American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice and Frozen Moss, Placed Inadequate Protection, New Hampshire, Cannon Cliff, Black Dike

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

FALL ON ICE AND FROZEN MOSS, PLACED INADEQUATE PROTECTION

New Hampshire, Cannon Cliff, Black Dike

The ice on the Black Dike did not reach all the way to the top of the route on this Thanksgiving Day, November 23. Fred Abraham (35) was forced to climb frozen moss and thin ice at the very top of the final pitch. When he was about three feet from the trees and easy ground, his tools pulled out. He fell and was caught by his next ice screw, a small Black Diamond. Because the talus bone in his ankle was broken, he set up an anchor and his partner, Brian Donelan (37), led on to the top. Brian helped Fred to the top and Fred then mainly crawled to their truck, taking about four-nd-a-half hours for the descent.

Analysis

Fred thinks that there may have been a bulge of ice under the handle of his ice tool and he may have levered the tool out because of that.

I have been in either the same place or in a similar place and have thrown a weight on the end of a long cord (17 feet of 7mm perlon) around a small tree at the top of the cliff. After tying the ends of the cord together, I had protection for the final few feet. The end of a haul line or one of two double ropes would work even better, since the leader could have a top rope belay. A few carabiners make a good weight for throwing; a third tool would be used to weight the rope since it might hook something solid even if it did not fall neatly around a tree.

Under some conditions rappelling the route rather than climbing a poorly formed final pitch would be wise. In this case, the two men discussed that option after the accident and decided against it, since the talus slope was not yet filled in with snow and because they were climbing with only one rope. (Source: George Hurley)

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