American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Failure to Follow Route, Protection Pulled Out, Inexperience, Wisconsin, Devil's Lake State Park, Resurrection

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


Wisconsin, Devil's Lake State Park, Resurrection

A climber set out to do a classic route—Resurrection (5.9). Tom was a competent gym climber at 5.10+, but he had no experience leading on rock or placing protection.

Tom had problems finding the route and quickly lost his way and found that it was beyond his lead ability. After route searching for some time, Tom fell. As he fell, his protection, inadequately placed, pulled from the rock, and Tom sustained a 30-foot fall to the ground.

Luckily, there was a doctor nearby who stabilized Tom. Climbers were then sent to get help from park rangers, who arrived in the wrong area, as they had been misinformed by the climbers. The doctor and several climbers had already raised Tom from where he had fallen, so time had been wasted in arrival at the wrong location. The extent of injuries is unknown, but Tom was taken via ambulance to a nearby hospital for treatment.


Assuming that climbing in a real rock environment is remotely related to gym climbing can be very costly. (Source: Steven Schaefgen)

(Editor’s Note: We are pleased to have a new correspondent from this part of the climbing world—Steven Schaefgen—who also offered the following:

It should also he stressed that there are many accidents every year at Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin. However, most of the accidents that happen on or around the rock bluffs and cliffs are non-climbing related and do not involve climbers. The bluffs at Devil’s Lake State Park are accessible via many trails and offer exposed views of the lake and surrounding area. Unfortunately, many visitors are injured every year by getting too close, “messing around, and scrambling around boulders and bluffs. People usually get hurt because they get into a climbing situation without experience.

There were many cases of broken bones, lacerations, and head injuries not involving climbers. One death occurred last year at Devil’s Lake State Park. A man was jumping back and forth between two bluffs, stumbled, and fell 80 feet to his death.

It was reported that there was a non-climbing death at Gibraltar Rock State Park as well. Gibraltar Rock State Park is currently closed for climbing, but hikers and sight-seers are permitted. Gibraltar Rock offers bluffs with heights over 100 feet. The report was that a person was standing too close to the edge, turned, slipped on dirt, and fell some 100 feet to his death, hitting several trees on the way down.)

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