Correction to this Story As an addendum to the story below, as Steve "Crusher" Bartlett notes in the comments, the young lady was not, in fact, rock climbing under the influence of magic mushrooms but was instead hiking. As often occurs when reporting these situations, the news media, in this case the Boulder newspaper, as well as the Boulder County Sheriff's Department had said that she was climbing when she was actually hiking near the First Flatiron. Also as Malcolm Daly points out, the Third Flatiron is currently closed until mid-summer for raptor nesting.
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
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
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.
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
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
Photograph © Alan Kearney/Getty Images
Layton Kor, one of the best and most famous American rock climbers of the 20th century, passed away last Sunday, April 21, at age 74 after a long illness in Kingman, Arizona.
Layton Kor was simply a man who loved climbing and during his prime years in the 1960s there was no one else in the United States who could match his list of both new routes and repeats. Layton was a whirlwind who climbed everywhere--Eldorado Canyon near his Boulder, Colorado home; Longs Peak and Rocky Mountain National Park; the Black Canyon of the Gunnison; the red rock country around Moab, Utah and northern Arizona; Yosemite Valley; the European Alps including the North Face of the Eiger; as well as lots of obscure crags from Connecticut to Arizona.
After years of furious climbing adventures, Layton Kor broadened his horizons which included his love for fishing as well scuba diving. He lived in a variety of places from Colorado to the Phillipines and Guam to Crescent City in northern California before settling into retirement at Kingman in western Arizona.
I was fortunate to spend time these past years visiting with Layton in Arizona and talking and reminiscing about climbs and places as well as even getting out on the cliffs and towers in western Arizona. The last big adventure he went on with me was an attempt in 2011 to do the first ascent of an unclimbed 350-foot-high tower that he called The Coke Bottle with Dennis Jump. We did three pitches in 90 degree temperatures before bailing off. I returned the following year in February 2012 with Dennis Jump and Brian Shelton to complete the route up the tower which we officially named the Tower of Kor to honor a great climber and a great friend.
My sincere condolences to Layton's family in Arizona, Hawaii, and Colorado for your loss. Rest in peace Layton and find some big walls on the other side...
BUY Beyond the Vertical by Layton Kor. The new 2nd edition of Layton's classic autobiography is being republished by FalconGuides in June 2013.
Photograph above: Layton Kor climbing a chimney on the Tower of Kor during an attempt at its first ascent in April, 2011. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
In mid-September in 1927, Joe and Paul Stettner rode motorcycles for five days and a thousand miles across muddy dirt highways from Chicago to sample rock climbs in Colorado's Front Range, making the first ascent of what was then one of the hardest rock climbing routes in the United States.
Their five-hour ascent up a series of granite corners and slabs on the Lower East Face of 14,256-foot-high Longs Peak, the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park, was a landmark climbing route now called Stettner's Ledges. The climbers, immigrant brothers from Germany who were already experienced climbers, wore felt-soled rock climbing shoes, used a 120-foot-long, ½-inch thick sisal hemp rope bought in Estes Park, and carried a rack of pitons and steel carabiners to protect their climb.
It is probable that their ascent on Longs Peak was the first in Colorado to use carabiners as well as one of Colorado's first new routes to be established as modern-day climbs are now done. It is also possible that this ascent was also the first in Colorado for the climbers to wear specialized footwear designed just for rock climbing.
The Stettner brothers were extremely good and competent climbers that were well-schooled in European climbing techniques. By the time they had immigrated to the United States from Germany a couple years before, they had already climbed for 6 years. Before coming to the Rockies, they had traveled to Devil's Lake in Wisconsin and established several hard routes. Stettner's Ledges, now given a solid 5.8 rating, remained the hardest rock climbing route in Colorado until at least 1940, a testament to their solid climbing skills.
Read Dateline 1927: Stettner Brothers Climb Hardest American Route, a complete account of the 1927 ascent that is based on Joe and Paul Stettner's journals.
Photograph above: Joe Stettner leading a route at Camp Hale in central Colorado in 1944. Photograph courtesy Denver Public Library.
At Front Range Climbing Company, the climbing trips we look forward to guiding every year are the groups of young people from other parts of the world that gather in Colorado to build relationships and learn leadership skills and self awareness through the BoldLeaders program, which is headquartered in Denver, Colorado. The intent of these trips, noted on their website, "is to invent new reference points and vocabularies for how people work together, while allowing for individual perspective." The trips are funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Yesterday we took 30 teenagers from Nigeria and South Africa, part of the Sub-Saharan Africa Youth Leadership Program, rock climbing at Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs. None had ever climbed before and they knew nothing about rock climbing except what they had seen in books and movies. Yet by the end of our eight-hour day, almost all of them had climbed multiple routes, including one young man who cranked 15 pitches up to 5.9.
I tutored Godiya Amos, a young woman from Nigeria, who was particularly interested in belaying and by the end of the day she was an expert belayer, always keeping the rope just tight enough on the climber and her brake hand always on the rope. While she also climbed a bunch of routes, belaying spoke to her and she belayed at least a dozen climbers.
At the end of the day, us seven climbing guides gathered with the young African leaders, their chaperones, and the program directors Brady Rhodes and Michael Donahue at the park pavilion. Each of the teenagers stood up and told what they had learned from climbing that they could bring to their lives back in their communities and countries as well as gave appreciations to others for helping them.
Some of the lessons learned from climbing: step beyond your limitations; it's okay to feel uncomfortable; listen well and then use that new knowledge; and climbing up is fun but lowering down requires trust. It's a great program with smart kids. After teaching climbing to them all day, they gave me hope that the future for their countries and their own aspirations are bright. Great job!
Photographs above: Mariyatu Adamu (top) and Godiya Amos (bottom), both young women from Nigeria participating in a BoldLeaders program, climb at Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
Every dog lover wants to take their pooch up in the mountains and even on the rocks. Darrin Reay, a climbing guide with Front Range Climbing Company in Colorado Springs, is, however, taking his dog Karma for more than a mere walk in the park.
Karma, a friendly black Labrador, goes everywhere with Darren and I mean everywhere. "I made this harness for Karma," says Darrin, "so she can rappel with me. She loves it!" Darrin puts the padded harness on her and suspends it from his own harness, then zips down the rappel rope.
Here's a photograph Darrin sent me this morning of Karma rappelling with him the other day on the 130-foot rappel from Morning Glory Bridge on the Medieval Chamber canyoneering trip in Negro Bill Canyon near Moab in eastern Utah. Darren, that's a pretty cool rig...and a brave dog! Thanks for sharing.
Photograph above: Darrin Reay and Karma rappelling off Morning Glory Bridge. Photograph courtesy Darrin Reay.
What's it like to be buried alive by an avalanche? Alex White, a 24-year-old skier who survived entombment on Cameron Pass in northern Colorado, can tell you. Buried in snow with just the bottoms of his boots grazing the surface, White spent about three hours in the snow before being rescued. "The last thing I remember thinking was that I was going to die there, honestly," he told The Denver Post. "And aside from a few bursts of panic, it was really kind of peaceful."
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) says it is extremely rare that a person could be buried for three hours and survive. They report that 25 years of avalanche rescue data from both Canada and Switzerland found that the chance of survival in a complete snow burial for more than 36 minutes was 4 percent in Canadian avalanches and 16 percent in Swiss ones. The longest burials in Canada where the victim survived were 120 and 300 minutes, both in urban areas, and the longest time at a remote site was 55 minutes. White survived burial for 180 minutes.
John Snook of CAIC said, "He's a very lucky young man . If the snow is packed around your face, it can get into your airway. There's water vapor in that exhaled air, and that forms what's called an ice mask." The ice mask decreases the amount of air in the snow that the victim can breathe.
Most avalanche victims die from suffucation when snow gets packed in their nose, mouth, and airway. Alex White was lucky that a large pocket of air was around his face, which allowed him to get enough air to breathe, although he was hypothermic and basically unconscious when rescuers pulled him from the snow after spotting his boot soles.
The Denver Post published an excellent and riveting account of the accident and the rescue--Colorado skier felt life fading during 3 hours buried in avalanche--by Jason Blevins in the March 31, 2013 issue. Read it for all the details about the events leading up the avalanche, the accident, and the rescue of Alex White and the recovery of his friend Joe Philpott, who did not survive the avalanche.
Read more about avalanche safety:
8 Tips for Safe Snow Travel 3 Types of Hazardous Avalanche Terrain New Hampshire Climber Survives 1,300-foot Avalanche Ride
Colorado Avalanche Information Center March 3 Accident Report
Photograph: A large avalanche above Cameron Pass killed one skier and entombed another for 3 hours. Photograph courtesy Nicki Sartor/TSM
Nuts, simply various-sized wedges and shapes of metal, are simple but effective climbing tools used to protect traditional routes and to create anchors. You need to learn how to place secure nuts to become a safe and competent climber. If you don't learn and practice nut-placing skills, both you and your climbing partner will be less safe on the rock.
Read the new article 10 Tips to Place Better Nuts to increase your margin of safety and to place strong, safe, and secure gear placements that won't come out of cracks on your prospective route.
Photograph above: Learn to place good nuts in cracks and you'll be safer and have more climbing fun. Photograph © Stewart M. Green