Grand County Search and Rescue prepare to rescue a climber who was injured while ascending Castleton Tower. [Photo by Nadi Ardalan/Courtesy Grand County Search and Rescue]

A climber was rescued from Castleton Tower in Castle Valley on Saturday, Oct. 27. He fell approximately 20 feet onto a ledge and sustained head injuries. 

Grand County Search and Rescue was called to the scene shortly after 3 p.m. The rescue completed after 10 p.m.

“Fortunately there were rock climbers above and below the subject when he fell,” said Grand County Search and Rescue Commander Jim Webster.

The two climbers above injured climber had emergency medical training and were able to stabilize him before search and rescue crews arrived.

“The guy was lucky. The other climbers had good skill sets,” said Bego Gerhart, the officer-in-charge on the rescue. “Everybody who was close by and was there within minutes had a skill set that was perfect for the situation.”

His climbing partners didn’t want to move him, however, due to concerns that he may have suffered neck or spinal injuries after hitting the rock with his face. Search and Rescue workers soon arrived, but needed to get crews and equipment to the injured climber.

“Even though there were people up there with the patient, they didn’t have a litter and a backboard and an apparatus to stabilize and move the patient,” Webster said.

The injured climber was on the second pitch going up on the tower. He was about 150 feet up from the ground on the 350-foot tower while climbing the Kor-Ingalls route when he fell.

A CareFlight from St. Mary’s in Grand Junction, Colo. was able to transport the rescue crew and equipment to the saddle between Castleton Tower and Rectory Butte. The crew then had to transport the equipment up and around the tower to the ledge where the injured climber was resting.

The injured climber was put in a litter with a vacuum-mattress to keep his back and neck stable during the descent. They were able to lower him down to another ledge where an Emergency Medical Service paramedic was able to do an assessment.

“We then needed to move him from the south side along a fairly narrow ledge around a 180 degree circumnavigation to the north side,” Webster said. The crew was connected by a safety line. “From there was another lowering, much shorter, down 30 feet down big blocky rocks and a big skree slope to a level cap rock that is the saddle between Castle Rock and Rectory Butte.”

Webster said the saddle was nice and flat, but it was only wide enough to land a helicopter on it. CareFlight was able to take the patient from there to St. Mary’s Hospital.

“He’s doing well,” Webster said. “The word is he is in good shape.”

A second helicopter was sent by the Utah Department of Public Safety. This helicopter was able to ferry rescue workers and equipment to the valley floor around 10 p.m.

The entire rescue took more than seven hours.

“The Castle Rock incident was No. 98 for the year,” Webster said. Grand County Search and Rescue averages 97 rescues each year. “For the last two years running, we had 99 each year.”