American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Inadequate Belay, Inattention, Fall on Rock, Idaho, City of Rocks, Rabbit Rock

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

INADEQUATE BELAY, INATTENTION, FALL ON ROCK

Idaho, City of Rocks, Rabbit Rock

On Friday, August 7, 1992, at 1300, Andrew (33) and Glenda Lainias (34) were climbing a route called “Sudden Pleasure.” Andrew Lainias had reached the top of the climb and was being lowered on the rope by Glenda Lainias. Glenda was controlling his descent by using a Stitchplate belay/friction device. According to one witness, Sherry Grigsby, Glenda Lainias and Grigsby had discussed the fact that using a single rope length to lower Andrew would not adequately allow him to reach the ground. They both believed that one rope length would reach the top of a pillar at the base of the route and that Andrew would be able to safely down climb from there to the ground. While Glenda was lowering Andrew, she was reportedly talking with some of the other people at the base of the climb when she reached the end of the rope and it passed through her belay device before she could react. Andrew had not yet reached the top of the pillar and, when the rope went slack, he fell on to the pillar and then off of it and on to the ground. The total distance of the fall was approximately 30 feet. He suffered only lacerations and contusions.

Analysis

Andrew and Glenda Lainias were reportedly very experienced, competent, safe climbers with 8+ years of rock climbing experience, and many previous years of mountaineering experience. The difficulty of the route, “Sudden Pleasure,” and the lowering system which they used for descent were consistent with their past experiences on sport climbs.

Though the route is often descended using one rope and then a down climb to the ground, it is often accomplished by a rappel. (The climbers had reportedly seen someone rappel to within a few feet of the ground from the top of the route just before their climb.) Using the lowering system which the Lainias's chose requires the belayer to move up the rock a few feet to allow the person descending to reach the top of the pillar. With the position of the climber and belayer, the rope was not long enough to accomplish the descent and, without the attention of the belayer on the ground or a knot in the end of the rope to prevent it from passing through the belay device, the rope became free of the belayer. (Source: Maura Longden, Ranger, City of Rocks National Reserve)

(Editors Note: On August 23, 1992, another climber was being lowered on the same route when the same thing happened. He fell 50 feet, but was uninjured.)

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