American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

New Hampshire, Cannon Mt.

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1969

New Hampshire, Cannon Mt. On 28 April David Koop (20) and Charles Ericsson (20) were climbing Sam’s Swan Song on Cannon Cliff. They had reached the last significant pitch and were slightly off to the left of the usual route. Koop was 40 feet above Ericsson. He had driven in a large angle piton into a crack below a block. He had clipped in with a Bedayan carabiner, with a double sling, and then a second Bedayan to his rope. He had reached up around and over this block and was driving in a second piton into a crack unconnected with the block (the second was noted to be still in place by evacuation party). The block commenced to slide out. It pulled him off and completely smashed his left leg at the knee joint. He fell approximately 60 feet and was held by his belayer. He suffered head injuries during his fall despite his hard hat. Death occurred rapidly due to exsanguination from the severed major artery in his leg. His belayer secured him, climbed down to him, noted he was dead, and then rappelled off the cliff for help.

Evacuation of the body was delayed by strong winds for a day.

Source: W. L. Putnam.

Analysis: The two climbers were well equipped to handle the climb. They had had considerable previous experience. Their being slightly off the usual route is important only in that they found a loose block which could have occurred on the regular route. Frost action on this cliff is severe and rocks are continuously being loosened as demonstrated by the extensive talus slope. The belayer deserves credit for holding the fall and getting himself off the cliff. In view of the injury, it does not seem that additional protective pitons would have altered the result.

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