American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Ground Fall Before Reaching First Piece

Colorado, Eldorado Canyon, Roof Routes

  • Accident Reports
  • Author: Kathy Karlo
  • Accident Year: 2016
  • Publication Year: 2017

Kurt Ross was belaying me (an experienced climber) on Guenese, a 5.11a trad route with a few fixed pieces. I considered placing a 0.5 Camalot in an overlap before clipping a piton, the first fixed pro on the route, but I didn’t. I’m only 5 feet tall, and the pin felt very far away. I backed down once or twice before working out the right sequence for a shorter person. As I made the stand-up move to the piton, I popped off the wall and struck the ramp below, having fallen 10 to 15 feet. Kurt rushed over and asked me not to move, for fear of spinal injury. Luckily, there was none. I suffered a stress fracture of the cuboid (a small tarsal bone on the outer aspect of the foot), and I know I was lucky to have sustained only one injury.


Kurt had offered to clip the first piton for me, which, had I not been so prideful, could have saved me from a ground fall. He stands 6-feet, 4-inches, and would have no problem reaching the pin. In addition, I absolutely should have placed that Camalot before the pin. Perhaps pride clouded my judgment there as well. (Source: Kathy Karlo.)

Editor’s note: Stick clips are rarely used in Eldorado Canyon, but they might prevent injuries like this. That said, fixed pitons should always be regarded with suspicion and should be backed up.

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.