American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock—Rappel Error, Darkness, Utah, Zion National Park, Grasshopper

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001

FALL ON ROCK-RAPPEL ERROR, DARKNESS

Utah, Zion National Park, Grasshopper

On October 8, Eric Wehrly (33) and his partner Ian Whyte were rappelling the final 80 feet from the climb named Grasshopper when this incident occurred. Wehrly was the first one down. He set up the rappel by doubling his rope—but not exactly. One end was short by 20 feet, and that is the distance he fell to the cliff bottom. He proceeded to roll and tumble another two to three feet until finally coming to a stop.

Whyte was able to get down to the road and flag down the Zion shuttle bus. Fortunately, the Zion Park ambulance and personnel were able to respond quickly, treating and transporting Wehrly to a helicopter. He was taken to Las Vegas University Medical Trauma Center.

He sustained multiple system traumatic injuries, including a severe head injury, flail chest, bilateral fractured clavicles, and a pneumothorax. (Source: Cindy Purcell, NPS Ranger, Zion National Park)

Analysis

Perhaps fatigue played a part here, as these were two experienced climbers. That Wehrly did not at least tie individual knots in the ends of the doubled rope is surprising. It would have been even better to have tied the ends together before tossing them down. Hopefully there will come a year when this kind of incident does not happen. (Source: Jed Williamson)

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