Wyoming, Devil’s Tower. On 6 September John Peterson (52), Dr. Roland Fleck, David Johnston, and David Peterson were climbing Devil’s Tower. Peterson was standing on top of ”Leaning Tower” column belaying Dr. Fleck some 60 feet above through a fixed eye-bolt and three carabiners when a flake, estimated at 18 inches by 5 inches by 1 inch fell, possibly dislodged by a rope, from a few feet below Fleck. Fleck heard a sound, cried “ROCK!” Peterson locked belay in crotch with his right hand, instinctively raised left hand to ward off falling rock which caught his left hand between the rock and his hard hat, causing injury. Upon recovery from the blow and before swelling occurred, fracture was determined by manipulating his hand. Whereupon Peterson, aided and accompanied by Johnston, rappelled two rope lengths and climbed down to Tower trail where he waited while Dr. Fleck and Peterson’s son David completed the climb to the summit and descended to trail. Peterson then was taken to Sundance Hospital for treatment.
Source: John D. Peterson.
Analysis: It is doubtful that the accident was avoidable in the preventive sense. Consequences could have been more grave and possibly fatal without the use of hard hats which all climbers are required to wear on any climb on Devil’s Tower.