Last Thursday, July 30, 26-year-old Dillon Blanksma of Golden, Colorado died following an unroped fall from Broadway, the ledge a third of the way way up the East Face—also known as the Diamond—of Longs Peak (14,259 feet), in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), Colorado.
RMNP park rangers responded to the scene. An RMNP press release later that day stated that Blanksma fell an estimated “600 to 800” feet from Broadway.
Broadway Ledge, at roughly 13,000 feet, is the traditional starting point for most of the East Face’s classic routes. While there are routes on the lower East Face of Long’s that can be used to reach Broadway, most climbers opt for the loose and scrambly North Chimney—a 500-foot mostly fourth- and low-fifth- class cleft that splits the right side of the lower East Face.
Once firmly established on Broadway, many climbers choose to unrope and traverse to the base of their primary objective for the day—Casual Route (5.10) and Pervertical Sanctuary (5.11-) being two of the most popular—before tying back in. Despite being fairly wide at parts, Broadway is loose and slopes toward Mills Glacier for much of its length.
Several different parties saw the accident happen. According to Tony Nichols in a thread about the accident on Mountain Project, “There were approximately 16 climbers on The Diamond” last Thursday. Several witnesses were on Broadway, while Nichols and his partner Dylan Grabowski were to climber’s right of the Diamond, on Chasm View Wall.
Friends have organized a memorial for Blanksma at Earth Treks Golden, where he had been a climbing instructor for over four years, according to his LinkIn profile. The Facebook announcement reads, “If you haven’t heard, the climbing community has lost one of the most stoked and happy members it has ever known; Dillon lost his life doing what he loves, climbing, and since we all know how stoked and happy Dillon always was, we will be having a celebration of life for him at Earth Treks Golden. Please come and climb, laugh, share memories and enjoy the company of all the amazing people he had an impact on.”
While he spent much of his time outside of work climbing and teaching climbing at Earth Treks, work itself was also climbing related. Blanksma was a software engineer for the American Alpine Club, where he had worked for nearly three years.
Austin Runyon, a local Front-Range climber and friend of Blanksma, told Rock and Ice, “What I will always carry with me about Dillon isn’t just his never-ending love of climbing. It was his genuinely kind personality and the ability to make everyone feel cared about.”