Fall on Rock, Failure to Follow Instincts—Not to Climb That Day, California, Yosemite National Park, Low Profile Dome

Publication Year: 2007.


California, Yosemite National Park, Low Profile Dome

At 1630 on September 8, Ranger Mike Yost received a call at the Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Station regarding an injured climber at the base of Low Profile Dome. The report came from a credible local climber, Peter Croft, who said he watched a woman fall from the route Shit Hooks and hit the ground and that her left lower leg was deformed with an open fracture.

At this time a page was sent out for additional SAR personnel. Within minutes a technical carry-out team was formed and dispatched to the scene. At the base of the Low Profile Dome, they found Anna Siebelink (44) supine, covered in jackets and with climbers helping hold the injured leg/ankle. Paramedic Colflesh began medical treatment, starting IV’s and administered morphine for pain, per Yosemite Clinic. He splinted the lower leg and prepared the patient for the litter out.

At 1740, a technical lowering of Siebelink was started. A belay line was put in place with rock protection. She was lowered 15 feet to the trail where she was then littered out to the road and taken in the Tuolumne ambulance to May Lake. She was flown from there to Memorial Hospital in Modesto. Analysis

The leader, Andrew Statesberry, was belaying from above and was unable to see his partner. The climbing rope coming from Siebelink lodged itself in a flake directly above her. The leader was pulling the rope in, but because it was stuck in the flake, a loop of slack had formed.

One of the main points that I get from this accident is that a short, seemingly harmless fall can cause a significant injury. (Source: Edited from a report by Ted Roberts, Search and Rescue Technician, with the last sentence being added by John Dill, Ranger)

Two letters (slightly edited) from Anna Sieblank shed some additional light:

I have been climbing since 1989, leading and following all over the west coast, Yosemite, J-tree, Eastern Sierra, Palisades, Tahoe, etc. I lead 5.9 —and some 5.10—trad and sport routes comfortably 5.9 and follow up to 5.11.I am primarily an outdoor trad climber and very rarely boulder. The person I was climbing with was someone I had met recently. He is also an experienced climber and guide in England. I would say my impression is that he is very competent and experienced.

I am now after eight months re-habing well, I had a non-union of the bone, which took awhile. I am back to hiking three miles with a cane, riding a bike on flats and hoping to climb soon. I am still limited by range of motion and pain but getting better.

What are the lessons from this? If your first thought late afternoon is to sit by the river and have a beer, you should follow that instinct, but IF you do get injured, do it in a place where a ton of handsome rescuers come out of the woods to rescue a damsel in distress!

In addition to paying attention to instinct, I do think there are some valuable points to learn from in regards to when I actually did the climb…

…I do not really feel that the rope was stuck. It was more like I was guiding and redirecting the rope.

If I had five seconds to turn back, I would pay attention to all those things that came up just before starting the climb. The climbers I was with had done everything correctly. What I noted were some simple things that I could have changed at the bottom before starting the climb. The rope was not quite back-clipped at the right angle, the rope was slack and maybe I should yell “Up rope!” or ask for a spot. Nah, no big deal, I’ll just head up quickly, I thought. Well, I really should have listened to that gut feeling. Sure, it still could have happened, but it’s a good lesson in paying attention to your intuition.

(This route) is known for its awkward first funky move right off the deck, a lie-back. I started the climb in the lie-back position and made a move, then, to get the rope around the flake, leaned forward and took a hand off to redirect the rope. The hand off and forward shift caused my left foot to slip and come off.

(Editor's Note: Thanks to Ms. Sieblank for her perspective on the incident.)