FALL ON ROCK, UNROPED
California, Yosemite Valley
On September 11, 1983, Carol Moyer (28) fell about 100 meters to her death from the fourth pitch of Tangerine Trip on El Capitan.
According to her climbing partner, Raymond Kovac, she was cleaning the aid pitch under the roof and untied from the belay rope, relying on her jumars, which slipped off the rope. (Source: Jim Reilly, Ranger, Yosemite National Park)
This is a summary of the summary report prepared by John Dill, SAR Ranger:
I interviewed Moyer’s climbing partner, Raymond Kovac, and other climbers concerning Moyer’s actions, statements, moods, and climbing experience prior to her death. I climbed to the scene of the accident (fourth pitch) and examined Moyer’s rope and all other equipment left in place (and undisturbed) since her fall. Using her equipment, I reenacted what I knew of her movements, evaluated various procedures for cleaning the pitch, and looked for possible causes of the fall. I discussed the accident with several experienced climbers. We examined Moyer’s equipment in detail, discussed appropriate techniques for cleaning the pitch and possible causes of her fall, and tested some of these hypotheses against the evidence at hand.
Moyer was described by acquaintances, in essence, as having climbed two long and strenuous routes within a few days before the Tangerine Trip. She was considered experienced, but not extensively. She was well liked and was in a good mood on the Tangerine Trip.
At the time of the accident, Moyer’s jumars were rigged adequately for cleaning the pitch and for her personal safety.
Kovac was watching while Moyer worked on the previous piton and also on the one from which she fell. The method she used was workable but inefficient and less safe than the alternatives, in my opinion. It required more strength, had a slimmer margin of control, and a high potential for shock loading the system.
Based on Kovac’s testimony and the arrangement of equipment on the cliff, it would seem that Moyer had probably removed Kovac’s carabiner from the piton and was preparing to, or in the process of, lowering herself to the next one.
Structural failure or malfunction of her equipment is not likely; even after falling 90 meters, both jumars were intact and working properly. The rope was intact and the piton still in place. The only damage noted was probably caused by the fall, not vice versa.
Because many unpredictable mishaps can occur while jumaring (as in any other part of climbing), most climbers remain tied to their safety rope. If tied to its end, a 45-meter fall is still possible, so it is common practice to tie in “short;” that is, to tie in several times farther up the rope as one ascends. Only about a meter of slack exists at any time, and the end is free for other uses. Several deaths in Yosemite could have been prevented this way.
Moyer could have cleaned the pitch in the same manner she did while still tied to the end of her rope. She would have survived her fall, and, if tied in “short,” she would have fallen only about a meter. (Source: John Dill, SAR Ranger, Yosemite National Park)