American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Washington, Camas, Chimney Rocks

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1959

Washington, Camas, Chimney Rocks—At approximately 4:30 p.m. on May 25, one rope of three started up the west face on the centermost rock in the Chimney Rocks. After they had reached a point where they anchored three pitons, John Satterberg (23) started up the face. He snapped on to a piton approximately 50 feet above the starting point and climbed to a point about 50 feet above this piton. At this point he anchored himself into the three pitons and proceeded to belay John Gollehan (19) up to this position. After resting for a while they changed leads and Gollehan started out. He traversed to the right and then started up the steep face where he shortly disappeared from sight. About the time 30 feet of rope were out Satterberg heard a slipping noise and Gollehan yelled “falling.” Satterberg was straddling an outcropping and was giving him a sitting belay. He immediately started to pull in the rope to minimize the distance between Gollehan and himself. About this time Gollehan and the rope came flying over the cliff above Satterberg. The rope had apparently been severed in the fall and Gollehan hit a glancing blow on the side of the rock about 50 feet below Satterberg and fell another 30 or 40 feet before hitting squarely and bouncing another 40 or 50 feet into some underbrush. Satterberg yelled to the other members of the party who were near the top and they hurried down the other side of the rock to Gollehan’s body. Satterberg rappeled down from the pitons and joined them. Gollehan lived for about 30 minutes after the fall. Two members of the other rope left for help while two remained with the dying climber.

Source: John A. Satterberg.

Analysis: There is a question whether Gollehan was off the accepted route. He was wearing low tennis shoes which would not seem to be the best type for steep rock climbing. He had not watched his belays in order to give himself maximum protection, and in addition he apparently had allowed the rope to run over a sharp projection of rock. The rope was new 3/8 inch nylon which was probably too light for steep rock climbing although in this circumstance 7/16 or ½ inch would probably have been severed.

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