American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Failure of Nut, Falling Rock, North Carolina, Hanging Rock State Park

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


North Carolina, Hanging Rock State Park

This account combines two accidents on the same route.

In September 1980, Karl Pfefferkorn (19) was climbing a route called Capitol Staircase on Moores Wall when he fell either because he slipped or because of a falling rock. He fell 75 feet to the ground, landing feet first and pulling two chocks in the process. He broke both ankles and two vertebrae. Both he and his rescuers credit his survival to the fact that he landed on his feet.

A week earlier, on the same route, Martin Wade, a student at the University of North Carolina whose home was in Yorkshire, England, fell 90 feet to his death. He was on the last and easiest portion (5.4) of the climb and, in fact, was climbing without protection. It is assumed that he grabbed a loose rock. The route is known for that. (Source: T. C. Price Zimmermann and Winston-Salem Journal, October 15, 1980)


The current estimate of regular climbers in North Carolina is 500 but the sport is still fairly new there. Colleges and organizations such as the Carolina Wilderness Institute are teaching climbing, and reports from them indicate a high level of interest. The accident rate from this state is very low, especially considering how new the sport is there. The important thing to note is that the falls which have occurred are typical of beginning climbers: protection failure, failure to test holds, falling from the top of a route after the climb is apparently over, and rappel failure. (Source: J. Williamson)

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