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Slip on Rock, Improper Technique, Improper Instruction, Exceeding Abilities, No Hard Hat, North Carolina, Table Rock


North Carolina, Table Rock

(On September 20,1986, Elizabeth Crosscope [35] was climbing with two friends [35 and 32] in an area known as “The Devil’s Courthouse.” Her accident report contained the following narrative.)

After successfully making a 20 meter climb rated 5.6 by the members of my party, I attempted to rappel down. This was my first experience with rappelling, and I was given no instruction other than to trust the rope. Scott had rigged me for the rappel in such a fashion that the belaying line was in my hand with the safety line. There was too much friction. When it was necessary for me to traverse left to get around an overhang, I slipped on a lichen patch because there was still too much tension on the lines in my hand. I pivoted and crashed the rock with my jaw. Tim belayed me immediately and I came to with no safety line in my hand. I was stunned and bleeding from a deep cut in my jaw and I was very confused. I reduced the dislocation while hanging there, and after resting for a while, recovered the lines and started over. Again I pivoted and crashed, this time abrading my right shoulder. Tim’s quick belay had pulled both lines out of my right hand. After a rest I recovered and made it down the third time. (Source: Elizabeth Crosscope)


I was very glad not to have died on this climb. I had never made a climb requiring a top rope before, but am okay at scrambling and friction climbing. I think my friends assumed that I was competent to attempt this climb because I am competent at other strenuous physical activities.

After a few weeks of healing, I went out on a practice session with Dr. Stephen Perry, a climber who is on the faculty of the University of South Carolina. He taught me basic balance techniques while rappelling, a much safer belaying rigging, had me wear a helmet, taught me to traverse left and right, talked me through my absolute dread of rappelling, and had me rappel first a meter, then two meters, then six meters over and over again. Here is what I learned: (1) I now know my limits as a rank beginner; (2) I know what the right friction feels like on the safety line; (3) I will never climb with people who are drinking again; (4) I understand about being responsible for my own safety; (5) I bought a helmet. (Source: Elizabeth Crosscope)

(Editor’s Note: From the mouths of babes—and rank beginning climbers—came the most succinct words of wisdom. Thanks, Ms. Crosscope.)