American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Climbing Rope under Leg, Fatigue, Oregon, Smith Rock State Park, Five Gallon Buckets

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2007


Oregon, Smith Rock State Park, Five Gallon Buckets

On October 29, Matt Amling (21) of Portland traveled to Smith Rock State Park with his climbing class from a Willamette Valley Community College. The class was working on Five Gallon Buckets, a 5.8 climb rated four stars by Jonathan Thesenga in his new guide Smith Rock Select, published in 2006 by Wolverine Publishing, Newcastle, CO.

Matt was lead-climbing his final pitch of the day. He notes that he was pretty tired and was just about to clip the top anchors when his instructor warned him that his climbing rope was under his leg. At that moment, Matt lost friction with the crag and fell. He dropped about ten feet, ending up jerked upside down. His head banged hard against the rock, he recalls. He was not knocked unconscious, but he received a cut on his forehead, perhaps from his helmet, that later required stitches. He was bleeding profusely.

The instructor called 911 from a cellphone. Matt was lowered to the ground and was helped down the climber’s trace to a waiting State Park ATV which transported him up the steep trail to waiting Paramedics from Redmond Fire Department.

The Paramedics cleaned the cut and applied a temporary bandage and agreed that he could be transported by the Instructor in a private car to the ER, thereby saving the high cost of ambulance service. He was stitched up at the ER and released.


Five Gallon Buckets is completely bolted and is a very popular Smith Rock top rope climb. If one allows the rope to pass under a leg and then falls, he or she may be jerked upside-down at the end of the fall. Keep the climbing rope in front of your legs. If Matt had not been wearing a climbing helmet, he feels he might have died.

This mishap is one of five reported minor accidents to sport climbers at Smith Rock in 2006. There were several un-reported accidents that were resolved unofficially by the injured climbers and their friends. (Source: Robert Speik)

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