Fall on Rock—Inadequate Belay, Rope Too Short—Lowering, Distraction, California, Yosemite Valley, Yin Yang

Publication Year: 2005.


California, Yosemite Valley, Yin Yang

On April 26, an experienced climber (44) had led Yin Yang (5.10d) and set up a top-rope for his partner (26) to follow. The leader had used long cordelettes to extend the anchor because the climb was about 120 feet and their rope was only 200 feet. With the rope doubled, the leader was lowered safely to the ground because the anchor was extended. His partner top-roped the climb and disassembled the anchor. She threaded the rope through the anchor chain and her partner began to lower her. Her plan was to get to the end of the rope and swing over to another climb and down-climb a crack

to the ground, a distance of about 15 feet. She was cleaning gear (stoppers) from the climb as she was being lowered. After she had done the retrievals from the crack, her partner began to lower her. As he did, the end of the rope fed through his belay device (an ATC), thereby resulting in a 20-foot fall to the ground. No serious injury resulted.


The leader indicated that he did not have a knot tied in the end of the rope to prevent the rope from feeding through the belay device. He also said he was distracted by his partner’s activity of extracting the stoppers, which were difficult to get out. (Source: David Horne, Yosemite Park Ranger)

(Editor’s Note: Several lowering accidents have been reported each year over the last decade or so. Another one follows this one! Help get the word out to everyone that having a safety knot in the end of the rope is a given, but most importantly, be sure the rope is long enough for the job. Also note that if a knot IS tied in the end of the rope, the belayer still has to control the lowering. It’s obvious that if the rope is not long enough, by 20 feet or more, then loss of control on the belay will STILL result in a fall that could lead to injury. Also, consider wearing gloves.

The person who was being lowered had some additional comments: I asked the third party to tie the knot when I was about 15-20 feet up, not from the top of the climb. Incidentally, the third party had previously been using the same set up, i.e. 60m. rope to TR the climb. This is an important detail to me because these were “experienced climbers” as well, all YOSAR folk and acquaintances. I think it created a bit of an “if everyone is doing it, it’s OK” atmosphere. It was a good, if hard, lesson in trusting my instincts and taking responsibility for myself as well as the choices I make when it comes to climbing and safety.)