American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Rappel Error—Failure to Equalize Ends of Rappel Rope, and Failure to Tie Knots in the End, California, Joshua Tree National Park, Solid Gold

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2007

FALL ON ROCK, RAPPEL ERROR-FAILURE TO EQUALIZE ENDS OF RAPPEL ROPE, AND FAILURE TO TIE KNOTS IN THE END

California, Joshua Tree National Park, Solid Gold

On February 8, Jay Fitzgerald (21) and Victor Guzik (21 were simul-rappel- ling off of the second rappel of “Solid Gold” in the Wonderland of Rocks when this accident occurred. The climbers incorrectly equalized the ends of the rope for the rappel, causing one end to remain 30 feet off the ground, though the climbers did not notice it, as the slope of the climb hid the ground from view. Both began the rappel with the climber on the longer end of the rope going first. When Fitzgerald reached the end of the rope 30 feet above the ground, he began to fall toward the ground, causing the rope to slide through the anchor and Victor Guzik to fall ten feet. Fitzgerald hit the ground on his left side suffering the aforementioned injuries. (NB: unspecified fractures). The forest service was alerted and paramedics arrived within three hours and an airlift was made after four hours. Fitzgerald has made a full recovery.

Analysis

Always tie knots in the end of your rappel rope, even when rappelling to the ground (and especially) if the ground is not visible from your anchor. Do not rely solely on the factory printed middle marks as sometimes dirty/ darkened spots may be confused with them. Do not simul-rappel simply to save a little time. (Source: Edited slightly from a report submitted by Jay Fitzgerald)

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