The climb into Alcove House in Bandelier National Monument consists of 4 wooden ladders and many stone stairs. Brenda Holzer, 54, of Yorkville, was reportedly on the second ladder when she was struck by a falling rock. | Photo: Bandelier National Monument

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) — Officials are assessing the area of Bandelier National Monument in northern New Mexico where an Illinois woman was killed when struck by a falling rock while climbing a ladder to reach a canyon alcove.

Monument officials said Brenda Holzer, 54, of Yorkville was fatally injured Wednesday while climbing the second of four ladders to reach the Alcove House.

Bandelier spokesperson Joanie Budzileni told the Santa Fe New Mexican there was no evidence the falling rock was caused by another person and that the Alcove House hadn't experienced a similar incident in recent history.[1]

Officials were “assessing and investigating the entire Alcove House area,” which was closed after the incident, Budzileni said in an email.

Longtime climber Peter Olson of Santa Fe said wintertime snow melting in the cracks of rock formations can expand and dislodge rocks over time. A snowstorm blanketed the area earlier this week.

Olson said people who develop rock climbing routes try to remove dangerous rocks that might fall.

“But places like Bandelier are not really a rock climbing area,” Olson added. “It’s a historic area with ladders and who knows what type of mitigation they did above it.”

The monument is 22.5 miles (36 kilometers) west of Santa Fe.

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Notes & References

  1., Robert. “Bandelier Identifies Illinois Woman Killed While Climbing to Alcove House.” Santa Fe New Mexican, March 25, 2022. ↩︎