American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection—Anchor Sling Knot, North Carolina, Stone Mountain, The Great Arch

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE PROTECTION—ANCHOR SLING KNOT

North Carolina, Stone Mountain, The Great Arch

On May 25, I was climbing at Stone Mountain, NC. Hoping to do some sport climbing (I read that the routes were sparsely bolted) I brought only a limited rack. I climbed the first pitch on the entrance to “The Great Arch” and prepared to set up a top-rope so that my wife could enjoy a climb. I tied a sling (nylon webbing) to a tree and had my wife lower me off. About halfway down it became apparent that my rope was too short. I climbed back to the top and found a lower tree to girth hitch the sling to. When I leaned back to lower off, the water knot on the sling popped open. I fell 30 feet before snagging a bush, still 60 feet off the ground. During the fall, my ankle snagged in the crack and broke in two places. Some of the local climbers set up a rope which enabled a guy to rap down to me, tie me into his harness, and then rap the rest of the way down the crag.

This accident has “impatient” and “unprepared” written all over it. Because most of my one year prior climbing experience took place in a gym, my concept of climbing had little to do with safety. I mistakenly thought that if I could physically do a climb, then all would be well. Solid anchoring systems was something prior to that accident I simply hadn’t given much thought. The impatient part came about due to an approaching thunderstorm. I wanted to get that climb in before the storm came and “ruined” my chance to climb.

The guys that got me off the bush—which I’m sure saved my life—were excellent, and I am extremely grateful to them. I hope I can return the favor.

I’m sending this in because a friend of mine read an accident report that sounded exactly like mine (one sling, water knot pops, broken ankle, guys from NC to the rescue) except it took place in Joshua Tree. The similarity is amazing. Also, I hope people will learn more about safety before moving from the gym to the crags. (Source: David Tart)

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