FALL ON ROCK, PLACED INADEQUATE PROTECTION, PROTECTION PULLED OUT, NO HARD HAT, MISCOMMUNICATION
Nevada, Juniper Canyon, Red Rocks
On November 11, three climbers were ascending Olive Oil (5.7), a seven pitch route in Juniper Canyon and were on the last pitch when the belayer told the leader (46) that there was only ten feet of rope left. Shortly thereafter, the leader called, “Off belay.” About 20 minutes passed without any communication between her and her partners.
Two other parties came to the ledge, both guided. One guide climbed up to see what the delay might be. He found the leader hanging upside down, about 30 feet below a piece of protection. She had obvious head injuries and was unconscious. Both guides then climbed to her and lowered her to the ledge on top of the fifth pitch. One of them then went for help.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department helicopter was dispatched, and rescue personnel got to the ledge to establish a lowering system. They found that the victim had succumbed. She had sustained a massive basilar skull injury.
The victim had been climbing for ten years, but had just started leading this year. She was described as able to follow 5.10, but had limited leading experience. The guidebook advises taking large gear to protect the last two pitches. She may not have had adequate gear to protect, though since the guides took her rack, we have no idea what she had. That she was not wearing a helmet obviously led to her fatal injury.
Request: If you come across an accident like this, don’t remove gear if at all possible. Leave it for the SAR team. Removing evidence from the scene makes analysis very difficult. (Source: Russell Peterson, SAR Officer, LVMPD)
(Editor’s Note: Peterson reported three other accidents from the area, but they were hikers who had gone astray. One of them, a 32 year old male with a church group, had gone “scrambling” in the cliffs above their picnic area. He was last seen traversing on a small, exposed rock ledge high above. He fell 200feet, striking the rocks three times before landing at the bottom, fatally injured. This kind of event often gets identified as a “climbing” accident, which for our purposes it clearly is not.)