FALL ON ROCK, PROTECTION PULLED OUT, PLACED INADEQUATE PROTECTION, NO HARD HAT
California, Yosemite Valley, Reed's Pinnacle
On September 23, Aram Marks (21) was leading Stone Groove, a one-pitch 5.10b crack at Reed’s Pinnacle. Tricia (29) was belaying at the base. Aram placed a piece about 10 feet up, followed by a TCU at about 15 feet. He continued climbing until his feet were 7-10 feet above the TCU, then he stopped to place another piece.
He tried to place a .75 Camalot but dropped it. He got nervous, knowing that the TCU below was over-cammed and shallow. He was balanced on one foot and stretched out, trying to put in a nut, when he fell. The TCU pulled out, making a ground fall inevitable, but the fall was partially broken when he glanced off his belayer. Although knocked out, he regained consciousness after about two minutes.
Tricia and two nearby climbers kept him from moving, stabilized his head, and checked his pulse and breathing. Two others called 911 and the NPS arrived about 45 minutes later. Aram was awake but still showing signs of a concussion, e.g., asking the same questions repeatedly. The team administered oxygen and an IV, immobilized his spine, and carried him down to the road. The Yosemite clinic ambulance took him directly to the NPS heli-base at Crane Flat, from where he was flown to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.
Aram had received a mild concussion (he still does not remember the fall), a head laceration requiring several staples, and various abrasions, but he avoided more serious injuries. Tricia, the fall-breaker, got away with a bruised knee and a chipped bone in her hand.
The stances on Stone Groove are a bit tricky, but the placements are solid. You should be able to eliminate a ground-fall if you make protection your priority. On any route, if marginal pieces expose you to a risky fall, do not just look above for the next placement. Consider placing a piece at waist level or lower, as insurance. Aram was not wearing a helmet. He was lucky, because colliding with Tricia diverted him from several sharp rocks in the landing zone. (Source: John Dill, NPS Ranger, Yosemite)