Monday May 20, 2013
This past Sunday, May 19, 21-year-old Taylor Powers, a student at the University of Colorado, was rescued off the Third Flatiron in Boulder Mountain Park above the city of Boulder, Colorado. Ms. Powers was climbing the Third with her roommates while under the influence of magic mushrooms. The usual route up the Third Flatiron is the classic East Face, an easy 5.4 route that Patagonia guru Yvon Chouinard once called "the best beginner climb in the universe."
The roommates, using good sense, called 911 after Ms. Powers took off all of her clothes and continued climbing. They restrained her until rescuers from the Boulder County Sheriff's Department and park rangers arrived about 5:30 p.m. The rangers were forced to handcuff her and then took an hour to get her down to a nearby shelter below the Third Flatiron. At 7:50 p.m. she was taken to Boulder Community Hospital where she was treated and released. The police ticketed her with the unlawful consumption of a controlled substance.
While none of the reports I read indicated what kind of mushrooms Taylor Powers had ingested, they were in all likelihood psilocybin mushrooms -- a hallucinogenic drug that causes visions and erratic behavior.
This is not the first time that a "climber" has had to be rescued from the Flatirons after eating mushrooms. Back in November, 2011, a Missouri man was evacuated from the First Flatiron after his climbing partner reported that he was "not acting right." During that incident, the man bit one of his rescuers. Read more at High Half-Naked Climber Rescued in Colorado.
Photograph above: The First Flatiron is next to the Third Flatiron where a nude and stoned woman climber was rescued after her roommates called police. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
Wednesday May 15, 2013
I was climbing at Shelf Road in southern Colorado the other day. While leading the last route of the day, I looked down and noticed a tiny critter on my bare leg. After clipping the next bolt, I asked my belayer to "Take" and hold me on the rope. On closer inspection, the critter was a tick looking to find its next free blood-sucking meal. I promptly flicked it off. When we got back to the truck, we emptied all of packs and checked our climbing gear and then our clothes and hair to make sure that no tick hitchhikers would be heading home with us.
Ticks are tiny arachnids, related to spiders, that live all over the United States, usually in brushy areas where they can fall onto passerbys where they hike around until they find a likely spot to latch on and suck your blood. Right now ticks are very active in most places, including Colorado's foothill areas like Shelf Road so whenever you are out hiking and climbing, you need to do regular tick checks.
Tick bites can be a serious matter since tick-borne illnesses include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick fever, and Lyme disease, which can have long lasting health consequences. If you do become ill from a tick bite, it is usually weeks before any symptoms occur.
Read How to Avoid Ticks -- 7 Tips to Avoid Ticks When You're Climbing and learn more about ticks; tick-borne illnesses; symptoms to watch for; how to remove a tick; and 7 tips to defend against ticks and tick bites. The important thing to remember is to pay attention in tick country and remove them before they have a chance to bite you but don't let the tick threat keep you from going outside and having fun.
Photograph above: Ticks are found at climbing areas all around the United States. Keep an eye out for these biting hitchhikers and avoid tick-borne sicknesses. Photograph © Getty Images
Wednesday May 8, 2013
This morning I went out to the Garden of the Gods with Brian Shelton of Front Range Climbing Company to replace a very worn bolt hanger on one of the two anchors bolts at the end of the first pitch of West Point Crack, a popular 5.7 face climb on South Gateway Rock in the Garden of the Gods, a Colorado Springs' park.
Over the past few days, two climbers called Brian and myself to report that the Metolius rappel hanger on the bolt was dangerously worn and a sharp edge had developed which could possible damage or slice through a rope if a climber was toproping or lowering. This scenario has happened several times with a rope being cut on a sharp fixed carabiner, causing a lead climber to fall and be killed, but less often on sharpened bolt hangers atop routes. Damage is usually just to the rope sheath, although the core can also be damaged or even cut through.
Bolt hangers on anchors get worn and grooved by climbers repeatedly toproping with their rope through them, rather than rigging an equalized anchor with locking carabiners and slings from the bolt anchors. They usually do this because they either don't know or are too lazy to climb back up when they are done to retrieve their gear.
It's a pet peeve of mine, partly because I know the cost of replacing worn hangers with new Metolius Rap Hangers or Fixe ring anchor hangers. In 2004, Brian and I established roughly 60% of the 100+ sport climbing routes at Red Rock Canyon Open Space, another Colorado Springs parkland, before it opened to the public. I came up with the cash, including my own as well as some donations, to cover the cost of the bolting hardware, which amounted to over $3,000. Almost all of the routes had Fixe ring anchors, which cost $10.00 plus shipping apiece, so the cost per set of anchors was roughly $25.00. Ditto for the cost of replacing worn hangers.
Over the past few years, we have replaced numerous sets of anchor hangers because many climbers persist in toproping directly through the ring anchors rather than their own gear. The problem is exacerbated since the cliffs are made of sandstone and sand attached to the rope quickly abrades the hanger's steel when it runs over it.
To avoid damaging hangers on anchor bolts and climbing responsibily, always use your own equipment to construct an equalized anchor for toproping and contribute money to local climbing organizations or climbers who help maintain the safety and structural integrity of the bolt anchors at your climbing area.
Here in Colorado Springs, Brian and I, owners of Front Range Climbing Company, work with the city parks department to keep the bolt anchors on climbing routes at the three city parks that allow climbing--Garden of the Gods, Red Rock Canyon, and North Cheyenne Canon--safe and up-to-date to avoid equipment failures and accidents.
For more information, read:
Don't Top-Rope Through Bolt Anchors--Top-Roping Wears Out Hardware
Learn How to Lower from a Climbing Route
Worn Carabiner Cuts Climbing Rope at Red River Gorge
Photograph above: The worn Metolius bolt anchor at the top of the first pitch of West Point Crack was caused by too many climbers toproping through the hanger. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
Saturday May 4, 2013
On Saturday, April 27, an alternation between about 100 Sherpas and three western climbers--Ueli Steck from Switzerland, Simone Moro from Italy, and English photographer Jonathan Griffith--escalated into a brawl at 24,500-foot Camp 2 on Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. The Sherpas threw punches and rocks at the trio, who only escaped with their lives after other climbers, including American Melissa Arnot, stood between the Sherpas and the climbers.
The Sherpas were fixing ropes up to Camp 3 that day for commercial clients and apparently became annoyed when the three climbers passed them and then were climbing above them. The three were climbing between 150 feet and 300 feet to the side of the Sherpas. They said they kept a respectful distance to allow the Sherpas to continue to do their work.
Some Sherpas later said that the climbers knocked ice down on them, which Steck denied. Simone Moro later said, "No Sherpa has come forward to show an injury." Angry words were exchanged between the two groups and the lead Sherpa sent all of his crew of 17 climbers down to Camp 2. Steck, thinking he could appease their anger, fixed the remaining 800 feet of rope up to Camp 3.
Steck, Moro, and Griffith had planned to stay at Camp 3 to continue acclimatizing but after the misunderstanding, they descended back to Camp 2 to work it out. On reaching the camp, they were surrounded by the mob of Sherpa guides who, Moro said, "became instantly aggressive and not only punched and kicked the climbers but threw many rocks as well."
During the past week, more details have come out about this unfortunate and regrettable incident. The local police are also working on the case and say they "will provide all necessary security for the foreigners."
Read more about the fight in a couple interviews with Ueli Steck:
Sherpa fight ends climber's Everest ambitions at swissinfo.ch
Brawl on Everest: Ueli Steck's Story at outsideonline.com
Photograph above: The Everest brawl took place on the South Col route up Mount Everest.
Photograph © Alan Kearney/Getty Images