American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rappel Failure-Inadequate Knot, Utah, Zion National Park, Spaceshot

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


Oregon, Smith Rock State Park, Left Slab Crack.

On November 29, Kathy Lee and her friend Becky Hsu (both 27) were meeting some new friends at The Dihedrals at Smith Rock. The friends were late, so Kathy and Becky decided to warm up with Left Slab Crack rated 5.4 two stars by Alan Watts in his Climber's Guide to Smith Rock. Kathy topped out and asked her friend to lower her. She realized the rope was short for this climb but expected Becky to hold her so she could finish the descent with a fourth-class scramble to the ground. The end of the rope whipped through Becky’s belay device and Kathy fell about 30 vertical feet down the route to the ground. Without a helmet, she was bleeding profusely from a head wound.

EMS professionals were summoned by a nearby cell phone. She was stabilized and carried by the waiting ambulance to St. Charles Medical Center, kept overnight, and released with a bruised kidney and lung and scalp lacerations. She is “lucky and well” and climbing “more carefully” again. Analysis

Typically, the belayer is concentrating on the climber being lowered, failing to mind the remaining belay rope. Sport climbers typically do not tie into the bottom end of the top belay rope. Tying a stopper knot or tying the rope into the sport rope bag can prevent this kind of incident. (Source: Robert Speik)

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