Boise & Garden City

Climber rescued after fall at Black Cliffs east of Boise

Boise Fire Rescues Injured Rock Climber

Boise Fire rescued an injured rock climber in the Black Cliffs along Highway 21 just east of Boise.
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Boise Fire rescued an injured rock climber in the Black Cliffs along Highway 21 just east of Boise.

It took a Boise Fire Department rescue team at least 45 minutes to carefully walk the climber out of the ravine he fell into Tuesday, Capt. Randy Barnack told reporters.

Firefighters and medics responded to a ravine in the Black Cliffs along Highway 21, about a half-mile east of the diversion dam, after a noon call to dispatchers.

The 56-year-old “was climbing up there with a partner, and something went wrong and he ended up taking a fall,” Barnack said.

At first, it was tricky to find the man’s location, he said: “There’s a lot of Black Cliffs along Highway 21 so we had a little confusion which section he was on.”

Led by a Boise Fire technical team, rescuers hiked about 15 minutes up to the man’s location, loaded him into a stretcher and began the slow trek back.

“This is an extremely dangerous area to walk down carrying someone who's already injured,” Barnack said. “So not only are we trying to take care of the person who was hurt, but we’re trying to make sure the rescuers don't get hurt.”

The trail the first-responders used is no more than 2 feet wide in many places, meaning the six people carrying the stretcher (with help from a larger team) were walking on rocks. At one point, the route grew so steep that they had to secure the stretcher with a rope.

At the bottom, they brought the stretcher across one side of the highway, through the median to a waiting air ambulance that flew the man to a nearby hospital.

Barnack wasn’t sure how far the climber fell. He appeared to have a head injury; Barnack said he was “obviously injured” but awake and talking.

His name and condition were not immediately available Tuesday.

It takes two years to train a firefighter for that sort of rescue, Barnack said. Boise Fire has a team of 33 rescue technicians, with 5 to 10 on duty at a time.

How often are they called out to the Black Cliffs? “It’s one of those things,” he said. “Some years we don’t come here at all. Other years we’ll be up here 5 or 10 times.”

“... Boise has a lot of climbers. Most of them don’t have a problem, but all it takes is one bad day.”

Nate Poppino: 208-377-6481, @npoppino