American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock—Hand-Hold Broke Off, Nevada, Red Rock National Conservation Area, Magic Bus

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

FALL ON ROCK-HAND-HOLD BROKE OFF

Nevada, Red Rock National Conservation Area, Magic Bus

About noon on April 18, L.C., an experienced local climber (25), was leading Blonde Dwarf (5.10) on the Magic Bus, in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. He was 15 to 20 feet above his last protection and very close to the final anchors when a hand hold broke. According to his partners, L. C. fell about 30 feet before being caught by the rope. He was lowered to the base of the route by his partners.

Officers and volunteers of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Search and Rescue unit were conducting helicopter training at the top of the Red Rock escarpment at the time. At 1220, they were notified of the incident and a team of one officer and nine volunteers was shuttled to the accident site by Air 5, an HH-1H. Air 5 was able to insert the team by skid down hover about 100 feet from the victim.

L. C. was assessed to have superficial abrasions and contusions from the fall, but was complaining of lumbar back pain and numbness and tingling in his legs. He was unable to move his legs. L. C. was immobilized, packaged in a litter and at 1306 was lowered to the LZ using a low angle system. At 1315, Air 5 again performed a skid down hover, the victim and mission medic were loaded and flown to the CR At 1320, the victim was handed over to Valley Hospital’s Flight for Life and flown to University Medical Center’s Trauma Center. By 1430, all personnel had been recovered from the rescue and training sites.

Analysis

When the hold broke, L. C. fell backward, and was horizontal when his harness caught him. Despite a successful belay, and the lack of a hard impact, L. C.’s spine was damaged and he is paralyzed. It is rare for sport climbers to wear helmets and in this instance it was not an issue. While a fall strength chest harness may have caused a more upright catch and affected the outcome, countless similar falls are taken every year without injury. (Source: James Roberts, Volunteer, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department SAR)

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.