American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded — Unable to Free Rappel Rope, Weather, Hypothermia, Wyoming Devil's Tower

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2009

STRANDED - UNABLE TO FREE RAPPEL ROPE, WEATHER, HYPOTHERMIA

Wyoming, Devil's Tower

On the evening of May 23 rd, the park received a call from two stranded climbers (ages unknown) who were on the southwest face of the tower, asking for help. Aaron Turner and Travis Hubble were stranded one pitch down on the southwest rappel route, unable to pull their ropes from above due to a knot. The climbers had no headlamps, but were able to use the flash on their camera to help rescuers locate them. Due to lightning, thunder, fog and rain, though, it proved nearly impossible to determine their exact location. After communicating with Turner, climbing rangers learned that the two men had both ends of their rope and webbing material that could be used to make a Prusik to ascend their stuck ropes. Due to the hazardous conditions, the rangers determined that the safest and quickest way to facilitate a rescue would be to instruct Turner to ascend up his ropes to free the knot. Turner was able to free his rope, then descend to Hubble and pull the ropes down for the next rappel. The rangers found that Turner would then be able to rappel under his own power, but that Hubble was suffering from hypothermia and would need to be lowered with assistance from a climbing ranger via a tandem rappel. Both climbers safely reached the ground at 3:30 a.m. due to the expertise of the park’s climbing rangers, law enforcement staff, and a local climbing guide. (Source: Dona Rutherford, Chief Ranger)

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