Dramatic photos show terrifying rescue after Colorado climber plunges 120 feet

Colorado climber rescued after fall
A 48-year-old man is said to be in stable condition after the ordeal (Image credit: Mesa Sheriff Crime Watch)

A Colorado rock climber is lucky to be alive after surviving a dramatic 120-foot plunge over the weekend which prompted a precarious rescue mission.

According to a news release by Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, the 48-year-old Grand Junction man was climbing with a companion in the area of Mother's Buttress,  a large granite wall in Unaweep Canyon which is is one of the most popular climbing spots in the area north of Highway 141 in Whitewater. The man reportedly fell from the Tooth and Claw and suffered injuries, though no details were released on how the accident occurred.

Dramatic photos from the rescue, which you can see below, show the complex nature of the operation, which shut down the highway in both directions ad required a response from the MCSO along with volunteers from search and rescue and officials from Gateway Fire Department, CareFlight, and the BLM

The search required a drone to locate the climbers who were found on a ledge 200 feet from the base. Rescue climbers then climbed up to reach the pair on belay and transported the patient down the cliff in a stretcher before taking him to a local hospital via helicopter. He is said to be in stable condition. 

"That's quite the fall. What a blessing to be in stable condition. Great job crew!" wrote one Facebook user after viewing the photos.

Rock climbing safety

Falling is the most common cause of climbing injuries and it usually happens when you’re on the way up, not down. Lead climbers are at higher risk of falling than their partners. If you’re leading, you’re only as safe as the last piece of gear you placed, after all. 

The following are some important steps you should take for staying safe when rock climbing:

  • Take rock climbing skills classes with a trained professional 
  • Wear a helmet, even when on the ground
  • Take good care of your ropes by cleaning them and inspecting your ropes and other gear regularly 
  • Wear well-fitting climbing shoes and harness 
  • Climb with people you trust and communicate properly on belay 
  • Check the weather before you go and stick to dry days for outdoor climbing 
  • Climb indoors when the weather isn’t playing ball 

Learn more in our article titled Is rock climbing dangerous? 

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.