American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Protection Pulled Out—Fall on Rock, Inadequate Belay—Rope Diameter too Small, New Hampshire, Cathedral Ledge, Retaliation

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

PROTECTION PULLED OUT–FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE BELAY–ROPE

DIAMETER TOO SMALL

New Hampshire, Cathedral Ledge, Retaliation

The leader, A1 (30s), was climbing and was below the crux at the niche. He had just placed a cam and was yanking on it to test the placement when it pulled out. He lost his balance and fell striking the wall. He and his partner Tammy did not fall to the ground but were hanging just above a belay ledge of a climb to the right called Youth Challenge. A nearby climber rappelled to him and gave assistance and comfort until MRS members arrived on the scene. Three local guides lowered the leader to the ledge and splinted his leg. They fixed ropes across the tree ledge running across the middle of the cliff, and he was littered out with the assistance of local fire department personnel.

Analysis

Retaliation is a climb that is deceivingly difficult. It is a right-leaning dihedral that is rated 5.9 but is really a climb for 5.10 leaders. One must be comfortable lay-backing the dihedral and placing your gear down by your knees where you can’t see it well at all. The leader fell just below the crux and swung into the wall. The belayer’s hands were burned, which may indicate that she was not keeping the belay properly. They were also using a lead rope that was less than 10 mm diameter. This size rope requires significantly more attention from the belayer as it can run much faster.

We have seen or heard of several accidents over the past year where the belayer let the leader fall farther than desired because of the use of a “skinny” lead rope. If you are using a skinny rope the belayer should pay close attention and be prepared to arrest a fall quickly. (Source: A1 Hospers)

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