American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Protection Pulled Out, Inexperience, California, Yosemite Valley, Sunnyside Bench, Jam Crack

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

FALL ON ROCK, PROTECTION PULLED OUT, INEXPERIENCE

California, Yosemite Valley, Sunnyside Bench, Jam Crack

On September 11, Kristen Shive (26) was attempting to lead Jam Crack. She fell after placing a second piece of protection on the first pitch. The protection held, then held again on her second fall. On the third attempt, she fell again and the protection came out. She fell to the ground, landing on her feet, but sustained an angulated fracture of her right ankle.

Analysis

First and foremost, I don’t believe I had much business leading Jam Crack at that point, or leading trad at all. I had been climbing (not intensely) for a little over a year—and even then I knew that sport climbing would be better to start with. But I did a lot of climbing after work in the Valley and didn’t really have that option. So my impatience, combined with support from my climbing partner lead me to plunge in a little before my skill level was there.

Anyway, I had led only two 5.6 routes, and only decided to try my hand at Jam Crack because I had followed it so many times I felt like I could do it in my sleep. I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, but I was really, really comfortable on that route and felt like I knew it and so might do better there than on a 5.6 I didn’t know so well.

And the details from there on are rather simple. I headed up the route and I had only placed my second piece (and to be honest it probably would have been my first, but I was sticking in extra to get comfortable placing pieces), when I fell on it. It held, and I remember thinking how weird it was that I fell there—not a tricky spot for even my skill level. I also remember thinking “Great, it’s solid, I placed it well.” Anyway I tried again and the same thing happened. (This is where I get embarrassed at my stupidity!). On the third try the piece pulled and I hit the ground. I wasn’t aware of the simple rule that you should reset a piece if you fall on it.

If you’re at all interested in the retrospect thoughts of a new and thoughtless (at the time) climber it would be this—I would wait and gain more experience and skills before trying to lead, trad especially. I would listen to my body. While leading is always far harder than following, the fact that I was having so much trouble so early (three tries, not 15 feet up the route) on something I’ve been so comfortable on, should have been a sign. It was after work, and I’d been working long hours on fires and hiking hard. My body wasn’t up to it and I ignored it. And while I take fall responsibility for what happened, I would start leading with someone who has more experience as well. My partner had not led too terribly much more than I had. (Source: Kristen Shive)

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