Fall on Rock — No Knot on End of Rope, North Carolina, Rumbling Bald

Publication Year: 2012.


North Carolina, Rumbling Bald

On December 18, my climbing partner, Adam (33), and I (34) were climbing Walk This Way (5.1lb) located in the Hanging Chain area of Rumbling Bald. Neither of us had done this climb before. Our plan was for Adam to lead the route, lower, pull the rope, and then I would lead the route and clean it as I lowered. We had a copy of the older version of Lambert & Shull’s Selected Climbs in North Carolina in which the route was labeled as 100 feet, and therefore, we believed our 70-meter rope (230 feet) to be adequate to lower on.

I belayed Adam with a Grigri. While lowering, about ten to 15 feet above the base of the climb, the end of the rope fed through the Grigri and Adam began to free fall. The base of the climb was a 70-degree boulder-strewn slope. He travelled a total of 30–40 feet, may have turned and glanced off an oven-sized rock or two before coming to rest in a relatively soft area of leaves and dirt. His injuries were primarily abrasions, bruises, and a deep laceration on his thumb. After assessment and some first aid, he was able to walk out and drive home. Later, reading the newest version of Selected Climbs… I found the route labeled as 150 feet (a critical change).


I learned to climb and use equipment from friends and climbing partners and knew the importance of tying a knot in the end of the rope to close the system. Adam and I got into the habit of climbing single pitch routes with an adequate rope length and no knot tied at the end of the rope. No matter the circumstance, a closed system should always be employed. Reviewing the latest version of the guidebook, and not putting undue trust in any guidebook, is also an important lesson learned. (Source: Daryl MacInnes)