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Foothold Broke Off — Fall on Rock, Idaho, City of Rocks National Reserve, Castle Rock

FOOTHOLD BROKE OFF – FALL ON ROCK

Idaho, City of Rocks National Reserve, Castle Rock

On May 21 at 11:45 a.m., volunteer camp host Dottie Cross (63) broke a foothold and fell while attempting to lead the upper pitch of “One For Matt” on Castle Rock. Her climbing companion, Duane Ackerman (62)of Elba, Idaho, lowered Cross to his belay point at the 100-foot level. She was convinced that her right lower leg was broken.

Ackerman rappelled to the ground and utilized Cross’s park radio to call for help. The climbing ranger and two-trail crew responded from nearby Bracksiecks Pillar trail and base called 911 to request an ambulance at 12:15. Five additional park staff responded to help.

Upon arrival at the scene, the climbing ranger ascended the first pitch with a Mini Traxion Pulley self-belay on Ackerman’s line, trailing an 11mm low stretch rescue rope. Dottie Cross was found hanging in her harness from the anchor chains. She was alert, oriented, smiling. She stated her right lower leg was broken but not in excessive pain. She denied any other injury and adamantly refused helicopter transport.

A vacuum splint was applied. The ranger the tandem rappelled with the patient to the ground, with a fireman’s belay from below. She was placed in stokes litter and carried out of the approach gully, which is steep and bouldery. Having seven staff and four volunteers in this section was key in order to be able to pass the litter down without too much difficulty.

The rescue team arrived at the Stines Creek Picnic Area and the waiting Life Run ambulance at 1:45 p.m. Throughout, Cross remained alert and oriented and in good spirits.

Cross was transported to Cassia Regional Medical center in Burley, Idaho, where she was diagnosed with complete and comminuted fractures of her right tibia and fibula, just below knee level. She underwent successful surgery on the evening of the 21st.

Analysis

Thanks to an alert belay and her proximity to the last bolt, Dottie only fell about ten or fifteen feet. However, the second pitch of the route “One For Matt” is 5.8 on less than vertical, very featured rock, which is typical of routes on Castle Rock. Falling on this terrain is like falling with crampons on. Your feet will catch and a lower leg injury will result. Often times in a longer fall, the climber will have a combination of a lower leg injury and an injury to the back of the head as they fall past the tripping point. This illustrates that moderate to easy ground can be more dangerous than harder, steeper terrain.

“One For Matt” was at the time a brand-spanking new route. Dottie and Duane were making the third ascent. There is a fair chance that the foothold that broke had never been stood upon or never weighted so hard. (Source: Brad Schilling, Climbing Ranger, City of Rocks National Reserve)