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Falling Rocks—Dislodged by Pulling on Rope, Utah, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Church Vaults


Utah, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Church Vaults

On September 3, Gary Wholfarth (43) and two friends had been climbing in the Church Vaults area of Little Cottonwood Canyon. In the process of pulling their rope after a climb, it became stuck in the rocks. When they pulled hard on the rope to free it, several large rocks were dislodged. One of them hit Gary in the head, injuring him despite the helmet he was wearing. One friend ran down the trail to the road to call for help while the other started walking Gary down the trail. Before SAR team members had arrived, the two climbers reached the road and Gary was transported by ground ambulance to the hospital.


Any time a rope is being pulled, rockfall is a possibility. Wearing a helmet is always a good idea, but it’s also best to move out of the line of fire before pulling. In most places it is possible to pull from a location other than directly under the rope. (Source: Tom Moyer, Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue)

(Editor’s Note: There were a few other accidents in Utah this year, most notably an ice climbing fatality on Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon. No details were available other than that it was a 32-year-old man who fell 200feet.)