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Injured climber rescued from Lake Powell cliff face

Published April 6, 2014 8:43 pm

Southern Utah • Rescue teams were already training when they received the call.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A climb turned into a rescue at Lake Powell after a man's anchor came loose from the cliff face.

About 7 a.m. Saturday, a Colorado man began climbing Gregory Butte, which is in Lake Powell's Last Chance Bay. By 9 a.m., he was more than 500 feet up the sandstone cliff when an anchor he had placed in the rock fell out of the cliff face, according to a Kane County news release.

The man fell about 30 feet before another anchor stopped him, leaving him hanging on the cliff by his harness. But when the first anchor came loose, it had caused a large slab of stone to break free and fall. The stone hit the climber on the head — and rescuers credit his helmet with likely saving his life.

His friends, who had been watching from a boat below, had to leave the area to find cellphone coverage.

That morning, Kane County Search and Rescue was already in a joint training session with Coconino County, Ariz., Search and Rescue when the call came in. Even though the butte was in San Juan County, Kane County responded since they were closer and were ready with resources, according to the release.

Both teams at the training session worked together on a rescue plan. The Kane County rescuers used a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter, which they already had for training, to reach the top of the butte.

A Glen Canyon National Recreation Area team was waiting for them at the top. Together, they drilled and set anchors at the top of the butte and lowered a medic to the injured climber. The medic secured the climber and they were both pulled up.

From there, a helicopter took the climber to a medical chopper, which moved the climber to a Page, Ariz., hospital. He was in the intensive care unit as of Sunday night, but is expected to recover, according to the release.

"This is another great example of the collaborative efforts and relationships that have been [built] and fostered between the agencies of southern Utah, Northern Arizona, Utah Highway patrol and our [federal partners] at Lake Powell," the release reads. "Thanks to all involved in this successful and safe rescue."

The 30-year-old climber and two friends had been camping at the base of Gregory Butte since Thursday. The man is considered an expert climber and had completed two shorter climbs on the butte on Thursday and Friday, according to the release.

"Climbing in the sandstone like he was doing is considered to be one of the most dangerous kinds of climbing next to climbing without safety equipment," the release adds.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mikeypanda