A Connecticut man suffered serious facial and head injuries during a fall while rock climbing at Castleton Tower on Saturday, Oct. 27. The accident occurred at about 3 p.m. at the popular rock climbing spot approximately 20 miles northeast of Moab near the town of Castle Valley.
Peter Duker, 21, of Darien, Conn., fell approximately 20 feet, landing and striking his head on a small rock ledge while climbing the Kor-Ingalls route on the tower, officials with the Grand County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release. The fall left Duker unconscious on the ledge about 150 feet above ground level, near the middle of the 350-foot rock formation.
“[Ducker] was leading the second pitch of a four pitch climb. He landed on a small ledge with his head taking most of the force. He was wearing a helmet,” the sheriff’s department news release stated.
Bego Gerhart, Grand County Search and Rescue vice-commander, said Duker was fortunate that several rock climbers who were climbing at Castleton Rock that afternoon quickly came to his aid. Those climbers had varying levels of wilderness medical and search and rescue training, Gerhart said.
Two people rappelled down to the ledge where Duker lay unconscious, and two climbed up from below to offer assistance, Gerhart said. They were able to secure Ducker and provide some aid, he said.
“It was a very difficult rescue [for Grand County Search and Rescue] and it’s a very lucky thing that so many people on the rock had so many skills...,” Gerhard said. “Most of the people that got to him in about a half-hour had many skills. We were lucky to have those civilian climbers because they solved all the problems they could before we got there.”
Grand County Search and Rescue workers responded to the scene and paged helicopters from the Utah Department of Public Safety and St. Mary’s Hospital Careflight.
Some rescue workers were flown by helicopter to the spot where Ducker had fallen while others climbed up from the base of Castelton Tower, Gerhart said. Twelve climbers and six technical rescue personnel from search and rescue worked to reach Ducker and lower him to the ground. Rescuers then had to carry Ducker around to the north side of the tower and lower down another short cliff. He was then transported by helicopter to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo. The entire rescue effort lasted almost seven hours and was completed at approximately 10 p.m., sheriff’s department officials said.
The helicopters played a significant role in the rescue, Gerhart said.
“St. Mary’s helicopter flew in and did a lot of ferrying of people and equipment,” Gerhart said. “The [Department of Public Safety] helicopter got everyone and everything back down. And a lot of this was at night using night vision goggles.’
The helicopters were landing on a narrow strip of rock that was no wider than the crafts’ skids, Gerhart said. Fortunately, the weather was calm.
“It takes a no-wind situation to land on a ridge. And we had no wind,” he said.