American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

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

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE PROTECTION–PULLED OUT

California, Yosemite Valley, El Capitan

On September 13 around 1720, Kris Alageswaram (age unknown) was leading pitch number 26 on the Nose Route of El Capitan. At a height of 15 to 20 feet above the belay ledge, Kris placed a piece of protection for an aid move. While putting weight on the gear placement, the piece pulled out, and Kris fell about 15 to 20 feet hitting a sloping ledge with his leg. Kris continued to fall an additional 15 to 20 feet before the rope stopped his fall. His partner, David Reynolds, assisted Kris back to the belay ledge and they started yelling for help.

On September 14 Martin Ziebell was lowered approximately 800 feet to the injured climber. After stabilizing the open ankle fracture, he and the victim were raised to the summit. The victim was then carried approximately a quarter mile to a landing zone and flown to Crane Flat Heli-base to rendezvous with an air ambulance. The victim was then flown to Doctor’s Medical Center in Modesto. Meanwhile, SAR team member Dean Potter was lowered to “Camp 5” to extract the victim’s partner. Both were raised safely to the summit of El Capitan. All rescue personnel and equipment were then flown to CFH and transported by ground vehicle to the Valley SAR cache by 1800.

Analysis

Reynolds feels that the fall was caused by “bad gear placement.”

Reynolds stated that he had been climbing for 15 years and that Kris had been climbing for 18 years. This was the fourth “Big Wall” in Yosemite that Reynolds and Alageswaram had climbed together. The other routes included “The Prow,” and three years ago the two had climbed “The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome” and “The South Face of Washington Column.” Reynolds indicated that Krishna was unhappy because he had a lot of weight on—including a large wall-rack. They did not have a hammer or pitons. He placed a small Alien camming device in a peg scar and stepped in his aider, and it ripped. He fell about 15 feet, hit a sloping ledge around the same level as my belay, and that’s when his foot was turned and broken.

From the belay, Krishna had climbed up a little slab with mantle-shelf moves, face climbing with no way to protect it, no cracks. He tried to use the first possible gear placement, to aid the move, and that was the placement that didn’t hold. He fell the 15 feet, hit the sloping ledge, and fell a further 15 feet, whereupon he came into Reynolds’ belay and stopped.

Reynolds was pulled out of the ledge, but held his fall. He got him on a Jumar, tied him off, and rigged a system so he could haul him back onto the ledge. Krishna was able, using his good leg, to Jumar, while Reynolds held him on the Jumar and helped him onto the ledge. (Source: From reports by John Dill and Keith Lober, SAR Rangers, Yosemite National Park)

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