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Bolt Pulled Out—Badly Set, Fall on Rock, California, Joshua Tree National Park, Indian Cove


California, Joshua Tree National Park, Indian Cove

Having led aid climbs (some solo, and all without incident) during the long Thanksgiving weekend, including the A4’s Rurp Romp and Lost Lid (“New wave” A2+ or A3) on Beaver Boulder, I (40) turned my attention toward another objective for a short day of fun. While leading a supposed A1 bolt ladder, Unknown Highway, on Willit Slab in

Indian Cove, a bolt on the lower part of the pitch pulled out under body weight (with no outward pull), precipitating a fall of eight to ten feet. The bolt immediately below (at the back of a wide ledge) had been extended with a single-length runner to decrease rope drag, and bolts lower on the route had been extended with short, quick draw slings for the same reason. During the fall, a small shelf below my feet ejected me out past the ledge below (probably preventing further injury), and as I was caught by the belay, my right foot struck a small bulge near the third bolt on the route, causing a traumatic inversion injury. Realizing a probable fracture, I was lowered to the ground, taped, splinted and then evacuated to the High Desert Hospital in Joshua Tree for further treatment. The first aid and evacuation was executed by my partner and a nearby friend, a member of the So Cal Mountaineers’ Association. No request was made of any Park Ranger, JOSAR or paramedic staff members. The staff in the very busy Emergency Department took X-rays that indicated a severe sprain and a minor fracture. I was given an elastic bandage, a pair of crutches, copies of the X-rays, and instructions to get further evaluation and treatment from my own doctor.


The bolt that pulled out was a 1/4" by 1" Rawl screw top. I recognized that it was a bad stubby bolt, in that I could see the split portion of the shank when I placed a hanger on it. The hole seemed to be intact, with no evidence of having been broken or otherwise compromised. I tightened the nut by hand. But after weighting the aiders (and unclipping aiders from the bolt below), it pulled out. (Source: Jerry Cox.)

(Editor’s Note: Joshua Tree National Park personnel were not able to provide incident reports in time for publication due to constraints of budget and other resources. One unusual California accident that didn’t make it into the statistics involved three 17 year old young men who were rappelling 150 feet from an electrical tower in Camarillo, CA. They were about ready to go home. The last to rappel was Michael Halsell. The winds had picked up to 30 mph. His two friends reported hearing a loud explosion and two pops, looked up and saw Halsell on fire. He was rescued by Ventura County Fire Engineer David Pumphrey and Captain Scott Hall. He died two weeks later from complications resulting from the bums that covered 80 percent of his body. Ken Gerry submitted this report.)