American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Belay — Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, The Book

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000


Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, The Book

On June 28 at 1015, Dale Yang (31) fell while leading the first pitch of the J Crack (III, 5.9) on The Book formation. Yang’s belayer, Lance Polonbo, released the belay to brace himself for the fall. Polonbo then unsuccessfully attempted to re-grab the rope, but Yang’s fall was instead stopped by a ledge. The 30-foot fall resulted in lower back injuries and a rescue for Yang.


Many belay devices will automatically lock if the belayer is knocked unconscious or inattentive for other reasons. The Gri-Gri is an example of one such auto locking belay device. Two key factors to remember here: The belayer must not let go with the brake hand and should be tied in to an anchor system—even if on the ground. Belaying is a skill that should be practiced and perfected in a controlled environment. (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Ranger)

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