American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Fall on Rock, Inadequate Equipment, Piton Failure, California, Yosemite Valley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1984


California, Yosemite Valley

On May 3, 1983, John Kaput (31) fell while climbing on Commissioner’s Buttress, just north of Ranger Rock.

Kaput was leading the climb and his partner, Scott Sleeper, was belaying him from below. Kaput’s first piece of protection was a wired stopper, which he had placed about eight meters up from the start of the climb. He then went up another two meters and clipped into an old fixed pin. He did not have a piton hammer with him and thus could not test the pin. He then proceeded to another fixed pin about two meters above the first. When he got to the second pin, he found a three- centimeter ledge to stand on and did not clip into the pin. He then made a move to the right to try for a hand jam in a small chimney located there. This required him to put his right foot on a small ledge covered with dirt, moss, and a small bush. When he did so, the dirt gave way and he fell. He went directly down to the first pin, about three meters below. The pin pulled out, and he kept falling to his second piece of protection, the wired stopper, about two meters below. He continued past the wired stopper an additional two meters, where he hit a ledge. He bounced off the ledge and fell two more meters, where his partner caught him on belay. The total fall was approximately seven meters. (Source: Kerry Maxwell, Ranger, Yosemite National Park).


Most of the pitons found in place now can be assumed to have been there for several seasons, or probably longer. They need at a minimum to be hammered in again. A piton hammer is recommended as a basic piece of Yosemite climbing equipment if one intends to use fixed pitons. (Source; J. Williamson)

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