American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

California, Morro Rock, Near Morro Bay

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1951

California: (4) Morro Rock, near Morro Bay. On 9 October 1950 Pvt. Miles T. Armstrong, member of an Army medical detachment at Camp Roberts, and two other soldiers narrowly escaped death while attempting to scale precipitous Morro Rock. Armstrong received severe injuries when he fell about 200 feet to a ledge above the ocean, where he clung to a jagged rock until rescued by Morro Ray firemen and Coast Guardsmen. He had been in the lead as the three climbed within 100 feet of the top of the 500- foot rock, when the crumbling shale on the side of it gave way and he fell approximately 30 feet down the northeast side to a ledge. After clinging momentarily there, he fell another 170 feet to a second ledge over the ocean. The other soldiers, Pvts. Richard Ramos and Ray Knight, also stationed at Camp Roberts, froze to the side of the massive rock after Armstrong fell. A fourth soldier, Pvt. Harold Curtis, was with the group but was not in danger. Morro Bay firemen, led by Chief Frank Phillips, rescued Armstrong from the ledge by climbing to the spot and lowering him with a rope. According to Phillips, the young soldier would have fallen to his death in the ocean if he had slipped another foot. The north side of Morro Rock, where the rescue was effected, is steep and has a shale and moss surface. If care is not used, the shale dislodges and lets climbers fall. Fire Chief Phillips said Morro Rock had been climbed many times, but that great care is required. About a year ago a young man fell to his death in the ocean while trying to scale the the rock.

Source of information: quotation from newspaper account.

Analysis. Inexperience and lack of ropes on an exceedingly treacherous cliff over the sea.

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