American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall/Slip on Rock and Placed No Protection—Wyoming, The Tetons, Symmetry Spire

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1977

FALL/SLIP ON ROCK AND PLACED NO PROTECTION—Wyoming, The Tetons, Symmetry Spire. Charles Loucks (44) William Thomas, Sally

Westmacott and Mike Westmacott were climbing the Jensen Ridge on Symmetry Spire on August 27. This 1200-foot ridge consists of a lower section (500 feet) of difficult F-7 technical climbing with the remainder of the ridge at a lower angle on somewhat easier ground.

At 4:30 p.m. Loucks was leading a pitch above the prominent ledge some 800 feet up the ridge. Approximately 50 to 80 feet up and in a more difficult section of rock, Loucks fell and struck the belay ledge. It is doubtful that he had placed any protection since his belayer, Sally Westmacott, felt no force on the rope, and there was not evidence of intermediate protection having been placed.

Mike Westmacott attempted artificial ventilation, but efforts were futile. He remained with Loucks while the rest of the party finished the ridge, notifying the party reporting the incident and arriving at Jenny Lake about 10:00 p.m. (Source: Robert Daugel, Grand Teton National Park)

Analysis: Loucks was an excellent climber who had led all the difficult pitches of the Ridge up to the point of the accident. The pitch where the accident occurred is the beginning of the less difficult upper portion of the route. He had easily ascended the lower portion of the pitch and before he could place protection in the more difficult section, he lost his balance and with no protection fell the entire distance to the belay ledge with fatal consequences. To comment, in retrospect, that protection should have been placed lower on the pitch is to belabor the obvious. However, when a climber with Chuck’s ability and experience makes this mistake, it makes all who have shared similar situations reflect on the consequences of a totally unprotected leader fall. (Source: Pete Hart, Grand Teton National Park)

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