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Improper Rappel, Anchor Placement, Inexperience, California, Joshua Tree National Monument


California, Joshua Tree National Monument

On January 12,1986, about 1330, the victim (18) and two friends set up a rappel site in Jumbo Rocks Corridor. The site was a 15 meter cliff on the southwest wall at the entrance to the corridor.

The rope they were using was a 22 meter long, 1.5 centimeters in diameter, soft laid marine rope, the type used in boat riggings. One end was wrapped once around a one meter in diameter boulder on the top of the cliff. One man rappelled off the cliff first without any problems. The victim was the next to rappel. He was approximately six meters from the top when the rope slipped over the boulder anchor. He free fell for about ten meters, landing on his legs and buttocks. He was placed on a backboard with a C-spine immobilization and carried out to an ambulance. (Source: Kip Knapp, Ranger, Joshua Tree National Monument)


This was the first time the victim had rappelled. He did not check the anchor prior to rappelling. He stated that he had been smoking marijuana before the accident. (Source: Kip Knapp, Ranger, Joshua Tree National Monument)

(Editor’s Note: Of the 16 accident reports sent to us from Joshua Tree this year, half involved non-climbers, some of which have been included in the narratives. This area is experiencing neophyte activity reminiscent of the days when climbing was getting started.)