• Fatal Unroped Fall On Easy Terrain - Bear Creek Spire, California
  • Simul-Rappel Goes Tragically Wrong - Reed’s Pinnacle, Yosemite
  • Dropped Haulbag Strikes Climber in Yosemite
  • Rappel Knot Fails, Climber Falls to Death on the Goat Wall
  • Climber Loses Finger Tips in Crack
  • Climber Grabs Draw, Skins Finger
  • Gear Pulls, Climber Decks at Indian Creek
  • Climber Dropped at Instructional Clinic
  • Euro-Death Knot (Flat Figure-8) Mysteriously Fails
  • Mark Davis Dies in Tragic Rappelling Accident at Indian Creek
  • Climber Dies In Fall From Moonlight Buttress, Zion
  • Ice Climber Falls 100 Feet in Banff National Park
  • Ice Climber Falls 100 Feet on Screw and Climaxe
  • Diablo Canyon Climber Dies in 170-foot Fall
  • Climber Breaks Ankle and Back After Fall in the Palisades, California
  • Rockfall Knocks Out Belayer, She Never Lets Go
  • North Carolina Climber Dies in 50-foot Fall
  • Lightning Strikes Twice - Rockfall on the Cassin, Cima Piccolissima
  • Climber Dropped When Lowered in Autoblock Mode
  • Climber Dies in a Fall at Dishman Hills, Washington
  • Climber Falls 200 Feet on the Nose
  • Danger Zones: The Nose - Accidents On El Cap's Most Popular Route
  • Rappelling Accident Leaves Climber Shattered
  • Gunks Climber Raps Off End of Rope
  • Inattentive Spot Leads to Broken Arm
  • Man Survives Fifty-Foot Ground Fall
  • Bolt Breaks, Climber Falls to Death
  • Climber Falls to Death, Apparent Bolt Failure
  • Tragedy on Infinite Bliss - Rappelling Claims Climber
  • Gear Rips, Leading Climber Critical
  • Impaled by a Quickdraw
  • Two Carabiners Break on Leaning Tower
  • Climber Fined For Obstructing Rescue
  • Climber Triggers Rockfall, Kills Two on El Cap
  • Gear Pulls: Grounder at White Rock, New Mexico
  • Death on Capitol Peak
  • Respected Climber Falls 50 Feet and Dies at Cathedral Ledge
  • NPS Chops Bolts: Man Dies Descending Forbidden Peak
  • Not Again: Eldo Climber Raps Off End Of Rope
  • Flake Breaks, Leader Falls, Hits Belayer
  • BUNGLED!: Autoblock Belay Device Misused
  • Fatal Gym Accident
  • Solo Ice Climber Dies in Fall
  • Three Killed in Cairngorms
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  • Four Dead in Scottish Highlands
  • Bolt Pulls Out in the New River Gorge
  • Belayer Drops Climber 70 Feet to Ground
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  • Belayer Pulls Leader Off Ice Climb
  • Fifty-Footer Rips Three Screws
  • Rope Chopped by Carabiner
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  • Todd Skinner Killed on Leaning Tower Rappel
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  • Top Rope Slips Off
  • Rappel Knot Fails, Climber Falls 300 Feet to Death
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  • Rappel Swing Goes Awry, Climber Injured and Rescued
  • Ice Climber Falls Entire Pitch, Dies
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  • Two Bolt Hangers Break, Climber Falls
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  • Bowline Comes Untied, Climber Falls to Ground
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  • Ice Climber Dislodges Ice, Belayer Hit and Seriously Injured
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    Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Triggered Rockfall: Kills Two on El Cap


    El Cap. Yosemite, California.Two fatal accidents involving climber-triggered rockfall occurred this spring on El Capitan, Yosemite. The first incident took place on the Muir Wall (A2 5.9, 33 pitches). On May 19, Mason Robison, an experienced climber from Montana, was leading just above the bivy ledge at the start of the final 700-foot dihedral. 

    According to his partner, Marc Venery, Robison placed a cam behind a big flake about 20 feet above the belay. When he weighted the cam, the flake ripped off the wall. Robison pitched outward and the flake severed his lead line. He fell 230 feet until his static haul line arrested his fall. He was killed by the force generated in the static impact. 

    The second accident happened just two weeks later on the East Buttress (5.10b, 11 pitches). At about 2 p.m., approximately 600 feet up the route, Felix Joseph Kiernan, a popular and accomplished climber from London, England, was belaying his partner of many years, Luke Jones. Jones was roughly 90 feet above the belay when he stepped on a one-foot-wide block. The block dislodged and struck Kiernan on the head, killing him instantly. Of note: Kiernan was wearing a helmet.


    Even though both of these routes have seen hundreds of ascents, they are still serious undertakings situated on a huge and ever-evolving wall. El Capitan is often lauded for its “perfect” granite, but in truth this wall is littered with loose rock ranging from the one-foot block that hit Kiernan, to massive features like the apparently detached “Boot Flake” on the super-popular Nose route. Massive rockslides spontaneously occur on El Cap and climber-triggered rockfall is relatively common. Crowding on popular routes such as the Muir and East Buttress compound the problem because climbers are forced to leave any loose rocks they encounter in place rather than trundling them. The result is a virtual minefield. 


    Just because the route you are on is well-traveled doesn’t mean that it’s clean and safe. In fact, many popular trad climbing areas in the U.S. and abroad are loaded with choss. Eldorado Canyon, the Diamond and Yosemite are prime examples. Trad climbing takes place in areas with cracks. These cracks are formed by weaknesses in the rock. Pulling on blocks, wedging hands and feet in cracks and the protection you place act to pry on the features. 

    The first step in preventing climber-triggered rockfall is simply cultivating the awareness that the rock you are climbing might be loose. The next step is to learn and practice safe climbing techniques. 

    Here are five ways you can mitigate the danger of loose rock.

    1) Situate your belay out of the fall line.

    2) Analyze and avoid using suspect holds. Sometimes it makes sense to choose a smaller but more solid hold.

    3) Inspect your holds. Check out the lines of fracture before pulling on blocks and flakes. Sometimes a block will be solid as a sidepull or hold a straight downward pull, but not an outward pull. 

    4) Avoid placing gear in potentially loose rock since it will inevitably pry on the rock if weighted and might trigger rockfall.

    5) Communicate. Tell your partner before you pull or step on a potentially loose hold. If you knock something off, yell, “Rock!” If you’re belaying, watch the climber. It takes a couple of seconds for a rock to fall 100 feet. If you are alert, you might be able to dodge. 

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