By Jamie Leary
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) — A climber has a gold-panner and emergency responders to thank after he was rescued from the cliffs of Clear Creek Canyon Friday.
The 35-year-old Colorado man was climbing near tunnel one off of Highway 6 without a harness or rope; it’s a sport known as free climbing.
He was about 150 feet high when he couldn’t go farther. He was stuck on a ledge with little room to move and began screaming for help.
It was pure luck. The only person nearby was a man panning for gold. He heard the climbers cries for help and called 911.
“It’s fortunate that the creek was not flowing as high as it is some years,” Said Lieutenant Jason Mulari with Golden Fire Rescue. “A lot of that ambient noise, if it was a higher flow year, probably would’ve drowned out his voice but the fact that the creek was flowing so low at the moment, that gentleman was able to hear him from that, 150 to 200 feet up.”
Mulari was one of the first on scene and the first to talk to the climber.
“We were able to communicate with him and say like, ‘Hey, just hang on, we’re coming’ but initially he was pretty panicked,” said Mulari.
West Metro Fire also provided rescue technicians, one of which climbed up to the stranded man and put him in a harness. Mulari and his crew supplied a rope from the top and lowered the rescuer and the stranded climber to safety.
“Getting the gear in place, getting the anchor set, you know, getting yourself to him that takes a long time,” said Mulari.
Golden Fire says the man was clinging to the ledge for nearly three hours and was very grateful to get down.
There were more than 20 people assisting in the rescue. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office had to shut down a portion of Highway 6 just before 2 p.m. to get rescue equipment in place.
Mulari says while he told rescuers he had been free climbing for about 10 years, he told others on scene, he wasn’t much of a climber at all.
Two fighters were injured by falling rock during the rescue. One sustained minor injuries; another suffered a large gash on his arm and was transported for treatment.
The climber will not face any fines.
“We’re just glad it was another happy ending today,” said Mulari. “Have fun, enjoy the outdoors and do what you do but don’t go beyond your limitations.”
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.