American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Appalachian Mountains

  • Accident Reports
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1948

Appalachian Mountains. On 25 May 1947, in the Cumberland Plateau region of Tennessee, an accident occurred to a member of a rock-climbing group from Vanderbilt University. Five of the seven active participants had had previous experience of rock climbing. Dr. Glenn Millikan, to whom the accident occurred, had done a little climbing in Switzerland, England and Wales. His party was climbing on a section of sandstone and conglomerate cliff known as “Buzzard’s Roost,” near Fall Creek Falls State Park. The climbing. is similar to that encountered in the Shawangunk region near Wallkill, New York, although it is on a rock structure somewhat less reliable. After making several quite difficult climbs, Dr. Millikan descended one of the routes and, proposing to climb one of the easier routes near by, called for the rope to be untied from his belayer at the top of the cliff, so that he could pull it down. Since the face was nearly vertical, it was presumed that the rope would fall clear; but apparently the end caught behind a free rock about twice the size of a brick, lying on a narrow ledge. An instant warning shout from the belayer above was too late. Dr. Millikan gave the rope a pull. Standing directly beneath it, he was hit on the head by the dislodged rock and killed.

Source of information: members of climbing party.

Analysis. It might be pointed out that two important precautions were neglected here. First, Dr. Millikan stood directly beneath the rope; and, second, he was not looking up. His momentary lapse may have been due to fatigue. Earlier in the day he had cautioned one of the novice climbers in this regard. It is advisable, in casting down a rope from above, to throw it well clear of any cliff which may catch and hold a loop.

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