American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Placed Inadequate Protection, Protection Pulled Out, Exceeded Abilities, Colorado, Clear Creek Canyon

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2010

FALL ON ROCK, PLACED INADEQUATE PROTECTION, PROTECTION

PULLED OUT, EXCEEDING ABILITIES

Colorado, Clear Creek Canyon

Sept. 13th. It was a beautiful day for climbing. Michelle (24) and I (29) drove out to Clear Creek Canyon to hone our fledgling lead skills. We were both cautious, yet eager climbers with moderate skill, decided to climb Mounty, a 5.7 trad route. The beta we had gotten from mountainproject.com had indicated that the pro was small but solid. Although I wasn’t a very experienced trad leader (I had only lead trad 8 or 9 times before this route), I was a confident 5.7 climber, so I wasn’t very worried about the small pro. We were on a ledge, so I built a belay anchor for Michelle before starting up. After 25 feet of climbing, I had only found placements for three small pieces: two nuts and a #1 (blue) mastercam. I clipped the rope through the carabiner attached directly to the mastercam’s integrated sling. At this point, I found that I had gotten a bit off-route and traversed a bit up and to the left to get back on to the main crack. When I reached the main crack, I was not feeling very good about the amount of pro I had in and I was anxious to get in another piece before climbing higher. I had difficulty finding a placement. I wasn’t comfortable continuing the climb without more pro, so I decided to down-climb. It turns out that being a confident 5.7 climber doesn’t translate into being a confident 5.7 down-climber. While I was traversing down and to the right, back towards the blue cam, I slipped. The cam pulled out, and the two nuts were too low to catch me, so I hit the ground. I sustained an ulna fracture at the elbow and a fifth metacarpal fracture, but I was otherwise fine. Michelle made a sling for my arm, we hiked out, and she drove me to the hospital.

Analysis

Several mistakes were made that led to this accident. The biggest mistake was leading a route that was not well protected as a beginning trad leader. I knew from my research online that the route was not easily protected, but I decided to climb it anyway. My second mistake was that I didn’t turn around earlier when I had trouble in the beginning finding placements. My third mistake was clipping the cam’s integrated sling before changing the direction of the climb, instead of clipping a runner. It’s possible that rope-drag could have caused the cam to walk and the placement to worsen. My fourth and fifth mistakes were overestimating my down-climbing abilities and not practicing down-climbing frequently enough while top-roping. (Source: Sent in with no last name)

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