American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Slip on Rock, Rappel Error — Poor Technique, Inadequate Instruction and Supervision, Virginia, Hidden Rocks

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


Virginia, Hidden Rocks

On September 11, guides were managing a rappel at the top of the route Snowblower. A climber became nervous stepping over the edge, slipped to the left of observers, spun several times, and struck her head on the rock.

Guides responded by activating a rescue beacon and rappelling to the unconscious climber to render aid. A cervical collar was improvised to stabilize her head and a 3:1 pulley system was constructed after determining that raising her was the most suitable approach.

The climber became pain responsive within five minutes and verbally responsive within ten minutes. After being stabilized at the top of the cliff, EMS arrived shortly after to carry her out. The patient had no TBI (traumatic brain injury), but did have a laceration on the back of the head and shoulder a injury.


Prior to introducing students or clients to a long or committing rappel, the basics of rappelling should be introduced or reviewed on the ground, a low angle slab, or on a less demanding rappel, and demonstrated by a responsible guide or instructor. This approach allows the individual being taught a better understanding of the techniques and fundamentals of the task at hand. (Source: From a September 14 post on

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