Woman rescued after fall

Crews work through night to reach climber on 230-foot cliff


Search and rescue crews worked through the night Saturday to rescue a 39-year-old Steamboat Springs woman who was stuck 230-feet high on a cliff.

Gretty Stage, 39, of Steamboat Springs, fell on a climb near the Dome area off of Buffalo Park Road. Stage fell about 15 feet and landed on a ledge about 230 feet from the ground.

Routt County and Grand County search and rescue teams worked for more than nine hours to reach Stage, lower her to the ground by rope and then carry her out of a wilderness area.

Stage suffered from back, rib and wrist injuries. Although she was alert and conscious through the rescue, Stage was not able to stand or walk. She was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center, where she is listed in stable condition.

Mike Hirshman, who has been with Routt County Search and Rescue for more than 20 years, said it was the most technical rope rescue he remembers.

"We usually don't have that many rope rescues in a course of a year. Most sport climbs are a single pitch," Hirshman said. "This was different."

The accident occurred at about 3 p.m. Saturday, when Stage, who was a lead climber, started on the third pitch of a climb and fell, incident commander Scott Havener said.

The group was climbing on a well-known climbing route about two miles from Forest Road 100 and in wilderness area in Routt National Forest.

By the time rescue crews climbed to the ledge, it was close to dark. For much of the rescue, crewmembers worked with headlamps. Search and rescue crews were able to reach Stage on ropes that already were secured by Stage's climbing partners.

When crews reached Stage, they had to pull up medical equipment and a litter to get her off the ledge, Hirshman said.

Rescue workers immobilized Stage in a splint and then lowered her by rope in the litter.

Hirshman said it took hours to get people and equipment in place to lower Stage and then two hours to lower her to the ground.

"It was pitch black, no moonlight. There were several obstacles we had to overcome. There were not a whole lot of people there to make it happen, and there was no way we were going too fast," Hirshman said.

Stage was on the ground at about 3:30 a.m. Rescue crews put a wheel on the litter to help with the hike out of the area, which had steep slopes and wet marshy patches.

It took two hours to carry Stage on a narrow and rough trail to an ambulance waiting at the trailhead. Because the trail was in the U.S. Forest Service's designated wilderness area, the rescue crews could not use all-terrain vehicles and could use only handheld tools to clear the path, Havener said.

Rescue crews and Stage arrived at the bottom of the trail, where an ambulance was waiting, at about 5:30 a.m. Sunday.

With mild temperatures during the night, Hirshman said the weather was in the group's favor.

Havener said Routt County Search and Rescue does only one or two rope rescues a year, though members practice more often. Hirshman said the Dome area has been identified as a site for a potential rescue because it is attractive for climbing and is growing in popularity.

Havener called the rescue a joint effort with Grand County.

"Both teams from both counties preformed extremely well," Havener said. "Nobody got hurt, and it was a good possibility working in those conditions and with that type of rescue. It was pretty amazing."

The all-night rescue came after a trying week for both search and rescue teams. Grand County Search and Rescue recovered remains from a plane that crashed near Kremmling in April, and both search and rescue teams had been part of the search effort for the lost ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park.

"It was tough. Everyone was a little tired," Havener said.


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