American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Fall on Rock, Rappel Failure, Inadequate Equipment, California, Yosemite Valley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1980


California, Yosemite Valley

On May 22, James Waugh (27) and John Darsis (30) were on El Capitan climbing The Nose and were two pitches short of the Dolt Tower. Waugh fell, injuring his finger. They then decided to descend. Waugh rappelled first, and placed a nut half way down to stabilize the ropes in a high wind. Darsis followed after Waugh anchored in at the end of the rappel. When Darsis reached the nut, his shirt got caught in his figure eight. He tried to cut the shirt out, and in the process cut both of his rappel ropes, which proceeded to blow away in the wind. He was able to hold on to the two remaining rope sections and run them through the nut anchor he was on. He then hauled up more nuts and stabilized his position on what he felt was an expanding flake. They then yelled for help. With direction from the Ranger staff, they were able to make two pendulums over to Sickle Ledge, where some fixed ropes were left in place for them. They then descended to the ground. (Source: Hal Grovert, SAR Officer, Yosemite National Park)


As we are seeing more and more in Yosemite with the decline in the mystique of the big walls, climbers are not carrying gear such as hammers, pins, or bolt kits. These things should be taken along to be used in case of trouble. They don’t have to be used the climb, but they should be available for use in case of emergencies. Climbers should carry gear which would enable them to rescue themselves and thereby avoid the necessity of yelling for help. (Source: Hal Grovert, SAR Officer, Yosemite National Park)

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