California, Sierra Nevada, Banner Peak

Publication Year: 1963.

California, Sierra Nevada, Banner Peak. On September 2 Robert Elliott (33) and Nick Ellena (32) left their camp at Lake Ediza early in the morning. They planned to climb nearby Mt. Ritter (13,157 ft.) and Banner Peak (12,957 ft.). The pair soon divided, each preferring to climb solo. Elliott climbed Mt. Ritter without incident, descended to the col between Ritter and Banner (elevation of the col: 12,300 ft.) and started up Banner. In the meantime Ellena was occupied on Mt. Ritter. The standard route up Banner from the col leads diagonally upward over some loose boulder slopes, skirts some high angle rocks under the summit and reaches the peak via the northwest side of the mountain.

Elliott ascended the boulder slopes but instead of going around the rocks below the summit, he chose to go straight up. After he had gone some eight feet up a crack above the boulder slope, he put his weight on a large fractured block that came away almost immediately. Elliott fell only the eight feet, but he was unable to avoid the falling block that hit him and severed a finger from his right hand, and a toe from his right foot. The accident occurred at 2:00 P.M.

Elliott immediately called for help to Ellena across the col on Mt. Ritter. Ellena responded with other climbers in the area and administered first aid. They realized Elliott could not be evacuated that day, so one of the climbers volunteeered to go down to a nearby lake and get someone to go out to the road head for help. As this was Labor Day weekend, there was no shortage of manpower in the mountains. Another climber descended and brought up blankets and food so Elliott could spend the night as comfortably as possible under the circumstances. (See Rescue Report.)

Source: Bob Gardner, Lou Nothwang and Dr. P. V. Edwards.

Analysis: While climbing alone, victim got off route and proceeded up a very unstable pitch toward the summit. Victim pulled a large block loose, that fell toward him causing the fall and subsequent injuries.