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Fall or Slip on Rock, North Carolina, Pilot Mountain State Park


North Carolina, Pilot Mountain State Park

On Friday, February 22, I (J.W. Peterson) was walking along the cliff top when I heard Brian Zimmerman (20) yelling and sliding down the rock face below the Ledge Springs Trail. I called to the climbers on the trail below and asked them if anyone was hurt. Chris Jones (20) called back and said, “Yes,” that Brian had sustained a head and neck injury, and a broken leg. From my vantage point above, I could see Jones administering first aid to Zimmerman. I left the scene to call 911. My call informed me that Surry

County EMS and Pilot Mountain Rescue were en route. I gave them the specific location of the accident and waited for them to arrive. Upon arrival, I accompanied rescue squad members to the top of the cliff where Zimmerman had fallen.

While leaving this site I was approached by Jessica Riley (20) and Zach Groff (20) who had been climbing with Zimmerman. I asked them to explain what had happened. They said that Zimmerman was free-soloing to the top of the cliff to set up a top rope climb. As he reached the top, he could not figure out how to go any higher. Advice from another climber was unsuccessful. Zimmerman slipped and fell approximately 30 feet.

Zimmerman was carried out by rescue squad members and transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston Salem, NC. Zimmerman suffered a laceration to the head that required several stitches, a broken right elbow and a broken lower right leg. (Source: J. W. Pearson, Pilot Mountain State Park)


Pilot Mountain is a very popular and well established top rope climbing area. All climbs are easily accessible via the Ledge Springs Trail which runs along the top and bottom of the cliff. Climbers usually set up their climbs before descending to the base of the cliff or access the cliff top via the Three Bears Gully. The area is also known for loose rock and overhanging exits. Why the climber chose to free-solo to access the top is unknown. Free-solo climbing comes with increased inherent risks. (Source: Aram Attarian)