I2 Ice Instructor Course Incident

As many of our members may already know, the AMGA had a significant incident on the I2 Ice Instructor Course on Tuesday January 5, 2016. The purpose of this blog post is to update our membership and interested parties on the status of those involved, to shed light on the facts of the incident and to share our gratitude to those who helped make a swift and efficient rescue.

What Happened

Dale Remsberg, AMGA Technical Director and Instructor Team member, and two students, Aili Farquhar and Kerr Adams were climbing the route Skylight on Camp Bird Road on the morning of Tuesday January 5. Dale was doing an instructor demo climb and was leading the route. Belayed by Aili, he was approximately halfway up the second pitch when he was hit from above by a piece of falling debris. Dale was knocked off balance and his tool placement blew. He fell approximately 40 feet down the chimney until his fall was stopped by his highest ice screw.

The Ice Screw that held Dale’s fall showing significant fracturing in the ice (photo by Andres Marin).

Dale knew immediately something was very wrong with his chest and respiratory system. Although there was a significant MOI for a spinal injury, Dale and the students chose to get to emergency care as soon as possible in lieu of waiting for a high angle rescue.

Aili lowered Dale to the belay station, built a spider and tandem rappelled to the ground. Kerr called 911 and the other instructor team members, who were in the Ouray area, to initiate an emergency response. During this time Dale was in significant pain and respiratory distress. He was back boarded into the ambulance and driven down the road to Ouray. From Ouray he was airlifted to Montrose.

Update on Dale

Dale suffered three broken ribs and a hemopneumothorax. His lung was 80% collapsed. He spent two nights in the Montrose Hospital and was able to check out on the afternoon of Thursday January 7, 2016. Dale is doing remarkably well and is in good spirits. He has been visited by many friends and has been inundated with love and support on his Facebook page, voicemail and inbox. For now, Dale is focused on his recovery and will be spending more time on the AMGA administrative side of things and supporting our students from behind the scenes. Not one to miss a teachable moment, we heard that Dale was giving Aili and Kerr feedback while they were rappelling to the ground!

Take Away

Dale has been climbing ice for 26 years. This is the first time he has taken a fall lead climbing on ice. He is a fully certified Mountain Guide and has guided over 1000 days on the ice over the course of his career. Although we try to minimize the risks as much as possible, the mountain environment is not one that can be controlled. Accidents and incidents that are outside the direct control of the Guide do happen.

In this case, Dale was with competent and prepared students who handled the situation and performed exceptionally well under stress. We are incredibly grateful to our amazing students, Instructor Team members, San Juan Mountain Guides, the emergency response team and the staff at the Montrose Hospital for making Dale’s rescue and treatment as efficient and well executed as possible.