Fall on Rock, Failure to Check Tie-In Knot, New Hampshire, Black Jack Crack

Publication Year: 1986.


New Hampshire, Black Jack Creek

On June 15, 1985, Mack Johnson (29) and Kit Dover (34) were sharing top ropes with two local climbers at the Black Jack Creek bouldering area near Rumney, New Hampshire.

Johnson tied into a top rope belay on a face left of the crack, and after exchanging signals with the belayer started up the route. He fell almost at the top. His knot failed, whereupon he fell seven or eight meters. Johnson’s feet struck a protruding boulder, and he pitched forward against the face cliff, striking his arms, legs and back. After stabilization and treatment for shock, Johnson crawled 75 meters to the car and was driven to the hospital in Plymouth, New Hampshire. His injuries consisted of a fractured left ankle, bruised or strained right foot, and numerous abrasions and contusions. (Source: Mack Johnson)


I have been climbing and instructing for 15 years, yet I was lulled into carelessness in a “casual” top rope situation and distracted by conversation with my partners and studying the rock while I tied in. After the incompletely tied knot failed, we found it jammed against the top rope carabiners with the first half of a traced figure eight knot still in it. The knot had been threaded through my swami belt and was sufficiently finished to offer resistance to the belayer as he took in rope.

I was very lucky in the extent of my injuries. This completely preventable accident emphasized the need for attentiveness, double checking and concern for one’s partners in any belayed climbing situation. (Source: Mack Johnson)