American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection, West Virginia, New River Gorge, Endless Wall

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2008

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE PROTECTION

West Virginia, New River Gorge, Endless Wall

On November 12, rangers and Fayette County Emergency Services personnel rescued a climber (age unknown) who had fallen at the Endless Wall climbing area. Rangers Randy Fisher and Karl Keach, working with only a general description of the location of the accident, received through a 911 call, searched for and found the caller, who led them to the scene. Keach coordinated the rescue from the top of the cliff while Fisher employed a series of ladders and ropes to reach the injured climber, who had suffered numerous fractures and lacerations. An 80-foot litter raise was conducted to bring him to the top of the cliff. He was then wheeled out on a litter and flown to the Charleston area trauma center.

Analysis

An investigation revealed that the climber had removed his gear from the second bolt and was attempting to down-climb when he fell about 20 feet as he tried to traverse from the route he was on to another route called “Nasty Groove.”

This was the fourth time a climber has fallen this year—a significant increase in climbing-related incidents. The causes included bad belays, traditional gear pulling from the rock, and poor climbing decisions. New River Gorge is a world-class climbing destination, with 1600 traditional and sport routes. It has miles of high-quality sandstone cliffs with an extraordinary diversity of climbing routes. (Source: From reports submitted by Gary Hartley, Chief Ranger, and Aram Attarian)

(Editor’s Note: While Ranger Hartley indicates that the number of incidents represents a “significant increase,it would seem to be a low number given the popularity of this climbing area. Estimates of climbers visiting here each year run from several hundred to over a thousand.)

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