American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock—Protection Pulled Out, Late Start-Darkness, North Carolina, Sauartown Mountain

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


North Carolina, Sauartown Mountain

In early May, two male climbers (22 and 21) started a route at Sauartown Mountain late in the day. The leader placed a cam and a stopper prior to clipping the first bolt on route. After clipping the bolt, the pair decided to back off the route because of approaching darkness. The leader decided to down climb the route, removing protection as he did so. The stopper placed earlier was stuck. To remove it the climber placed a cam above the stopper, clipped in and hung on the rope to work on the stopper. “When I yanked the stopper out, the cam popped and I fell, pulling out the cam below me. I landed on my feet and fell sort of in a sitting position on a log at the base of the climb.”

The climber sustained a compression fracture of his vertebrae and required an evacuation by Stokes County Mountain Rescue.


Starting a route knowing it is going to get dark means you have to understand the route and have the skill to accomplish what needs to be done under these circumstances. A possibility here would have been that instead of down climbing, the climber could have rappelled or lowered off the bolt, removing pro while descending. This practice should only be attempted if the bolt is deemed safe by the climber—as rappelling or lowering off a single bolt is not recommended. (Source: Aram Attarian.)

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