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Fall on Rock, Equalized Sling Failure, Oregon, Smith Rock State Park


Oregon, Smith Rock State Park

On June 7, a climber was being lowered by his partner after climbing the route, Easy Reader (5.6) at the Dihedrals in Smith Rock State Park.

After descending about 15 feet, the anchor sling failed sending the climber free falling approximately 60 feet. He landed on his feet, hip, arm and body in that order, and suffered numerous fractures.

Other climbers in his group provided immediate care until EMT's from the Redmond Fire Department arrived. About 45 minutes after the accident, he was evacuated by helicopter to a Bend, Oregon hospital.


After the evacuation, two climbers climbed an adjacent route to inspect the anchor system. A locked carabiner remained in each hanger, and a locked and regular carabiner were on the rope. From this it was concluded that the single, equalized sling failed for some reason. The lead climber had set up the anchor system and then rappelled down to belay the climber. For climbers that had considered an equalizing sling bombproof, the accident came as a shock.

Cause of the failure has not been determined. Two climbers independently inspected the remaining slings in the leader's pack and found all solid water knots. The sling had carried the rappel load, but then failed with approximately 80% more weight. Tensile tests were carried out on slings with knots that were intentionally not dressed (twisted or folded), but these performed surprisingly near to perfectly tied knots.

One possibility was that the knot did not take a set, and slipped through to the melted end on rappel, and continued slipping on the victim. Regardless of reason for failure, it is strongly recommended that setting a single sling, equalized or not, should only be done after careful deliberation as to the risk. It is recommended that any anchor system with bolts or gear be set with two independent, bombproof anchors, or at least three good independent anchors by traditional gear placement. Bombproof means two modem solid anchor bolts with hangers, solid horns or trees.

Independent slings or quickdraws should be clipped to each anchor point to provide sufficient back-up for an individual sling or anchor point failure. If one judges the need for an equalized sling, it should be backed up with the rope or slings slightly longer to allow equalized movement) to each anchor point. (Source: Michael Dianich)