Serious Accident on Longs Peak

The Diamond on Longs Peak in winter.

The Diamond on Longs Peak in winter. The North Chimney is the snow-filled gully below the Diamond in right center. Photo by Dougald MacDonald.

8/19/13 - A climber was hit by rockfall while approaching the Diamond on Longs Peak in Colorado and suffered severe injuries in the resulting 50- to 60-foot fall. The 34-year-old man was working his way up the North Chimney approach (500 feet, ca. 5.5) on a busy Friday morning, and the rockfall reportedly hit him while he was leading. Fortunately, he was roped up (simul-climbing) and thus did not fall all the way to the base of the east face of Longs Peak. Many climbers choose to solo the North Chimney approach.

He suffered a skull fracture, fractured spine, punctured lungs, and other injuries, but was evacuated with the help of Rocky Mountain National Park rangers and fellow climbers, and over the weekend he had successful surgery to treat his injuries.

In a discussion about the incident at Mountain Project, climbers credited Tommy Caldwell and Jonathan Siegrist, who are working on a new free route on the Diamond, with abandoning their climb to assist with the rescue.

An online fund-raiser to assist the climber with his medical bills has been started by friends and family. Get more information or donate here.

Date of incident: August 16, 2013

Sources: National Park Service, Mountain Project, Facebook


Previous Comments

Editor's note: We have deleted the last sentence of this report, which mentioned that some parties approaching the Diamond that morning continued with their climbs without "stopping to assist." Although this was factual, it was an early look at a complex situation, and subsequent first-hand reports have provided more nuanced perspectives. We encourage readers to visit Mountain Project for a fascinating discussion of the decision-making in such incidents:

Climbing Staff - 08/20/2013 5:37:55

The article could have stopped w/out the last sentence, which casts the other climbing teams in a negative light that they may not deserve. There could be numerous reasons for the other teams in not assisting: too far away to be of any real help, already offered assistance but were advised adequate resources were already on hand (and by corollary, they'd just be in the way and less helpful), etc. I know Christian, and he's a good, solid guy. I first heard about the accident from a post from his SO, and I'm very thankful that he is recovering from his injuries.

Indy - 08/20/2013 10:57:32

I've rocked more rocks loose rappelling down than climbing up. Having not been there, I wonder if pulling rappel ropes may have posed a larger threat.

T.Taylor - 08/19/2013 6:19:36

I agree that the teams of climbers who continued most likely did so knowing the scene was in hand. Danger from rockfall would be higher, but not much more than ususal circumstances. Plus the teams passing, would know the rescue below would be subjected to anything they pull off. Thus, be more vigilant about the loose stuff. Only an opinion.

Craig Childre - 08/19/2013 12:48:42

One of the climbers who was at the scene on Friday has offered his perspective at the Mountain Project thread: He offered to help, and then continued climbing after being assured that no further assistance was needed. Our only question would be whether continuing above the scene might have caused more rockfall danger for the stricken climbers and rescuers, but it's also quite possible that a large cluster of would-be rescuers in the tight confines of this gully might have increased the overall danger level. We're just pleased that everyone got out of there without further injuries.

Climbing Staff - 08/19/2013 12:12:26

Good call, Wirednut. Think about onlookers at a 'lowland' emergency like a fire or car accident getting in the way and translate that to the vertical environment? No thanks.

Bred - 08/19/2013 12:05:20

Wouldn't get too judgmental toward those tha didn't help. If they don't have rescue skills they may just get in the way. Longs is big, maybe they'd ere far away or too committed up their route.

Wirednut - 08/19/2013 11:32:49

Excellent vibes to those that helped. Those that didn't, I am not surprised.

Manny - 08/19/2013 10:31:46