American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded, Darkness, Inadequate Equipment — No Headlamp, Inadequate Clothing, Exceeding Abilities, Colorado, Eldorado Canyon State Park, Yellow Spur

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2009

STRANDED, DARKNESS, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT - NO HEADLAMP, INADEQUATE CLOTHING, EXCEEDING ABILITIES

Colorado, Eldorado Canyon State Park, Yellow Spur

Around 2:00 p.m. on the afternoon of March 9, I (Nandu Thibeault, 23) and my partner (19) started on Yellow Spur, a seven-pitch, 5.9-rock climb on Redgarden Wall. This was the second multi-pitch traditional climb I’ve done, so my rope management and racking skills were inefficient. My partner has only been climbing outdoors a few times, so I was leading every pitch. It wasn’t until the third pitch that I realized I had forgotten my headlamp.

As I set up the belay on the summit I watched the sun go down, then watched as night slowly crept in as I literally pulled my partner up the crux pitch. I would have set up the belay before the 5.6 arete, but we had only one cordalette so I had to sling my rope around the peak. When my partner finally arrived, I coiled the rope and I had him read the descent information from the Mountain Project printout we had brought with us. We only had about 15 more minutes before it was too dark to read, and I did my best to memorize all of the descent information.

We began to rap in the dark and I had no clue where to go. There were trees and fins of rock, notches, and gullies everywhere; I couldn’t remember what the printout said. I checked all the trees for slings or rope burn. I scrambled and checked all the rocks for anchors.

We down-climbed a gulley for about 150 yards only to meet a vertical drop. After this recon, I realized that we would be spending the night in our T-shirts. We climbed back up the gulley and made a bed out of pine branches on a small low angle pad of rock. The wind forced us to relocate throughout the night, and we tried a number of techniques to stay warm. It was a pretty miserable experience, but as soon as we found the anchors the next morning I was thankful for the lessons learned and ready to attack another multi-itch climb!

Analysis

Nadu admitted that Yellow Spur was his second traditional climb and that his partner had limited multi-pitch experience. Given these admissions, it may have been more prudent to choose a less demanding and committing rock climb, especially given the time of day. A small fanny or daypack with headlamp, extra layers, hat, energy bars, and water may have prevented a night out or made the night out more comfortable. (Source: Edited from an email by Nadu Thibeault)

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