American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE PROTECTION, POOR COMMUNICATION, INADEQUATE MEDICAL TRAINING,California, Yosemite Valley, El Capitan

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2009

FALL ON SNOW, UNABLE TO SELF-ARREST, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT - NO HEADLAMPS

New Hampshire, Mount Washington, Huntington Ravine

On January 26, a novice climber (44) and his partner started up Odell Gully around 3:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. After completing the main ice climbing section, they traversed to the east to begin their descent. Neither had headlamps with them and darkness complicated their descent. According to the party, they were in the lower section of the Escape Hatch when one of them lost his footing and began a sliding fall. Unable to self-arrest, he slid approximately 150 feet before slamming into a tree and stopping. The fall resulted in injuries to his back and legs. The two were able to get to the Harvard Cabin under their own power where local guides and the caretaker provided assistance to the climber and notified the USFS Snow Rangers who arrived at the Harvard Cabin around 9:30 p.m. The patient was reassessed, immobilized on a backboard and transported via snowcat to Pinkham Notch where he was transferred to an ambulance and brought to the hospital. We later learned that he had fractured two vertebrae in his lower back and had numerous sprains and contusions

Analysis

This was the third sliding fall injury in three days. All of them would likely have been prevented with a quick self-arrest. The surface that all of these occurred on was a very hard, icy snowpack from the January thaw, which is difficult to stop on, so if a fall isn’t arrested immediately, one will get out of control fast.

In each of these incidents, the parties involved did a good job getting to the Harvard Cabin under their own power.

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