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Fall to Ground on Rappel, Inadequate Belay, No Hard Hat, California, Yosemite National Park, Puppy Dome


California, Yosemite National Park, Puppy Dome

On July 24, 1992, Mike James (22) and his fellow counselor from a Seventh Day Adventist Camp (Camp Wawona) had set up a rappel on “Do or Fly,” an overhanging climb on Puppy Dome. The intent was to teach students to trust each other by having one student rappel “hands-off’ (no attempt to brake) while a second student, at the bottom, stops the rappeller by pulling on the rope. James rappelled, but was not stopped before hitting the ground head first. The tension on the rope then bungied him back up, suspending him off the ground. He was evacuated by ranger to Yosemite Medical Clinic.


Interviews with the victim’s party revealed that they were rappelling young members of the group on dynamic rope, allowing them to “bounce” on the stretch of the rope. James was rappelling and the person maintaining tension with a belay device neglected to compensate for the difference in weight between James’ adult stature and that of the students’. James fell, the stretch in the rope allowing him to strike the talus at the base of the wall. James was not wearing a helmet at the time of the fall, supposedly because there were not enough for the group, although not all of the group were at the summit or participating at the base in any fashion so as to require a helmet. (Source: K. L. O’Connor- Henry, Ranger, Yosemite National Park)

(Editor’s Note: Here is an example of a school/camp using climbing as a vehicle for personal growth. While we must count such incidents as part of the climbing accident data, it should be noted that the individuals involved are not climbers.)