American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Stranded, Exceeding Abilities, Inadequate Equipment, Arizona, Camelback Mountain

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1988

FALL ON ROCK, STRANDED, EXCEEDING ABILITIES,

INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT

Arizona, Camelback Mountain

At 1240 on January 24, 1987, the Phoenix Fire Department was notified that a male (18) had fallen about 60 meters to his death from a route known as Suicide Direct (5.8) on Camelback Mountain in Echo Canyon Park in Phoenix. His companion (19) was stranded about that high off the ground.

Camelback Mountain, within the city limits, is about 500 meters tall and consists mostly of rotten brecia and some granite. The first pitch of the climb goes 30 meters Class 4 to a large ledge, the second pitch continuing 40 meters at 5.8 with protection being five bolts placed by the first ascent party (including “eye” bolts—some since removed). The climb gains access to an upper portion of the mountain known as August Canyon.

The two had attempted the climb and were able to make it about 60 meters to a bolt, where there is a slightly overhanging crux move. The boy following slipped and fell. The stranded survivor had grabbed an old sling attached to the bolt there and hung on. Phoenix Fire Department called for CAMRA via the sheriff’s department and team members were flown by helicopter to just above the victim, where fire rscuers had set up. By 1440 the victim was on the ground by way of an “uninjured lowering,” using a top belay as a team member rappelled along side with a leash line system. (Source: Central Arizona Mountain Rescue Association—Accident Summary Committee)

Analysis

This is one example of five situations in Arizona this past year where individuals got themselves into climbing situations and either fell or became stranded. None had climbing experience or were adequately equipped. The region in which the Central Arizona Mountain Rescue Team operates has an apparently disproportionate share of technical rescues for nonclimbers. As their committee points out, the rock in the Phoenix area beckons because of the “stair-step” appearance. (Source: J. Williamson)

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