Fall on Rock, Protection Pulled Out, No Helmet, California, Yosemite Valley, Church Bowl

Publication Year: 2009.


California, Yosemite Valley, Church Bowl

On August 31, Tomoki Shibata (22) led Church Bowl Tree, a 5.10b crack, belayed by Hiroki Kishi. Shibata left his helmet at the base of the climb because the route was only one pitch long. From the ground up, in this order, he placed a camming device, another cam, a stopper, and a third cam. The stopper dislodged as he was climbing.

Details are sketchy, but when the stopper fell out, Shibata apparently realized that a single piece stood between him and the ground, and we think he decided to go for the bolt anchor several feet above. His feet were about 40 feet above the ground when his left hand-jam slipped out and he fell. His top piece pulled out under the force of the fall; he hit the ground on his feet and then tumbled over. The rope came tight just as he hit, absorbing some of the energy of the fall.

Shibata was carried 100 yards to the ambulance, examined at the Yosemite Medical Clinic, and released after treatment for a head laceration, a fractured right wrist, and a fractured left thumb.


Shibata had four years climbing experience, mostly on bolted face climbs up to 5.11a. He had been climbing cracks and traditional routes (placing protection on the lead) for about six months prior to the accident. Church Bowl Tree, a popular, accessible, and relatively difficult climb, is fairly easy to protect, yet it has been the scene of various miscalculations and ground falls. Belayers should watch for these situations on any climb and not be afraid to encourage inexperienced leaders to protect conservatively. If not sure of a placement, double it up. (Source: Aaron Smith and John Dill, NPS Rangers, Yosemite National Park)