American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Improper Protection, No Hard Hat

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


New Hampshire, Bartlett Tower, Dartmouth College Campus

In the spring of 1981, a student (20) was climbing on Bartlett Tower and was belayed from below by an instructor from the Dartmouth Outing Club. The belay rope was set up in a slingshot manner, so that when a climber moves out from directly under the overhead carabiner through which the belay rope passes, a pendulum fall results. In the case of this fall, the amount of pendulum was estimated at 20 feet. The student was struck in the head in the process and was unconscious for a brief period of time. (Source: J. Williamson, personal interview with student)


There are probably many near misses of this nature with outing clubs and similar groups. This case illustrates that when a slingshot belay is used—which is quite common in teaching and practicing single-pitch climbs—the climber can get into a lead climbing situation, where a fall becomes dynamic. For beginners, as with this student, the consequences can be dire; especially if no hard hat and swami belt or harness are used. Most schools and clubs which teach climbing have their students wear hard hats and use harnesses or swami belts. (Source: J. Williamson)

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