Updated August 30, 2021
The Rocky Mountain Rescue Group responded to an emergency call on Friday August 26 after a report about two fallen climbers in Eldorado Canyon State Park near Boulder, Colorado. The climbers’ fall at Eldorado Canyon happened on the Wind Tower.
According to eyewitness reports, the two climbers were at a belay station at the top of the second pitch of a route called Wind Ridge. The climbers were making their way up the third pitch when the incident happened.
Both climbers fell approximately 150 to 200 feet off of the climb and landed near a tree on the route. Thankfully, a climbing team on another nearby route witnessed the fall and was able to reach the two climbers.
After making contact with the fallen climbers, they provided up-to-date information to search and rescue personnel. The two climbers also provided rope access to the patients’ location.
One member of the climbing group, later identified as 34-year-old Eric Huynh of Denver, was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician with the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group. His climbing partner was evacuated immediately by helicopter to a trauma center in Denver with serious injuries.
The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating the incident. But the spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office has indicated that foul play is not suspected. The Sheriff’s Office has not yet provided information about the climbers involved in the incident.
Fall in Eldorado Canyon: Incident Analysis
A climbing death of any sort is tragic. As is the case with many major incidents, few details about the circumstances surrounding the fall are currently available.
The two climbers were on a route called Wind Ridge. The route is located on the southwest face of Wind Tower at the time of the fall. It is rated 5.7 in the Yosemite Decimal System.
The route itself is well-traveled. The belay ledge for the third pitch (near the climber’s location at the time of the fall) is fairly large. Of course, speculating the cause of a fall with limited information is inherently difficult. However, eyewitness reports state that the climbers were using standard traditional climbing gear. The route also offers ample opportunity for protection placement.
One possible known hazard on pitch three of Wind Ridge is loose rock. Whether the loose rock played a role in the incident remains to be seen. But, this tragic incident highlights the need for climbers to be cautious about loose rock. Climbers also need to choose their gear placements wisely.
In an interview with Climbing Magazine, the injured climber described the cause of the incident as a belay anchor failure. He stated that he used a cordelette to sling a boulder and another sling to girth hitch a horn near the belay ledge for the third pitch of Wind Ridge. However, both pieces of gear failed when the injured climber fell while leading, bringing both climbers tumbling down to the ground.
The event itself is tragic and placing blame is unproductive. Nevertheless, there is something to be learned from every incident in the mountains. This incident highlights the need to be particularly cautious when choosing gear for belay station anchors. Even the largest boulder appear more structurally sound than it is when high loads come from unexpected directions.
This fatal fall in Eldorado Canyon is the second major climbing incident in just a few days. Another climber fell to their death in North Carolina’s Pilot Mountain State Park earlier in the week.