American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Protection Pulled Out, Climber Fell on Belayer, California, Joshua Tree National Monument, Bridge of Sighs

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1994

FALL ON ROCK, PROTECTION PULLED OUT, CLIMBER FELL ON BELAYER

California, Joshua Tree National Monument, Bridge of Sighs

On February 5, 1993,1 was notified of a climbing accident in Rattlesnake Picnic Area. Some Marines from a group in the campground had come down to tell us about the accident. They said the subject had a broken leg and that some of their group had already responded along with some other visitors from the campground.

I went to the picnic area and saw that the accident had occurred on Ghost Town wall. I took the medical blitz pack and, upon arrival at the scene, I found a man with what appeared to be an open fracture of his right lower leg. The victim, Jack Johnson (36), told me that he had been belaying his partner on Bridge of Sighs (5.11b), when the partner, Dave Clendenan, had fallen and pulled his first three pieces of protection. His last piece held, stopping Clendenan just before the ground, but he hit Johnson, injuring his leg. (Source: Colin Smith, NPS Ranger, Joshua Tree National Monument)

Analysis

The consequences of protection pulling out and the belayer being in the fall line— which is often the case—are sometimes not only to the climber. Many of the falls in Joshua Tree, and other rock climbing areas not far from the road head, result in injury because protection pulls out. While falling may be acceptable, if one tries more difficult routes, protection pulling out is not. (Source: Jed Williamson)

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