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Calilfornia, King's Canyon (National Forest)

California, Hunter's Hill, Near Vallejo. On February 11, William Litterick, Jr. (25) and George Pastor were climbing the Yellow bank on Hunter’s Hill. Some parts of the rock are sound, other parts are extremely rotten. The weather had been quite unusual with considerable rainfall and freezing conditions that undoubtedly loosened the rock.

Litterick was leading a fifth-sixth class pitch (pitons used for direct aid). Near the top of the climb, he placed a piton which pulled out when he placed his weight on it. During the fall, he pulled out four to six lower pitons, but the fall was held by his belayer after he had fallen 40 feet. The first (highest) piton dislodged a “large” rock that struck Litterick in the abdomen and probably inflicted the serious internal injury and massive internal hemorrhage. Vallejo police, highway patrol, local fire departments, and Air Force helicopter responded to the call for assistance. Litterick died within minutes after the fall.

Source: William Siri, George Pastor, John R. Neale, Matthew T. Pauley, Hal Van Zoeren and Pete Carah.

Analysis: If Litterick had not been struck by rock, he probably would not have sustained any injuries.

Failure of so many pitons suggests faulty judgment in proceeding so far without sound pitons, but there may not have been a choice. Question of judgment in placing the piton that dislodged the rock is hard to evaluate. It may not have been evident when piton was driven, although certainly the “sound” must have indicated it was unreliable.