American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Protection Pulled Out, Climbing Alone, North Carolina, Looking Glass Rock, Invisible Airways

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

FALL ON ROCK, PROTECTION PULLED OUT, CLIMBING ALONE

North Carolina, Looking Glass Rock, Invisible Airways

On the morning of April 12, Parker Kempf (21) was attempting an all clean aid (solo) ascent of Invisible Airways (A2) on the north side of Looking Glass Rock, his fourth time on the route. He had full big wall set- up including a portaledge, which was not deployed.

Parker was planning on fixing to the top of Invisible Airways (Al), descending, and attempting the Brain Wall the next day. Parker called Looking Glass Outfitters at 11:15 a.m. Parker was calm but in shock, coming in and out of periods of fright. He told me that he had “blown a cam hook trying to clip the bolt on the route and hit the Waste Ledge”. (The bolt is approximately 15 feet from the anchor on an 80-foot pitch). I asked him how he hit and if he was okay. He informed me that he had flipped upside down and landed on the back of his head and neck and that his helmet was destroyed. He was complaining of lower back pain. He was going to attempt to rappel down to the ground. I instructed him to stay on the ledge and that we would come out to get him. I didn’t want him to rap if he had a head injury for fear that he would rig the rappel wrong and take a ground fall from the Waste Ledge. The ledge is 80 feet off the ground.

At this point there were three climbers in the shop hanging out and we confirmed the best course of action. The first phone call out of the shop was to Karsten Delap, who is on the Brevard Rescue Squad and is a local guide. He was out of the state and unavailable. The second call was to Marcus Webb in an attempt to organize a climbing team to go to the site. Marcus was unavailable. The third call was to Patrick Weaver of AMI for insight on the issue. Patrick gave instructions based on the above description and instructed us to call Parker back, ask a series of questions, and then re-ask those questions. Parker called the shop phone again and Patrick and I assessed the head injuries over the phone. Parker was doing better but still coming in and out of periods of fright. At this point Patrick and I decided to call 911, as his MOI was a possible 60-foot ledge fall on to his head. Joe Morchebacher was in the shop and was willing to help out as was the Black Diamond Rep Matt Ginley and his girlfriend, a former EMT. Joe M. gathered climbing gear and we drove out to the North Face parking lot following an ambulance.

Upon reaching the base of Looking Glass with paramedics and two members of the BRS, we ran into Nathan Brown and Frost Walker, two highly competent climbers. We briefed Nathan, who is a paramedic, and he volunteered to jug Parker’s fixed rope to the Waste Ledge. After jugging the rope, Nathan took over, assessed Parker, and deemed no spinal injury but a probable tailbone injury. He then proceeded to slowly lower Parker to the paramedics on the ground. With the assistance from medics Parker limped out to the bottom of the boulder field where he boarded a BRS six-wheel ATV and was driven out the trailhead. Back at the parking lot, he refused treatment and then was taken by friends to Mission Hospital in Asheville for assessment and x-rays. (Source: Patrick Weaver, Appalachian Mountain Institute)

Analysis

While it is noted that Parker is a competent aid climber with several aid ascents on Looking glass and two ascents of El Capitan, he was, nevertheless, climbing alone. (Source: Jed Williamson)

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