Fall on Rock—Climber Lowered off End of Rope by Belayer, Oregon, Smith Rock State Park, Magic Light

Publication Year: 2004.


Oregon, Smith Rock State Park, Magic Light

On February 21, Timothy Garland (24) climbed Magic Light in the Overboard Area of Smith Rock State Park. Magic Light is a bolted route rated 5.12b, two stars by Alan Watts in his Climber’s Guide to Smith Rock. The lower portion is rated 5.11a and is often climbed, but the upper portion contains the real difficulties and is less frequently climbed according to Watts.

Tim easily reached the top anchors and was lowered off. He knew the rope was short and expected to be stopped to reset the top rope. Instead, he was lowered off the end of the top rope belay, falling a reported 75 to 100 feet sustaining a broken back, ribs, and sternum and internal injuries according to Oregon State Park records. He was air-lifted to St. Charles Hospital in Bend.


Four months before this top rope failure, a similar serious incident had occurred at Smith Rock: The belayer dropped the top roped climber about 30 feet off the end of the rope. 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, lying a stopper knot or tying the rope into the sport rope bag would have prevented these incidents. Smith Rock Ranger David Slaight says he now reminds climbers to always tie a simple knot near the end of the belay rope.

Timothy Garland is a well liked 5.13 climber according to Redpoint Guide Jim Ablao, and is pictured in a popular climbing desk calendar. He is back climbing again, although the belayer, whose name was not released, has not climbed at Smith since the incident. (Source: Robert Speik)