American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock, California, Yosemite Valley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982


California, Yosemite Valley

On September 29, 1981, Les Ellison (30) was free climbing the New Dawn Route on El Capitan when he pulled a rock loose. There had been no indication that it might be insecure. The rock hit his thigh and caused rapid swelling, and the injury then became too painful to move. By the next day, he was able to jumar on one leg, which he did. He had done five routes on El Capitan recently, as well as many routes in the Canadian Rockies and the French Alps. (Source: John Dill, SAR Ranger, Yosemite National Park)


According to John Dill, this year was a record one both for falling rocks and for these rocks hitting climbers (ten known cases). One reason for the latter is the increase in the number of climbing parties on the same route. Hard hats could have prevented or lessened injury to some of the victims. Climbers who frequent Yosemite don’t like to wear hard hats. While regulation of such is not warranted, there needs to be an awareness that the hazards of falling rocks and objects has not diminished over the years. (Source: J. Williamson)

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