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Bad Couple of Days on Longs Peak
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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Aug 20, 2013
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Peak.

Eli Helmuth wrote:
IMHO The North Chimney is 80% 5th class and I just pitched it out in 3- 5.6/7 pitches the other day, starting left of the gulley central where rockfall is the highest risk. The Crack of Delight is wet, grassy, climbing with runouts- good luck with that start. The Chasm View raps are easy, with only minimal rockfall risk from your rappelling partner above and I've passed most parties in the N. chimney >30 times by doing these raps. A bit more walking but by avoiding the falling rock risk of the shit chimney, you've eliminated much of the risk on the Diamond.


So Crack of Delight is not exactly delightful. I'll keep doing the Chasm View rappels then. I thought they were great.


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By coppolillo
Aug 20, 2013

Eli Helmuth wrote:
IMHO The North Chimney is 80% 5th class and I just pitched it out in 3- 5.6/7 pitches the other day, starting left of the gulley central where rockfall is the highest risk. The Crack of Delight is wet, grassy, climbing with runouts- good luck with that start. The Chasm View raps are easy, with only minimal rockfall risk from your rappelling partner above and I've passed most parties in the N. chimney >30 times by doing these raps. A bit more walking but by avoiding the falling rock risk of the shit chimney, you've eliminated much of the risk on the Diamond.


words to the wise


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By Charles Vernon
From Tucson, AZ
Aug 20, 2013

Hey John aka bag and Jake, doesn't sound like you guys (or the other party that reached broadway) did anything wrong. Rappelling back down in there sounds like it would have been a recipe for disaster and more accidents, and only the best thing to do if there was no one else around to assist. Maybe Tony T's friend was caught up in the accident, stressed out, and doesn't have the best perspective on what happened, who was in a position to help, etc. As someone mentioned, the first thing you as a member of the non-injured party would need to do in any such situation is ensure that you clearly communicate with and don't endanger your own partner, who is carefully simuling between piles of loose rock out of sight above or below.

I know John Steinbauer aka bag pretty well and he's definitely not the kind of guy to callously climb on by a badly injured climber, in selfish pursuit of his own goals.


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By bearbreeder
Aug 20, 2013

climbing mag fbook post

climbing mag has already started the "shaming" process


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By doligo
Aug 20, 2013
Jose Cuervo Fruitcups dirtbag style

What happened to the good old sticking to the facts credo of journalism? Can't really stand lazy journalists who instead of fact-finding and fact-checking, just peruse Internet forums chatter and get credited as "work"!


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By PalisadePete
Aug 20, 2013

Why was there so much falling rock? Was the Film crew / zoo of climbers knocking them down? Conditions are favorable enough that nature isn't setting them loose in any significant quantity.

Was it really so crowded that no one can explain which parties climbed which routes? It's not like you're hidden on the Diamond. A climber "maybe" initiated a rock fall that knocked the leader down? Well, did they remember knocking a rock down or shouting to warn climbers below? This isn't "rock"et science.

The North Chimney is solid enough that an experienced climber could climb it without knocking down tons of rocks.

1) The easier free routes are NOT directly above the chimney; they are to the left

2) The accident was near the top of the chimney

3) It takes 30 - 45 minutes to climb the chimney in total, maybe 5 minutes to climb above the accident.

So it's actually pretty hard to constantly knock rocks onto a 7 hour rescue by climbing the diamond.

+1 for ensuring to stop, offer any & all assistance, skillz, gear, and rope

If I came upon a climber with what looks like a broken back / neck, I would not move them & I surely wouldn't try to lower them 500' all on my own! RMNP isn't that remote & it was a good call for other climbers to stay out of SAR's way (but still offering all gear / help!).

With others more experienced on the scene, you could bail & abandon a whole rack by building rappel anchors, or you could climb on and be extra careful about the rocks.


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By matt j hartman
From lander, wy
Aug 20, 2013

Sounds like a complicated scenario. I wouldn't cast any judgement. Seems like getting out of the gully in a fast and safe way (up or down) makes a lot of sense for those not involved in rescue. More people on the scene doesn't really make it safe. I have climbed the N. Chimney once. The objective hazard is high, and skyrockets with more subjective hazards (more people). After doing it once, I would be first or climb the crack of delight, or pick another objective for the day. Hope the injured a speedy recovery and rehab. That could have happened to a lot of people.


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By Patrick Vernon
From Albuquerque, NM
Aug 20, 2013
mexico

More info is good, if things went down the way they are described it sounds like the two parties who climbed past actually did the RIGHT thing. A few salient points:

Sounds like the recent rain is responsible for increased rock fall and loose rock.

First rule of rescue is don't put yourself in danger and create another victim. If this had happened by the side of the road and people passed that is one matter. This is a loose alpine gulley though. Remember the climber was hit from above, rockfall was continuous, and people are advocating that the other parties should have either rapped down from above (putting themselves in the line of rockfall as well as increasing the risk of repeat rockfall to the injured climber), or cross choss (with multiple parties exposed below) to assist, neither of which are good scenarios especially given the injured climber was already being assisted by multiple parties.

Climbing to the injured climber wasn't really an option anyway if the leaders of the simulclimbing groups didn't know what was going on.

Someone had to be on Broadway calling for help. This was one of the most important things to be done.

Continuing to climb dosen't sound like it was putting the rescue in danger as the accident happened on the right of the chimney and the natural route goes left. Continuing to climb to broadway sounds like a wise plan from a safety standpoint as there were already multiple climbers assisting and parties were moving out of the chimney and lessening the danger.

My guess is Tommy and Johnathan probably weren't planning on climbing anything on the left side of the diamond and were near or above the accident when it happened.

I probably would have been to weirded out that day to continue up the diamond itself.


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By Darren Mabe
From Flagstaff, AZ
Aug 20, 2013
wham bam hand jam. Wrapping up the final moves of Twist of Fate, Oak Creek Canyon. <br /> <br />photo: Blake McCord

JLP wrote:
moss fused choss

ugh.. thats some of the worst kind. down here we also have choss fused moss clods


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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Aug 20, 2013
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Peak.

PatrickV wrote:
First rule of rescue is don't put yourself in danger and create another victim.


Agreed, and this is actually taught in many rescue training classes. I remember it well.


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By David Appelhans
From Lafayette
Aug 20, 2013
Imaginate

Christian, I'm so glad you survived. Here's to recovering.

We don't know if the rockfall was caused by other parties or not. However, knocking rocks down the North Chimney is something that can be avoided if parties are careful and experienced at climbing loose terrain.

I wish some of the more experienced climbers on this site that are consistently advocating inexperienced people just "go for it." on the diamond would think about what they are encouraging. On the best days everything is casual and no harm done if a party is in over their head or jams up a route. But inexperienced parties can quickly turn dangerous for other parties. If a party hasn't developed the skill to navigate the diamond (and quickly) yet, it can affect more than themselves--it can often put others in danger either because of a bottle neck, the passing on sketchier terrain, or inexperience with loose rock. Something to think about before we encourage alpine novices to just go for it.


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By Wally
From Denver
Aug 20, 2013

JLP wrote:
I think the 5.5 grade is correct and only applies to 2-3 moves at the exit, the rest is 4th class.


Eli Helmuth wrote:
IMHO The North Chimney is 80% 5th class


Not sure who JLP is, but he doesn't know the definition of 5th class. Way more than 2 or 3 moves of the North Chimney is 5th class.

Eli is a very well respected local stud climbing guide.

Having approached the diamond by the north chimney 15 to 20 times, I concur with Eli that the North Chimney contains a lot of fifth class climbing.


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By nicelegs
From Denver
Aug 20, 2013

I've been up the North Chimney maybe 10-12 times. No expert but I also feel like it's by far the best way there.

Last summer, I started on a chimney way left of the north chimney. It went to broadway and probably took us about an hour of simuling to do.

However, it was quite a bit harder. Mostly 5.6 with occasional 5.9 or 5.10- moves though mostly easier. It didn't take as much gear. I believe that there was always 1 or 2 pieces between my climber and I but I can't be certain.

We were the only people anywhere near it, we basically topped out at the start of D7, and it was pretty free of loose rock (still alpine). If you are absolutely certain you won't fall on 5.9, do it. If you feel like pitching it out and belaying, skip it, it'd take longer than climbing the Diamond.


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By Tank Evans
Aug 20, 2013
The TANK!!!

nicelegs,

if you are referring to Field's Chimney, which I think you are, that is a very bad idea and you were lucky. Field's has a far higher danger of rockfall than the NC because anything that moves on broadway falls down Fields. People don't pay attention when walking around broadway and routinely send stuff rolling off. I spend ~10days on the Big D every summer and can't think of a day when I have'nt seen someone send something down on their way to Pervertical et. al.

Here is my 2 cents.

The North Chimney is totally safe on its own, other parties make it dangerous. If you have to rope up in the NC, don't climb the Diamond. A rope endangers everyone below you because a) it directly dislodges rocks, b) you don't pay as much attention to what you are doing because you perceive that you are "safe", and c) you often climb the shitty chossy right side of the chimney to be able to get gear placements.

Please just wait until you are comfortable soloing before attempting the Diamond, most parties that rope up in the NC just end up bailing anyways because they are to slow. Practice soloing the 1st flatiron, if you can do this comfortably you can solo the NC.


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By nicelegs
From Denver
Aug 20, 2013

It wasn't intentional Tank. It had been a few years since I'd been on the D and was tired and ready to start moving up, so I did. I was far enough up before I figured it out that I just kept moving. It's definitely directly below Broadway as you said.


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By David Appelhans
From Lafayette
Aug 20, 2013
Imaginate

I simuled Fields Chimney once and didn't find it too bad either in terms of loose rocks or difficult climbing. I don't think there were any parties above us on broadway yet though. If people are knocking shit off broadway they need to re-evaluate what they hell they are doing up there. A little carefulness goes a long way, and you can avoid killing someone.

Tank, I totally agree the NC is safe on its own and parties should wait until they are comfortable soloing the NC before attempting the Diamond. I used to solo the NC until an accident just like this one happened a few years ago. However, The problem with soloing the NC is Christian's scenario. If he were soloing I presume he wouldn't have stopped falling, and he'd be dead. Same thing happened a couple years ago, the guy was hurt really bad but didn't die. He was simuling.


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By Cindy Mitchell
Aug 20, 2013
Racking up for the 3rd pitch of Ruper

Tank Evans wrote:
The North Chimney is totally safe on its own, other parties make it dangerous. If you have to rope up in the NC, don't climb the Diamond. Please just wait until you are comfortable soloing before attempting the Diamond, most parties that rope up in the NC just end up bailing anyways because they are to slow. Practice soloing the 1st flatiron, if you can do this comfortably you can solo the NC


If you're recommending that climbers solo the North Chimney in lieu of roping up, I disagree with your advice.

If Christian had not been roped up, his fiancÚe would be visiting him in the morgue instead of the hospital.

There will likely always be others on The Diamond and as you pointed out, other parties make the North Chimney dangerous.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Christian.


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By bearbreeder
Aug 20, 2013

looks like climbing mag deleted their fbook post ...


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By Rayna
From Westminster, CO
Aug 21, 2013

For those of you who are interested, I am collecting donations to help pay for Christians medical expenses, physical therapy and the lost income since he can't work (he just bought a house, has a car payment, etc). Feel free to share it.

gfwd.at/1bRHcIb


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By Wally
From Denver
Aug 21, 2013

Tank Evans wrote:
The North Chimney is totally safe on its own, other parties make it dangerous. If you have to rope up in the NC, don't climb the Diamond. A rope endangers everyone below you because a) it directly dislodges rocks, b) you don't pay as much attention to what you are doing because you perceive that you are "safe", and c) you often climb the shitty chossy right side of the chimney to be able to get gear placements. Please just wait until you are comfortable soloing before attempting the Diamond, most parties that rope up in the NC just end up bailing anyways because they are to slow. Practice soloing the 1st flatiron, if you can do this comfortably you can solo the NC.


I think the above advice about soloing the north chimney is bad advice for folks not comfortable soloing fifth class terrain, especially fifth class loose crappy rock terrain. For me, the climbing is too insecure, and there is too much objective danger, to solo the north chimney.

I have free climbed the diamond seven or eight times. Once I soloed the north chimney - said later that day that I would never do that again. Of course to each their own, but the statement above that implies "I am not ready for the diamond" until I am willing to solo the north chimney is bunk in my opinion.

I also take issue with the "bailing anyways because they are too slow" statement. The north chimney can be safely and quickly simul-climbed in 30 to 45 minutes by a reasonably strong party, leaving plenty of time for a successful climb of the diamond. I have seen plenty of studly climbers put away hard diamond routes who were roped in the north chimney.

Climb On. Climb safe. And heal up, Christian.


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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Aug 21, 2013
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Peak.

bearbreeder wrote:
looks like climbing mag deleted their fbook post ...


A lot of people thought their jumping on the shaming bandwagon was poor form.


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By 1rsties4life
From CO
Aug 22, 2013

This is not meant to be advise, merely an opinion.

I would never rope up in the North Chimney due to the dangers of causing possible rock fall with the rope. I also am not going to criticize anyone who prefers to do so as long as they don't cause an accident like the one that happened.

I think there are 2 mind sets today in climbing. The old school mind set of "soloing the NC is a credential checker for the day", and new school mind set of "lets rope up and simul-climb it quickly". Both work fine if at the end of day nobody gets hurt.

I'm not going to say that you need to be able to solo the NC to climb The Big D, but I will say that I have had days on the wall on routes that merge into others with parties on them that had no business being there and were frightening to be around.

As our activity gains popularity this will become more and more common unless the old are willing to take the new under their wings and out of the gyms to train them in the real craft of TRAD.


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By Christian Mason
From Arvada, CO
Sep 21, 2013
Dragon's Tongue - Vail, Co.

I don't have a lot to add to this stagnant thread, but I thought that (as the injured climber) I should post.

One of the hardest things for me has been not knowing what caused the accident. A falling rock knocking me out seems like the most logical explanation, but I really have no idea. I had always thought of myself as a safe and reasonably conservative alpine climber.

I remember swapping leads with my partner about two thirds of the way up the North Chimney. I remember placing the #1 Camalot that I fell on and continuing up around 20 feet to another ledge. The rock quality was pretty poor there, and after looking at the potential fall I started looking for something solid enough to place reliable gear. That's my last clear memory. I can remember bits and pieces of the next three days, but it's very disjointed.

I ended up with two skull fractures, six broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken left scapula, a broken neck (fracture of c1-2) and broken back (t5 and t6).
Amazingly, I don't appear to have any nerve damage. While I'll have a fairly long recovery, I should be able to recover more or less fully.

I really appreciate a fantastic response from the people around me. I think the outcome probably would have been very different had a bunch of factors not lined up in my favor (NPS personal on scene on longs already, knowledgeable first responders climbing near me, etc..)

I'm happy to answer any questions that I can.


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By Mark Pilate
Sep 21, 2013

I think everyone is just happy as hell that you are going to recover and climb again. Best of luck!


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By Norse Force
From Front Range CO
Sep 21, 2013

Glad to hear you will recover Christian.


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