Climber falls 30 feet in Acadia

Posted June 12, 2012, at 11:16 a.m.
Last modified June 12, 2012, at 2:20 p.m.

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ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — A Montana woman who works at the Jordan Pond House restaurant suffered several injuries Sunday evening when she fell while free-climbing along Ocean Drive, according to a park ranger.

The 23-year-old woman, who is from Missoula, Mont., was climbing without the use of ropes around 5:15 p.m. Sunday when she fell about 30 feet, Ranger Ed Pontbriand said Tuesday. She was climbing on rocks along the shore on Monument Cove, which is between Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs, he said.

The woman, whom Pontbriand did not identify, fell onto cobblestones. She appeared to break her ankle but suffered other injuries that Pontbriand described as “multi-system trauma.” Park personnel, members of Mount Desert Island Search and Rescue, and Acadia Climbing Guides responded to evacuate the woman from the bottom of the cliff, the ranger said.

The woman was immobilized in a full-body vacuum splint and hoisted in a litter to the top. From there, she was carried to a nearby LifeFlight helicopter that had found a stable rocky outcropping to land on, and then flown to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

Pontbriand said Sunday’s incident was the second in the past two weeks in which someone has fallen while free-climbing in Monument Cove.

The prior incident, on May 31, involved a 19-year-old Bar Harbor woman who fell a shorter distance and hurt her ankle. The Bar Harbor woman was using a “crash pad,” which free climbers often place on the ground beneath them to cushion their landing if they do fall; she missed it slightly when she landed, he said. Normally, free climbing is done when the distance to the ground is not more than a few feet, he said.

Pontbriand said he is not sure whether the Montana climber was using a crash pad when she fell. He said climbing is a very technical skill, and that it can be “a little risky” for those who do not have a lot of experience.

“It’s a growing fad,” Pontbriand said of free-climbing. “A lot of people are starting to do it.”

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.

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