American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Fall on Rock, Exceeding Abilities, California, Yosemite Valley, Nutcracker

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


California, Yosemite Valley, Nutcracker

On July 1, Paul Bennett (41) and Randy Kanta were climbing the Nutcracker, 5.8, on Manure Pile Buttress. Bennett led the last pitch; he climbed the low-angle slab off the belay, placed a nut in the steep corner, then climbed to the mantle, where he fell.

His protection held, but he struck the slab ten feet below feet first. The moment he hit he felt his ankle go. He tumbled over, stopped upside down, and when he looked up he saw that his ankle was bent 90° to the side.

Bennett and Kanta splinted the ankle with tape, and a nearby party tried to help lower him to the base, but after an hour of this they had gone only 30 feet. Meanwhile someone had alerted the NPS; a rescue team hiked to the top of the buttress and lowered a rescuer to the scene. Bennett was able to hop down the face to the ground, supported by the rescuer and the team s ropes. His ankle, broken in three places, required surgery.


Bennett had been climbing off and on for ten years and could top-rope 5.10-5.11. But 5.8 was his leading limit and he had not been climbing regularly right before his Yosemite trip.

The mantle on Nutcracker, and the moves that follow, is the scene of at least one broken ankle per year. Maybe its because the climber, concentrating on the steep corner, forgets to protect against striking the lower-angle slab below. For example, Bennett thought he was well protected and expected no consequences as he started to fall. The placements are there, if you want to avoid the same fate. (Source: John Dill, NPS Ranger)

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