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Fall on Rock, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

FALL ON ROCK

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

On July 17, my partner Eric Baer (23) and I (William Esposito, 27) began climbing the Stettner’s Ledges Route (5.7+) on the east face of Longs Peak. On approximately the fourth pitch, I climbed about ten feet past my last gear placement, a green Camalot, and as I attempted a technical climbing maneuver I lost my grip on the rock and fell. I shouted, “Falling,” and fell past my cam placement about ten feet. The Camalot held and the rope caught me, but the approximately two feet of rope stretch caused both of my feet to smash onto a ledge of rock. I quickly shouted down to Eric that I was OK; however, after about thirty seconds of rest, I realized both of my feet had been severely damaged (small fracture in talus bone of left foot, severe soft tissue damage in both).

Eric carefully lowered me to the belay ledge he was on. From there, he used existing anchors as well as our own equipment to lower me first, then himself back down three pitches to the Mills Glacier. He then used the rope to control my slide down the glacier to a flat rock. Eric made sure I had adequate food, water, and clothing and then went for help.

Eric returned about an hour later with another climber with first responder training who had sent his partner down for help. Two additional climbing parties of two each came down from climbing routes on the Diamond. One of them had a cell phone that worked and called for rescue. About an hour later, two climbing rescue rangers arrived. One arranged for a helicopter while the other performed a medical examination on me. I was then laid into a stretcher and carried by the rangers and other climbers (eight people) 200 yards across snow and rock to the helicopter landing spot. The helicopter arrived approximately one hour from the time the rangers arrived. I was taken to the Boulder Community Hospital, treated for my injuries and the released the same evening.

Analysis

Although everything worked just as it should, I should have been more aware of my fall line at all times. Because I climbed ten feet past my last gear placement, I should have considered the ledge ten feet below it and perhaps placed more gear before continuing. This incident reinforces the importance of having the skills and knowledge to initiate self-rescue. (Source: William Esposito)