American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Stranded Climber, Exceeding Abilities, Inadequate Clothing, Equipment and Food and Climbing Unroped, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Lumpy Ridge

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2010


Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Lumpy Ridge

A party of three (two males, early 20s, and one female, 17) began soloing Organ Pipes (5.6) on the Twin Owls formation, Lumpy Ridge on January 16th late in the day. All three had little or no climbing experience. They only had lightweight cotton clothes and no food to spend the night. One of the males made it safely to the top of the route. The other one stopped after about 30 feet and was able to down-climb to the base of the route. However, the female climber stopped about 20 feet below the top of the route. She could not climb up or down. One of the other members of the party called 911 around 1730.

An NPS team responded to the climbers and lowered one of the team members to the stranded climber about 1900. He secured her to a rope and helped dress her in warmer clothing. The rest of the NPS team then lowered both the stranded climber and the NPS person to the ground. They hiked out and reached the trailhead at 2145.


This party underestimated the difficulty of the intended route and over estimated their climbing abilities. They climbed past the point where they could have safely down-climbed to the base.

Fortunately, this group was a party of three and two of them made it off the route. If they had not called for help, it is unlikely that the stranded climber would have returned uninjured. By the time rescuers reached her she could not move her lower legs and could barely hold onto the rock anymore.

Honest and continued assessment of one’s skills, open communication between the party members, proper equipment, and training can prevent incidents like this. Many times when climbing teams fail to talk openly with one another, they end up in situations like this where one member is well within his/her comfort zone and another member is well outside of his/hers. Communication about the intended route and the skills of the climbers in the party will often reveal discrepancies long before more serious situations arise. (Source: Edited from a report by Mark Pita, Search & Rescue Program Manager, Rocky Mountain National Park)

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