Fall on Rock, Rappel Error—Worn Harness, Belay Loop Broke, California, Yosemite Valley, Leaning Tower

Publication Year: 2007.


California, Yosemite Valley, Leaning Tower

On October 23, Todd Skinner (48) and his partner Jim Hewitt were rappelling fixed lines from the Jesus Built My Hotrod route after an attempt at free-climbing it. The belay loop on Skinner’s harness broke when his body weighted the system. He fell over 500 feet into the talus at the base of the wall. His GriGri and carabiner were still firmly attached to the rope. Analysis

Jim Hewitt stated that Skinner was aware that the belay loop was in a deteriorated condition prior to the climb, as he and Skinner had inspected it and discussed its poor condition three days earlier. Hewitt estimated the loop to be twenty percent under strength due to wear. Skinner had said that his new harness was on order but had not arrived yet, so he continued to use the much worn harness. (Source: From a report by Keith Lober, Ranger, Yosemite National Park)

(Editor's Note: It is difficult for the climbing world to understand how Todd Skinner, one of the most experienced climbers in the world, could convince himself to use this harness—or,having decided to use it, not to clip in to the harness waist band as well. Again, as with last year's incident of Jim Ratz rappelling off the end of his rope, we are reminded that no matter our level of experience, none of us is immune from making errors.)