American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

California, Yosemite National Park, Washington Column (1)

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1964

California, Yosemite National Park, Washington Column (1). At about 7:30 A.M. 29 June, E. Walton Kirk and Mickey McKinney were a little over 300 feet above the talus on Washington Column. It was their intention to climb to lunch ledge and then either return or proceed up. At the point the accident occurred they were about 40 feet to the right (north) of the regular route and planned to negotiate a moderate to difficult fifth class pitch which would have led to ledges on the regular route. Kirk was leading with McKinney in a secure belay position from below. He used an old piton which was in place and it tested safely and snapped in two carabiners to get extension from the rock. He tested the piton and carabiners by leaning back on them. About three feet above this point his left foot slipped while making a fairly difficult but not uncomfortable move, and he peeled off the face falling 18 to 20 feet straight down the face to a ledge and then rolling an additional 10 feet. Both bones of the right leg were broken between the knee and the ankle, compression fractures apparently occurring when he hit the ledge.

They moved 8 or 10 feet farther down the ledge where he was able to straddle a Manzanita bush, and tie in; traction was rigged for the leg. McKinney went down and reported to the Park service. They arrived between 10:30 and 11:00 and the rescue was made by rapelling the stokes litter 300 feet to the talus and then carrying it out.

The piton and one carabiner were still in place but the second carabiner was gone. In discussing this with McKinney he says that it was around the climbing rope after the fall. Apparently after the slip while falling past the anchor point the rope was so twisted that one carabiner gate was opened and came out of the other carabiner.

Source: E. Walton Kirk, David W. Huson, Ranger Y.N.P., and W. E. Siri.

Analysis: Rope slipped out of carabiner during fall. Probably no injuries would have resulted if rope remained in carabiner. Possibly carabiner not properly set. Slip probably result of insufficient climbing experience.

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