American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

California, Joshua Tree Monument

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

California, Joshua Tree Monument (I)—At approximately 3:30 p.m. on June 5, Sgt. Joseph Jones (22) slipped on water-slickened rock while hiking in Rattlesnake Canyon with his wife. He fell free for about 25 feet, landing in the base of a dry waterfall and injuring his back. His wife went for help, reporting the accident to the Marine Provost Marshall. Doyle met the Provost Marshall, Jack Polkinghorne, while he was en route to the accident; and they arrived at the scene at about 4:15 p.m. They lowered themselves into the waterfall and decided to send Polkinghorne for help, as the victim appeared to have a broken back. At about 5:15 p.m. Park Ranger Bob Powell and Park Naturalist Dick Youse arrived accompanied by several members of the Sheriff’s rescue team. It was decided that the best way out was to lower the victim down the waterfall on a taut traverse line. By this time, a doctor had arrived and a line was rigged while he was examining the victim. The victim was placed into a Stokes litter and lowered down two 100-foot traverse lines. It was then possible to carry him the remainder of the distance to the road. The operation ended at about 8:30 p.m.

Jones was taken to the Marine Base Infirmary, where it was determined that he had merely sprained his back, instead of breaking it.

Source: Leo Doyle, Park Ranger, Joshua Tree National Monument.

Analysis: Inexperienced climber climbing unroped.

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