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Crews rescue climber after 40-foot fall in Red River Gorge

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email

WOLFE COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - The Red River Gorge can be a beautiful place, but for one climber this weekend it became a dangerous one, as well.

"Yeah, very scary, very lucky. There were some rocks and tree roots at the bottom of the route he was climbing," started John May of the Wolfe County Search and Rescue squad.

The climber, whose name wasn't released, was seen climbing an area known as "Pistol Ridge," and it's reported that he was doing it on a rock face without any bolted anchors. Instead rescuers say the man was using a temporary anchor in the crack of the rock, and that's when they say things went wrong.

"It just pulled loose," described May, "It kind of appeared that he may have been not that experienced with what he was doing, because it was kind of sketchy what he did there."

Volunteer rescuers say the climber's gear failed to hold him sending him falling 40 feet, yet somehow he survived.

"Oh yeah, 20 feet, ten feet depending on how you land, can be a fatal fall. So this gentleman is very fortunate," explained May.

The rescue effort wasn't very easy, either. May said his team joined in with teams from Powell County and Menifee County to get to the injured man. May said it took them nearly four hours to get down and back on the tricky trails.

"This subject was located on a mountain top, it was probably a mile to a mile-and-a-half up the ridge. (It is) A very narrow trail, very rocky," he said.

In order to get everyone safely out, the crews had to work their way along the cliff using ropes for safety and a basket to get the climber out.

"We had approximately 24 people involved with the rescue and it took every single one of them just to get this gentlemen out," answered May, who said this was a serious fall but with miraculous ending.

He went on to say that the climber did not appear to have life threatening injuries and was even alert and oriented when crews got to his side.

"It's just amazing what the body can stand!" reacted May.

The man was taken by ambulance for treatment, but May was unaware of what hospital he was taken to.


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