American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection—Anchoring Error, Inexperience, Wyoming, Hoback Junction, Rodeo Wall

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2006

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQAUTE PROTECTION–ANCHORING ERROR, INEXPERIENCE

Wyoming, Hoback Junction, Rodeo Wall

On August 1, Sandy Edmiston (22) fell 60 feet to her death from the anchors of a bolted sport climb at the popular Rodeo Wall, south of Jackson. A novice climber, Sandy had learned to clean bolted anchors earlier that afternoon. On two climbs prior to the accident, she had safely cleaned and lowered off with step-by-step instruction. On the day’s final climb, she struggled to negotiate the crux and reached the top of the climb after sunset, though still before dark. Believing that Sandy had demonstrated an understanding of how to clean an anchor safely, her partner did not talk her through the process a third time. This time, Sandy neglected to pass the rope back through the rappel rings after cleaning the draws from the anchor. Believing that she was on belay, she asked for slack so as to be able to unclip from the anchors, and when she did so, fell to the ground. She suffered severe head trauma and died on the scene.

Analysis

This accident once again stresses the importance of exercising constant vigilance when cleaning anchors. Furthermore, the training of novices in such seemingly simple but high-consequence techniques should be undertaken only under ideal conditions and should be closely monitored until mastery is certain. Any variation from the system, such as Sandy’s request for slack after being put back on belay, should be examined very seriously. In this accident, inexperience, fatigue, and impending darkness were all contributing factors. Eliminating any of these might have averted a tragic loss. (Source: The climber’s partner)

(Editor’s Note: The victim’s partner remains anonymous here out of respect for the difficulty one has in processing such events. It should be understood by the reader that he also recognizes his part in this event.)

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