American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

California, Tahquitz Rock

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1968

California, Tahquitz Rock. On 17 September Lew Himmelrich and Steve Himmelrich (14) had been climbing for about three hours and decided to come down for lunch as they were just out to practice. They had made two rappels and were making the third when the accident occurred. Steve had descended about 20 feet when the 1/2 inch nylon sling used as an anchor parted. This type of sling had been used on many other rappels and been satisfactory. He was not belayed and was not wearing a hard hat. He fell, sliding and tumbling about 200 feet to the ground. There were three people standing about 10 feet from where he landed and they immediately went for a litter and started first aid. One of the three said that it looked as if Steve had hit his head about half way down and was knocked out. Since most of his serious cuts and bruises, including the skull fracture, were on the right side it is presumed that they occurred at this time. He was lying on his left side at the bottom and it is presumed that he shattered his left ankle by landing on it. A blood clot developed on the brain the next evening and necessitated opening the skull for removal. Steve was hospitalized for three weeks and will be on crutches for several months.

Source: Lew Himmelrich.

Analysis: (Himmelrich) I feel that a hard hat would have prevented any head injuries and we almost did not climb that day because our ordered hard hats had not arrived. A belay should also be used, at least with the first person, on rappels. I have surveyed many climbers during the past 5 weeks and find that only a very few belay the person on rappel.

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