Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection and Too Much Time to Place Protection, Colorado, Lovers Leap

Publication Year: 2010.


Colorado, Lovers Leap

On September 6, Greg (40s), Mike (30s) and I, Matt (50), were planning to do Lover’s Leap (5.7), switching leads and having the two following climbers simul-climb as seconds on separate ropes. I took the first lead, with the intention of linking Pitch 1 and Pitch 2 to make the leads more interesting on the remainder of the climb. I bypassed the first belay ledge, placing a runner on one of the bolts for protection, and proceeded to climb out on the 5.8 wall that was slightly off route. At this point I had used approximately 37 meters (120 feet) of rope. Realizing that the wall offered little in the way of protection, I moved into a dihedral above the ledge. I was approximately 15 feet above the ledge at this point with what I thought were two good feet and one good hand. I identified a crack in which to place a cam above my head, but as I reached down with my left hand, I felt myself coming off the rock and shouted, “Take!” which Mike did. I hit the belay ledge before extending what could have been a 24 to 30-foot whipper, but in light of the 5.7+ nature of the climb, I might also have hit some other feature before the rope caught.

Upon hitting the ledge I felt no pain, did a self-assessment, and determined that I was physically ok but for an odd looking right ankle. Within a few seconds, my right ankle opened with an 8-inch long, 4-inch laceration that I assumed to be a compound fracture. I shouted down to my climbing partners that I had a compound fracture and that they should call 911.I then tied myself off to the bolt on the ledge and used a bandana and first aid materials to wrap my bleeding right ankle. Greg, belayed by Mike, climbed to my aid and rendered additional first aid. Michael remained below on the phone with rescue personnel and directed the Alpine Search and Rescue (ASAR) team out of Evergreen Colorado to the ledge when they arrived.

ASAR sent up a climber and a medic. The climber rigged a top-roped rappel and the medic rendered additional first aid and did further assessment of my injury. I descended on a tandem rappel with the medic. Upon standing up to rappel, the pain hit me in earnest. I was evacuated to an ambulance over steep and difficult terrain by the outstanding, hardworking, and heroic volunteers of ASAR.

I ended up with a fractured heel. The laceration was unrelated to the fracture and appears to have resulted from my climbing shoe rubber sticking hard on the ledge as my foot continued to move. End result of the injury is an internal fixation of the comminuted fracture of the heel with eight screws and a titanium plate, a full month in the hospital, and months of rehab yet to come.


Always get protection in quickly when climbing above a ledge, especially when trying to make a relatively easy climb more interesting! (Source: Matthew Y. Biscan, Denver, CO)