American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Falling Rock — Fall on Rock, California, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Mount Whitney

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2010

FALLING ROCK – FALL ON ROCK

California, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Mount Whitney

On October 3rd, two men were climbing the East Buttress route (5.7) on Mount Whitney. They were on a ledge at 13,500 feet when a large rock fell from above and hit one of them on the helmet and upper back. The impact pushed him down to the ledge and caused him to experience neck and back pain with numbness and tingling on his entire left side. The uninjured climber assisted his partner in rappelling down two rope-lengths, but his companion’s pain was so intense that he could not continue.

A cellphone call was made to the park that came in around 10:00 p.m. On Sunday morning, the park’s helicopter flew ranger/medics Deb Brenchley and Rich Browne in to locate the climbers and evaluate the possibility of a short-haul extraction. They were found at their camp at Iceberg Lake. Due to the cold, they had continued to descend in the dark and finally arrived at their camp at 5:00 a.m. The temperature when the rescue team arrived was -16° C (about 3° F). The injured climber was transported to Southern Inyo Hospital, where he was diagnosed as having suffered a fractured scapula, broken ribs, and a compression fracture of his c-spine. (Source: Michael Cole, Lodgepole Subdistrict Ranger)

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