California, Yosemite National Park, South Face Washington Column. On 25 April William Chadwick (23) and William R. Smith (20) were climbing the above route. Chadwick led the pitch to Dinner Ledge. Smith had belayed Chadwick from a large (6×8 foot) ledge. Chadwick believed that at the time of the accident Smith should have been preparing the hauling sack for its ascent and that he was about to Jumar the pitch, clean it, and bring the day pack. Chadwick recalled that the Jumar rope went taut, then suddenly slack. There was a muffled scream and then nothing. A party one pitch ahead on the route descended with Chadwick to the bottom where the body was found. Two climbers on the road at the time of the accident saw the day pack and Smith fall simultaneously. A Jumar was found on the body, attached by sling to the swami, and a second was found on the Jumar rope about 8 feet above the belav ledge.
Source: Pete Thompson, YNP Ranger, and Chadwick.
Analysis: The Jumars, rope and slings all appeared in good condition. There was no apparent equipment failure. The Jumarring angle was vertical, so no adverse stresses were placed on the Jumars. Had Smith been tied to the end of the Jumar rope, or belayed from above, the accident would have been prevented.
It can only be surmised what happened: A.) that Smith simply lost his balance on the large ledge and fell; B.) that he climbed on a loose Jumar thinking it the one tied to his waist, leaned over to pick up the day pack and fell; C.) that he had both Jumars attached to his waist, and clipped one in. If the knot in the sling on the Jumar failed or was improperly tied, or the sling failed, he would have fallen when he put weight on it. (No sling was found at the bottom of the wall, but a good loop of sling remained on the Jumars on the rope.)