American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Inadequate Protection, Fall on Rock, California, Yosemite Valley

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


California, Yosemite Valley

On November 4, 1983, Pat Ranstrom (26) was leading the last pitch of The Surprise when she took a fall resulting in a compound fracture of her lower left leg. After

an initial assessment, a team was sent to the top of the climb, where the victim was reached and given emergency medical attention. Ranstrom was then secured in a litter, lowered to the base of the cliff and carried out to a waiting ambulance near the base of Lower Yosemite Falls. She was then transported to Yosemite Medical Clinic. Her partner, Cindy Worman (26) was slightly injured in holding the fall, but came down the walk-down route with rescue personnel. (Source: Tim Dallas, Ranger, Yosemite National Park)


As Ranstrom was leading the last pitch of The Surprise, Worman was belaying below from a tree. Ranstrom placed a Friend with a sling for a foothold, but didn’t clip the rope into it. About three meters above Worman, she placed another Friend for a handhold, but it pulled out, causing her to fall past Worman, a total of about 12 meters. Worman was able to hold the fall, but injured her arm and hand moderately in doing so. At some point during the fall, Ranstrom broke her leg. Ranstrom, with Worman’s help, managed to traverse to a small ledge and Worman tied her off to the belay tree. (Source: Tim Dallas, Ranger, Yosemite National Park)

(Editor’s Note: Statistics, but no narratives, were received from the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club. This accounts for the increase in the number of accidents in California over previous years.

Fourteen of the twenty-four accidents from this group happened on snow. Eight of those involved skiing. Half of these accidents were attributed to climbers exceeding their level of abilities. Next year, narratives will provide examples of typical situations encountered by this group.)

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