Member Trip Report



Colorado Climbing Accidents Viewed and Reviewed

June 21-22, 2010

Author: Larry Earley

Observers: 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 Lumpy.

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.

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