American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Free-Solo, Exceeding Abilities, California, Joshua Tree National Monument

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1990


California, Joshua Tree National Monument

On February 20, 1989, a friend and I (33) made a one day trip to Joshua Tree. After leading three climbs rated 5.9 or better, I led the roof of “Hobbit Roof.” After going over cleanly, I belayed my partner through. Upon walking down the backside, I decided to do the route again, free-solo. I had done this climb many times, and had done the same three weeks previously and it was a rewarding end to a fun day of climbing.

This time, I jumped in before a climber had readied himself to lead the route. I made it over the roof and missed a hand jam and slipped out of a crack. The entire impact was taken by my right foot and I shattered my right heel. Nearby climbers ran to my assistance. My partner drove me to High Desert Medical Center. I was treated and released by my own doctor. (Source: Brad Berdoy)


I have been leading technical rock for eight years. I’m comfortable leading 5.8 and 5.9 and have done some 5.10.1 have free-soloed in the past and enjoy bouldering.

But I find it hard to evaluate my maximum ability when it comes to a no-falls situation. I had no right to think that because I’ve done it before I can do it every time. I have fallen on lead in the past and it has put me in the hospital, so I’ve realized the dangers before. But the love of the moment has pulled me into this situation time and time again. After four to six months of treatment, I hope to climb again. I don’t know if I’ll free-solo again, but I will have to watch exceeding my abilities at all times and start having a safer attitude toward climbing. (Source: Brad Berdoy)

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