American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection, Poor Technique, New Hampshire, Cathedral Ledge, Recompense

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2003

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE PROTECTION, POOR TECHNIQUE

New Hampshire, Cathedral Ledge, Recompense

On June 28, Bayard Russel (26) and I (Rand McNally—48) were climbing Recompense (5.9). I was leading the first pitch and we were using a doublerope technique, which I had only done once before. The first pitch is moderate (5.7) and well within my ability. I had led it before on a single rope.

It was a very hot day, and this was my first climb in my shoes since they had been resoled. I had a piece (or protection) at my feet with a shoulder- length sling attached. I could have placed a piece above my head, but the route was traversing left, so drag would be a factor—and it’s a long climb requiring large pieces toward the end. There was a small ledge in the fall- zone, but I felt that if I fell, I would clear it. I made a thin, slabby face-move to the left and slipped in such a way that I sled straight down, contacting the ledge with the outside edge of my left foot. I suffered a compound ankle fracture.

We initiated self-rescue, and as we were rappelling through the woods and talus, we were met by a local guide and members of the Mountain Rescue Service, who were climbing nearby.

Analysis

The long sling was superfluous and left me with more distance to fall. (I needed) better protection and better use of rope technique, and better assessment of the conditions. The heat made me sweaty and new soles made my shoes less sensitive, so what was normally a moderately difficult move, this day I was unable to complete. (Source: Rand McNally)

Recompense is one of those climbs whose level of difficulty can be deceiving, especially for less experienced leaders. The pitch is very long— a full 60 meters, and requires lots of gear. It also traverses gradually from right to left with the crux of the climb being in the last 30 feet. There are also a lot of fixed pitons, but all of them are old and should be backed up. Many climbers fail to protect adequately here. (Source: Al Hospers)

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