Posted: Oct 3, 2013 5:13 PM by Jamie Leary - KBZK News
BOZEMAN - Recent climbing accidents at Practice Rock in Hyalite Canyon shocked the climbing community and raised concerns among others.
Leigh Spokas with the Gallatin County Search and Rescue said, "Obviously those accidents shocked the climbing community and Bozeman as a whole."
Executive Director of Touch the Sky, Aaron Hjelt said, "We were shocked, we were devastated, there have been very few accidents in southwest Montana as a whole."
John "Amos" Ridenour was killed September 2nd after falling nearly 100 feet from Practice Rock while climbing with his son.
Two weeks later, another accident occurred in the same area.
Hjelt said, "So the most recent accident happened from the top of this pinnacle here."
22-year-old Michael Parker fell nearly 60 feet and broke his lumbar vertebrae, both ankles and crushed his heel.
Lt. Jason Garrett of the Gallatin County Sheriff's Department said, "From the Sheriff's Office and search and rescue portion, the climbers as a community take pretty good care of themselves and we don't have a lot of incidents related to climbing."
While rescuers say the two latest accidents are out of the norm and that has raised questions of concern about the safety of Practice Rock.
Hjelt said, "The name Practice Rock is probably a bit of a misnomer. It should not describe the area as a place for total beginners to come out and learn the skill, there's still a high level of competency needed."
"Even the most expert climber has the ability to make mistakes or get too comfortable with their own ability, so regardless of where we are in our ability as a climber, in our confidence as a climber, we need to maintain that level of awareness and safety," he said.
Spokas says, "Our biggest urge as Gallatin County Search and Rescue and as a climber, is just to tell folks to work in pairs, let people know where you are and slow up."
Immediately after Ridenour's death, local climbers installed more permanent anchors for added safety but Hjelt thinks more can be done on the education front.
He says, "The incidents that took place unfortunately were totally preventable. We need to be aware as a climbing community that climbing is a dangerous high-risk activity and more awareness is needed."
A fund to help 22-year-old Michael Parker with medical expenses has been set up online. You can find out about it here.