FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE BELAY, INADEQUATE PROTECTION, EXCEEDING ABILITIES, MISCOMMUNICATIONS
Oregon, Blue River, Flagstaff Climbing Area
On September 17, 1994, I (Katie Mynes-Petty, 35) was third to climb the route “Deep Pockets.” A top rope was set up and I was to drag up another rope to help set up another climb. We didn’t fully communicate intentions, and decisions were made once I reached the top via yelling questions and answers to each other. Prior to my climb we didn’t do any “buddy checks.” I ended up doing a top belay for a large man. I had clipped in incorrectly, using a carabiner through a gear clip on my harness rather than the harness itself. Consequently, when Mike fell, I was ripped from the top. I broke Mike’s 15 foot fall so he wasn’t hurt. I fell 65 feet, was dragged for a while, then rolled over, hit the rock, broke my front tooth and ripped open my lips, then fell, luckily into a huckleberry bush.
I am fortunate and grateful to be alive. I will have little or no residual physical limitations. I aim to continue climbing and mountaineering.
Do “buddy checks.” Don’t belay someone who’s significantly larger than you. Triple check your anchor tie-in. Make sure you’re tied in in three places. Communicate clearly before starting your climb. (Source: Katie Mynes-Petty) (Editor’s Note: It is certainly possible to belay someone who is larger than you by using the anchoring system to take the force rather than yourself. “Buddy checks” aren’t always possible, so learning good systems and checking oneself are important.
Thanks to the victim for her candid report.)