Connecticut, Sleeping Giant State Park—Mt. Carmel—On October 14, 1956 Robert W. French (22) was climbing on the Chin of The Sleeping Giant. He was considered by both the Yale Mountaineering Club and the Dartmouth Outing Club to be a strong, capable, and safe leader. On the same day he had led and completed two climbs and one rappel without incident. The accident occurred after completion of the second rappel.
He used a Swiss Chair type sling in rappelling and ended the rappel on a ledge above a short 3rd class climb. He was either trying to get out of the sling or pull the rappel rope down when he lost his balance and fell backwards. He fell for about 15 feet, bouncing off ledges twice. According to those present he appeared to be somewhat under control and landed feet first on each bounce. He lost control after the second bounce and turned so that he landed on his left side with his head and arms taking the force of the fall. He suffered two broken wrists and a severe head wound, causing a concussion.
French himself does not remember anything about the fall and has suggested that perhaps he was unconscious before falling—perhaps having been hit by a falling stone. Those who witnessed the accident feel that he slipped on loose rock while engaged in pulling the rappel rope down.
Source: G. M. Keeler.
Analysis: (G. M. Keeler) “If he was struck by a falling rock then the accident is the result of one of the natural hazards of climbing. If not, then it points up the fact that even 3rd class areas have their dangers and climbers cannot afford to become careless about such places. Probably the rappel should have been longer so that he would not have ended above the base of the cliff, however, it was a 60-foot rappel which would have meant using an extra rope. Very few of us haven’t rappelled in a place where we didn’t have to allow for ‘stretch’ at least once in our climbing careers.”