American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Simul-Climbing

Colorado, Eldorado Canyon State Park

  • Accident Reports
  • Author: Steve Muehlhauser and Bill Wright
  • Accident Year: 2010
  • Publication Year: 2011

On June 26, Bill Wright (45) and Tom Karpeichik (48) attempted to simulclimb 100 pitches in Eldorado Canyon (Eldo) in a day. At about 7:30 a.m. the climbers were on their 11th route/34th pitch on Redguard Route (5.8) when the higher climber fell about 140 feet and sustained serious injuries. Fortunately the few points of protection between the climbers held. A trail runner in the park heard calls for help and initiated a rescue. Both climbers were wearing helmets. The victim’s helmet likely saved his life.

ANALYSIS

In contrast to the traditional stationary belayer and one active climber at- a-time technique, simul-climbing sacrifices safety for speed and has both climbers climbing at the same time with only a few points of protection between them at any given time. This technique alone wasn’t the reason this fall was so traumatic. It is highly likely that if he were leading this pitch in a traditional manner, he would have placed more gear, since he would only be climbing for 150 feet or so.

His partner said, “...if we had been climbing in a traditional manner and using a standard-length rope, I would have been able to escape the belay and rappel to Tom on the unused portion of the rope. What caused Tom to fall on 5.5/5.6 terrain? I don’t know. Maybe Tom doesn’t either or will not remember, but a slip is the most probably answer. I didn’t see any rock fall with him and it is unlikely that a hold broke.” (Source: Steve Muehlhauser, Park Ranger, Eldorado Canyon State Park, and Bill Wright, from a post on www.mountainproject.com.)

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