American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rappel Failure — Ropes Too Short, Stranded, Nevada, Red Rocks Canyon NCA

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1998


Nevada, Red Rocks Canyon NCA

On February 8, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department SAR unit responded to a call regarding a stranded climber on a rock face at Willow Springs. The victim (25) was rappelling when he realized his rope was too short. He had tied himself off about six feet from the end of the ropes—about 50 feet above the valley floor.

Two officers got above him, anchored a rope and lowered it to him, advising him to tie off and remain there until rescuers came. As the rescue team was getting organized, the victim self-rescued on the rope lowered to him, using a double carabiner brake.


The victim was fortunate enough to realize his mistake before rappelling off the end of his rope, on which he had not tied a knot. He also had the presence of mind to tie himself off and then use a carabiner brake system. However, luck was on his side in trusting to a line dropped by strangers, the line tied only to an anchor of unknown origin, and without communicating to the people tending it. (Source: James Roberts. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department SAR)

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