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Not Anchored at Belay—Miscommunication, No Hard Hat, New Hampshire, Cannon Cliff, Slip O' Fools

NOT ANCHORED AT BELAY—MISCOMMUNICATION, NO HARD HAT

New Hampshire, Cannon Cliff, Slip O’ Fools

On October 1, Daniel Gelsomini (29) fell 35 to 40 feet from the top of the first pitch of Slip O’ Fools at the north end of Cannon Cliff. He had reached the belay stance and called, “I’m off.” Lori Gelsomini (29), Dan’s wife and climbing partner, unlocked the carabiner which held the belay device. Before she removed the rope from the device, the rope started rushing through the belay plate. She looked up and saw Dan falling, with rocks falling with him. She was wearing a helmet, still anchored, and she was able to grab the moving rope and stop the falling, unconscious leader. She received second degree rope burns on both hands and arms.

Two other climbers, Randy Garcia and Will Higgins, from a nearby route, came to help Lori get Dan to the ground. Higgins then ran to his car phone to call for a rescue while the other two gave first aid.

Dan does not remember what caused him to fall. Lori Gelsomini thinks that Dan was struck by a rock falling from higher on the cliff (possibly from Lakeview which curves above the slab routes) before he was anchored. His skull was fractured in two places and his right eye immediately swelled shut. The force of the blow caused his brain to move forward suddenly, causing extreme swelling and bruising which resulted later in the loss of a small part of his frontal lobe.

Analysis

In her written account Lori Gelsomini says: “Always wear a helmet! It may not be the ‘cool’ thing to do but it can save your life. Clip into belay anchors immediately (before calling ‘Off belay’) even if you think you are safe.”

Avoid climbing below other climbers. There are loose rocks on every cliff and Cannon is particularly unstable. (Source: George Hurley, Lori Gelsomini)