SILVERTON, CO – Famed mountaineer and author Gerry Roach, who has penned popular climbing route guides and many stories about Colorado’s 14ers, suffered serious injuries in a climbing accident on August 9th. CBS Denver reported on August 15th that he is currently recovering at Centura-Mercy Hospital in Durango with a good prognosis and a positive attitude. Roach recently published the fourth edition of his well-known guidebook, Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs.
Roach, 79, took a 100-foot fall on a 13,200-foot peak known as V8 located near Hope Lake in San Juan County. The accident occurred around 8 p.m. when Roach lost his footing on a scree-covered slope. While the incident was widely reported, Roach’s identity was not originally known.
According to Roach, the fall involved several bounces and collisions with the mountain, resulting in five broken ribs, a broken nose, a collapsed right lung, head and face lacerations, and a concussion. Roach’s wife and fellow climber Jennifer, who witnessed the fall, described the scene as akin to “throwing a rag doll down a very, very steep slope.”
“One second I was climbing down under control. The next second I was flying through the air,” said Roach in an interview with CBS Colorado from his hospital room at Centura-Mercy. “Crashed about five times and a I hit my head most of those times. I finally decided, I’ve got to stop. So I threw my arms out and I managed to stop.”
The complex rescue operation involved Silverton Medical Rescue Team, Flight for Life, Colorado Search and Rescue Association, the Colorado Hoist Team, the Air National Guard High Altitude Helicopter Team, and La Plata County Search and Rescue Team.
Rescuers made access into the remote area and kept Roach alive through the night, waiting for daylight to perform an extrication via Blackhawk helicopter. The mission, lasting 18 hours and involving 25 rescuers, successfully delivered Roach to Mercy Regional Medical Center.
Legacy and Future
Known for taking on challenges like Everest and being the second person to climb the “Seven Summits” of all seven continents, Roach’s guides on climbing Colorado 14ers have become essential reading for both walkers and climbers. Gerry and Jennifer Roach remain positive about the future, with Gerry stating, “I’ll get back in there.”
Lessons Learned and Mountain Safety Tips
This incident underscores the importance of several mountain safety principles:
Prepare for the Unexpected: Even seasoned mountaineers like Gerry Roach can encounter unexpected situations. Proper training and preparation can make all the difference.
Use Proper Equipment: Utilize appropriate gear for the terrain and conditions, including helmets and safety devices, to mitigate injuries.
Climb with a Partner: Having someone who can call for help or provide immediate assistance can be life-saving.
Know the Terrain: Understanding the risks associated with the specific location you are climbing can help prevent accidents.
Carry Communication Devices: The availability of a satellite connection played a crucial role in alerting authorities.
Adhere to Leave No Trace Principles: Respecting the environment ensures that it remains enjoyable and safe for all.
Learn from the Experienced: Climbing guides, classes, and following the wisdom of experts like Gerry Roach can significantly improve safety on the mountains.
Gerry Roach’s accident reminds us that outdoor adventures, even for experienced climbers, come with inherent risks. Following our mountain safety guidelines ensures a more responsible and enjoyable mountain experience.
Most search and rescue team members in Colorado are volunteers and spend more than $500 of their own funds each year responding to missions. Please consider supporting SAR and their important work with a donation or by purchasing a Colorado SAR (COSAR) Card.