Firefighters Save Climber

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Three firefighters were sent to the hospital Thursday afternoon as a result of a “hairy” rescue operation at East Rock Park.

The fire department got the call around 3:45 p.m. A female climber who attends Yale was stuck on the face of East Rock.

Gwyneth K. Shaw PhotoFirefighters arrived quickly and got to work on a rope rescue. One company approached her from the bottom of the rock. Three other companies approached from the top of East Rock.

“She was not far from falling. She was tired, and she was at the point she was about to let go,” Chief Michael Grant said at the scene.

Two firefighters dangled from ropes. It took a while, but they got her, safe and sound. She was on the ground by about 5 p.m.

Three of the firefighters weren’t as lucky. Lt. Jay Schwartz was seriously injured; he lost his footing and fell, according to Chief Grant. He is believed to have suffered a severe compound fracture to his leg. A falling rock struck a second firefighter. Both were transported to the hospital for treatment.

So was a third firefighter who had been suspended from a rope for some three-quarters of an hour. He was being sent to be examined, as a precaution.

Schwartz was in surgery Thursday evening. Friday morning Chief Grant reported that the surgery went well and Schwartz’s prognosis is good, though he’ll be laid up for a while. “He’s resting comfortably,” Grant said.

One firefighter involved in the Thursday rescue described a “hairy” situation.

The woman was apparently trapped in a crevice under an outcropping an estimated 100 feet up from the base. She and a male companion had apparently tried to free climb the rock starting from the bottom until she got caught; she had a cellphone and called for help.

The two firefighters who eventually helped her, Capt. Matt Marcarelli and Firefighter John Cretella, had been lowered down from the rock’s summit. They reached in to get her as shale and rocks were falling all around and as colleagues were helping the injured firefighters.

Marcarelli’s report: “I told [Cretella] how to rig her in, then told her to jump to him. As they were lowered to the treeline, I grabbed the two of them and guided them down. He did a great job, and she is lucky to be alive.”

The woman (pictured, with her companion) declined to identify herself to reporters who questioned her at the base of the rock. Nor did she want to say what happened. She appeared to be in her late teens or early 20s.  She wore a long-sleeved plaid shirt over another shirt and spandex workout shorts.

Assistant Chief Pat Egan said she and her companion are Yale students. They were charged with reckless endangerment and with violating a local ordinance forbidding climbing the rock, he said. They have an Oct. 19 court date.

Officials often warn people not to climb the rock face. At the scene Thursday, Grant made that point again.

“Stay off the rocks,” he said.

The rescue prompted police to close part of the road that encircles the rock and drew a few cyclists, hikers and neighbors who came to peek at the scene.

Asked if the woman would face charges, Grant said, “I would surely hope so.”

Paul Bass contributed reporting.

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posted by: davecoon on October 6, 2011  5:30pm

Send her the bill.

posted by: Rob Smuts on October 6, 2011  6:31pm

The NHFD did an incredible job with this rescue.  Hearing about how difficult a spot the young woman was in, and seeing the loose rocks fall down the side of the cliff - amazing skill, bravery and dedication.  Every job I go out to I’m reminded how lucky we are to have these men and women.

Schwartz is a tremendous officer, and my sincerest wishes go to him and Rosado for their recovery.

- Rob Smuts

posted by: Jon Doe on October 6, 2011  6:43pm

I agree send her or her parents the Bill

posted by: William Kurtz on October 6, 2011  7:18pm

Interesting; I was one of the gawking cyclists at the bottom and I was very impressed with the professionalism of the fire department, both in maintaining scene safety and rescuing this reckless young woman.

I hope that Lt. Schwartz and the other two injured firefighters make rapid recoveries.

As far as sending her a bill, on one hand, you don’t want people in need of help from emergency services to think too much about whether they’ll have to pay out of their pockets for it if they get it. And no, irresponsibility shouldn’t enter into it, at least until speeding drivers who lose control of their cars while texting and crash are held liable not only for the cost of the emergency response, but also the lost time, fuel, wages and other expenses of those who they inconvenience.

At the same time, the high cost of bringing this woman down shouldn’t be ignored. I don’t know when people are going to learn; it seems like this is an annual event.

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 6, 2011  8:09pm

Believe it or not, in my younger years I was an avid rock climber,

Those cliffs are so chock full of loose traprock, that even with the proper equipment, climbing at East /West Rock is an exercise in peril.

If anybody wants to hone their vertical skills, they should just go bouldering on the Rock Wall in the Sculpture Garden (behind the Yale Art Museum).

If you can get to the top, there is a nice view of the Skull & Bones.
(I didn’t try to jump into their backyard, though I could have. —  There were no signs warning me against it!)

posted by: Tax Payer on October 6, 2011  8:55pm

The Yalies cause alot of Trouble in New Haven with their Drunkness and now Stupidity , To causing our Fire Fighters to be Injuried is uncalled for.
They should be chaperoned by Yale Police.

posted by: Mike on October 6, 2011  9:01pm

If anyone should know it would be a Yale student, climbing on East rock is not allowed. As much as I’d love to rope up and find many a perfect line, mayor of New Haven wont allow it because apparently New Haven already has enough tourist attractions like pizza and a high murder rate for example.
If East rock was equipped for climbing adventures overlooking the LI sound the tourism money would be pretty darn good but for some reason the MAYOR has something against bringing in extra money to the city.

posted by: DKR on October 6, 2011  9:11pm

send her the and or her parents the bill,.....PERIOD.. she was reckless and careless with her thinking (lack of) and actions….it’s time to set the standards across the board….and stop draining our resources for this type of stupid behavior

posted by: Mike on October 6, 2011  9:16pm

Bill Saunders- you are wrong, with a little bit of cleaning both parks could be really nice places to climb. No doubt that traprock/basalt is not the best quality but to hear this same repeated BS is sad. Just about half of the most popular climbing in the USofA used to be considered choss until bolts came into the picture, as it is now East Rock could be a tourist attraction for New Haven if only the Mayor could open his eyes and understand that a hundred 5.5- 5.11s could bring in quite a bit of tourist money. Its sad that we live in such a close minded society really, I used to think BLUE meant open minded.

posted by: jm on October 6, 2011  10:13pm

This young woman—along with the various other climbers who foolishly try, and fail, to climb the face—should be billed for the city’s time, especially since our firefighters were injured by such arrogance and ILLEGAL behavior.

posted by: anne on October 6, 2011  10:17pm

these two yale students should be ordered by the court to pay a visit to each of the injured firefighters. the students put themselves at great risk, and they were very fortunate to escape harm. not so the firefighters who came to their aid. these kids were smart enough to get into yale, but this was an incredibly stupid and reckless thing to do.

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 6, 2011  10:41pm

Well Mike, this is where we part ethical company.

I have alway been a purist when it comes to the use of bolts—replace the necessary ones on older, well travelled routes, but no new ones.

The game is bottom to top, carry all your gear with you (no drills, bolts, pitons), leave nothing behind. (if you can at all help it).

The truth of the matter is Bolts, Climbing Gyms, and Lycra have drastically changed the sport for the worse.

There is plenty of great rock in this state, though much lies on private land, and access has been limited.  However, the climbing mecca of New Paltz, NY is only 2 hours away.  There is no better place in the Northeast in terms of access, and route variety,  Belay On!

posted by: bill Saunders on October 7, 2011  3:46am


As a sidenote, I do not know how three firemen get injured during a rescue, yet the woman in peril is delivered unscathed.  It’s all kind of fairy tale.  My conjecture is that these public servants have not been properly trained for wilderness rescue, on varied terrain, with sketchy anchors. 

However, that is not their fault, and I certainly commend them for their successful effort.  Managing ropes, height, falling rocks and frightened bodies is serious and unpredictable business.

When Yale Forestry School charters a Wilderness Search and Rescue Team, then maybe we can consider turning East Rock Park into your Outdoor Climbing Gym.

As for West Rock Park, petition Dan Malloy. That cliff has sweeter lines, but it is under State jurisdiction.  It might require some additional environmental resources as well, as both cliffs are fairly pristine habitat filled with diverse species from nesting falcons to vanishing reptiles. 

And my final piece free climbing advice:

If you are going to climb where you shouldn’t, don’t get stuck, and don’t get caught.  It might also helpful to talk to someone who knows the area before you go, depending on your daredevilishness.

posted by: Alina on October 7, 2011  6:33am

There are so many nice places to climb in CT, many within an hour of driving. There is also a climbing gym in town, several other gyms in the area and numerous bouldering places. East Rock and West Rock are very dangerous because of all the loose rock and free climb them, especially, seems incredibly stupid. They clearly are not Alex Honnold.

I am sorry for the firefighters who got injured because of these reckless young people. Fortunately nobody got killed.

posted by: Walt on October 7, 2011  7:39am

I would agree with William Kurtz except that he left off the   problems and costs caused by law-ignoring bikists, 


posted by: robn on October 7, 2011  7:42am

Aren’t the exposed parts of East Rock 1/2 basalt and 1/2 sandstone?....and aren’t both geologically prone to cleaving? Wouldn’t someone interested in free climbing do the research on this before trying? I mean I’d you want a mild thrill you could always just climb the stairs.

posted by: streever on October 7, 2011  8:12am

Why would William Kurtz bring up the “problems” caused by law-ignoring bikists? He is a law-abiding cyclist.

Motorists cost the country billions a year in government subsidies, but I don’t see you (as a motorist) acknowledge the enormous societal cost of driving in every comment you make.

posted by: Mike on October 7, 2011  8:43am

Bill/Alina- I see you have the true blue CT attitude on the “quality” of the rock in our parks. Personally I have climbed on much worse rock in many other states. One of my favorite climbs in CT happens to be on one of the so called choss piles we know as Sleeping Giant. Everyone I meet in CT says the same as you and Alina about the quality of these cliffs yet when asked if they have actually climbed there most of the time they say no, they are just repeating what someone else told them. I have spent a few months of my life climbing at the Gunks and if any crag in the USA reminds me of the gym it would be the Gunks.

Anyways, I doubt this couple of kids were really climbers, my guess is the boy wanted to show the girl what he learned from 60 Minutes on Sunday when they followed the future dead guy Alex Honnold around with cameras.

posted by: Fred Johnson on October 7, 2011  8:53am

Well.. it just would not be Fall in New Haven without the first yallie having to be fished off East Rock, West Rock or Sleeping Giant.  Something to look forward to it every year.

posted by: robn on October 7, 2011  9:43am

If this happens annually maybe that means the parks Dept isn’t posting good enough signage about the danger and illegality. I’m all for personal responsibility but its my guess these probably smart students didn’t know what they were getting into.

posted by: eyequeue on October 7, 2011  11:00am

To Tax Payer, Fred Johnson, and any others having the impression that every year a Yalie needs to be fished off East Rock:  The last time this happened, it was a kid from Oregon with nothing to do with Yale. The time before, it was a 38-year-old local from East Rock.  The time before that, it was a bunch of Derby High School students.

Why does this current climber’s Yale affiliation have anything to do with what she did?  Be angry at her ignorance and selfishness, but don’t blame it on Yale.

posted by: Whitney Cyclist on October 7, 2011  11:04am

Well, ok, send her a bill.

But if we’re going to send a bill to anyone who required FD services who was doing anything illegal or foolish, we’re going to have quite a collection going.

Driving over the speed limit (That’s over 25 in most parts of town, you know)? You get a bill.

Eating in your car, talking on a cell phone, or you just didn’t look carefully when you changed lanes? Sounds preventable - You get a bill.

Smoking in bed, started a fire. Oh yeah, you get a bill.

Spend 50 years eating saturated fat, smoking, and not moving a muscle? Then you have “the big one,” and FD has to send an engine and ladder to move you to the ambulance. Sounds like everyone thinks we should send that guy a bill, right?

When you think about it, actually, the FD exists to help people when they screw up, don’t plan ahead, or make a major miscalculation! That’s basically their mission statement. So, pay your taxes, and just thank heavens you don’t need their services today. ‘Cuz all of us screw up now and then.

posted by: robn on October 7, 2011  12:13pm

High risk behaviors are mostly addressed in a similar manner with the individual having some sort of accountability. That’s why there’s drivers, health, and yes, climbers insurance.

posted by: Perspective on October 7, 2011  12:31pm

To everyone claiming she should pay for this rescue. While it was foolish and careless on her part, would you advocate billing a homeowner who does not maintain their property and a fire starts? Isnt that negligence? What about the house fire that starts from a cigarette? Should we have ‘trials’ which decide whether payment is due for services rendered? The present model is built such that society covers the cost of any issue. I realize there is aslo precedents for events like this, but…

posted by: Whitney Cyclist on October 7, 2011  12:41pm

But Robn, there’s no insurance needed to pay for having the FD cut you out of your car after a collision, no bill for having an extra engine show up for manpower to extricate you from your house when you’re having an heart attack, and private fire insurance went the way of the dodo ages ago. Sure, there may be a bill from the ER, or the ambulance, but not from FD or PD.

Now, fines for illegal acts is another matter. But charging for FD services is a, ah, slippery slope. Much like East Rock…

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 7, 2011  1:41pm


Hate to break it to you, but I have climbed on East Rock, West Rock, and Sleeping Giant, and done extensive surveys at those locations, on foot, and rappelling in search of that classic route. As much as I would love New Haven to be a ‘climbing mecca’, the pickin’s are better elsewhere in the region.

And if you knew anything about Connecticut Climbing, you would surely know that if you placed new bolts on any cliff in the State, reknowned bolt-chopper and CT Guidebook Author Ken Nichols would quickly remove them.

posted by: NHFD Insider on October 7, 2011  1:59pm

We now do charge insurance companies for Paramedic service, House Fires and yes we do charge to cut you out of a car. This is part of your insurance and we never recovered it before, we now do through what is called bundle billing. And I won’t be suprised and I hope she isn’t either when she gets a $10,000 bill. She also is open to a civil suit from the injured firefighters, notice she was charged with wreckless endangermeant. She just most likely ended one of our best firefighters career’s. These are the future leaders of the world. Now to my co-workers my thoughts and prayers are with you guys.

posted by: Ended career? on October 7, 2011  2:28pm

@NHFD Insider
Ended his career?? Are you kidding me? He sustained a broken ankle. Albeit a compound fracture, but are you really trying to convince us that he can no longer perform his duties. C’mon

posted by: Cmon Bill Sunaders on October 7, 2011  3:08pm

Firefighters in new haven regularly train on high angle rescue. ...

posted by: Jake on October 7, 2011  4:02pm

To Ended Career?, yes there is a good chance that Lt Schwartz’s career will be ended due to the injuries he sustained in the line of duty. Make no doubt about it, he suffered a severe leg / ankle injury and don’t forget he sustained a fall of at least 50’ down a rock face. Lt Schwartz has a long road to recovery and may never return to full duty, and that will be a loss to the NHFD and the city.

posted by: To NHFD Insider on October 7, 2011  4:32pm

There is no way that the FD can sue the climber.  “Fireman’s Rule,” a legal concept that has has been upheld numerous times, prevents it, though I sure as hell wish they could.

posted by: Thomas on October 7, 2011  5:54pm

Two climbers have been “rescued” over the past few years and have been sent a bill for services. This will keep these clowns off the rocks. SCUBA divers have PADI insurance to pay for emergency evacuations and decompression tanks. Climbers and “extreme” hikers need to have something similar they need to be bonded in order to climb these are not traffic accidents these are burden on the tax payers. You want to test nature keep in mind the financial burden of failing is part of the test.

posted by: done it on October 7, 2011  6:49pm

Does anyone have more details about the firefighter’s fall? It only says “Lt. Jay Schwartz was seriously injured; he lost his footing and fell.” Another news report said he fell while reassuring the girl. How far and from where did he fall? Was he attempting to free climb as well or was he attached to a rope in some way?

Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 7, 2011  6:53pm

C’mon, Spell My Name Wrong:

Sounds like they need a refresher course.

posted by: William Kurtz on October 8, 2011  1:20am


The point is, traffic ‘accidents’ are a myth; every collision between cars, between cars and pedestrians, between cars and bicycles or between cars and fixed objects has a discernible cause. If everyone followed the rules, there would be no crashes.

posted by: Walt on October 8, 2011  7:02am

Lt.  Schwartz said,  last night on TV, that he expects to return to full duty reasonably soon.

Let us pray that he is right.

posted by: pete schaumburg on October 8, 2011  4:17pm

Another dangerous but successful rescue by the NHFD.  Well done, and my best wishes for a speedy recovery and return to work of our injured brothers.
Pete Schaumburg, formerly Old Saybrook Fire
Presently with Murrells Inlet / Garden City Fire District, SC

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 8, 2011  7:10pm

Today I visited the scene of the climb. A Bike Hike and Scramble.

Here is my assessment based on all available information:

The Plight of the Imperiled Lass:

While the photos are very dramatic because of the angle they are taken from, they are very misleading.  To get to her perch, this hiker climbed a low-angled dihedral (an inside corner—about 5.4 in technical skill, if you know the jargon).  That put her about thirty-five feet above the ground.  She really is not as high up as you think, and she is not on real steep terrain, though the cliff starts to overhang above.  Her weight would predominantly be carried through her lower extremities, and because of the low angle, there was certainly enough friction to keep her there..  She is not hanging by her arms. She could use a phone, after all.  I honestly don’t think she was going anywhere—the human survival instinct is pretty strong.  (if you zoom the first Streever photo, you can see her sitting, on her way to the rescuer—a great shot, David.)  Scared—I believe that.

A Tale of Two Rescue Attempts

The Assault from the Bottom:

From reading all of the stories, I am still unclear as to where Sergeant Schwartz actually fell.  Did he fall from the cliff face, or did he tumble down the scree slope on his way to the cliff, or a combination of the two.

If he tumbled down the scree slope, this was just an unfortunate accident.  The approach from to the cliff bottom from the road is absolutely treacherous.

If the fall was from the Cliff face, there are some serious training/equipment issues that really need to be addressed, and not glossed over through these triumphal heroic chants. 

The obvious one would be :  What were three firemen doing climbing one above the other?  This is one of the first things you learn about climbing safety.—- One at a time.  In a rescue situation, it is doubly important, as the last thing you want to do is rescue a rescuer.  If Lt. Schwartz fell sixty feet (which I do believe is accurate), this means he slid down the low angled face, hit ground, and continued to tumble down the slope.  If this is what happened, why was he climbing unroped, with no protection, with no one belaying him, while people climbed under him, with another team, kicking loose rocks,  working directly above. This is a serious training issue.  That section of cliff is very safe to ascend with proper equipment. It has a big fat crack that would just eat up protection.  I just don’t know what they thought they were going to do when they got to her.  Moral support is about it.—and increased risk to the entire operation.

The True Heroes:

The technical rescue from above was the success story.  These guys knew what they were doing. It would be great to here the first hand account from Sgt. Cretella, (the guy on the rope), rather than the inflated campfire war stories of the upper NHFD brass.

Rest assured, that is my last trip the bottom of that cliff.  Rather than climbing back down that treacherous scree slope, I traversed along the treacherous cliff bottom, and came out at the hairpin turn.  Exit Stage Left.

The whole adventure is a slip, roll and tumble waiting to happen.

But what an awesome fall day, and what a great park, and amazing natural resource. I felt like I had gotten out of New Haven for the afternoon.
When I saw Ben Berkowitz jogging on my way out, I realized it wasn’t so.

And NHFD,  I do wish everyone a speedy recovery.

posted by: Bil Sunaders on October 9, 2011  4:14am

And one final note:

While the cliff rescue was the more dramatic visual spectacle, getting the injured Fireman down the steep and loose scree slope was probably the more dangerous rescue.  Nice work.

posted by: pete schaumburg on October 9, 2011  10:30am

It wont help this veteran firefighter because I’ve moved out of state, but truly it’s time to get that stupid “Firemen’s Rule” statute off the books.  Do something about it.

posted by: ATR on October 9, 2011  11:57am

William Kurtz - what about, for example, slippery conditions (like black ice) where a person obeying traffic laws and driving the speed limit loses control and crashes? Or fog banks that regularly create huge multi-car wrecks in places prone to such conditions? While I agree that most traffic accidents involve negligence, there are some that are faultless.

posted by: 2 Bill Saunders on October 9, 2011  5:12pm

Dear Sir,

You were not there, please do not armchair quarterback what was done ...

I was there. It was a well planned tandem rescue effort. Made in the essence of time given the gravity of the situation and although you think that gravity would hold her there, her panicked voice said she could hold on. Who would you expect the rescue-men to believe.

P.S. It’s Lieutenant Schwartz and Firefighter Cretella. Sergeants are on the PD.

posted by: Walt on October 9, 2011  6:16pm

For the ignorant (me)  please give info on the “Firemen’s Rule”



To the Editor

As long as I have already admitted ignorance,  please tell me how   I help you by copying the word and number at the bottom of this form.

I doubt that I am the only one who does not understand its need or value


posted by: streever on October 9, 2011  8:55pm

Those are the least common form of accidents—I once found a great graph showing how commonly drivers reported a crash as a result of mechanical/other failure versus how often it was driver error. (Spoiler: It was almost always driver error)

I explained this before. Spam bots have a hard time entering those characters. Humans do not. They are called captchas, are used on almost any web site with interactivity, and you can learn all about them on wikipedia under “Captcha”.

Thanks for the props! Sadly those are on FB, which down-sampled them. The originals are much clearer!

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 9, 2011  11:44pm

To 2 Bill Saunders:


If you were there, please tell me what happened at the cliff face.
Obviously, she could hold on, because she did. 

In twenty years of technical rock climbing, I have never seen or heard of three injuries sustained by rescuers.  This is a red flag.  In the true scope of dangerous rescue situations, this one ranks very low in terms of difficulty.

Something is wrong, and it is ok to admit that a poor decision was made in the panic of the moment.  You are all well intended first responders, but you are not supermen….

If you want to toot the horn of your departments professionalism, why was there no mention about the awesome job the rescuers did taking care of your injured colleagues?  I guess you were just being humble.
Or were you just waiting for me to toot their horn for you, which i did.

If your claim is that an unroped rescue attempt from the bottom was the necessary imperative, we all see the consequences of that decision. 

My experience tells me that with proper equipment and better training, Sgt. Schwartz would not be in the hospital.  I may not have been at the rescue, but I did visit the actual location.

I am asking legitimate questions.  I am not passing judgement in absence of facts.

So, what really happened???





posted by: HhE on October 10, 2011  12:09am

ATR, black ice maybe, but but if you wreck because of fog, you (or someone else) was going too fast. 

robn, just what we need, more signage.  Those 25mph signs get ignored all the time, along with “State law, yield to pedestrian.”  Personal responsibility means being smart enough to say, “Doing that would be massively stupid.” and then not doing it.

Where I went to college, SUNY Oswego, we would lose someone every two years or so to the lake.  Usually it would be someone who thought walking on the ice was a good idea.  One year it was someone who thought the breakwater was a good place to be in a storm.  There was a time that Darwin got to atrit based on stupidity.  No more.

As we move away from personal responsibility for our own safety in a non survivable world (Cancer will eventually get you if nothing else will.), towards a model of signage and safety features, we not necessarily safer, just less aware.

Let me end with, thank you NHFD for being there for us all.

posted by: Walt on October 10, 2011  6:52am


Thanks re Captcha

Now I will not consider compliance to be such a waste of time,

posted by: Mike on October 10, 2011  8:01am

It looks like Bill Saunders and I do see eye to eye on something, this rescue went seriously wrong and the injuries our local firefighters received should not have happened. SAR in major climbing areas have much different ways of doing things. At least nobody was killed and that could easily have happened, as Bill said the base of the cliff down to the street is almost a cliff itself under leaves and centuries of garbage tossed off the cliff.

As far as this statement- “if you knew anything about Connecticut Climbing, you would surely know that if you placed new bolts on any cliff in the State, reknowned bolt-chopper and CT Guidebook Author Ken Nichols would quickly remove them.” well Bill, does 5 bolted cliffs within 30 minutes of New Haven count? There could be 6 bolted cliffs, I could take you to see them sometime.

posted by: HhE on October 10, 2011  10:38am

I have enjoyed The Gunks since I was a toddler—looking at them through my Grandparent’s window, picnicking at the Mohonk Reserve, and visit Mohonk House.  Somethings are best enjoyed by looking at them, and not touching them:  lions, fires, painting by Josef Albers, medieval tapestries..

posted by: William Kurtz on October 10, 2011  11:13am

ATR: Good question, but I see someone has already beaten me to the obvious answer about how multi-car pileups in fog banks aren’t the result of fog, but of people driving too fast for the conditions, driving too close together, and in general failing to observe reasonable safety precautions in less-than-ideal weather.

I would also argue that a driver has responsibility to anticipate when black ice might be a reasonable concern and adjust his driving behavior accordingly.

Of course, the issue here isn’t really car crashes but the response from some about how the young woman rescued from East Rock should bear the financial costs of her rescue as well as the moral weight of the injures suffered by her rescuers exposes a subtle bias about how some acts of irresponsibility are bad, while other are understood to be acceptable. This ideology is so deeply ingrained that it’s practically invisible. We’re prepared to accept that 40,000 people are killed each year in car crashes because ‘accidents happen’ when in fact, each of those accidents has discernible cause, regardless of our reluctance to assign blame or the inadequacy of the law to determine fault.

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 10, 2011  12:38pm


Let’s put the bolting controversy behind us. 
It is not an important part of this discussion.
We are going to disagree, and you are not going to change my opinion.

Let’s us use our agreement to get some real answers.

So NHFD, you have heard the testimony of two serious, technical rock climbers.  Can you please tell us what actually happened?

This isn’t about judgement.  It is about improving your skill set in the wake of a preventable situation. It is not arm chair quarterbacking.

Free Climbing is a safe.
Free Soloing is NOT.

posted by: pete schaumburg on October 10, 2011  1:06pm

The Firemen’s Rule as I understand it is a CT statute that essentially says if a firefighter is injured at a fire or other incident, others are free from liability to the firefighter.  The rationale as I understand it is that firefighters know their job is dangerous, so if they get hurt, too bad.  It’s more complicated than that, but that is the gist of it.  It looks to me like firefighters do not have the same rights as other people.

posted by: HhE on October 10, 2011  1:09pm

Yes I am faster than you, William Kurtz, but only on commenting.  (I endeavor to never drive over 25mph in New Haven, and am quite successful.)  I do also agree on your point on black ice.  I am prepared to accept that some accidents are Acts of God, and some are due to mechanical faults the operator could not have anticipated, but nearly all are driver error. 

The balance of your comment address very well a sticky wicket in our society.  “Blame” is something that lawyers have taken over as a way to get money for their clients.  As a result, we are conditioned to not accept responsibility.  “Risk avoidance” has supplanted “risk management.”  At a recent Republican debate, candidate Ron Paul, balked at letting someone die because they choose not to get health insurance.  Yet he had just advocated free agency combined with responsibility and natural consequences.

Whatever happened to “Big boy’s games, big boy’s rules?”  I for one hate the Nanny State, just as much as a hate risk takers who are risking my health and safety as oppose to just theirs.

Yale Community College and all that aside, one or two dumb Yalies a year is still pretty low considering the number of students.

posted by: Walt on October 10, 2011  1:31pm

Admittedly an amateur on this topic,  but approach from above seems obviously more safe than from below,

From these photos the usual climbing area seems accessible by wreckers (maybe truck size)  or by small cranes backed up from the roadway at the summit,  with extension arms out over the edge. which would allow a vertical drop from above right to where it is needed.

Baskets or hook ups as are used for rescue by helicopter could easily   be lowered to the right spot.

Makes sense to me.  “Experts”  on this site can now pick the idea apart if they wish.

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 10, 2011  3:19pm


Keeping the rescue as simple as possible is tantamount to success.

Helicopters are generally used in remote wilderness rescues, dealing with injured parties, or if the height of the cliff precludes easy access from top or bottom.

I have some photos in a box somewhere of the only helicopter rescue I witnessed, while climbing in Joshua Tree fifteen years ago.  A climber took a crater fall in a remote area of the park, and it was the only practical way to get him out.  I have no idea of the extent of his injuries, or whether he survived.

When I was in Yosemite on the same trip, some yahoo base-jumped off of El Cap, got blown into the rock face, and got his parachute snagged 3000 feet off the ground.  That rescue took days. 

And again, just to reiterate and be clear:

Not only is Free Soloing dangerous, it is not an accepted rescue technique.

posted by: William Kurtz on October 10, 2011  4:11pm

“The rationale as I understand it is that
firefighters know their job is dangerous, so if they get hurt, too bad. It’s
more complicated than that, but that is the gist of it. It looks to me like
firefighters do not have the same rights as other people.”

That’s a substantial simplification. Here’s a more complete explanation:

posted by: Mike on October 10, 2011  4:23pm

So Bill, I was in Yosemite climbing with some friends about 15 years ago(one was a Yosemite SAR) and witnessed from the meadow a recovery attempt on Texas flake by a military helicopter. They were attempting to recover a base-jumper. If I remember right they got the body and left the chute.

I hope after all this back patting they practice rope skills off of something more than a bridge which is what I believe I read about a few years ago. I would be more than willing to help them find a few good places to practice.

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 10, 2011  6:11pm

Well, it is a small world, isn’t it.  That is the incident. 
It was in mid/late October, 1996. What caused the delay in the rescue was weather issues.  We were probably in Camp !V together.

There was very large group of German climbers in the camp who I became fast friends with who were continually flashing the Midnight Lightning boulder problem.  The two German climbers I wound up travelling with for the duration of my adventure put up the hardest free climb in the Bugaboos, The Power of Lard.

Of course, I didn’t find that out until we had parted company, and read it in a climbing magazine in J-Tree.  Now that is humble.

Come to find out, little old me was hanging out with the some of the best free climbers in the world.

These are the life changing adventures.

posted by: pete schaumburg on October 11, 2011  10:33am

Mr. Kurtz,
Thanks for expanding on the rationale behind the Firemen’s Rule.  My first impression is that firefighters are made to relinquish rights of recourse accorded to ordinary people so that negligent homeowners might gain special immunity.  Puke.  When a homeowner dials 911 or his alarm activates to request firefighters to respond to his property, that sounds like an invitation to me.  Maybe the state firemen’s association or the union can get to work on correcting this this injustice.

posted by: East Rock Walker on October 11, 2011  2:10pm

My climbing is limited to 4th class scrambles now, but in my day I managed to scrape up 5.9. In addition I’ve had the opportunity to assist on some moderately technical rescues in New Hampshire, and took a high-angle rescue course.

So, with my amateur status established, I would like to second the concerns that others have posted here. It is usually the best practice to approach such a rescue from above, for any number of reasons. Furthermore, a great deal of emphasis is placed on establishing multiple and redundant anchoring systems, so that rescuer security is never in doubt. Certainly, having an unbelayed/unachored rescuer approaching a victim from below, while a second team descends from above, especially on the loose basalt, seems foolhardy. Frankly, the ascending rescuers could have sustained far worse injuries if rocks dislodged by the high team struck them in the head.

Any attempt to brush aside these concerns by invoking heroic impulses is misguided. The fire service, OSHA, and especially the IAFF, have established numerous safety measures that must be followed on the fireground or rescue scene. When these measures are ignored or sidestepped, firefighters die.

posted by: Walt on October 12, 2011  9:40am

Bill Saunders

You seem to think I touted helicopter rescue,-I did not.

I did stress rescue from above as preferable and now learn that the final rescue was actually done that way.  I missed that fact in the early stories,

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 12, 2011  2:21pm

It’s all cool, Walt.

You were asking for information, I was providing it, that’s all.