California, Yosemite, Mt. Conness

Publication Year: 1960.

California, Yosemite, Mt. Conness—On June 12, Donald Q. Goodrich (27), Krehe Ritter, Raphael Tejado-Flores (17), and Denis Rutovitz, in two ropes of two men, started a climb of the southwest face of Mt. Conness at 8:00 a.m. Climbing continued all day. At 3:00 p.m., the time of the accident, Ritter was belaying Goodrich from a small ledge. Rutovitz and Tejado-Flores were waiting on a ledge 60 feet below. Goodrich, belayed by Ritter, proceeded by 5th class climbing (pitons for safety) to a projecting block. Ritter and Rutovitz observed that he tested and tried several times to pull up on the block when suddenly it came away from the cliff and Goodrich shouted “falling.” One safety piton pulled out and he was permitted deliberately to fall about 40 feet in an effort to divert him from the falling rock before he was stopped by a dynamic belay. The fall itself would probably have been completely harmless. The head injury appeared to have occurred when the rock (125 lbs.) initially tilted over and seemed to roll over his head and neck. He was unconscious when lowered to the ledge and appeared to have lost considerable blood from the head wound. He regained consciousness for a short time, complained of symptoms that (later) suggested a subdural hemorrhage. He lapsed into unconsciousness and died about 5:00 a.m. the next morning at about the time the climbing party got him off the mountains. It seems doubtful if Goodrich’s life could have been saved except by surgery very soon after the accident— clearly impossible under the circumstances.

Source: William Siri.

Analysis: This is a rare case of a rock dislodging after it was tested and inflicting a fatal head injury as both rock and climber fell.

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