American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Protection Pulled Out, Fall on Rock, California, Yosemite Valley, El Capitan

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1993


California, Yosemite Valley, El Capitan

On October 12, 1992, at 0730, Doug Chabot (28) was leading the 26th pitch of the Nose Route, El Capitan. He was aiding up a crack 40 feet out from the belay ledge (Camp

Five). While standing on a TCU (#0 or #1), it popped from the crack. He also pulled the stopper below the TCU. He fell about 20 feet, landing on a ledge in a sitting position. The impact caused severe pain in his lower thoracic/upper lumbar spine. He did not lose consciousness, and was able to lower himself the further 20 feet to Camp V. The other two members of his party waited for about two hours before they determined that Chabot was unable to ascend or descend due to the severe pain in his back. His companions, Todd McDougal and Steve House, decided to continue up the route and once on top, descend and obtain help. Chabot spent the remainder of the day on the Camp V ledge system. McDougal and House were able to report the accident at 2040. They reported that Chabot's condition was extremely stable, his pulse and respirations were in normal limits, and he would be able to spend the night without seriously compromising his injuries.

An I.C. overhead team was established and plans made for the following day. Due to extremely good weather conditions and the availability of the Park Contract Helicopter (H-51), it was decided to conduct all initial operations via air. This allowed most personnel involved a good night's sleep without the requirement of hiking a ground team in from Tamarack Flat Campground.

Operations began at 0700 on October 13. Rangers were lowered to Chabot. They stabilized him, then raised him 900 vertical feet to the top, where he was then flown to the valley and transported to Yosemite Medical Clinic. He had sustained a compression fracture of his L-l vertebrae, and various fractured bones in his left hand.


I interviewed Stephen House regarding the skill levels of all three climbers. He advised me that all three members of the party had between four and eleven years of climbing experience individually. All three are guides with the American Alpine Institute, and climbing/guiding concession at Cascades. All had experience with wall climbing before, although this was Chabot's first Grade VI climb. When asked why they chose to climb to the top to obtain help rather than yelling for help, House advised me the thought never occurred to them. He was unaware that their cries would travel to the ground clearly enough to be heard. As most of their experience was in a remote wilderness environment, they were not used to the concept of merely shouting for help. (Source: Michael LaLone, Ranger, Yosemite National Park)

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