American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Swinging Fall on Sport Climb

Arizona, Jacks Canyon

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year: 2016
  • Publication Year: 2017

Toward the end of a full day of climbing, a group headed to the Slot Machine, a prominent feature of the Casino Cliffs in Jacks Canyon. One climber, Person 3, attempted Slots O Fun, a 5.10a limestone sport route, approximately 35 feet high, with four bolts and a bolted anchor. Person 2 was belaying. Person 3 was able to place quickdraws on the first three bolts, but was unable to finish the climb.

Person 1, 32 years old and moderately experienced, then attempted the route, clipping the three preplaced quickdraws. As he moved beyond the third piece of protection, he climbed up and sideways. He was a full body length above and half a body length lateral to his last piece of protection when he slipped and fell approximately 15 feet. Person 2, a 26-year-old, moderately experienced climber, arrested his fall, but during the fall Person 1 caught his left foot on the rock and sustained an ankle ligament injury and fractured talus. A group of climbers carried Person 1 about a mile back to camp, and the climber sought treatment the next morning.

ANALYSIS

This route was above the skill level of the group, and after climbing all day the climbers were tired and their judgment was impaired; they would have been better off trying this route another day. Climbing laterally to the line of bolts resulted in a swinging fall and contributed to the mechanism of injury; remaining in line with the protection helps minimize this risk. The belayer also felt the “catch was not as soft as it should have been, accelerating the climber’s collision with the wall.” (Source: Anonymous member of the climbing team.)

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