American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock, Failure to Test Holds, California, Mount Whitney

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1987

FALLING ROCK, FAILURE TO TEST HOLDS

California, Mount Whitney

On July 3, 1986, Mike Meteyer (27) and Jim Raymond (28) were climbing the Classic East Face route on Mount Whitney. In the early afternoon they were at the lower portion of the Grand Staircase when a basketball size block that Mike had moved up on broke away. Jim was hit a grazing blow by this falling block but not seriously injured. Mike fell about three meters and sustained what turned out to be three broken ribs. They continued to climb to the top of the Grand Staircase where the difficulty again increases. Unable to continue, they called for help and were able to attract the attention of two climbers just finishing the Keeler Needle. These two climbers came to their assistance with extra clothing for Mike and then one of them hiked out with Jim to call for a rescue. Arriving in Lone Pine in the middle of the night, they waited at the U.S. Forest Service office until it opened to ask for help. They should have called the Inyo County Sheriff. The China Lake Mountain Rescue Group was called at 0700. With Forest Service contract helicopter support, we were landed on the summit and got to Mike by late morning. After applying first aid and providing food and water, we were able to climb with Mike to the summit where he was flown to the hospital. (Source: Al Green, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group)

Analysis

Mount Whitney East Face climbers should be aware that there is considerable loose rock on this route and great care must be exercised for their own safety and for those below them. This particular route is becoming increasingly popular and the China Lake Mountain Rescue Group has several operations there each year. (Source: Al Green, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group)

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