American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

California, Yosemite Valley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1974

California, Yosemite Valley. On June 1st Mike Blake (age 19), Bruce Schuler (25), and Brian Watson (21) were climbing the Right Side of La Cosita on El Capitan, a Grade I Class 5.9 route. Watson had climbed the route the previous year and was serving as Schuler’s belayer. Blake was spotting the leader for the first few feet until he would be able to put in protection. After climbing up ten or twelve feet, and before placing protection, Schuler fell off, landing on his feet and breaking his left leg in two places. (Sources: Donna L. Symns, Watson.)

Analysis: Mike did not successfully spot Bruce for two reasons: (1) He was not directly below Bruce, in fact he was at least six feet from the ideal spotting position. This may have been just as well, since (2) Bruce came down feet first. It would have been difficult and perhaps disastrous had Mike tried to slow him. Bruce also contributed to the accident by not having any protection in. Ideally he should have stood on our shoulders to put something in, or gone up, placed protection, rested, and then climbed the full pitch. Since you lose hard-man points for safety procedures like this, nobody does these things. I didn’t last summer. However, the week following the accident, when I climbed Moby Dick, I did (Source: Watson.)

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