American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Exceeding Abilities, Washington, North Cascades, Liberty Bell

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


Washington, North Cascades, Liberty Bell

On August 14, Stim Bullit (75) and I (47) were climbing the third pitch (I led the first two pitches)—a crack above a ledge. Stim got to the crux of the 5.8 crack, couldn’t figure it out and backed down. I volunteered to try to lead it, couldn’t figure out how to climb the crux either, so I began to down climb. I fell while down climbing. My feet slipped off the wall. The protection held well, but my right leg apparently took full force of the fall on a ledge or other protrusion. After the injury, my leg would not hold my weight. We rappelled to the base of the climb; I bivouacked and Stim left and drove to phone mountain rescue people.


I’m not a skilled technical climber and have never led above 5.7. I have done only a few top roped 5.8 pitches. My partner is much better technically and has led up to 5.9. In the hot flush of summit fever, I allowed desire to overcome judgment, exceeding my limit, and paid the price.

My repeated training in Mountaineering First Aid was very helpful. It allowed me to remain calm, set up a comfortable bivy, treat myself for shock, and even sleep until rescuers came. As much as I complain about getting recertified every three years, it’s worth it. (Source: Kathy O’Toole)

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