American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall or Slip on Rock, Rock Flake Came Off, Placed Inadequate Protection, Colorado, Eldorado Canyon State Park, West Ridge

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2010

FALL OR SLIP ON ROCK, ROCK FLAKE CAME OFF, PLACED INADEQUATE PROTECTION

Colorado, Eldorado Canyon State Park, West Ridge

On April 13, my climbing partner Dave and I (Scott Bennett, 23) were psyched to be out in Eldo. Our destination was the West Ridge-Sidewall area, my favorite cragging hangout in the canyon. After warming up on Court Jester, I felt ready to get back on my goal: the Unbroken Chain (5.11c)-False Prophet (5.11d) link-up. I had tried it once about a month back, and was lucky enough to on-sight the first half before falling on the False Prophet crux.

The crux of the pitch is up high, and I got caught looking ahead. I fell about 20-25 feet up when my foot unexpectedly slipped. I felt the normal acceleration and then the comforting deceleration of the rope coming taught. Then the feeling I had been fearing: the sudden “pop” of the flake blowing, the flake that contained my only gear. I landed on the thankfully flat, but painfully solid rock. I hit on my back and immediately I knew I was hurt. I tried to remain still while spewing a string of curses, which probably didn’t reassure Dave. Having luckily avoided hitting my head in the fall (yes, I had a helmet), I was quickly able to inventory the damage: scraped elbows, bruised heel, a tweaked wrist, and a disturbingly painful back. After lying down for a while and [engaging in some] nervous discussion, I decided to test out my back and sit up. Painful, but not devastating.

About an hour later, feeling better now, and relieved at the arrival of my friends Matt and Zach, we started down the hill. It took a while, but we made it, including the crux river crossing at the end. A trip to the clinic for some x-rays revealed no broken bones, despite a really painful wrist and nagging back pain.

Analysis

Climbing is dangerous and falling on dangerous routes has consequences. Unbroken Chain is probably harder now, since that flake was a really great hold. I guess it was always a dangerous route, but now more obviously so. The biggest lesson I’m taking from this experience is to place gear! There’s no good gear on that part of the route, but there were some small RP placements that I skipped. There’s also a cam placement in the sidewall corner (on a giant sling) that I used on my first attempt, although that probably wouldn’t have helped. Regardless, taking the time to work that extra piece of gear may prevent dire consequences in the future. (Source: Scott Bennett from a posting on mountainproject.com)

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