Rescue On Longs Peak Diamond In Rocky Mountain National Park
At 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20, park rangers were notified that a 27-year-old climber was off route on her descent on a section of The Diamond on Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. Carolyn Davidson, from Fort Collins, Colorado, and her climbing partner, had been climbing the Casual Route and had left the base of the climb at 4:30 a.m. She had climbed this specific route twice last year.
While descending, Davidson found herself off the fixed rappel route and was unable to ascend or climb to the correct rappel station. She and her climbing partner tried for roughly two hours to resolve the situation.
Davidson was able to set up an anchor and attach herself to the wall. She was well prepared with clothing to help her weather the elements; a heavy rainstorm moved through the area at 5:30 p.m. Her climbing partner rappelled to the base of Mills Glacier to find help. He contacted a park trail crew that was in the area.
At 7:15 p.m. four park rangers, who specialize in climbing and mountain rescue, were flown to the 14,259 foot summit of Longs Peak by the interagency United States Forest Service/National Park Service helicopter from Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park. The helicopter was still in the area after assisting Rocky Mountain National Park during the Cow Creek Fire and responding to initial attack on another fire in Colorado.
The rangers descended from the summit to Table Ledge on the upper part of The Diamond where they established an anchor system to lower one ranger to Davidson. The ranger reached her at 12:15 a.m. The ranger gave her dry clothes, food and water. The ranger was able to assist the stranded climber up the fixed ropes to the Table Ledge and then climb back up to the Summit of Longs Peak via the upper Kiener’s Route, a vertical gain in altitude of approximately 700 feet and a distance over terrain of approximately 1,200 feet. They reached the summit at 3:00 a.m.
According to Rocky Mountain National Park Chief Ranger Mark Magnuson, “Given the location of Davidson in highly technical terrain at 14,000 feet, with no equipment to self-rescue and the extended weather forecast that predicted low temperatures and heavy rains, we made the decision to perform careful, well planned night operations by a highly skilled team. An unexpected bivouac half way up the Diamond in poor weather is not a good predicament.”
Rain continued off and on through the evening and temperatures were 39 degrees. Davidson was rescued without incident, warmed and fed at the summit and then flown out at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. Due to inclement weather, the last ranger and helicopter crew member flew off the summit at 10:00 a.m. There were roughly 25 people involved in this rescue operation including five members from Rocky Mountain Rescue who were on standby to assist park rangers if a carry-out was necessary.
There have been numerous incidents in Rocky Mountain National Park in the last month where rangers and injured visitors have benefitted from having an available helicopter and trained helitack crew in the area.
After this operation the interagency United States Forest Service/National Park Service helicopter from Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park left Rocky Mountain National Park for other commitments. It is crucial for visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park to realize if they are injured in the backcountry, depending on available resources, it could take hours for assistance to arrive. It continues to be vital that backcountry visitors are prepared to help themselves and others in the event of an emergency. Another reminder to backcountry users; seasonal weather patterns appear to be changing bringing monsoonal conditions, which contribute to elevated hazards and challenging conditions in the mountains.