American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Colorado, Little Bear

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1957

Colorado, Little Bear—On September 1, 1956, a warm cloudless day with no wind, a party of five climbers (Mark Bostwick, David and Paul Duncan, Ben Rhodes and Banks Caywood) left the Denver Junior Summer Outing camp site at Como Lake to climb Blanca and Little Bear peaks. After reaching Blanca Peak, the party continued across the difficult Blanca Little Bear Ridge to Little Bear Peak. After lunch and a brief rest on the summit, the party began the descent about 2:00 p.m. Climbers of the previous day had advised them not to descend the loose ridge between Como Lake and Little Bear Basin, but to follow a couloir of less difficulty leading off the the summit into Little Bear Basin.

About 500 feet off the summit Banks Caywood fell. The exact cause of his fall is not known, for three of the party were exploring the couloir to the left side and one the center while Banks looked over a small cliff on the right. The member in the center looked up just in time to see Banks’ hat disappearing from sight and to hear a rockfall. The four remaining members climbed down approximately 350 feet to the spot where Banks lay. After careful examination they realized that he was dead and that they would have to have assistance to bring out his body. After covering the body and marking the spot, they proceeded back to camp arriving about 6:00 p.m. The proper authorities were notified and on September 2, eleven JCMC members under the leadership of Mr. Welch and Dr. Burns brought down Banks’ body.

On Thursday, September 6, a meeting was called of CMC officers, the council of the Denver Junior Group, and members involved. They made a careful study of all phases of the accident and reached the conclusion that the climbers were proceeding with caution and using proper technique at the time of the accident.

Source: Trail and Timberline, November, 1956 and W. P. Arnold.

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