American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
Black Diamond Logo

Rappel Error—Anchor Failed, Colorado, Boulder Canyon, Boulderado

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2007


Colorado, Boulder Canyon, Boulderado

On June 3 at 1635, the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office was advised of a fallen climber in Boulder Canyon. Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Pride- mark Ambulance, Nederland Fire Department, Sugarloaf Fire Department, Boulder County Victim Advocates, the United States Forest Service, and Sheriff’s Deputies responded.

At the scene, a man (29) was found on a ledge near the base of a climbing area called the Boulderado. Witnesses said that the climber (29) was setting up a “top-rope” and was seen beginning to rappel from the top of the climb. After he lowered himself about ten feet, the rope anchor failed and he fell about 70-100 feet. During the fall, his rope became tangled in a small tree growing out of the rock face. This stopped his fall about five feet above the ledge. Witnesses cut the rope in order to allow them to lower him to the ground.

From the ledge, the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group conducted a vertical evacuation of about 50 feet to the road. The victim was then transported to a waiting Flight for Life helicopter and was flown to St. Anthony’s Central Hospital with serious injuries.


The exact mechanism of the rope anchor failure is unknown, however, a rock, weighing an estimated 250 pounds, was found at the top of the climb that had been very recently dislodged. The rock was resting precariously near the edge of the rock face above the climbing area and vehicle traffic below. After the rescue operation was complete and all people and vehicles moved out of the area, the rock was pushed over the edge to eliminate it as a future safety concern. (Source: Edited from a report from the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office)

(Editor's Note: This year there were several incidents involving this kind of anchor problem or lowering problem in Eldorado and Boulder Canyon. A few of the typical ones have been reported here. There was also a fatality at Garden of the Gods,but no pertinent details were available.)

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.