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Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection, California, Yosemite Valley


California, Yosemite Valley

On August 16, 1988, Mark Peebles (23) fell while leading the seventh pitch on the regular route of the Northwest face of Half Dome. After leading from the belay, he entered a thin crack and was doing a lay back up this section. He had placed several pieces of protection and moved up about three meters above his last piece. He felt he could do the move with ease but as he was climbing he started to “burn” his arms. He continued to climb the section without further protection attempting to move through it faster. At that point his foot slipped and he fell. He landed on a small ledge about three meters below and took the weight of his fall on his left foot. He continued another three meters when he was caught by his belay. He was lowered to the start of the pitch and remained there until rescued, because his ankle hurt too much to rappel or be lowered. (Source: Mike Mayer, Ranger, Yosemite National Park)


A basic rule of protecting half to two thirds the distance from a stance may have prevented this accident. Although Mark had only moved out a short distance from the ledge, it was wide enough to land on with sufficient force to fracture his lower leg. A fine line exists based on the skill level of the climber and when to place the first piece of protection. This accident provides evidence that when in doubt, THE SOONER THE BETTER is the best safeguard. (Source: Mike Mayer, Ranger, Yosemite National Park)