American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Belayer Takes Hand Off Rope, Kentucky, Red River Gorge

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2012

FALL ON ROCK, BELAYER TAKES HAND OFF ROPE

Kentucky, Red River Gorge

On Friday, March 4, I (name and age not on post) was climbing at The Motherlode on a route called Kick Me in the Jimmie (5.12) when I fell late in the day. The last fall of the last climb of the day should have been a routine, clean ~ 12-foot leader fall onto the fifth bolt. After the expected catch passed, it became clear that my belayer didn’t have control of the rope. I fell about 35 feet to the ground.

I remember bracing myself for impact, hitting the ground, and letting everyone know that I was okay about one second after I hit. I injured my ankle and my butt hurt. I was able to walk out just fine. The belayer had rope burns on the wrist of his non-brake hand.

Analysis

My belayer had been climbing for ten years and I’d been climbing with him for just over a year. He was belaying with a tube-style device similar to a Wild Country VC Pro.

From what we could gather, he took his brake hand off the rope for a split second while moving into a better position to catch the fall. Once he realized his hand wouldn’t be able to get the rope, he tried compressing it by leaning forward and just pressing his forearms onto the device/rope and in the process received rope burns on his forearm.

Relying on the belayer now is mentally difficult for me. I tried climbing on the following Sunday and Monday. Even being lowered is terrifying if I start to accelerate even a little bit. If this accident had been with an inexperienced belayer, I could have blamed myself, finding fault with trusting a “beginner” belayer. But now, considering that someone with ten years of experience dropped me, I have gotten in the mindset of, “How can I really trust anyone?” My plan is to go to the gym and practice taking larger and larger falls until I can get back to my old self. Please stay alert while you’re belaying. It’s your only job. (Source: Edited from a post on rockclimbing.com)

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