American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock – No Rope

West Virginia, Eagle Rocks

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year: 1987
  • Publication Year: 1988

On July 4, 1987, Matt Steinkamp had been rock climbing with Steve Roberts, a county resident, in the top center section of Eagle Rocks during the afternoon. They had been using ropes and other standard climbing gear, but at the time of the accident, Steinkamp had unroped and was free soloing a vertical pitch near the top. He lost his grip and fell from ledge to ledge for about 30 meters, catching a small tree before he rolled off the lower ledge. Roberts summoned help from friend Mike Lemon, who was near campers by the river below.

Help reached Steinkamp about an hour later, and since his wounds appeared not to be life-threating at the time, and due to rough terrain and vegetation, Steinkamp was harnessed and lowered with safety lines. During the descent, the rescue crew was attacked by hornets, yet was able to complete the rescue. Steinkamp was taken by ambulance to a helicopter, in which he was flown to Cumberland Hospital in Maryland, where he recovered from multiple injuries including a concussion, contusions, abrasions, severe head lacerations, dislocations, and punctures. (Sources: Pendleton Times, July 9, 1987; Matt Steinkamp, 2018.)

Analysis

Steinkamp was free soloing, which is extremely risky no matter the skill level. He likely survived the long fall by landing on an apron of somewhat soft sediments and regaining consciousness long enough to grab a tree before careening off the lower ledge. (Source: Matt Steinkamp, 2018.)

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