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Stranded, Rope Stuck, North Carolina, The Amphitheater, Linville Gorge Wilderness Area

STRANDED, ROPE STUCK

North Carolina, The Amphitheater, Linville Gorge Wilderness Area

Two climbers with limited experience on moderate trad routes planned on spending several days camping and climbing at Linville Gorge. On November 23, they hiked in and began climbing Good Heavens (5.4), located in the Amphitheater. Their goal was to climb something “easy” in order to become familiar with the rock in the area. They were climbing on a 70-meter rope.

Halfway into the approximately 500-foot climb, the leader (L) disappeared around a corner. Eventually the rope stopped moving. At this point the belayer (B) tried to communicate with L to identify the problem and discovered that because of his position and the overhanging rock he was unable to communicate. B began tugging on the rope and noted that the rope was stuck. He waited for an hour, trying to get a response from L with no success. B didn’t know if L was injured. L was without food, water, or his jacket, since they were left for B to carry. B anchored his rope and rappelled down the tail of his rope as far as he could, then down-climbed approximately 30 feet.

On his way out for help, he was able to call out at approximately 4:50 p.m. to initiate a rescue. Climbers in the area and rescue personnel gathered and divided into two teams. One team would hike to the base of the climb and begin climbing to L, while the other team would hike to the top.

Operations let everyone know via radio communication that a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter with rescuers was enroute to assist. It arrived and located L at 10:02 p.m. and reported that he was in good condition. L was in the helicopter by 10:58 p.m., about six hours after his partner called for help. The helicopter also picked-off the two climbers who were on the route to assist. (Source: Edited from a post by Mike Broome, carolinaclimb- ers.org, and www2.morganton.com/news

Analysis

Climbing in Linville Gorge should not be taken lightly, even when attempting easy to moderate routes. It is one of the few wilderness areas in the East that offers high quality climbing experiences at all levels in a remote setting. Access is limited and demanding. For this reason climbers should be self-reliant and have the appropriate technical and self-rescue skills to initiate a self-rescue if possible. (Source: Aram Attarian)