American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Protection Pulled Out, Exceeding Abilities, New York, Mohonk Preserve, Shawangunks

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

FALL ON ROCK, PROTECTION PULLED OUT, EXCEEDING ABILITIES

New York, Mohonk Preserve, Shawangunks

On the morning of October 17, I (Lisa Wang, 23) was leading the route Frogs Head. It was my second day of leading at the ‘Gunks.

At the bulge above the first crux, I first placed one small Metolius 1 and slung it with a long quickdraw. Next, I placed a gold nut about three to four feet up and put that on another quickdraw; however, I didn’t like this placement very much and so placed a red nut about a foot immediately above the previous nut. This red nut was slotted into a v-shaped crevice, again slung with a quickdraw. At this point, I am approximately 40 feet up, possibly a little higher. When I was preparing to go up for the next set of holds, I smeared with my right foot because I couldn’t reach the next horizontal crack otherwise; however, my left hand came off the rock and I fell off the bulge. Both nuts pulled, one by one, and then force of the fall also pulled the Metolius 1 cam. My partner told me he felt each piece hold for a second and then pop. He also felt the brown Tri-cam catch and take up most of the force of the fall. I hit the ground as a result of rope stretch and bounced twice. I sprained my left ankle, scraped up my left leg, and hurt my wrist. It turns out I broke a bone in my wrist, but the break was on a fairly minor bone, so I actually kept climbing that weekend.

Analysis

While I am relatively new to climbing, I can comfortably lead 5.9 sport routes and can climb 5.10 routes, so it was reasonable to expect that Frogs Head, a 5.6, would go smoothly. My second, who is also my mentor, has as many years of experience as I’ve been alive and is a very competent and skilled teacher and climber. My rack had a full set of nuts, Black Diamond C4 cams from .3-3, a Metolius 1, a set of Tri-cams, and about seven extendable two-foot slings and five long 16-cm quickdraws.

I found Frogs Head to be a bit more difficult than expected, partly because I am 5’1”, so the holds were actually not within my grasp if I used the usual footholds. I believe that I fell back at the bulge and the horizontal force I exerted on my nut pulled it up and out. I also believe my Metolius 1 was under-cammed. When deciding whether to use slings or quickdraws, I decided that draws were sufficient because the route went pretty much straight up and thus there wouldn’t be an horizontal rope drag. However, I failed to consider the force that a draw would exert on a nut in the event of the fall and how the bulge of the rock would affect the rope and how it tugged on the pieces. I also failed to realize how small the range is for a small cam as the Metolius 1. As a result of these mistakes, I believe they are what caused my pieces to pull.

I learned three very valuable lessons. In the future, I will always use slings with my nuts and extend them if there is any bulge in the rock or if I am close the ground. I will also remember how small the range is on the small cams and be sure not to under-cam them. I will also really set my nuts when placing them and make sure they are sitting securely in the cracks. (Source: Edited from a report submitted by Lisa Wang)

(Editor’s Note: We always appreciate it when climbers submit their own reports and self-analysis.)

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