A Boulder man who fell while climbing in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison last week was hauled up from the canyon floor by specialized rescue teams.
The man, 27, fell an estimated 25 feet while leading a climb on the canyon’s North Rim Oct. 5, sustaining an unspecified lower leg injury, the National Park Service said Friday, in announcing the rescue operation.
The injury required a medical evacuation — and a complicated rope-rescue that took rescuers 1,800 feet down.
Rangers were first alerted to trouble the afternoon of Oct. 5, when they received a report of two climbers calling for help on the North Chasm Wall. From the South Rim, rangers could see two climbers “actively rappelling” off the Stoned Oven climbing route.
Rangers and two search and rescue volunteers initially responded from the North Rim via Cruise Gulley to the base of the route and met up with the climbers.
Upon assessing the 27-year-old’s injury, they realized he would need evacuated. They spent the night with the climbers while others made plans for the operation the next morning.
On Oct. 6, rescuers from the rim above lowered a litter and an attendant 1,800 feet. The climber was secured in the litter and both he and the attendant were raised back up. Once back up top, the man was able to transport himself for further medical care.
In all, 25 people assisted, including NPS staffers, search and rescuers, Crested Butte Mountain Rescue and Ouray County Search and Rescue.
The two groups were asked to assist because of the nature of the rescue and their specific expertise, park spokeswoman Sandy Snell-Dobert said.
“There aren’t that many people trained in that kind of rescue. Long-line rescue is a pretty specialized skill,” she said Friday.
Climbers who visit the Black Canyon tend to be well-prepared and the fall victim was experienced, she also said.
“We’ve had a real emphasis with our staff on the rims talking with hikers before they go into the canyon and making sure people are prepared,” Snell-Dobert said.
A few times this year, park staffers have had to assist hikers and climbers by taking them water, or walking them back out; however, the Oct. 6 operation has been “the only major rescue” this year, she said.
“Accidents are going to happen. We really appreciate the fact that the climbers were able to make their own way down the wall. The National Park Service is impressed with the preparation that the vast majority of our climbers have for taking care of themselves.”