9:00 p.m. and for the next nine hours, Smith crawled up to the canyon rim, wearing his rain gear so he wouldn’t get poison ivy. They were both quite dehydrated by the time they were half way up because with no water purifier, they decided not to drink water from the nearby Gunnison River. They were fortunate to find a cave with water dripping over the lip. They were able to drink and fill water bottles.

They got to the rim and campground just about sunrise. Smith noticed park Service sign that said, “Caution, very dangerous. Technical climbers only.” (Source: Edited from a story by John Aguilar, Rocky Mountain News)


It should be noted that they didn’t get started until 4:00 p.m. on the 16th because they were trying to find the start of the route. They did four pitches then bivouacked, starting in again the next day.

These climbers are to be commended for successfully rescuing themselves in a remote and difficult place. (Source: Anonymous local climbers)