American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock—Foot Hold Broke Off, Protection Pulled, Idaho, Sawtooth Wilderness, Grandjean Peak

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


Idaho, Sawtooth Wilderness, Grandjean Peak

On August 29, Mick Riffie and myself (we are both from Boise, Idaho) were attempting a new route on the Northeast Face of Grandjean Peak in the

Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho. The route consisted of about 2000 feet of very moderate climbing on granite (about 1000 feet of 5.3-5.4 slabs, 500 feet of 5.7 chimneys and slabs and the remainder assorted scrambling). We were about 1200 feet into the climb and I was leading the start of a two pitch 5.7 section. I was just past the halfway point on the first pitch, and a nubbin I was standing on broke out from under my foot. I was about 15 feet above my last piece of protection (a #1 tri-cam set in the cam position). I fell onto the cam and felt the rope come tight, then watched the cam fly very forcefully out of the rock. I fell another ten feet and hit a small ledge, which knocked me backwards, causing me to hit my head, and continue a tumbling fall to the next piece of pro about 20 feet farther down. The total fall distance was approximately 70 feet.

The blow to my head was forceful enough to crack my helmet, and I sustained many injuries (severe concussion, broken nose, sprained wrist, sprained knee, many deep bruises and abrasions, and multiple facial and leg lacerations). I was unable to walk, and my partner rappelled and down climbed to get help which was approximately six hours one way.


The rock in the area is granite, and the quality of the rock changes from very solid to somewhat crumbly and questionable throughout the route. My experience is ten years of mixed rock and alpine mountaineering. This year I had successfully climbed many 5.8-5.9 routes in the Sawtooths and had also climbed Mount Rainier via Liberty Ridge, and Mount Robson via the Kain Face earlier in the summer. I felt very comfortable in the route we were on at the time. I also believe that my helmet saved my life, and have always been a strong advocate of wearing one. (Source: Greg Parker)

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