According to a report from the National Park Service, a 67-year-old climber died following a fall at Colorado National Monument that took place on Saturday around noon.
The man was climbing on the Independence Monument monolith when the fall occurred, later succumbing to the injuries he sustained. Independence Monument is a massive 450-foot-tall sandstone pillar that towers starkly above the mostly flat Monument Canyon floor.
After park rangers were notified about the fall, they responded immediately to rescue the man, along with several other agencies.
Rescue crews ultimately hiked several miles to the scene, where a ‘technical ropes’ team climbed up the cliff face of the rock formation to reach the injured climber.
According to rock climbing website Mountain Project, climbing on Independence Monument often means multi-pitch climbing, with four to six pitches required to reach the top of the pillar on many routes. The multi-pitch nature of many routes on this formation may have contributed to the climber becoming stuck on the cliff face after a fall. On a multi-pitch route, the climber ascends a portion of the full wall, anchoring into the wall to reset their gear and ascend another segment.
It’s also worth noting that all of the Independence Monument rock climbing routes listed on Mountain Project are ‘trad’ routes (short for traditional), which means climbers place all of their own protection opposed to placing protection into pre-set bolts on a face. This is a more technical form of climbing that requires more expertise, as the entire safety system relies solely on the individual climbing group. Those participating in trad-style climbing are generally experienced rock climbers.
The specific route the climber was on when the accident occurred was not released. Listed routes on the formation range from 5.8 to 5.11b.
This death remains under investigation, with the identification of the deceased to be released upon notification of next of kin. Details about what may have caused the fall have not been released.
In addition to the Colorado National Monument rangers, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, Mesa County Search and Rescue, and Lower Valley Fire District responded to the scene. Those interested in supporting Colorado’s volunteer-driven search and rescue teams can do so by purchasing a CORSAR card.
Condolences go out to those impacted by this tragic death.
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