American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection/Belay, California, Tahquitz Rock, The Step

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

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE PROTECTION/BELAY

California, Tahquitz Rock, The Step

On October 19, we believe that David Kellogg (32) and Kelly Tufo (41) had completed the climb and had finished up on Super Pooper or White Maiden’s Walkway. They were taking down their belay system when one of them slipped, pulling both of them off. They fell about 700 feet to their deaths.

When found at the bottom of Tahquitz, the two were still roped together with the rope still in David’s belay device. We also found David’s cleaning tool broken in half. One half was next to David and the other half was about 30 feet away. Kelly’s cleaning tool was still clipped to his harness.

Analysis

This is what we believe happened through analysis of the scene, interviews from witnesses, review of harnesses and gear at the county morgue, and reexamining the scene from top to bottom: We believe David had his cleaning tool out and was trying to retrieve the last cam when one of them slipped. Note that there are two possible exit routes that are safe to walk away from—if you don’t slip or trip! The basic lesson: Stay on belay until you are in a position where there is no danger of a slip/trip that could pull you over the side. (Source: From a report submitted by Glenn Henderson, Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit)

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