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Fall on Rock, Falling Rock, Inadequate Protection — Washington, Liberty Bell Mountain


Washington, Liberty Bell Mountain

My climbing partner and I (Larry Deyo, 35) had completed the second pitch of the Becky Route on Liberty Bell, and it was my turn to lead. We were climbing with two other friends and they were out ahead of us. They told us the pitch was very easy—no challenge at all. We noted the guidebook listed a 5.7 variation up a crack to the left with a face traverse back to the original route. We decided to go for it. The pitch is a crack that starts out at a low angle and steepens until it ends where the rock is eroded with a small pinnacle on the left side about eight meters up. I began climbing the crack and found it to be easy and secure. I placed my first nut about four meters up. It continued easy going. When I could reach the pinnacle (about 45 centimeters high, 60 centimeters wide, and 22 centimeters thick), I placed a sling (2.5 centimeter tubular webbing) over it and clipped the carabiner through it and over the rope. The rock in this area was noticeably less sound than the previous pitches. It was a granite type, but the “cement” that held the hard chunks together was softer. Being used to climbing at Smith Rocks in Oregon where the rock is equally soft, I decided that before I pulled myself up on this pinnacle to test if it was solid by tapping it a couple of times. It sounded reasonably good and didn’t move or anything.

My next move was to pull up then mantle to the top of this small pinnacle. I had my right foot in the crack and left foot on a small angular surface below the pinnacle. As I pulled up, the top of the pinnacle broke off. It apparently rolled over my right leg and left foot. Damage to the sling indicates it took a load, but I could not tell if that was due to its pulling over the remainder of the pinnacle with my weight or by falling with the rock. It was torn about half a centimeter and showed stretch marks in another area. I fell and slid about ten meters until the rope came tight on my last piece of protection, and I slid into a bush at the same time. My injuries included skinned hands, upper arm and groin, a strained left knee (previously injured), a badly bruised left foot, a compound fracture of the right lower leg, and two broken bones in my right foot. I lowered myself to a level area about three meters away and first aid was administered. My belayer and another climber avoided the rock fall and were unhurt. I received no head injuries probably due to the fact that I was wearing a helmet. (Source: Larry Deyo, Gresham, Oregan)


Only improved education on rock structure to help. . . identify unsound rock. (Source: Larry Deyo, Gresham, Oregon)