American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection, Belayer Not Anchored, Oregon, Smith Rock, Spiderman

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

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE PROTECTION, BELAYER NOT ANCHORED

Oregon, Smith Rock, Spiderman

Nathan Sanborn (27) was climbing the first pitch of Spiderman, a four star classic climb rated 5.7 by Alan Watts (trad gear to three inches) when he slipped off about three feet above his last protection and fell an estimated 12 to 15 feet due to rope stretch and an inadvertent dynamic belay. The toe of one foot struck a bulge on the low-angled rock, hyper-extending his foot and breaking a bone in his ankle. Additional tissue damage was done as well, and the injury was very painful.

Nathan was lowered off about 50 feet and the party called 911 for assistance. Redmond Fire and Rescue arrived in about one hour and Deschutes County Sheriff’s SAR somewhat later. Nathan was lowered down the scree in a belayed stokes litter, carried to the trailhead and transported to hospital.

Analysis

Nathan suggests that lead climbers set protection as high as possible before attempting a difficult move. His equalized #1 Camalot and medium hex held his fall, but the stretch of the long rope and a dynamic belay turned a seeming seven footer into a 12 to 15 foot fall. The belayer, standing back from the wall, was pulled forward into the wall, contributing to the length of the fall. Nathan, about 200 pounds, states that in the future, he will make sure that his belayer is anchored.

Low-angled climbs can be more deceiving than vertical rock. (Source: Robert Speik)

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