American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Chock Pulled Out, Humidity, Pennsylvania, Ralph Stover State Park

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1986

FALL ON ROCK, CHOCK PULLED OUT, HUMIDITY

Pennsylvania, Ralph Stover State Park

On September 15, 1985, Michael Keeley (24) attempted to lead Triple O (5.7-5.8), a popular top-rope climb on the 18 meter high practice face at Ralph Stover State Park. Keeley climbed 12 meters to the base of the first overlap, finding only two poor chock placements. He reevaluated his position and decided to have one of his two partners throw him another rope from above. As Mike Seasholtz tossed a belay rope from above, Keeley slipped and fell. He pulled out both chocks, resulting in a 12 meter ground fall. His injuries included one broken lumbar vertebrae, a large laceration above the right eye, and numerous abrasions and contusions. Point Pleasant Rescue Squad evacuated Keeley to Doylestown Hospital. (Source: Jim Detterline)

Analysis

Keeley, an experienced local leader who has been climbing since 1978, had climbed Triple O numerous times on top-rope in the past. He realized that good chock placements would be difficult to find and decided to abort the lead after concluding that his two placements were inadequate. At this point, Keeley said that he had plenty of strength in reserve to wait for the additional belay from above, but he slipped on the slippery holds. Stover’s popular shale faces tend to be quite slippery during periods of high humidity. In addition, the practice face holds have been worn smooth and caked with sweat by multitudes of climbers. It would have been more practical to have attempted the lead of a better protected route. This incident emphasizes the high risks of short but unexpected falls on poorly protected leads or solos. (Source: Jim Detterline)

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