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Fall on Rock—Jumped Instead of Down-Climbing, California, Yosemite National Park, Tuolumne Meadows, Matthes Crest

FALL ON ROCK-JUMPED INSTEAD OF DOWN-CLIMBING

California, Yosemite National Park, Tuolumne Meadows, Matthes Crest

On August 2 5, Mark Sorenson (3 8) and David Parrish (3 8) were climbing Matthes Crest and were about at the halfway point when this accident happened. Parrish had led an easy pitch for about 50 feet, placing no protection along the way, as it was easy 3rd class. Parrish recalls yelling, “Off belay,” to Sorenson, who waved to him indicating he understood. Parrish then put Sorenson on belay using an ATC. He could see Sorenson coming his way, but then he went out of sight. Parrish was taking in rope as fast as he could, but never felt the rope come taut. Then he heard Sorenson yell something, then felt the rope come tight on him. He looked over his left shoulder and saw Sorenson lying on a ledge with his foot bleeding. Parrish tied him off and climbed down to him. He could see that the foot was broken and severely deformed.

Another climbing party rappelled and ran six miles to report the accident. SAR. personnel called in a helicopter. Sorenson was shorthauled off, then put in the helicopter and flown to mammoth Lakes Hospital. (Source: From a report by George Paiva, SAR Ranger)

Analysis

Both climbers were experienced. Sorenson was out-climbing his belayer’s ability to keep the rope taut on the relatively easy terrain. Sorenson had gone off the 3rd class terrain and on to a 5.7 section. He chose to jump out and then onto a sloped ledge four feet down, rather than down-climbing.

John Dill conducted an interview with both climbers. From that ten page document, the following from Mark Sorenson sums it all up:

“I would say that my mistake was being impatient, and feeling it was an easy climb. Perhaps I didn’t take it serious enough, because everything is serious. If you’ve been climbing for a long time and you’re on something well below your top level... I don’t want to say we were lackadaisical, we were even wearing helmets up there, although there’s no chance of a rock hitting you in the head because there’s no one above you.

“We discussed Touching the Void... if you’re that far out and you break a leg...

“I actually considered how I might rap with my foot like that. I could probably one-foot it down, find a stick for a crutch, but David was telling me, ‘No, you’re not going anywhere. Don’t worry about it, we’ll get the helicopter up here.’ Once the shadows started getting long I started thinking I might be out there all night. If they didn’t get to me when they did, I probably would have lost the foot.

“One lesson is: no matter how easy the climb is you have to pretend it’s the hardest thing you ever did.”