• Rock Climbing Accident: Inattentive Spot Leads to Broken Arm
  • Climbing Accidents: My Helmet Saved My Life - Short Story Series
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Man Survives Fifty-Foot Ground Fall
  • Bolt Breaks, Climber Falls to Death
  • Climbing Accident: Earthquake, Avalanche, 21 Dead on Everest, Over 4,600 in Nepal
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Falls to Death, Apparent Bolt Failure
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Tragedy on Infinite Bliss - Rappelling Claims Climber
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Gear Rips, Leading Climber Critical
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Impaled by a Quickdraw
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Two Carabiners Break on Leaning Tower
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Fined For Obstructing Rescue
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Triggered Rockfall: Kills Two on El Cap
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Gear Pulls: Grounder at White Rock, New Mexico
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Death on Capitol Peak
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Respected Climber Falls 50 Feet and Dies at Cathedral Ledge
  • Rock Climbing Accident: NPS Chops Bolts: Man Dies Descending Forbidden Peak
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Not Again: Eldo Climber Raps Off End Of Rope
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Flake Breaks, Leader Falls, Hits Belayer
  • Rock Climbing Accident: BUNGLED!: Autoblock Belay Device Misused
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Fatal Gym Accident
  • Solo Ice Climber Dies in Fall
  • Climbing Accident: Three Killed in Cairngorms
  • Climbing Accident: Ice Climber Killed
  • Climbing Accident: Despite Warnings, Three Injured in Mount Washington Avalanche
  • Climbing Accident: Four Dead in Scottish Highlands
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Bolt Pulls Out in the New River Gorge
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Belayer Drops Climber 70 Feet to Ground
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Rope Cuts, Climber Dies in Eldorado
  • Climbing Accident: Belayer Pulls Leader Off Ice Climb
  • Climbing Accident: Fifty-Footer Rips Three Screws
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Rope Chopped by Carabiner
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Falls 140 Feet and Lives
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Todd Skinner Killed on Leaning Tower Rappel
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climbing's Insidious Danger: Rockfall
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Top Rope Slips Off
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Rappel Knot Fails, Climber Falls 300 Feet to Death
  • Climbing Accident: Ice Cave Collapses, Kills Hari Berger
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Unclips From Anchor, Falls to Death
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Counterweight Rappel Failure
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Back Cleaning Results in 150-foot Fall
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Dies When Rappels Off End of Rope
  • Mouse Attacks
  • Climbing Accident: Hold Breaks, 60-foot Fall
  • Climbing Accident: Avalanche Kills Six In Alps
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Autoblock Belay Failure Causes Fall
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Rappel Swing Goes Awry, Climber Injured and Rescued
  • Climbing Accident: Ice Climber Falls Entire Pitch, Dies
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Comes Unclipped, Falls 140 Feet at Red Rocks
  • Climbing Accident: Ice climber rides Vail's famous Fang 100 feet when the pillar collapses
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Two Bolt Hangers Break, Climber Falls
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Nose-hooked Carabiner Breaks, Causing Ground Fall
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Bowline Comes Untied, Climber Falls to Ground
  • Climbing Accident: Rope Burns Through Lowering Sling, Climber Falls to Ground
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Gear Rips, Leader Hits Ledge
  • Climbing Accident: 600-foot Ice Climbing Fall
  • Climbing Accident: Ice Climber Unropes, Slips, Falls 60 Feet
  • Climbing Accident: Ice Climber Dislodges Ice, Belayer Hit and Seriously Injured
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Belayer Drops Leader Due to Miscommunication
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Rappels Off Rope, Dies
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Leader Rips 10 Pieces on El Cap, Falls 80 Feet
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Leader Falls, Gear Rips, Belay Fails
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Triggered Rockfall: Kills Two on El Cap

    25-Aug-2014
    By

    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.

    Analysis

    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. 

    Prevention

    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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