American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall, Protection Failure, Off Route – California, Yosemite Valley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1978

FALL, PROTECTION FAILURE, OFF ROUTE—California, Yosemite Valley. On April 30, Suzanne Carne (31) and John Carne (30) parked near Rixon’s Pinnacle at 7 a.m. and walked to what they thought was Lower Brother — Southwest Arrete. Mr. Carne did not think they were on the right route.

The couple began climbing at 7:35 a.m. They climbed second class to a tree approximately 100 feet above the ground. (This is the tree Mr. Carne rappelled from later.) Mrs. Carne began to lead the climb from this point and showed some apprehension and expressed that she was having some difficulty in climbing. She backed off this route, stated she was sorry, and began climbing a second route. She was climbing very slowly but moved up and to the right around 120 feet, with Mr. Carne belaying her. He could not see her at this point. Mrs. Carne placed a piece of equipment (unknown as to type and size) and called to her husband that she had something but that it wasn’t very good. She then moved out five or six feet, again slowly, and called that she had another piece in and that this was good.

Mr. Carne thought that things were not progressing satisfactorily and advised his wife to find an anchor point. Mrs. Carne moved out about ten feet and was apparently looking for an anchor. Approximately two minutes had passed when Mr. Carne heard his wife say “falling” and saw several large rocks and the rope go past him about 35 feet to his right. He did not see his wife falling. Mr. Carne thought his wife had fallen 150 to 200 feet. He was able to stop her fall with the belay line. He called to his wife with no response. He then lowered her until there was no tension on the line, tied the rope off on the tree, and rappelled down to his wife. This took about ten minutes. He could not get any pulse or see her breathing. He was with his wife for five to ten minutes then descended to Northside Drive where he flagged down Miller and Ward and asked them to get help. Miller and Ward stated they were contacted by Mr. Carne around 9 a.m. (Source: Mark Forbes, Yosemite National Park.)

Analysis: Suzanne Carne was far from the route she and her husband had initially wanted to climb. Both had previous experience in climbing. She had led out and placed two and three points of protection, which pulled once she fell. Her fall was between 150 and 200 vertical feet. Better protection and being on route in an area with less loose rock could have prevented this accident. (Source: Tim Setnicka, Yosemite National Park.)

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