American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Colorado, The Dome, Near Boulder

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1970

Colorado, The Dome, Near Boulder. On 12 May Skip Bailey (22), and Michael Mertaugh (23), began a day of climbing with the expectation of trying a new route on the Dome. Because several teams of climbers were already at work on its face they decided to try a moderate ascent beginning with a 40 feet chimney in the granite rock mass south of the Dome. Michael considered an inviting belay point directly out from the base of the chimney, but on Skip’s advice, positioned himself slightly lower, and out of range of potential debris from the chimney. Skip jammed up to the chimney’s first chockstone, placed a piton, and continued his lead to a second chockstone. Here he placed two pitons, joined them to a single caribiner with a hero loop, snapped in, and began a two-handed mantle from a third large chockstone just above his head. From there he intended to lay-back from a flake on the chimney wall to his right and exit from the chimney.

As Skip was mantling up on the last chockstone, which was about the size of a five-foot thick twin bed, it broke away and began falling. Michael heard “rock,” then immediately “falling.” The belay left Skip upside-down three feet above the first chockstone at the base of the chimney.

Skip’s rock helmet (Buco) was found to have received a two inch crack in the fall from falling debris. This, together with the double piton placement at his last snapping-in point (one piton was so loosened by the fall that it could be removed by a gentle finger pull) accounted for his incurring only abrasions of the knee and ankle in the fall. It should be noted that, had the belayer positioned himself at the base of the chimney, the falling chockstone would have caused serious injury to him as well as loss of the belay.

Rope: Edelrid red perlon 150 feet 11 mm Pitons: Choinard chrome-molly angles Carabiners: DMC aluminum Helmet: Buco

Source: Skip Bailey and Michael Mertaugh.

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