Two Smith Rock climbers were injured Saturday afternoon, one critically, after a rope that swung across the face of Monkey Face struck them, causing them to lose their balance and fall up to 85 feet, authorities said.
As it turned out, the pair already had climbed Monkey Face, a recognizable feature of the well-known climbing spot, and had rappelled down to the base when the accident happened around 1 p.m., said Deschutes County sheriff?s Deputy Mike Biondi, assistant Search and Rescue coordinator.
Elizabeth Redmond, 29, of Oakland, Calif., was flown by AirLink helicopter to St. Charles Medical Center-Bend, where she was listed in critical condition late Saturday night, but a nursing supervisor said had improved to serious condition Sunday morning -- and was in fair condition Monday.
Lee Dingemans, 28, of Minneapolis, was treated at the scene and was able to walk down the trail on his own, the deputy said.
Officials learned the two had climbed Monkey Face, then rappelled to the base. As they gathered their gear, another climber swung on the ?rope swing? attached to Money Face -- and while swinging, grabbed a rappel rope previously anchored to the top of the feature, Biondi said.
His momentum caused the rappel rope to move across the rock face, hitting Redmond and Dingemans in the lower legs and causing them to lose their balance and fall, Biondi said.
Witnesses said Redmond fell 10 feet, then rolled another 75 down the hill. Dingemans also fell about 10 feet, then rolled another 20 feet downhill, Biondi said.
Sheriff?s 911 dispatchers got a call around 1 p.m. to report the accident, initially believed to be one climber. As units responded to the call, it was learned two climbers had fallen near Monkey Face, Biondi said.
A sheriff?s deputy and a dozen Sheriff?s Office Search and Rescue members, including medics and mountain rescue personnel, responded to the scene, along with Redmond Fire Department paramedics, he said.
The two climbers were stabilized by paramedics, and Redmond was taken by wheeled litter about a half-mile down the trail and across the Crooked River by rubber raft. Dingemans, treated at the scene, was able to walk down and also was taken across the river, later released to friends.
Other rock climbers say while this accident was quite unusual, it serves as a reminder to everyone out there climbing to be aware of others. around you.
"Obviously, it's not like going to Shevlin Park, and going walking the river trail," Mountain Supply worker Jesper Hilts said Sunday. "There's a lot of loose rock up there, and there's a lot of terrain that inevitably could cause you to fall."
"I mean, you hear stories of people falling off Misery Ridge at Smith Rock all the time," Hilts added. "But this specific story was pretty amazing. You actually don't think that things like that would ever happen."