American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock, Missouri, Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Reservoir

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1995


Missouri, Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Reservoir

On October 6, 1994, Phil Rotterman, Cary Winchester and I arrived at the bluffs that abut the Truman Reservoir. We planned to do some sport climbing on some 80 foot high limestone routes.

After I led “The Big Weenie,” we moved on to “Gomerwood,” which Phil led. While setting up a top-rope above, he dislodged a small cantaloupe-sized rock. He yelled, “ROCK.” Cary was to my right at the base of the route. We spotted the rock immediately. It was on a line ten to 15 feet to my right. Cary and I moved farther left. I watched the rock bounce straight down the less-than-vertical face until it was ten feet above me and 15 feet to my right. It hit me in the face before I could see it change direction.

It passed in front of Cary to hit me. He thought it had continued straight down the cliff until he saw me holding my face. Bleeding profusely from a two centimeter cut over and a one centimeter cut under my right eye, I used a roll of toilet paper in my pack to apply pressure and stop the bleeding within a couple of minutes. I never lost consciousness and was able to walk out. We drove to the local clinic where the doctor on call stitched me up—five stitches below, eight above. He told me I was lucky and that I could have lost the eye if hit straight on instead of a glancing blow to the right.

This accident teaches that falling rocks can take bounces that appear to defy the laws of physics and they can hit you before you can see them, let alone react. (Source: Steve Schweiker)

(Editor’s Note: Mr. Schweiker gives no indication as to how Mr. Rotterman dislodged the rock, or whether it was done in an attempt to clean the belay area. In any case, we gather they are still friends.)

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