American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rappel Failure—Trying to Pass Knot, Climbing Alone, Arizona, Phoenix, Waterfall Area, White Tank Regional Park

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2005


Arizona, Phoenix, Waterfall Area, White Tank Regional Park

On October 4, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Mountain Rescue was notified via SAR Coordinator, Deputy Tony Navarra, that a climber had apparently been rappelling and had fallen to his death. Mountain Rescue Units were notified by David Bremson, via Team pager, of the situation so that following Team members would respond appropriately. Mountain Rescue was informed that, according to the climber’s family, he had gone rappelling alone and had not returned home the evening of October 3rd. Analysis

David Bremson noted the following about the climber:

He had become separated from his harness, which was approximately 175 feet above the subject’s location and approximately 100 feet below the top of the cliff.

His rope did not extend to the ground.

Two ropes were connected together (red rope anchored to the top of the cliff, white rope tied to red).

He had, apparently, fallen onto two small ledges prior to coming to rest in an eight-foot high bush growing in the ground.

His body displayed severe trauma to multiple areas and did not appear to have survived the fall.

The following conclusions were drawn. Due to the configuration of the equipment on the rope, it appears that the man was rappelling down the red rope, reached the knot with the intent of passing it in order to continue rappelling to the ground. There did not appear to be any indication that there were equipment malfunctions. Carabiners were properly locked and an ascender was being used as a back-up device. There did not appear to be any indication that the subject did not double back his harness. Possibly he was unable to properly pass the knot on rappel and may have removed the harness and attempted to move to a ledge and off the cliff.

From information gathered from his wife, AJVL was an experienced climber and rappeller. His equipment seemed to be well worn, suggesting that it was often used. A.M. did leave his wife with information regarding his destination, but since he was alone, he would have been unable to seek immediate assistance in the event that he was able to do so, which he was not in this instance. (Source: From a report submitted by David Bremson, Rescue Specialist with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, part of Central Arizona Mountain Rescue Association.)

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