FALL ON ROCK, NUT/CAM PULLED OUT, EXCEEDING ABILITIES
Tennessee, Sunset Rock, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
The park received a report of a serious fall and injury to a male climber (23) beneath Sunset Rock in the park’s Lookout Mountain area on the evening of July 27th. A pair of climbers started Friday the 13th (5.8+). This was their fifth and hardest route of the day, according to the partner. The climb itself is short and protects well with wires and cams. There’s nothing tricky about the gear to an experienced climber, but the crux is strenuous—especially for climbers attempting an on-sight lead at their technical limit—and occurs at a bulge about 25 feet up. This is where the leader encountered difficulties. According to the partner, the leader had placed four pieces of protection when he started to “shake” and lose composure. He attempted to down-climb, but fell in the process, ripping his two highest pieces (a Trango cam and a medium sized BD stopper), and hit the ground. Both of these pieces were seen still attached to the rope lying on the ground.
Responding park and local rescuers treated his injuries and began a carryout up and to the rim of Sunset Rock. He was airlifted that evening to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga with a dislocated shoulder and a shattered left foot. Analysis
Experienced climbers in the area reported that the pair were sport climbers and were new to traditional climbing with little/no experience placing gear. The injured climber had been doing all the leading that day on new gear consisting of Trango cams and wires with a set of Camalots apparently “on order”. Witnesses also noted that earlier in the day the leader (later the patient) was having considerable difficulty placing gear on a 5.7 route and had to jump off the opening moves several times.
Poor preparation, limited skill and understanding on how to place gear, and route selection may have been the contributing factors leading to this accident. (Source: John McCutcheon, Supervisory Park Ranger, and others)