Injured Climber Rescued by Mesa County SAR After Surviving 120-Foot Fall

WHITEWATER, COLORADO — A daring rescue operation was conducted Saturday afternoon by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, alongside various emergency response teams, following a distressing climbing accident at Mother’s Buttress, located north of Highway 141 in Whitewater. A 48-year-old man from Grand Junction suffered significant injuries after a perilous 120-foot fall while climbing the Tooth and Claw route.

The coordinated rescue effort included personnel from the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, Search and Rescue volunteers, Gateway Fire Department, CareFlight, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). A drone played a crucial role in the operation by locating the injured climber and his companion on a ledge approximately 200 feet above the ground.

The technical rescue team successfully reached the stranded climbers, providing the necessary first aid before the injured man was airlifted to a local hospital. He is currently reported to be in stable condition, receiving care for injuries sustained during the fall. The operation necessitated the temporary closure of Highway 141 in both directions to facilitate the rescue efforts and ensure the safety of the responders and the public.

This incident underscores the inherent risks associated with climbing and the importance of preparedness and caution in such endeavors. The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and its partners commend the swift and effective response of all involved agencies, highlighting the value of teamwork and expertise in emergency situations.

Safety Tips for Climbers

In light of this incident, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office reminds climbers and outdoor enthusiasts of the following safety tips to prevent accidents and ensure a safe climbing experience:

  1. Plan Your Climb: Thoroughly research your climbing route, understand its challenges, and ensure it matches your skill level.
  2. Check Weather Conditions: Before heading out, check the weather forecast. Avoid climbing in adverse weather conditions.
  3. Use Proper Equipment: Always use certified and well-maintained climbing gear. Regularly inspect your equipment for wear and tear.
  4. Climb with a Companion: Never climb alone. Having a partner can provide immediate assistance in case of an emergency.
  5. Inform Someone: Always let someone know your climbing plans, including the route and expected return time.
  6. Take a Climbing Course: If you’re new to climbing or looking to advance your skills, consider taking a course from a certified instructor.
  7. Be Prepared for Emergencies: Carry a first aid kit, a whistle, a flashlight, and a mobile phone with emergency numbers saved. Know basic first aid and rescue techniques.
  8. Stay on Marked Routes: Avoid straying from established climbing routes to minimize the risk of falls and injuries.


The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office is committed to the safety of our community’s outdoor enthusiasts. By following these safety tips, climbers can enjoy the beauty and thrill of Colorado’s landscapes while minimizing the risks involved in such adventurous activities.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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Hi, I'm Alex!

In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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