FALL ON ROCK, PROTECTION PULLED OUT, INADEQUATE CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT
Oregon, Marsupial Crags
On November 14, Aaron Seemen (32) was climbing a 5.7, -mixed multipitch climb with a frequent rock climbing partner, Natalie Paden. He was leading pitch-4 of a five5-pitch route called “Birds in a Rut” on The Wombat formation among the Marsupial Crags. He led up off a big belay ledge, placed a cam, and then a stopper. Then he down-climbed back to a stance to take off his gloves that he had been climbing with because it was cold. As he climbed back up, he cleaned the cam. When he climbed past the Black Diamond stopper, it fell out when the direction of pull from the rope changed. He slipped and without an upper anchor, the belay was not functioning, so he fell 2 5 feet.
Not realizing how seriously he was injured, he painfully rappelled 20 feet to the larger ledge below. At this point, it was clear to them that they could not self-rescue. The climbers had left their cell phones and day packs with their rope bags at the foot of the climb, 200 feet below.
Luck alone enabled them to signal two fully equipped climbers whohappened to be walking on the Burma Road over 1,200 feet below them. The two climbers, by luck again, a Paramedic and a Wilderness First Responder, called 911 from one of their own cell phones and then climbed up to the ledge, bringing gear, clothing, and shelter from the very cold winds during that long afternoon. It should be noted that Aaron and Natalie are also trained WFRs.
Several groups responded. He recalled that six men rigged the high angle anchors and lowered the rescue litter and that six to eight people assisted in carrying the belayed rescue litter down the long 45-degree scree slope. Reportedly, nineteen SAR volunteers were involved, and everything went well during a safe evacuation.
Aaron rates himself as having a moderate level of experience and is able to lead climbs rated to 5.9. He noted that he should have placed protection at or above his stance when the stopper below him was dislodged by the climbing rope.
All of their extra clothing and other essential gear, including two cell phones, were on the scree slope below the rock climb. Had they been unable to get help from chance passers-by, Natalie would have had to rappel to the scree, and Aaron surely would have suffered the onset of hypothermia on that very cold and windy day. (Source: Robert Speik – based on interviews with the participants, witnesses, personal climbing knowledge of the venue, and on the Mission Report released by the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit)