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Investigators Conclude Woman Who Fell 200 Feet From Telluride's Via Ferrata Mistakenly Unclipped From Cable

TELLURIDE, Colo. (CBS4) -- Authorities have ruled out mechanical failure in the death of 53-year-old Anissa Larson of Tucson on Thursday. Larson suffered fatal injuries following a 200-foot fall from a cliff-side climbing feature call Via Ferrata.

The San Miguel County Sheriff's Office, in a press release Tuesday, said there were no hardware failures in the route's infrastructure and no malfunction in Larson's equipment.

Via Ferrata participants wear a climbing harness and attach themselves by carabiners to a metal cable running along a route of rounded steel bars bolted to the cliff. One at a time, carabiners are unclipped and re-clipped to the cable as climbers work their way around the metal bars and progress through the route.

"Via ferrata" is an Italian term. Translated, it means, "by iron."

Via Ferrata Fatal Fall 6 (from City of Telluride website)
Climbers on a section of Telluride's Via Ferrata in an undated photo. (credit: City of Telluride)

The sheriff's office stated that Larson's fall was not witnessed, and is assumed to be the result of an apparent "misstep" while she was unclipped from the system west of a section called the "Main Event."

The San Miguel County Coroner identified Larson later that day and described the moments before the fall in touching detail: "She and a friend were having an amazing day, both commenting on how perfect their vacation was."

Via Ferrata Fatal Fall 5 (San Miguel SO on FB)
(credit: San Miguel Sheriff's Office/Facebook)

The City of Telluride refers to the route as breath-taking and "not for the faint of heart." The city highly recommends guided tours of the site but guides are not required for participants.

A spokesperson for the sheriff's office confirmed to CBS4 that Larson and her friend were not on a guided tour.

Via Ferrata Fatal Fall 4 (San Miguel SO on FB)
(credit: San Miguel Sheriff's Office/Facebook)

The accident happened at 11:30 a.m. More than 30 responders took part in a 4.5-hour operation to recover her body.

Via Ferrata Fatal Fall 3 (San Miguel SO on FB)
(credit: San Miguel Sheriff's Office/Facebook)

"This is a tragic accident & unimaginable loss for this woman's family," San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters said. "On behalf of the Sheriff's Office, we offer our sincere condolences. The Via Ferrata is a hazardous climbing route that attracts more and more people each year. This incident is a horrible reminder of the dangers inherent to this climb."



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