Steamboat Springs A Steamboat Springs man sustained serious head injuries Monday when he fell while rock climbing in north Routt County.
Vince Gigliotti, 46, reportedly fell about 20 feet onto a rocky slope after the equipment securing him to his climbing route broke loose. He was transported by ambulance to Routt Memorial Hospital and subsequently flown to Swedish Medical Center in Denver. The latest available information described his condition as serious but stable.
Gigliotti was climbing with his wife in an area about a mile past Hinman Park along Seedhouse Road. The two climbers were reportedly climbing a route known as “Steel Nut,” a popular passage among local enthusiasts. Another local climber, Bill Gamber, said Steel Nut is a technical rock climb with a difficulty rating of 5.8-plus.
Gigliotti is reportedly an experienced climber who was doing a lead climb up Steel Nut when the accident occurred. In a lead climb, the climber proceeds up the route and fastens a rope to the rock as he moves up.
“He was using ropes and had set protection,” said Mike Hirshman of the Steamboat ambulance crew who responded to the scene with Search and Rescue workers. The protection is designed to catch you at some point when you fall, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it breaks loose and that’s what happened this time.”
Gigliotti’s wife, who is an emergency medical technician, told investigators that Gigliotti was not breathing when she reached him. She immediately rolled him over to open his airway, and he began breathing again.
Search and Rescue and an ambulance crew from Clark were the first to reach the scene. Because of the victim’s head injuries, the Clark crew requested a Steamboat ambulance with advanced life support capabilities. Gigliotti was reportedly wearing a helmet when he fell, and Hirshman said he believed he was conscious when the first ambulance arrived.
The fall took place only about 15 yards off Seedhouse Road, according to Hirshman, but the terrain was difficult. Search and rescue workers used a “low angle rescue” technique to bring the litter down the irregular, rock-strewn slope from the base of the climb to the road. The technique uses ropes to lower the litter to prevent rescue workers from losing their footing.
The advanced life support crew arrived at the scene only a minute after Gigliotti was lowered to the road. He was taken to RMH, where X-rays were taken and his injuries evaluated. Hospital spokeswoman Carol Shaffer said Gigliotti sustained a subdural hematoma, or a contusion of the brain.
Hirshman said the rescue was a good example of a cooperative effort between several agencies.
“It was really a great joint effort by everyone involved,” he said. We had Search and Rescue, Clark and Steamboat all involved, and it could have been a real mess, but everyone worked together great.”
Gamber said the accident was particularly unfortunate because Gigliotti is known as a careful climber who takes the proper precautions.