ST. GEORGE – An injured climber was taken off an area of the Red Hill, by rope, with the aid of emergency personnel Friday afternoon.
The St. George Communications Center received a call around 4 p.m. concerning a climber who had fallen on a section of the Red Hill known by climbers as the Bluff Street Cracks. The St. George Fire Department and Gold Cross Ambulance were dispatched to the location, gaining access at the end of 400 West. St. George Police officers also responded to deal with traffic.
Luke Smith, of St. George, said he and a friend were climbing the Bluff Street Cracks in preparation for a climb in Zion National Park. While climbing, his friend fell between 20-25 feet, impacting his chest against the ledge below. Smith said his friend was bruised and may have some broken ribs, though there were no spinal injuries as far as he could tell. The fallen climber was also conscious and alert.
Life Flight was called to the scene and landed on 400 West. There was some debate over how best to get the climber off the ledge, St. George Fire Capt. Jerry Tischner said. The two options were to take him by rope to the top of the cliff where Life Flight could land, or transport him to the bottom of the cliff, also by rope, or “skyline” as it is sometimes called.
“It was a little bit rocky toward the top and we decided it would be safer to bring him down rather than lift him to the top,” Tischner said.
St. George Fire Shift Capt. Darren Imlay, who was in charge of the rope rescue operation, said 600 feet of skyline was used from anchor to anchor to get the injured climber down off the ledge. He also said the climber was conscious when transported. The reason the skyline was used, he said, was because it eliminated the potential hazard of any one man carrying a gurney down hill slipping and taking everyone else down with him.
There was at least one instance of one of the rescuers slipping and falling on his hind quarters while helping guide the skyline-suspended gurney down the hill. While he went down, the gurney stayed unaffected. The rescuer was unphased by the temporary fall and kept on going.
The climber was safely off the hill and placed in an ambulance by around 5:45 p.m. and taken to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George. The Life Flight helicopter left the scene shortly before that, having been temporarily grounded while the man was taken off the hill. There was a concern that wind kicked up by the helicopter’s take-off could have an adverse effect on the skyline.
Area resident Terry Cluff said he has been seeing many climbers on the Bluff Street Cracks recently.
“In the last two months we’ve had climbers up there,” Cluff said. “They’ve been up there nearly every afternoon. They go up the cracks.”
The area is a popular attraction for climbers in general, Cluff said, but this is the first time he has seen something like this happen. “I’ve been here 45 years,” he said, “and this is the first time we’ve had an injury on our cliff.”
“It’s dangerous and sobering, but it’s fun,” Smith said.
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