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

Fall on Rock, Rope Pulled Through Belay Device, Colorado, Clear Creek Canyon, Wall of the 90's

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2010


Colorado, Clear Creek Canyon, Wall of the 90's

On March 10, I (36) had successfully climbed the route Hot Stuff (5.10c). My two partners and I were climbing on a 70m rope, a standard length for this route. I was being lowered when the rope went through the belayer’s device resulting in my dropping about 20 feet to the belay ledge. I then bounced off the ledge, fell an additional 20 feet, and tumbled farther down the scree. Injuries included a lacerated ear, abrasions, and a concussion.

(Editor’s Note: A cellphone was used to report the incident to rescue personnel.)


The simple solution for preventing this accident would have been to tie a knot in the end of the rope on the belayer’s end. This is normally a common practice with our group if we have any concern that the route may exceed the length of our rope or if it there is any concern of shortage. In this case, I had read information about the area and this route in particular looking for information prior to heading out. The information provided from other climbers never stated that a 70m rope would not be long enough for the route. It’s a popular, 3 1/2 star route, so I would have thought if there were any descending issues that they would be noted. Having said that, the length of the route should have given me the information I needed. The route itself is 130 feet long, thus requiring 260 feet of rope. My 70m only measures 230 feet. Even with rope stretch, it still isn’t long enough. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to route length before heading out. From now on, knots will always be placed in rope ends and route length will always be on the top of my mind. (Source: Edited from a report by Chad Mauer, Castle Rock, CO)

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