gym climbing wall scattered with holds and draw clips

Climbing Gym Fatality: Fort Collins Woman Dies in 40-Foot Fall

A woman died Saturday after falling about 40 feet from an indoor climbing wall in Fort Collins, Colorado.

July 13 Update: The Larimer County Coroner’s office has identified the decedent as Steffani A. Argyle, 57, of Fort Collins, Colorado. The coroner has ruled the death accidental. Local first responders created a GoFundMe to support Argyle’s children and their caretakers. 

According to Fort Collins police spokesperson Brandon Barnes, a woman fell at Ascent Studio Climbing & Fitness on Saturday. Though an auto belay system seems to have been involved in the accident, the details of the accident are not yet clear, KDVR reported. Investigators said they have not discovered any faulty equipment.

On Tuesday, Ascent released a statement calling the fall “a tragic event.” The gym will be taking its auto belay equipment out of service until a full investigation has completed.

The victim’s name has not yet been released by the Larimer County coroner’s office.

Auto Belay Safety at Climbing Gyms

An auto-belay is a unit that allows climbers to sport climb by themselves, while still attached to a rope. An auto belay consists of a rope or cable, an anchor unit, and a magnetic or friction-based release system that slowly brakes and lowers climbers.

In gyms, auto belays can actually be safer than belaying with a partner, as there is less risk for mistakes and errors. Whether you are belaying with a partner or on an auto belay machine, always make sure to check that you are clipped in.

Fatal accidents at climbing gyms are rare, though there have been several high-profile auto belay-related accidents and injuries at climbing gyms. In 2014, a man died while climbing at a gym in Boulder, Colorado.

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Austin Beck-Doss

Austin Beck-Doss regularly relocates according to whichever climbing area is in season. In addition to covering gear and the outdoor industry for GearJunkie, he enjoys writing about music, culture, and personal observations from time spent in the natural world.