AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection, Nevada, Red Rock Canyon NCA, Pine Creek Canyon


Nevada, Red Rock Canyon NCA, Pine Creek Canyon

On March 12, around 1:00 p.m., there was a serious leader fall on the lower section of the third pitch (the long 5.8 corner) of the route Dark Shadows on the Mescalito Formation in the Pine Creek Canyon area. It seems that the leader was about 30 feet above the belay ledge with insufficient protection and slipped while trying to place gear. He dropped the gear and landed on the small ledge just above the belay right-side down. It does not appear that any gear failed.

There was one party above and one party below on the route. I was anchored just right of the Dark Shadows belay ledge at the anchor of Slot Machine (instead of rappelling to the Dark Shadows anchors). I saw about the last five feet of the fall. It was extremely disturbing.

A person in the party above was a doctor and one person below was a nurse. Those two parties worked tirelessly to stabilize the injured climber and set up anchors needed to bring up rescue personnel. It took about two hours for the first rescuer to arrive, as the narrow canyon and trees made it difficult for the helicopter to do much. I think they were able to drop off people and gear bit by bit at about the halfway point on the trail. (I waited at the Slot Machine anchor with a partner—until it was confirmed that we would not be needed for assistance immediately—and watched the helicopter make several passes.

After another hour or so and after about three more SAR personnel arrived, they built a setup of anchors and pulleys using trees and boulders on the ground. Luckily we had extra ropes and plenty of people on the ground to assist with hauling a rescuer and litter up to the ledge. When the climber was in the litter, he was lowered with the rescuer and several of us helped pull the litter away from the water and carried it up to a point where the helicopter could drop a line and evacuate the patient by air. From fall to helicopter lift, the whole event took about eight hours.

I was told that the injuries included fractured leg and vertebrae with likely paralysis as a result. (Source: Edited from a post on mountainproject.com by Joseph Stover)