The climber who was found in January after falling at the Boulder Rock Club died from blunt trauma, not a medical problem, officials said, and the popular climbing gym has since started using a new belay device to improve safety.
The Boulder County Coroner's Office on Wednesday ruled the death of Mark Hesse, 63, an accident and said his death was caused by blunt trauma to the chest. The news release from Coroner Emma Hall did not cite any medical ailments.
Hesse was found by employees and other climbers at the Boulder Rock Club, 2829 Mapleton Ave., on Jan. 27 after they heard what they thought was a person falling and found Hesse unresponsive.
Staff members began performing CPR until paramedics arrived, and Hesse was transported to Boulder Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to police.
Police investigators say they do not believe anything criminal occurred.
John Bicknell, co-owner of the Boulder Rock Club, said the climbing gym was not busy at the time of the incident, and no one witnessed what happened, but employees heard a sound consistent with a fall.
"From what height I don't know, and I don't know how we are ever going to know that," Bicknell said Wednesday.
He said Hesse was wearing a harness, a chalk bag and climbing shoes but clearly had not been using one of the club's auto-belay devices prior to being found.
Bicknell said that while it is not clear what happened to Hesse, the club has started using a new belay device that is designed to minimize the chances of "inadvertent soloing." Bicknell said the auto-belay device is now directly in front of climbers, and the process of clipping onto it has been changed.
"It's much more in their face, and it makes unclipping and re-clipping a bigger part of the mental process," Bicknell said. "Again, we don't know if Mark's death was caused by that, but it never hurts to go to a new system to improve safety."
In 1982, Hesse founded the American Mountain Foundation — a group established to fund international climbing expeditions — and later began to notice how climbers and other users could do damage to the natural areas they were visiting. He altered the group's mission and in 1997 renamed it the Rocky Mountain Field Institute.
The Colorado Springs-based organization is dedicated to building sustainable trails and infrastructure around climbing areas and restoring affected areas, according to the institute's website.
Hesse, who earned his undergraduate and master's degrees from the University of Colorado, stepped down as the institute's executive director in 2008 and left its board in 2012.