American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

California, Yosemite National Park, Churchbowl Chimney

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1971

California, Yosemite National Park, Churchbowl Chimney. On 23 March, Sheffield W. Bailey (18) and John R. Orlowski (18) had climbed the Chimney. The normal rappel route for descent was occupied by another party as this descent route serves four climbing routes. They therefore decided to climb down the Chimney. They were not certain that their doubled rope would reach if they were to rappel, so Orlowski climbed down on belay to the large chockstone. Orlowski determined that there was sufficient rope to rappel to that point. Bailey took several minutes to set up the rappel. According to Orlowski, Bailey had taken only one step on the rappel when it failed and he plummeted to the bottom. He suffered fractures of a vertebra, ribs, and clavicle, and had numerous cuts and bruises. The accident occurred close to a road so a stretcher evacuation to hospital was readily done.

Source: Pete Thompson, YNP Ranger.

Analysis: Examination of the rappel gear, all of which was still attached to Bailey when he hit the bottom, indicated that he had doubled the 7/16 gold line at the marked center and put the loop over an anchor. The anchor point could not be determined. No carabiner or pin was on this doubled rope. The brake system consisted of a figure-eight seat clipped in front of his swami belt. Attached to that carabiner was a second. On the second brake bar there was a quarter-inch angle piton. Although some would look twice at this arrangement it did not fail. The anchor did.

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.