American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock, Fall on Rock, Climbing Unroped, No Hard Hats, Arizona, Oak Creek Canyon Overlook

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1989

FALLING ROCK, FALL ON ROCK, CLIMBING UNROPED, NO HARD HATS

Arizona, Oak Creek Canyon Overlook

On June 13, 1988, Doug Berry (20) was using standard chimney procedure to ascend a small spire which had separated from the main face. The spire was composed of columnar jointed basalt typical of tertiary flows at the Oak Creek Overlook area and was about 4.5 meters high. Steve Smeeth (23) was spotting him in typical fashion, but unusual for a chimney. Neither had any equipment or rope with them. Berry had running shoes on while Smeeth had climbing shoes. At a point near the top, Berry apparently applied enough side pressure to push the spire over. In the ensuing rock fall Doug sustained head injuries, lacerations, and bruises. Smeeth was hit on the head with a large rock also. Both sustained concussions. The resulting rescue took over six hours to orchestrate. (Source: Reed Thorne, Captain Technical Rescue, Sedona Fire Department)

Analysis

While no one could predict that the spire would indeed fall over, by looking at its relationship to the wall, it would have at least been considered. Separated spires from basalt are generally a result of the failure of subsequent strata beneath more so than a product of erosion. They are extremely unstable formations. Both would have been only minimally injured, if at all, if they had been wearing helmets. (Source: Reed Thorne, Captain—Technical Rescue, Sedona Fire Department)

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