American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Symmetry Spire

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1961

Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Symmetry Spire (1)— On July 1, Fritz Ermarth (19) and Greg Engstrom (19) were ascending the Durrance Ridge. Weather and climbing conditions were excellent. At approximately 3:30 p.m. Ermarth began the lead on the third pitch from the top of the ridge. When approximately 20 feet above his belayer, he placed an angle piton, snapped his rope into it with a karabiner and proceeded up another five feet. At this point, a slip occurred. Ermarth felt a slight tug as he fell facing the wall in a semi-crouched position. He fell the full 25 feet and struck the ledge on which his belayer was stationed.

He suffered numerous scratches and bruises on his nose and limbs and a severe cut on the left leg which included a chipped bone. Ermarth, however, managed to complete the ascent of the mountain under his own power although he felt nauseated most of the time.

Source: Park Ranger James M. Langford and H. L. Bill, Superintendent, G.T.N.P.

Analysis: This fall was caused by a slip while the climber was engaged in a lay-back maneuver. The fall was precipitated when the karabiner that was snapped into the angle piton became detached. It is probable that the karabiner was incorrectly placed. Ermarth, however, claims he “flipped over” the karabiner so that the gate faced away from the rock.

Ermarth escaped serious injury probably because he “slid” down the face instead of falling free.

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