American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Unfinished Tie-in Knot

Arkansas, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year: 2011
  • Publication Year: 2012

On October 8, a female climber on top-rope fell from near the top of what is believed to be Earl’s Revenge (5.8). Unconscious but still breathing, she suffered a fractured forearm and possible spinal cord injury since she could not move her feet on command. She was carried on a backboard to a waiting helicopter and flown to the nearest trauma hospital.

According to witnesses, the cause of the accident was an unfinished tie-in knot. The climber tied her own knot, but unfortunately did not finish it. When she reached the anchors and sat in her harness, the knot came untied and she fell.

Analysis

Climbers in the area noted that the rope was detached from her harness, which was described as “new and intact”. The rope end was found at the anchors with a figure-of-eight knot and working end of the rope trailing from the knot. Her partner did not check her knot.

As she was not wearing a helmet, she is beyond lucky that she sustained no head trauma.

Make sure both the climber and the belayer check knots, anchors, harness, etc. both visually and physically before starting any rock climb! (Source: Aram Attarian, edited from a post on rockclimbing.com.)

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