American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Fall on Rock, Climbing Alone, Nevada, Red Rocks, Rainbow Wall — The Original Route

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2010


Nevada, Red Rocks, Rainbow Wall – The Original Route

A climber, Josh, fell from the second pitch (140 feet) to the base of the climb. Three climbers were on the route. Two were climbing together, and the victim of the fall was alone climbing by himself. One person was climbing from the 2nd to the 4th pitch. Two were on separate anchors at the 2nd pitch. One of the two climbers at the 2nd pitch was belaying the climber en route to the 4th pitch. Josh was at the second pitch also and was in the process of setting up a z-rig, or some kind of mechanical advantage system, to haul his big-wall bag from the base of the climb when he dropped six carabiners. He decided to rappel a fixed line in order to retrieve the carabin- ers. He had a pulley attached at the anchors that was attached to his haul bag and to him. At this point, nobody is sure how it happened, or what he was doing, but he detached from the anchor and somehow fell. As he fell, the haul bag somewhat counter-balanced him and without a doubt saved his life. However, he suffered substantial injuries.

The helicopter was able to perform a one-skid landing near the base. Basically, they place one of the two skids on the rock, balance the helicopter, and can load/unload on the side where the skid is down. In this instance, Search & Rescue were able to backboard him at the base and load him in the helicopter and fly him out.

Further comment: “Hello everyone. I would first like to thank everyone for the support. I am Josh’s brother, and this thread was pointed out to me by one of his friends. Josh is doing considerably well given the circumstances. The previous info is quite accurate, so I will just fill you in on his progress. The fall pulverized his sacrum into ‘”dust’”, as the doctors described it, and his thoracic 5-8 and cervical vertebrae were shattered. He was in surgery for about nine hours, and the surgeon fused his T 5-8, supporting them with rods, and made another rod device to reattach his spine to his pelvis. They did not remove any of his sacrum, and it will eventually re-calcify. Those were the extent of his major injuries. He has two deep lacerations, one on his left elbow and another on his right knee, and he has a concussion, but no broken arms, legs, ribs, no heart or lung damage, and no major brain damage. He is incredibly lucky, which should go without saying. He is already breathing on his own and is expected to be moved out of ICU in the next few days. Again, my family and I would like to thank everyone for showing concern and support in this trying time. It is greatly appreciated.” Jeff C.

And another: “Hello all: This is Josh. I am recovering steadily. The doctors’ prognosis is quite good for my eventual full mobility recovery, and all are impressed at my current progress. I have two months of bed rest ahead, and several months of physical therapy following.

“I do not remember any of the accident and the events of that morning are fuzzy, too, so I can’t provide a good technical do/don’t analysis of it. I suspect that, like most accidents, it was due to carelessness on my part. I’ve been climbing for over ten years, so inexperience likely did not play a role. I thought, like most of us, that it ‘could not happen to me’.

“Lessons from my fall:

We hear it again and again: Double/triple check your rappel system.

Wear a helmet. Rock fall did not play a role in this accident, yet, based on the current condition of my old Hugh Banner Kevlar Carbon “EL CAP,” it saved my life several times over during this accident and also accounts for the fact that I received only a minor concussion.

Solo climbing is more dangerous than climbing with a partner… not necessarily for the belay aspect. Modern solo belay devices work great. Having a second set of eyes to crosscheck my rigging, etc, might have stopped my accident from happening.

Had there not been a party above me, I may not have been rescued at all. Have fun, stay safe.” (Source: From postings on Mountain Project, December 3, 4, and 10, 2009)

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