FALL ON ROCK–HANDHOLD PULLED OUT, APPARENTLY FAILED TO TEST HOLD, OFF ROUTE, INADEQUATE PROTECTION
New Mexico, Sandia Mountain Wilderness, Muralla Grande
On May 8, two resident physicians set out to climb Warpy Moople (5.9- .10, III), an eight pitch, 816 foot route on Muralla Grande, one of the major formations in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness outside of Albuquerque. On the first pitch the leader placed a small TCU, and then began a mantle move approximately fifteen feet above the piece. The belayer recalls that the leader was off-route to the left of the climb. The leader was fully committed to the move when the rock he was mantling onto pulled out. He fell for thirty five to forty feet before his belayer caught him.
The leader fell backwards striking the right side of his body, but also hit the left side of his head hard enough to break the strapping system of the Ecrin Roc helmet and knock him unconscious for a moment. He suffered a severe concussion. He recalls, “I only remember eating burritos at the Frontier Restaurant and then waking up in my hospital room...not even the emergency room.”
His partner attempted to call for a help on his cell phone, but the increasing amount of radio frequency radiation emitted from Sandia Crest renders cell phones and two way radios almost useless, so they were unable to use the phone for several hours. The belayer lowered the leader and was able to help him walk out. He finally reached 911 by cell phone three hours after the incident and local rescue resources were activated but were not needed because the two men were able to hike out without assistance. (Submitted by J. Marc Beverly, PA/Paramedic, Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council)
There are some tantalizing details missing here, but there seems to be a basic message: Test your holds. Last year, a disproportionate number of “handhold (or foothold) came loose” incidents were reported. It also seems that more than a small TCU should have been considered to protect the first moves.
A side-bar is the comment relating to the victim’s short term memory: Personally, I hope my last memory is a little more exciting than eating burritos. (Source: Jed Williamson)
(Editor’s Note: Warpy Moople claimed the lives of three climbers in 1996, the day before a National Forest closure due to extreme fire danger. See ANAM 1997)