FALL ON ROCK, POSITION-FACING OUT DOWN-CLIMBING SLABS
California, Yosemite National Park, Lembert Dome
On August 14, Aaron Barnett (19) and Dustin Holcomb (21) were going to climb the NW Books (5.6) on Lembert Dome. Holcomb had led it before and would lead today. The approach to many of the routes in this area, including the NW Books, involve 2nd and 3rd class slabs. Barnett and Holcomb were deliberately off route exploring the area when they decided to descend to the base to make the approach to their intended climbing route. They were taking slightly separate routes down the slabs when Barnett slipped and slid about 100 feet. His left foot hit a crack and spun him around, fracturing his ankle and twisting his foot almost 90 degrees to one side.
Holcomb hiked out to tell the NPS about the accident. The SAR team reached Barnett about thirty minutes later and carried him to the ambulance for transfer to Mammoth Hospital.
Both had plenty of experience peak bagging and were comfortable on normal 3rd class. They were both ski and snowboard instructors and comfortable in out-of-bounds terrain in those sports. They had skied or snowboarded on Mount Shasta—couloirs, etc. Barnett had less climbing experience. He had followed a couple of trad routes but did not lead.
Barnett and Holcomb were wearing rock shoes and both felt comfortable on the slabs. They had not found themselves in over their heads looking for a way out. Holcomb thinks Barnett may have fallen because he was facing out and wearing a pack, which could have put his weight too far back for good friction. Holcomb had his helmet in his pack. He doesn’t remember if Barnett had a helmet with him but doesn’t think he was wearing one at the time.
Barnett’s ankle has healed well. He is skiing and climbing again. (Source: Ted Roberts, Search and Rescue Technician, and John Dill, NPS Ranger)