American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Fall on Rock, No Hard Hat, Kentucky, Red River Gorge

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2011


Kentucky, Red River Gorge

As is usually the case, Breakfast Burrito (5.10d) had a line of climbers waiting for it on June 6, and when she finally had a chance, CL (age unknown) took her turn on Breakfast Burrito. CL and another member of our group set up, stick clipped the first bolt, and then I came over and put CL on belay. I stood just to her right, at the base of the wall under the first bolt. She started up the route, hung the second draw, repositioned, and as she reached for slack to clip, her left hand slipped off of her hold and she came crashing to the ground. She landed on her back on a flat boulder, her head just at its edge. Her eyes rolled back in her head, she seized, and only moments after impact, a stream of blood flowed from the back of her head!

With a nurse on site CL was stabilized until the ambulance arrived. Most improbably, she sustained only a minor laceration and sizable bump on her back and some lingering head and body aches.


There are several precautions that could have been taken to prevent such an accident: stick-clipping the second bolt, spotting the climber, belayer being prepared to take in a lot of slack in a hurry by jumping off of something, first and second bolt being located nearer to each other. In retrospect, I wish CL had a helmet on her head, that I had been spotting her, and that the second bolt had been stick clipped. Any of these things could have made a serious difference, but the procedure we followed is typical, and the one I most often see being followed by others at The Red. Almost everyone knows the dangers of clipping the second bolt, including CL, and her hand slipping was unexpected. As she said, she was not excessively nervous or pumped.

This has been a lesson to me to never climb something, or allow someone else to climb something, if there is a potential for a ground fall, because there are always factors for which one cannot account. (Source: From a post on

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