Larry Earley and Don Taylor
Don and I were climbing at Lumpy Ridge
on Monday June 21 on the Left Book. On the approach hike we met
several young climbers who quickly passed us on the trail. Don and I
climbed White Whale 5.7 three pitch trad climb that is very popular.
Don lead pitch 1. I was leading pitch 2 when I heard the scream. I
was at a run out section 12 feet out from a very small cam. The
scream was close. It was followed by several loud crashes and a big
crash. Then silence. I was pretty nervous. I wanted to get in a
piece fast but the crack was flared. I had to concentrate and get up
10 feet and put in another very small cam. It was only 5.7 but Lumpy
climbs are stiff. I kept going and finally got in a big piece. Then
I was ok. Later I was leading the last pitch and another scream and
crash. This was not so bad. Don saw something like a typical leader
fall but the guy might have had his finger stuck in the crack. We
finished the climb and hiked down to the base of the Left Book. Then
we are packing up when two guys walk by and tell us about the big
accident. They were near when the guy took the big fall on Hot Licks
5.9 OW. They said he fell 20 feet. I think it was 40 feet and he
ended up 20 feet below. The sounds were too long for just 20 feet.
The two guys said he hurt both elbows. Next a single climber comes
by carrying lots of gear and ropes and two packs. Then comes the
injured climber. He could barely walk. He had blood on both elbows.
Don said it looked like he had a broken collar bone.The first two
guys said they offered help but were turned down. I thought the
injured climber had a concussion since he walked funny. The partner
of the injured climber was 5 minutes ahead on the hike out. Did they
have a fight? Maybe they were not friends. Many people in Colorado
find partners on the internet. Then Don and I remember the injured
guy was one we talked to on the hike in. It was his first time at
The next day Don and I went to
Eldorado Canyon to change the scene. We were both a little spooked
from the day before. We were going to climb an easy climb Swanson's
Arete 5.5. The lady at the entrance asked us if we were with the
rescue. We said no. We would have to wait since there was a big
climbing accident. We saw lots of firemen, Colorado Rescue people
and an ambulance. Later we found out the climber died on the Yellow
Spur 5.9/10a. He fell on the second pitch, pulled a piece and had
his rope cut on a sharp edge. We also heard he was a very good, very
experienced climber with a new rope. He had a good partner too. We
heard he fell 80 feet. Mountain Project has lots of information
about it. The dead climber had three children.
So in reviewing these accidents one
can say that anything can happen. An inexperienced climber can try a
climb that is too hard and take a big fall but live. A very
experienced climber can have bad luck and die. So when you read
those disclosures on climbing gear saying climbing is dangerous it
is for real. Don and I kept climbing after these accidents. We were
extra careful. We did not push our luck. It is easy to get
complacent and think I am totally safe. There is risk in climbing.
One must understand the risks and take the necessary precautions.
Check your gear, check your rope, check your partner. Choose your
climbs wisely for your skills. Never take climbing for granted.
I remembered my first climbing road
trip to Hueco Tanks in 1998. There was a big accident. A climber
might have died on the Sea of Holes. We never heard for sure. There
was a rescue and a helicopter. There was a lot of blood on the
rocks. I was climbing on the next climb left. Lets learn from these
accidents and prepare.