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Woman hurt in rock climbing fall at Garden of the Gods

Second climbing rescue of holiday weekend at popular attraction

Climbing Rescues at Garden of the Gods

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - On a busy Labor Day weekend at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, visitors saw a sight they didn't expect -- firefighters rescuing a woman who fell while rock climbing.

Witnesses said an Ohio woman was climbing with her family around 3 p.m. Saturday when she fell an estimated 20 feet.  The fire department said the woman missed a hold in the rock and continued to hold her rope, but wasn't wearing a helmet and hit the rock hard.

The woman was around 30 feet above ground at the time of her rescue, witnesses said, but wasn't believed to be seriously injured and was taken to a hospital.  The fall occurred under Kissing Camels in an area known as Tourists' Gulley.

"It's a very popular area because the climbing routes are very accessible," said Russ Renck, a fire department battalion chief.  "But it's very dangerous because it's very easy to climb up, and is very unstable rock that can come apart easily."

Renck said the woman and her family had a permit to climb and had the proper equipment.  Climbing instructor John McDonough said he was the first at her side to help her.

"I heard somebody fall and yell for help," said McDonough.  "She was talking.  She was OK.  Another climber and an Army medic came after I did, then the fire department and paramedics."

It was the second rescue in two days at Tourists' Gulley.  On Friday, firefighters rescued two people who climbed without equipment and without a permit -- required for climbers who plan to climb more than 10 feet above a rock base.  Violators can be fined $500.

"It's much easier to climb up than it is to go down," said McDonough.  "That's something most people don't realize until they're up there."

Renck said firefighters are more concerned about illegal climbers -- known as "scramblers" -- than legal climbers, even though Saturday's fall showed that legal climbing can be dangerous as well.

"If you don't have equipment, stay off the rocks," said McDonough.  "Simple as that.  "Without it, you put yourself and those trying to rescue you in danger."

McDonough said with Garden of the Gods being crowded during holiday weekends, climbers should consider other locations like Red Rock Canyon and North Cheyenne Cañon.

Renck said the fire department conducts between 30 and 40 rock rescues annually.

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