American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rockfall – Poor Position

North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Catheys Creek

  • Accident Reports
  • Author: Karsten Delap and Aram Attarian
  • Accident Year: 2016
  • Publication Year: 2017

During July, an organized group was climbing at Catheys Creek when it began to rain. The group leader moved the students under the shelter of an overhang. While waiting for the rain to stop, one of the teenage students reached up and grabbed a rock at head height to do a pull-up. The rock broke and came down on him and another student. Neither student lost consciousness or showed any signs of head trauma, but one stated he was unable to walk. Both students were carried out as a precaution, and the eventual diagnosis was pelvic fractures for one student and a bruised leg and hand trauma that required surgery for the other.


When working with groups, it’s important for the leader or guide to familiarize himself or herself with the climbing site, including potential hazards associated with any staging area. Although this is one of those incidents that would have been almost impossible to predict, it might have been an opportunity to instruct students to test blocks, especially in overhangs, before one fully commits to any hold. (Sources: Karsten Delap and Aram Attarian.)

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