American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Placed Inadequate Protection, Protection Pulled Out, Trying to Look Good, California, Donner Summit, Nova Express

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


California, Donner Summit, Nova Express

On June 16, 1993, I was attempting to lead a route which I had tried twice before but had never led. I’ve been climbing two full seasons, but have just started leading on pro. My climbing is relatively strong, but choice and placement of gear is still shaky. Because I knew the route, my gear was run out too close to the ground. I placed my first piece at 20 feet. It was bomber. Second piece was about 35 feet. I was comfortable at that point, but because the crack was shallow and facing, I could only get two cams of a #1 camalot to hold. At this point, knowing my second piece was bad, I made the decision to keep climbing to about 50 feet, where I knew there was a bomber placement. I placed the gear, but in trying to clip became extremely pumped. Finally, after two attempted clips and dropping the rope both times, I let go. The camalot at 35 feet broke as soon as it was weighted, and I was on the ground before my first piece had a chance to do any good.


First of all, don’t be afraid to “sew up” a crack. I was more worried about looking good to other climbers in the area. Though this was my fifth day of climbing that week, and I had been climbing very well, I had a bad feeling about the climb before I even started, so listen to your sixth sense; it very well could save your life.

Though I suffered a broken back, a shattered pelvis and other assorted injuries, I will be able to walk and climb again. I realize that the accident was my fault and that I need to be more careful. Most important, climb for yourself, not to show off to others. (Source: Joe Busby)

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