American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection, Piton Pulled Out

Ontario, Little Blue Mountains

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year: 1995
  • Publication Year: 1996

On June 18, Bruce Stover (19), Sherri May (18), John Rothwell (23), Kip Brennan (15), and I (Shawn Shea, 30) arrived at Little Blue Mountain about 1:00 p.m. to do some top roping and lead climbs. Bruce was leading a 5.10 climb called “A-Okay” that he had completed on other occasions. I was belaying another lead climb 30 feet away. Bruce seemed to be moving at a steady pace and had just clipped a pin a few feet before the crux. As he was attempting to pull through the crux, his footing slipped and he fell, pulling out the pin, 45 feet to the ground, landing in between a number of large boulders. All members in our party immediately rushed to the victim’s aid and found him conscious and able to communicate. Two others in an adjacent party ran ten minutes to the local O.P.P. detachment where a rescue squad was called for.

It was determined that Stover had leg and possible pelvic injuries, and so he was secured to a board and passed over the talus by the evacuation team. He was then walked out to a field beside the highway where a helicopter was waiting to transport him to the nearest hospital. He was later listed in stable condition with a broken femur and fractured pelvis.


Bruce is a very experienced local climber, and like many other climbers in the area, routinely clips into fixed protection with an assumption that it is bombproof. Many local routes are protected by pitons and quarter-inch bolts which may be very dated and not routinely checked. Although a visual inspection of the pin would indicate that it was not very old, its placement had probably not been checked that year, and as such this should serve as a reminder: ALWAYS BACK UP FIXED GEAR.

The parties involved are grateful for the efficient evacuation, and say that since such accidents are rare in that area, it proves the effectiveness of rescue training with the local emergency units. (Source: Shawn Shea)

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