American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Inadequate Protection and Communication, California, Tahquitz

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1981


California, Tahquitz

While belaying the leader at Tahquitz, I held a 30-foot fall that should really have been only a ten-foot slide. The extra rope footage was supplied when two chocks, placed after a traverse of the base of the pitch, came out. This occurred because the belay was anchored in the wrong place—about 20 feet from the climbing route, ok, that was a mistake, but what’s the point? It’s this: I knew when the leader placed the first nut that we had set up the belay in the wrong place. Why didn’t I speak up at that time? Because the leader was by far my climbing superior, too tough, full of nervous energy, short on patience, bitterly vocal when crossed. ... I knew that my ears would ring if I asked him to anchor in while I moved the belay, so I remained silent and the eventual fall was scaled up in severity. Fortunately, the injuries were minor.

Later, I concluded that the safety factor of a climbing team is reduced if there is not a free flow of safety suggestions between partners as the climb progresses. This interchange must occur regardless of the temperament of the climbers. It is important for our students in their first climbs. It is important for our senior members. Better to speak up and get insulted in return. At least then the safety recommendation is out in the open where it can be rejected or accepted. Better than being surprised later. (Source: Emery Yount, from an article in Mu- gelnoos,” November 1980, published by the Ski Mountaineers and Rock Climbing Sections of the Sierra Club’s Angeles Section)

(Ed. Note: The candidness of this article is to be commended. It expands upon part of the analysis in the previous accident and hopefully opens up an important area of inquiry for all climbers.)

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