American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Bolt Hanger "Failure," Fall on Rock, Washington, Index, Upper Town Wall

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2010

BOLT HANGER "FAILURE" FALL ON ROCK

Washington, Index, Upper Town Wall

While climbing the route “Calling Wolfgang” on the Upper Town Wall at the Sport Wall area I took a 40-50 fall nearly hitting the ground. My fall was the result of not one but two bolt hanger failures. After climbing to the third bolt approximately 45 feet up, I weighted the bolt with body weight to clean holds and scout pro placements above. Upon weighting the bolt, I immediately popped away from the cliff as the hanger broke. To my surprise, I continued to fall as the second bolt hanger broke as well. I scraped against a small ledge and came to a stop a few feet above the ground. Bruised and well scraped up but not broken. Very lucky.

If anyone is considering climbing routes on this wall, proceed with caution. This was my first trip up any of the routes on the Sport Wall and I have no idea what the condition of any other bolts may be. I encourage folks to spread the word about the possible condition of old bolts at Index (or elsewhere for that matter). Keep in mind this hanger failed under BODY WEIGHT (Source: A posting on Mountain Project, no name provided)

Analysis

Matt and I went and climbed Lovin’ Arms yesterday late afternoon. So we arrive at the base to meet two climbers who have just had a near-death experience on a route left of there. …the guy claimed to have fallen and broken TWO bolt hangers, nearly decking and death. I pointed out that the best part of a near-death experience was the “near” part. He looked to have cut his elbow pretty bad, but fine otherwise. Both he and his partner were pretty freaked out, had been looking for the hangers with no success. He had lowered off the bolt that finally caught him, and a nut he placed below it. On the rap off of Lovin’ Arms Matt, and I checked it out and took his draw, runner, and nut. The draw was on an old 3/8-inch bolt that was rusted, but with a hanger that looked fine, labeled “Kong-Bonatti.”

I noticed a broken bolt section on the ledge I passed below, carefully, and brought it home. It looks fine externally, the internal looks like rusted cardboard. I’m guessing some sort of old carbon steel hanger coated with zinc or something. Here is a link to photos. Yow! public.me.com/hummer- machine (Source: Another posting on Mountain Project under “dberkinka”)

(Editor’s Note: There were more incidents reported from Mount Rainier National Park, but not enough detail was available. One involved a skier incurring a fracture above his boot while on the Wilson-Nisqually Glacier divide. Another was a climber who had been hit on the head with a rock near Disappointment Cleaver. A client (36) in a guided party was reported as having shortness of breath and was flown out from Cathedral Gap. This was diagnosed later as an infection, perhaps strep throat. A client (55) in another guided party was reported to have a fractured lower leg. He was evacuated by helicopter from Emmons Shoulder.

In his Annual SAR Report, Ranger Stefan Lofgren indicated that there were no fatalities in the park during the summer and that the incident rate for registered climbers was .02%)

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