Multi-agency effort rescues rock climber injured by dislodged sandstone

KANE COUNTY — Saturday morning near Lake Powell, a large sandstone slab dislodged from a cliff and hit a rock climber in the head severely injuring him. The 30-year-old climber was rescued from approximately 500 feet up a rock feature called Gregory Butte and transported to a Flagstaff, Ariz. hospital where he is expected to recover.

Saturday the climber, from Grand Junction, Colo., had ascended over 500 feet up the cliff face of Gregory Butte located at Last Chance Bay in the Lake Powell area, according to a Kane County Emergency Services blogpost by the county Sheriff’s Sgt. Alan Alldredge. Around 9 a.m. an anchor that the man had placed in the rock failed, causing him to fall approximately 30 feet. His fall was stopped by his previous anchor and rope which left him hanging on the cliff by his harness. When the first anchor came out of the sandstone face, it also caused a large slab of stone to break free which fell hitting the climber in the head and severely injuring him.

It is very possible that his life was saved by the use of a proper helmet, Alldredge said.

His friends, who were watching him from a boat below, drove to an area where they could get cell phone coverage. The initial call went to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area dispatch personnel who then contacted the Kane County Sheriff’s Office dispatch center with a request for help.

Multiple agencies responded. One five-man team was flown to the top of Gregory Butte and was able to drill and set anchors on top of the Butte. A Glen Canyon medic was lowered to the injured climber and was able to secure the climber. They were then both raised back to the top by the other four rescuers.

The injured climber was transported by UHP helicopter to a waiting medical helicopter from Guardian Air out of Page, Ariz.. He was then transported to a Flagstaff, Ariz. hospital.

All rescue crews then returned to their respective areas.

The injured climber is currently in an Intensive Care Unit but expected to recover, Alldredge said.  His injuries were serious and it will take time to heal.

The climber and two friends had been camping at the base of Gregory Butte since Thursday and he had completed a couple of previous shorter climbs on Gregory Butte Thursday and Friday.  He is considered an expert climber, Alldredge said in his post.

The morning of the rescue Kane County Search and Rescue was already involved in a joint training in Kanab with Coconino County Search and Rescue, and a Utah Highway Patrol Aero Division helicopter. When the call came in, the combined teams began working on the rescue plan.

Among the teams involved were two rescue personnel from Glen Canyon who responded by boat and helicopter to the scene. Also, UHP pilot Shane Oldfield and technical flight officer Sgt. Ryan Bauer transported the three search and rescue personnel from Kane County and gear from Kanab to the top of Gregory Butte where they joined with the Glen Canyon team to rescue the climber. Furthermore, a search and rescue team from Coconino County as well as additional personnel from Kane County Search and Rescue responded by vehicle to the airport in Page, Ariz., where they could be picked up by the UHP helicopter and transported to the scene if needed.

This is another great example of the collaborative efforts and relationships that have been built and fostered between the agencies of Southern Utah, Northern Arizona, Utah Highway patrol and our Federal Partners at Lake Powell, Alldredge said.

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