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Fall or Slip on rock, Belayer Error, North Carolina, Crowders Mountain State Park, Gumby's Roof


North Carolina, Crowders Mountain State Park, Gumby's Roof

Ringo Willoughby (31) and a female friend were top-rope climbing in the Gumby’s Roof area on Crowders Mountain during the afternoon of Saturday April 21. Ringo was approximately 20 to 25 feet on route when he fell. His belayer was unable to arrest his fall. He subsequently fell to the ground where he broke his right ankle. A backpack and some resistance from the belay device seems to have slowed his descent, thus reducing the potential for further injury. Further investigation revealed that Ringo’s partner was an inexperienced belayer and was taught how to belay prior to the rock climb.

Crowders Mountain State Park personnel and Crowders Mountain Fire and Rescue completed the litter evacuation of Mr. Willoughby. (Source: Jane W. Conolly, Park Ranger II, Crowders Mountain State Park, and Aram Attarian) Analysis

This incident speaks for itself. Belaying is a fundamental climbing skill that is learned and perfected over a period of time. It is not a skill that can be taught (or should be taught) in a few minutes prior to beginning a rock climb. In addition, Mr. Willoughby was not wearing a helmet. Given the dynamics of the fall and the condition of the site where Mr. Willoughby landed, he is lucky that he didn’t suffer a head injury. (Source: Aram Attarian)