American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock—Fall on Rock, Improper Belay Technique, Inadequate Protection, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Nez Perce

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  • Publication Year: 2002

FALLING ROCK–FALL ON ROCK, IMPROPER BELAY TECHNIQUE, INADEQUATE PROTECTION

Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Nez Perce

On June 30 about 9:30 a.m., Jeff Heinrichs (29) of Jackson, WY, took a leader fall on Nez Perce. He was unable to walk after the fall, so his partner, Dave Simpson (33), went for help.

Heinrichs was leading the first pitch of what he thought was the South Ridge of Nez Perce, but in fact he was east of the normal route. He was trying to place his first piece of protection about thirty feet above the talus. His belayer, using an ATC, wasn’t anchored as he sat on a ledge about fifteen feet beneath the leader. A large block that Heinrichs was standing on fell away, so he fell about thirty feet before hitting the talus. Simpson instinctively reached for the rope and began to haul in slack. He was unable to hold the fall, and as the rope slipped through his hands, they were burned. Heinrichs continued to tumble down the slope for another fifty feet. His helmet and pack saved him from serious injury.

Analysis

The lack of an anchor and proper belaying technique resulted in an eighty foot fall instead of a thirty-footer. Fortunately the belayer wasn’t pulled from his ledge. (Source: Dan Burgette, SAR Ranger, Grand Teton National Park)

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