Two climbers, one dangling in harness, rescued in Grand County

Local News

Grand County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue help two climbers caught on Castle Rock on October 23, 2021. (Grand County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue)

CASTLE VALLEY, Utah (ABC4) – Two people – one that had been dangling from a cliff in a harness – had to be rescued in Grand County late Saturday night.

The Grand County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue were called out shortly before midnight on October 23 for a climber from the Chicago area who had become stranded with his partner on the rock after the North Chimney route took them longer to climb than they had planned.

Here is a photo of Castleton Tower – or Castle Rock – where the North Chimney route takes hikers and climbers upward.

Castleton Tower standing over a redrock landscape. (Ronald J. Scott via the University of Utah)

The caller told authorities that while he was still on the summit, his partner had rappelled past mid-cliff belay anchors in the dark and was now suspended in his harness at the end of their 70-meter ropes. While suspended, the man was unable to ascend to access a belay station. According to Grand County Sheriff’s SAR, hanging in a harness for a long period of time can lead to a life-threatening condition known as suspension trauma.

To make matters more complicated, the pair had just one jacket and one headlamp between them, having left additional clothing and lighting in a backpack at the base of the climb. Additionally, only one of their cellphones had enough battery – 9% – to call for help.

Had both climbers been on the top of the rock and wearing adequate clothing for a night with temperatures in the 40s, rescuers say the pair may have been able to spend the night on Castleton Tower and not need a nighttime rescue.

However, because one of them was hanging in his harness and neither had adequate clothing, Grand County Sheriff’s SAR called in Classic Air Medical to fly three rescuers to the top of the rock. Once there, they would pick up one of the climbers while dropping off the rescuers and their gear.

Because the area to land the helicopter on the rock was extremely small and needed precise maneuvering, the transfer of people and gear to and from the helicopter was done with the pilot maintaining full power.

One rescuer was lowered to the subject hanging in his harness. The climber was secured into the rescue system and both were lowered to the base of the rock, picked up by Classic Air Medical, and flown to the nearby Castle Valley Fire Station at around 3:30 a.m.

Both climbers were checked by EMS and neither needed treatment.

“We’ve said this before. Research your adventures thoroughly and be realistic about your abilities. Know the time required to complete your route or trail and take clothing and supplies in case things do not go as planned,” the Grand County Sheriff’s SAR says.

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