American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Fatigue, Dehydration, Overequipped, Inexperience on Big Walls, California, Yosemite Valley

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

FALL ON ROCK, FATIGUE, DEHYDRATION, OVEREQUIPPED,

INEXPERIENCE ON BIG WALLS

California, Yosemite Valley

On June 4, 1988, at 1200, disptach received a call from Wesley Walton concerning an injured climber on Half Dome. Walton had talked with people on top of Half Dome by CB radio. At 1215, six SARSITE climbers and I were flown to the top of Half Dome starting at 1330. At 1443, Kevin Brown arrived at Big Sandy Ledge after being lowered 150 meters. He met David Banks, who had an uncomplicated injured elbow, bruised seriously enough so the he could not climb. Banks was raised the 150 meters arriving at 1545. Brown, Klotz (Banks climbing partner) and two Half Dome climbers who had helped jummarred out. All rescuers were flown out, ending at 1847.

Ranger Horner interviewed Banks later. He said that he had injured his arm/ elbow in a slow, sliding fall on the pitch below Big Sandy on June 3. He was slightly off route and did not protect well. He fell about ten meters and stopped prior to hitting a large ledge. Banks was lowered to his belayer and then Klotz led the pitch to Big Sandy. Banks took an hour and a half to jumar to the pitch, which he did in a lot of pain. They were also hauling the largest haul bag anyone can remember seeing. (Source: Dan Horner and Bob Howard, Rangers, Yosemite National Park)

Analysis

Banks and Klotz had each been climbing for several years, led at the 5.3-5.10 level, but had litde wall experience. They had brought too much hardware and other gear, and their huge haul bag and lack of experience hauling meant long, tiring days. They were on schedule but had underestimated their daily food and water requirements by about half, however; and by by time of the accident they were tired, hungry and dehydrated. In retrospect, they felt their condition made an accident “only a matter of time.” Two points:

By their own admission, they had too much gear; that’s not an argument for taking nothing.

It’s a good idea to develop your hauling and other logistical skills on “retreat- able” Grade Vs. (Source: John Dill, Ranger, Yosemite National Park)

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