Fall on Rock, Protection Pulled Out—Inadequate, California, Yosemite Valley

Publication Year: 1999.


California, Yosemite Valley

On September 6, David Craig (32) first met and climbed with a Japanese climber named Tomo (last name unknown). Tomo was experienced and competent. On Sunday they climbed at the base of Sunnyside Bench.

After climbing a few other short routes, Craig decided to lead Lingering Lie (5.10). The route followed an under-climb that curved up to the right and then curved to the left. Craig placed his first piece of protection, a Camalot, about ten feet off the ground, then climbed another eight feet or so into the crux section and placed a second Camalot. This placement was blind; that is, he was unable to see into the crack to evaluate the reliability of the placement. He attached a two foot sling to the piece, clipped in the rope, and climbed until the piece was a couple of feet below his feet.

The climbing seemed harder than the rating at this point. He knew he was going to fall and called out, “Take,” to his belayer to warn Tomo to take in any existing slack rope. But he fell before Tomo could act. He fell about eight feet, saw the Camalot stem shift downward before it failed. He fell about 15 feet to the ground. He landed on his feet on a small patch of dirt, doubled up and rocked forward, striking his face with his knee, then pitched backwards, landing hard on the rock with his butt.

He knew he was hurt, and nearby climbers checked him over while others went for help. At the clinic he was found to have a fractured left calcaneous, a fractured coccyx, and a lacerated knee (from his teeth).


David Craig had been climbing actively for six years on traditional rock routes, leads 5.10 comfortably, is competent at placing and judging protection, has taken lots of falls, but has no previous climbing injuries or rescues. He is familiar with Yosemite granite, having climbed approximately 50 routes in the park on this and one previous trip.

Craig’s belayer might have shortened his fall by taking in slack, but he had no time to do so. Craig feels he should have placed protection a few feet before (lower than) the piece that failed. He could see the crack there and could have placed a reliable piece that would have kept him off the ground. (Source: John Dill, SAR Ranger, Yosemite National Park)