American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Belay Failure – Washington, The Tooth

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

BELAY FAILURE—Washington, The Tooth. Jack Bartleson (46) was injured while climbing on the southwest corner of The Tooth on April 24.

The accident occurred as Bartleson was being belayed by Don Brooks while a second rope team consisting of Jim Llewellyn and Bob Tillotson was climbing directly above them. Tillotson was leading only a few feet above Llewellyn, when he fell on a steep section. Llewellyn was belaying with cara- biners chained to his anchor which, when force was applied, corkscrewed around, forcing a gate open and causing failure of the belay. Both Tillotson and Llewellyn fell toward Bartleson, with their rope becoming wrapped around Bartleson’s leg pulling him off. All three fell together, finally being stopped by Brooks’ belay.

Both Tillotson and Llewellyn were uninjured, while Bartleson suffered injuries of the upper leg. Bartleson was helped down below (east) Pineapple Pass where they established camp and party members went for help. MRC arrived at Alpental at midnight of the 24th and were at the victim’s side at 1:15 a.m. on April 25. A night evacuation was started at 2:45 a.m., using route preparation teams, litter handling teams and lowering teams; with the aid of moonlight and headlamps, the evacuation was complete by 4 a.m.

Analysis: No further information available. One can assume that Llewellyn became unclipped from his anchor point, but as to how Brooks managed to belay all three in unknown. Given the nature of the mishap, there is a lesson to be gleaned from it —somewhere. (Source: J. Williamson.)

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