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Reported Mountaineering Accidents, Table III

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT, NUT FAILURE, NO HARD HAT, INEXPERIENCE

California, Tuolumne Meadows

On August 7, 1980, I was told by the Park Dispatcher that a visitor at Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Station was reporting a climbing accident on Lembert Dome in Tuolumne Meadows. I responded and met with Dacre L. Bush, who explained that his climbing partner, Lance Holliday (24), had fallen on the Northwest Beginner’s route and sustained a serious head injury as well as possible fractures to the extremities. Bush stated that Holliday, whom he had met the previous evening, had said he could lead 5.9 and seemed to be competent, although he was wearing heavy mountaineering boots. Holliday had no hard hat. Holliday left the Beginner’s route to “do some pioneering” (as Holliday put it) and fell while leading, eight feet above his last piece of protection. He pulled out several nuts and apparently struck the vertical wall he had been climbing. Bush stated that Holliday was climbing where there were no real cracks and had placed nuts in shallow folds or depressions in the rock. Holliday did not hit the ledge below him but was lowered to it by Bush, who tied him to a tree and left to get help.

Ranger Mead Hargis and I coordinated a rescue. To reach Holliday, we went with six other National Park Service employees up a third-class route, taking climbing equipment and emergency medical supplies. Holliday had two deep lacerations on the right front quadrant of his head and, in Hargis’judgment, a possible skull fracture. Around 3 p.m., a military helicopter from Lemoore Naval Air Station hoisted Holliday off the rock and flew him to a hospital in Fresno. (Source: Valerie Cohen, SAR Ranger, Yosemite National Park)

Analysis

Aside from the obvious problems here, there is another factor worth considering. Bush met his climbing partner the night before their climb and assumed that his partner could do what he said. While climbers often meet their climbing partners in this fashion, the question of what characteristics to look for arises, especially if it is expected that your ‘ pick up is going to be doing some of the leading. When there is minimum knowledge of the person’s ability, as in this case, some practical means of assessing ability might help prevent mismatches. (Source: J. Williamson)