California, Joshua Tree National Monument

Publication Year: 1961.

California, Joshua Tree National Monument (2)—William McAllister (45) was a member of a Long Beach church group which was camping at Indian Cove Campground on the weekend of November 12-13. McAllister, along with his wife, his church pastor, and one or two companions, set out in clear warm weather to explore Rattlesnake Canyon on the afternoon of the 12th. The rock in the canyon is solid, and climbing conditions were excellent. McAllister was climbing unroped among some large boulders about half a mile above the campground when he fell almost vertically for 50 feet, landed on his left side against a rock outcropping, and then rolled another ten feet before coming to a stop on a level spot. The exact cause of the fall is unknown, however, he probably either lost his handhold or fell while attempting to jump to a new hold. The fall occurred about 2:15 p.m.

Blinn was leading a naturalist walk in Rattlesnake Canyon when one of McAllister’s companions called for help (the accident had occurred out of Blinn’s sight behind some rocks). When Blinn reached the victim at about 2:30 p.m., McAllister’s companions had carried him to a comfortable spot and covered him with their coats to prevent shock. McAllister had remained conscious during and since the fall, and appeared to have full control of his faculties. He had a fairly severe scalp laceration, but the bleeding had been stopped. In addition, he complained of pain in his left ribs and said his left leg was bruised. His hands were also cut and bleeding. Fortunately, there were no signs of brain injury or shock. Blinn provided the victim with more covering and then went for a litter and assistance.

He obtained a Stokes litter, three climbing ropes, three blankets, and six head lamps, at Monument headquarters. The county Sheriff’s Rangers (a local rescue group) were notified and told to meet at Indian Cove. When they returned to the campground, Blinn and a companion started in with the litter and blankets. They reached the accident scene at 4:30 p.m. to find that the victim’s pain had increased, but still there were no signs of shock. However, he did complain of a grating in his left ribs. They wrapped the victim in blankets and set him in the litter. As the pain in his ribs was quite severe, one man was sent out to get a doctor. By this time, several more men had arrived on the scene.

Since the victim was fully conscious and had apparently suffered no brain injury, and could report when movement increased the pain, Blinn decided to begin the evacuation. In addition, it was getting dark, they had some rough steep terrain to cross, and the doctor’s time of arrival (if one could be found at all) was unknown. The evacuation was begun at 5:00 p.m. As the first 200 feet of the route lay over steep terrain consisting of large boulders, a double belay was set up on the litter from above. At 5:30 p.m. they were nearly through the rocks when they were met by Park Rangers Tom Meier, Bob Powell, and Gene Welch, who reported that a doctor was on his way in. It was not dark, so Meier scouted ahead to pick a route. When they reached the base of the rocks (about 6:00 p.m.) the doctor arrived. The victim was examined and given a sedative. The evacuation was then continued, and the campground was reached at 7:05 p.m. A waiting ambulance took McAllister to the hospital in Twenty- nine Palms. Five left ribs were found to be broken. The victim seems to be recovering nicely.

Source: Gilbert Blinn, Ranger Naturalist, Joshua Tree National Monument.

Analysis: Inexperienced person climbing unroped.