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Pushing rocks off of Holy Cross

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Pushing rocks off of Holy Cross

Postby Zambo » Sun Sep 12, 2010 4:55 pm

So, my wife and I just got back from Holy Cross; amazing peak in a great place-love it. Anyways, on our descent we had an incident with rockfall I'd like to share.

We camped at East Cross creek and the plan was to hit the summit at sunrise, which we did. It was spectacular. There was a crew of three guys behind us the whole time who summited about 15 mins after us. We were mildly annoyed that we were being joined during our oh-so-romantic-moment by 3 dudes (we couldn't believe someone else picked that same day for a sunrise attempt), but whatever. We started talkin to the guys and they were nice enough.

After a few minutes of conversation we learned that they had literally left OktoberFest in Vail the night before, driven straight to the trail head and started climbing Holy Cross on a whim. They were "pretty drunk when we started" and two of them had never climber a 14er before. Additionally, one guy told me about how he had recently had knee surgery and it was killing him. Their original plan was to "nap for 5 hours or so" on the summit before heading down. It was 30 degrees with wind and they had no sleeping bags. I'm not making this up...

Ok, so all that is fine I guess. I mean, if you want to climb a 14er hungover, cold, and miserable, what do I care? But it was what happened on the descent that really pissed me off.

We left before them, and a half hour or so off the summit we turned back to the sound of rock fall. At first we thought it was natural, but soon it was unmistakable: these guys were intentionally knocking rocks directly into the Angelica Coulior. Not little rocks either, but freakin huge boulders. Some of the slides they caused took upwards of 2 minutes to settle. They caused maybe 6-8 major slides before stopping. We couldn't believe it.

A bit of background on me: I've had an acquaintance killed by rockfall and two friends go to the hospital from rocks on 14ers. Naturally, I was furious. We were a quarter mile or so away when I started yelling to stop. Eventually they got the picture and did. At this point I was pissed beyond all reason and ready to confront. Granted, the odds of someone being in that coulior at this time of day at this time of year are very small, but still. At the very least these d*ckbags contributed to hundreds of years of erosion in a matter of minutes. Luckily my wife spoke some good sense to me and we decided to avoid the confrontation.

So, having said all of that, here are my two main reasons for the story:
1. Never forget to be super careful of rock fall; sometimes it is indeed intentional by other idiot morons on the mountain.
2. I am wondering if there is anything I can do after the fact. Coincidentally enough, we actually got one of the guy's name and email on the top (picture exchange). Could/should we report this kind of thing to anyone? Maybe the local sherrif or park rangers? Not really sure what course to take if any, and interested to see what others think. Thanks.
"Human beings climb at their peril. Some might think that by climbing a great mountain they have somehow conquered it, but we can be only visitors here."

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Re: Pushing rocks off of Holy Cross

Postby Tory Wells » Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:15 pm

Good on you for yelling at them to stop; sometimes people are just ignorant and need to be told that their behavior is wrong. Since you got his email, I would think you could send him a message explaining why pushing rocks down a mountain is a big no-no. A little education may be all these a**holes need so maybe you can provide that. You could also give the email address to the USFS ranger in the area and perhaps they could also assist in some education.

As for any criminal laws violated...the closest statute would be reckless endangerment ("A person who recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another person"), although since no one was actually endangered I don't think it would stick.
"Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, am I." -David Gilmour, Pink Floyd

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Re: Pushing rocks off of Holy Cross

Postby jimlup » Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:18 pm

You were totally justified in your going of the handle! What a bone headed thing to do. While the chances of someone being in Angelica couloir may have been small they were not zero!
"Just because you have the gear does not mean that you are a Mountaineer!" My daughter's cynical comment about my hobby...

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Re: Pushing rocks off of Holy Cross

Postby cheeseburglar » Sun Sep 12, 2010 8:11 pm

In mountaineering this is referred to as trundling the route.
But I'm not sure if they had a legitimate reason to be trundling.
Nobody would be climbing Angelic in September.
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Re: Pushing rocks off of Holy Cross

Postby I fall a lot » Sun Sep 12, 2010 10:03 pm

Vail Bra wrote:stupid vail kids


methinks you don't have to look too far. :D

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Re: Pushing rocks off of Holy Cross

Postby 14erFred » Sun Sep 12, 2010 10:29 pm

Zambo: I completely agree with you...there is no excuse for trundling rocks down mountains in this day and age. To do so is potentially extremely dangerous to others, and it reflects either ignorance, stupidity, maliciousness, callousness, or some combination thereof. Thank you for stopping these individuals as you did. I'd have done exactly the same thing. You deserve a medal in my book! =D>
"Live as on a mountain." -- Marcus Aurelius

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Re: Pushing rocks off of Holy Cross

Postby Mel McKinney » Mon Sep 13, 2010 11:42 am

First, sorry to hear about the loss of your friend and the injury to your other friends from rockfall.

My roomie volunteers for Vail Mountain Search & Rescue. He jokes about SAR interfering with Darwin's Master Plan, which this almost was that type of situation. Luckily these guys didn't get lost, or dehydrated & sick or injure another person somehow (although I'll agree w/ Cheeseburglar that probably no one was in the couloir). Just the same, you hear stories of rocks being tossed off Pikes (as another example). It's better to educate someone on the risks of potential injury or death. Not worth calling it into the sheriff, IMO. Maybe just a note included w/ the photo exchange of the risks, the importance to you because of your friends, etc...?
Mountains cast spells on me - Why, because of the way Earth-heaps lie, should I be Chocked by joy mysteriously; stilled or drunken-gay? Why should a brown hill trail Tug at my feet to go? Why should a boggy swale Tune my heart to a nameless tale Mountain marshes know?
--- Belle Turnbull ("Mountain-Mad")

"Nothing is so embarrassing as watching someone do something that you said couldn't be done."
---Sam Ewing

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Re: Pushing rocks off of Holy Cross

Postby wesley_j » Mon Sep 13, 2010 12:32 pm

Zambo-

I also commend you for stepping up and doing/saying the right thing. INTENTIONALLY causing rockfall is absolutely unacceptable, no matter what the situation is. I would have been totally disgusted and hearing nonsense like this is really disappointing. These idiots needed to be put in their place. :evil:
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Re: Pushing rocks off of Holy Cross

Postby Fleischco » Mon Sep 13, 2010 12:58 pm

My first reaction would be anger as is human nature. My second is to try to educate a "willing" person or persons. I always remember and use the tragedy of a climber near Lander, WY that was killed by a rock thrown or rolled off the summit striking the roped climber and killing him instantly. The rock thrower looked over the edge in time to see the rock hit the climber but not warn him. This young man was with his brother and friend and "thought" nobody was around when the rolled the rock off the top. The young man took responsibility for pushing the rock and ended up staying with the body overnight (with the other climber) awaiting SAR and the Sheriff. What an awful night that must have been but so began his punishment. after all, he just killed someone's husband, father, son, friend. So I use this to educate friends and strangers about the dangers of rolling and throwing anything from a summit or even during the hike or climb. Here's that story:

http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/14003728/detail.html

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Re: Pushing rocks off of Holy Cross

Postby CFI PeakSteward » Mon Sep 13, 2010 1:00 pm

Hey Zambo - Thanks for taking the initiative to make the knuckleheads stop the trundling...I just spoke on the phone with Sam Massman, Wilderness Ranger for the Holy Cross Ranger District, and he is VERY interested in following up this incident with an email to the fellows you encountered. You can reach him directly at 970-827-5162...Thanks! =D>

Re: Pushing rocks off of Holy Cross

Postby Zambo » Mon Sep 13, 2010 1:17 pm

Hello everyone, thanks for the encouragement and words. Good to know I don't stand alone in getting pissed at these guys.

Thinkin I will go ahead and give the Holy Cross Ranger a call. I'm not lookin to ruin these guys or anything (honestly I think they were just ignorant and stupid), but who knows, hopefully a head thumping email from some rangers might do a bit of good.

On a side note, it does seem pretty likely that 'Vail Bra' is one of the dudes; in which case they'd know it was coming and don't seem to care. If that's true, that's really too bad.

I will keep everyone updated. Thanks.
"Human beings climb at their peril. Some might think that by climbing a great mountain they have somehow conquered it, but we can be only visitors here."

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Re: Pushing rocks off of Holy Cross

Postby Mel McKinney » Mon Sep 13, 2010 1:37 pm

Zambo wrote:On a side note, it does seem pretty likely that 'Vail Bra' is one of the dudes; in which case they'd know it was coming and don't seem to care. If that's true, that's really too bad.


Vail Bra is a troll who more than likely lives elsewhere than the Vail area.

I hope these guys take the words of you and the ranger (if he contacts them) to heart.
Mountains cast spells on me - Why, because of the way Earth-heaps lie, should I be Chocked by joy mysteriously; stilled or drunken-gay? Why should a brown hill trail Tug at my feet to go? Why should a boggy swale Tune my heart to a nameless tale Mountain marshes know?
--- Belle Turnbull ("Mountain-Mad")

"Nothing is so embarrassing as watching someone do something that you said couldn't be done."
---Sam Ewing

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