The climber had dislodged a large rock mass on themselves while climbing on the Atlantis Wall. They sustained multiple injuries and their lower leg fracture prevented them from self-rescuing from the depths of the canyon. Their climbing partner was able to scramble out the access gulley and place the 9-1-1 call.
We all gathered at the north rim ranger station at first light the next morning. A medic and ranger had spent the night with the injured party. The rescue team was comprised of around 20+ volunteers from Ouray Mountain Rescue, Western State, and West Elk along with a handful of rangers from the Black Canyon.
The patient was stranded at the base of the Atlantis Wall approximately 500m down from the canyon rim. We linked three 183m ropes together for each the main and belay. The terrain involved a 100m vertical cliff at the top to a large terrace followed by a 400m lower down the primary wall. We used a mechanical advantage tagline system to draw the stretcher across the flat terrace during the initial descent and then had to reverse that on the raise with a descent control system.
All told it took around 10 hours to build the system, lower an attendant and stretcher down the wall, and raise the patient/attendant back up to the top of the rim. The weather was atrocious with sideways snow and very cold temps. The scale alone made it probably the biggest rope rescue I have been involved in and the weather just took the whole operation to the ‘epic’ stage. Type II fun if you are familiar with that metric.
It was quite the effort. Kudos to all that were involved.
|Beginning the initial descent|
|Patient nearing the top edge transition|
|View of the changing fall line at the terrace|