Moab resident Dalton Freeman Snow is recovering in a Denver hospital after suffering major injuries from a fall while rock climbing near Moab. Snow suffered a broken pelvis, five broken ribs, a broken collar bone, a broken scapula, and his right hand, which was nearly torn off by a falling piece of rock. Snow does not have health insurance.
As of April 21, a GoFundMe page set up to help with Snow’s medical expenses has raised over $28,000 of a $100,000 goal.
“He’s in an incredibly positive mood about the whole thing,” said his friend and “adventure partner” Kiley Hartigan, who organized the GoFundMe page. She lives in Denver and has been checking in on Snow, who went to that hospital in order to have access to a renowned hand surgeon based there. “He’s cracking jokes to all the nurses—they love it,” Hartigan said.
She and Snow met working together at a ski resort in Colorado. Later they learned to skydive together, and they’ve worked together on rigging gigs—Hartigan said Snow is particularly talented in that field. Snow has lived in Moab for the past several years, where he’s pursued his passion for outdoor sports and other hobbies like juggling, fire spinning, and aerial silks. He works at a local restaurant and is an occasional guide.
Hartigan described Snow as creative and playful, in addition to being a skilled outdoor athlete.
“He’s just a ray of sunshine in everyone’s life,” she said. “He’s such a positive guy and makes everyone feel amazing about themselves.”
On April 13, Snow was using aid techniques to climb a little-traveled route in the Behind the Rocks area with the intention of setting up a highline anchor at the top. He was a few pitches up the route, and as he was pushing up onto a ledge, the chunk of rock he was on—described as “mini-fridge-sized” on the GoFundMe page—dislodged and Snow fell about 30 feet to another ledge below.
His belayer caught him and prevented him from falling further, but the impact onto the ledge caused most of Snow’s injuries. The dislodged piece of rock hit and severely injured his hand, which Hartigan said doctors said may never be the same.
Snow’s partners had Wilderness First Responder training and an emergency locator device, which they used to contact Grand County Search and Rescue. They were able to contact help in minutes. Without the device, someone would have had to hike to cell service, which would have added hours to the response time.
While waiting for help, Snow’s friend created an improvised tourniquet out of some rope and a stick to staunch the bleeding in Snow’s arm. Classic Air Medical dispatched a helicopter to the scene and lowered a flight medic to Snow to take over emergency care.
“Rescuers worked late into the night setting up a technical rope rescue system to raise the subject about 200 feet to where he could be loaded into the medical helicopter. Darkness, high winds and falling temperatures added to the difficulty of the operation,” said a report from GCSAR. A second helicopter from the Utah Department of Public Safety also responded to help transport gear and rescuers.
Hartigan expressed her gratitude to the rescue crew, acknowledging the complexity of the extraction. She also said the whole incident is a good reminder to everyone who recreates in the backcountry to be prepared for emergencies: bring a locator device, bring backup supplies, and have rescue skills and knowledge.
Snow’s family is with him in Denver. He will likely need to stay near the hospital for some weeks, but plans to return to Moab when he can. In the meantime, friends have opened a Facebook page called “Dalton’s Support Squad” to offer messages of love and good wishes. Comments on the page echo Hartigan’s description of Snow’s personality:
“There is never a shortage of love and happy energy when you’re around.”
“You bring so much love and joy to the spaces you enter.”
“I’ve been nonstop blown away by all the things you do and the kindness you create and radiate! You are truly one of a kind!”
To leave a message or donate to the recovery fund, visit gofundme.com/f/supporting-daltons-recovery.