OURAY – A member of a Canadian special forces military unit, in Ouray for an ice rescue workshop, took a hard lead fall Friday afternoon and was evacuated, first out of the Ice Park by Ouray Mountain Rescue team members, then by Care Flight helicopter to Grand Junction and subsequently to Denver, according to OMR Captain Mike MacLeod.
“He was one tough dude,” MacLeod said of the climber, who suffered hip and rib injuries, and was at least temporarily unconscious after he “slammed down on his right side” on a boulder above the Uncompahgre River. It was the first Ice Park rescue for OMR this season. The soldier’s name remained unavailable at press time.
MacLeod said the victim and his unit had completed the five-day workshop offered by local climber and educator Mike Gibbs of Rigging for Rescue. “They were solid climbers,” MacLeod said, “pretty solid individuals to say the least. They were out on the sharp end” in the lead-only area of the park just above the Upper Bridge.
“They were climbing Chris’s Crash. He was leading. Unfortunately he took a fall and an ice screw he’d placed for protection popped out. He didn’t deck. But he flew out and unfortunately landed on a large boulder. Basically, he did take a ground fall.”
The other climbers in the group “knew enough about responding,” MacLeod said, “to stabilize him right away. They called 911. I was climbing nearby, as was Mike Gibbs. It resulted in a pretty quick response.”
By the time rescuers had rappelled down to the victim, MacLeod said, “he was conscious. In a lot of pain but hanging in there. We were worried about hypothermia. His friends had done everything textbook.”
Also in the soldier’s favor was the fact that OMR has practiced rescues from the bridge before. “We got him immobilized and into the litter and raised him up to the bridge” using the boom pole on OMR’s truck and the capstan winch, MacLeod said. “We practiced that exact scenario a couple of months ago.” MacLeod was the one who rode up with the litter on the slow, careful winch from 100 feet down in the gorge.
Other members of Ouray Mountain Rescue who helped with the rescue included Sam Rushing, Jeff Skoloda, Mike Bryson, Bill Dwelley, Bill Whitt, Mark Miller, Chris and Cory Jackson, Clint Estes, Tom Kavanaugh, Chris and Deb Folsom, Sean and Jenny Hart, Matt Hepp, Tricia Sullivan Blaine Eischeid, and Stephen Lance.