The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a fallen climber in the area of the Boulder Flatirons on Tuesday.

According to their report of the incident, a 26-year-old male fell approximately 50 to 60 feet, sustaining critical injuries. The fall occurred on the second flatiron.

The climber was scrambling at the time – a form of climbing that typically involves no safety gear. This form of climbing can be loosely defined as walking up terrain that’s steep enough to require the use of hands. The degree of difficulty can vary greatly.

While not always present, there’s often a fall risk and a bit of exposure associated with scrambling. It’s also a climbing technique that’s quite common in the Centennial State with many of Colorado’s fourteeners ending with a scrambling route over loose and rugged rocks to the summit.

It’s worth noting that this rescue effort seems to have been a complicated process, requiring both a “technical vertical litter evacuation” and a “scree evacuation.” A “vertical litter” rescue involves loading an individual into a sort of stretcher that is then maneuvered down a vertical slope. See an example of a “vertical litter rigging” here. This can also be done with the stretcher remaining parallel to the ground. A scree evacuation involves using a similar stretcher that’s typically carried over loose rock.

If you’re out there scrambling, know the risks and do your best to diminish them. It’s impossible to eliminate all of the risk in an activity like scrambling, but caution can help prevent the worse from happening.

The official report did not include detail about what led to the fall. A few common culprits include holds breaking off, touch-point slippage, and environmental factors like wind and rain.

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