Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection, New Hampshire, Cathedral Ledge, Book of Solemnity

Publication Year: 1997.


New Hampshire, Cathedral Ledge, Rook of Solemnity

On August 15, a husband and wife team were climbing The Book of Solemnity on Cathedral. The leader crossed the crux traverse (5.9+) in the second lead without placing protection. He belayed at the end of the traverse at the trees on Upper Refuse. The second climber fell while trying to make the hard moves at the crux. Since the rope ran nearly horizontally to her left, she swung down and left into the wall, sustaining a very bloody compound dislocation and fracture of her left ankle.


How can this kind of accident be prevented? First, a leader could continue the lead until he is directly above the crux. This option would require a leader on The Book to climb the 5.5 third pitch of Upper Refuse without placing protection. Using double ropes (the UIAA wants us to call this “half-rope technique”) and clipping only one rope after the crux would allow both leader and follower to have protection. Second, a leader could place protection on the traverse. On The Book, a small Tricam or SLCD fits in a downward opening slot in the middle of the crux.

What could a second climber do when she gets to the start of a dangerous and unprotected traverse? She could leave in the last two (or more) pieces of protection before the traverse and ask to be lowered. On The Book, a 50 meter rope would put her back on the tree-covered ledge. Second, she could leave her rope through the highest protection (adding pieces if she doubts their safety), fasten one end of a quick-draw to her harness and the other end to the rope above (beyond) the protection, and ask the leader to slowly lower her across the traverse. Or, if she is dragging a haul line she could use the haul line, running from her harness through the protection and back to a belay device on her harness, to lower herself across the traverse. The second will end up well below the leader which is OK if there is climbable rock or if she knows how to prussik. If the leader did the lowering, the second will need a place to stand (or hang from a prussik) while she ties a figure-of-eight on a bight on the strand of rope going up to the leader. After she clips this knot to her harness with a locking carabiner (or with two opposed ordinary ’biners), she can untie her original tie-in knot and pull the tail of the rope through the gear which she happily deserts. Another option does not abandon gear, but is more complicated. Ask. (Source: George Hurley)