American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock, No Hard Hat, Poor Position, California, Yosemite Valley

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


California, Yosemite Valley

On August 12, 1988, Jeff Kasten (25) and Glenn Pinson (23) intended to begin their climb of the regular route on Half Dome, using Tom Rollins (23) to help carry gear to the base. The party was waiting to climb and sorting gear in the afternoon before climbing the next morning. The sound of rockfall was heard and rocks were sighted as the party scattered. After the rockfall ceased, it was discovered that Tom had been hit in the head and had tumbled to the ground, sustaining both a head laceration and a broken wrist.

A runner was sent from among a group of hikers to activate the SAR Team. Jeff and Glenn (an EMT) stabilized the patient and awaited the arrival of SAR members, which occurred about 2030, four hours after the accident. After Tom was further stabilized, he was moved to the helicopter LZ where he stayed the night before being flown to medical facilities the next morning. Jeff and Glenn ascended the route over the next two days. (Source: Glenn Pinson)


Although Jeff and Glenn had helmets and intended to use them on the climb, they were still attached to the packs while the party was preparing to bivouac at the base of the route.

It is apparent from this incident that helmets should be employed as soon as the possibility of injury from rockfall exists. It is my recommendation that climbers don helmets when they get as close as a couple hundred meters from the base of a route where rockfall danger exists. (Source: Glenn Pinson)

(Editor’s Note: What’s good for the climbers is good for the “gofers” too!)

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