American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock Ledge, Weather, Nevada, Red Rocks

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

FALLING ROCK LEDGE, WEATHER

Nevada, Red Rocks

This is a report from Gary Bocardc (37), director of a guide service in Alaska, who was climbing on March 18, 1987, between sessions at the annual Ski Industries America trade show in Las Vegas:

This was going to be our last day at Red Rocks. We set out to do an easy route—Free Crack (5.7). I was going to lead, while Susan belayed. The climb was partly in the shade, so Susan set up the belay off to the side (in the sun). While Susan was setting up the belay, I climbed up the first six meters or so on very easy ground to a one-meter-wide ledge. I was placing protection when the ledge let go. On its way down, it tangled in the rope, pulling me off. It eventually cut the rope. I went flying, head down, landing mostly on my left arm. I landed about three meters out from the base of the climb. I broke my ulna, shattered the radius head, and did a total separation of my shoulder. All injuries required surgery.

(Source: Gary Bocarde)

Analysis

Be careful climbing on standstone—especially in spring, when there are large temperature differences. The freeze-thaw cycle makes for loose rock. The ledge that broke appeared solid; it did not move at all when I climbed over it. It was a total surprise.

Since the rope was cut, protection would not have helped. Maybe we should have stayed at the ski show and hustled equipment instead! (Source: Gary Bocarde)

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