American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock—Handhold Came Off, Failure to Test Hold, Arizona, Camelback Mountain

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2006

FALL ON ROCK-HANDHOLD CAME OFF, FAILURE TO TEST HOLD Arizona, Camelback Mountain

On December 26 K.P. (female-46), L.R. (male-53), and T.N. (female -50ish) went out to climb on Camelback Mountain, a park area located centrally in Phoenix. L.R. is a very experienced lead climber and K.P. and T.N. had been lead climbing for about a year. K.P. and T.N. completed leads on The Monk, starting on the 5.7 variation for the East Face route. It was a beautiful day and they were having lots of fun. The group of three then went about 100 yards over to the Camel’s Head to do Hard Times on Gargoyle Wall, a bolted 5.7. After K.P. and L.R. each led the first pitch, T.N. took her turn on lead. About 45 feet up, T.N. decided to move laterally, maybe five feet, to move onto easier looking terrain where T.N. saw a juggy nice hold. She was right below the next bolt on the route. She had both hands on the hold and began to pull herself up without testing the hold. The hold broke. Unfortunately, she was ten feet from the last bolt, so between the pendulum and the rope stretch, she fell about 25 feet, struck the rock, and broke both legs at the ankles.

There was enough rope to lower her to the ground, where cell phone contact was made with emergency rescue personnel. Another out-of-state climber who is a paramedic was nearby and helped stabilize both ankles. T.N. did a crab walk/crawl about 200 yards to the top of the Headwall where a rappel was made to an area accessible to hikers. At the bottom of the cliff members of the Tactical Rescue Squad of the Phoenix Fire Department placed T.N. on a stretcher and hand-carried her to the parking lot about half a mile from the accident site.

Analysis

For interested climbers: Camelback Mountain consists of a mudflow breccias and fluvial sediments described as “petrified mud” in Opland’s guidebook Phoenix Rock II. The nature of the rock and the scouring summer sun can take their toll on rock quality. (Source: Erik Filsinger, Secretary, Arizona Mountain Club)

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