American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Protection Pulled Out, No Hard Hat, California, Joshua Tree National Monument

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


California, Joshua Tree National Monument

On February 15, 1988, Brad Wade (28) took a seven to eight meter leader fall while climbing Enos Mills Glacier (5.10) on the Lost Horse Wall and sustained serious head trauma. He was rescued by seven members of the Joshua Tree Search and Rescue Team.

A park visitor had reported to Gary Garret at the Lost Horse Ranger Station of observing a stranded climber on the Lost Horse Wall hanging by a rope. JOSAR members Jim Munro, Tom Patterson, Becky Patterson, Karl Pearson and Gary Garret responded. Upon our arrival at 1622, we observed Wade and Robert Alexander being lowered from below by Terrie Catlow. All three individuals are instructors from the Pacific Crest Outward Bound School and were climbing off duty when the accident occurred. Alexander reported that about 1615 Wade fell backwards, striking the rear of his head. His protection had pulled out. Apparently he was hanging inverted about 15 meters above the base of the rock and Catlow, who was belaying, lowered him approximately eight meters to an outward bulge in the rock.

Alexander then climbed to Wade’s location and righted him and placed additional protection to secure the rope. Catlow lowered both subjects to the ground.

I arrived on the scene five minutes later and observed Wade to be unresponsive with a massive amount of blood exiting the occipital wound at the back of his head. Wade rejected an orophrangeal airway and became combative. His level of consciousness fluctuated and he vomited on two occasions.

We immobilized him in a short backboard, administered high concentration oxygen by mask, controlled bleeding and evacuated him to the roadside in a Stokes litter. Joshua Tree Ambulance paramedics initiated advanced life support and subject was flown to Desert Hospital.

Wade was listed in critical condition in intensive care with an occipital fracture and right temporal contusion. Mentally he is disoriented and has no recall of the accident. (Source: Tom Patterson, Ranger, Joshua Tree National Monument)

(Editor’s Note: Wade has recovered except for not remembering the accident and having short term memory loss.)

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