American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Belay, Washington, Cascade Mountains

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

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE BELAY

Washington, Cascade Mountains

On July 26, 1988, Petert Potterfield (38) was leading around a corner on U-Gap when he fell after making an off route move. He had a sling over a rock horn for protection. He went 20 to 30 meters, landing on a small ledge, and resulting in multiple fractures (shoulder, elbow, wrist), lacerations and abrasions. (Source: Peter Potterfield)

Analysis

Cause of poor belay unknown. “Ultimate” climbing helmet saved my life. (Source: Peter Potterfield)

(Editor’s Note: There’s more to this story. First, there is the rescue operation, which took place over the next day and evening and included a 12 hour descent and difficult helicopter landing. Then there is the recovery of the victim, who, in addition to the fractures, nearly destroyed his kidneys when he drank too much water. When he arrived at the hospital, one of the team of doctors and nurses looked at him and said, “You’re all fxxxxxxxxx up!” Even after eight hours in the operating room and several months of therapy, his climbing days are over because of the permanent nature of the arm injury. He was an experienced climber (20 years) and former member of St. John's Search and Rescue Team in New Mexico.)

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