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The primary purpose of these experience reports and the Annual Report of Accidents in North American Mountaineering is to aid in the prevention of accidents.
Kathy Lee and her friend Becky Hsu, both 27, were meeting some new friends at The Dihedrals at Smith Rock. The friends were late so they decided to warm up with Left Slab Crack rated 5.4 two stars by Alan Watts in his Climber’s Guide to Smith Rock. Kathy Lee topped out and asked her friend to lower her. She realized the rope was short for this climb but expected Becky to hold her so she could finish the descent with a fourth class scramble to the ground.
The end of the rope whipped through Becky’s belay device and Kathy fell about 30 vertical feet down the route to the ground. Without a helmet, she was bleeding profusely from a head wound.
EMS professionals were summoned by a nearby cell phone. She was stabilized and carried by the waiting ambulance to St. Charles Medical Center, kept overnight and released with a bruised kidney and lung and scalp lacerations. She is “lucky and well” and climbing “more carefully” again.
Analysis of Accident: What knowledge and techniques will help prevent future accidents?
Four months after this fall, a similar more serious accident occurred at Smith Rock: the belayer dropped the top roped climber about 65 feet off the end of the rope. Typically, the belayer is concentrating on the climber being lowered, failing to mind the remaining belay rope.
Sport climbers typically do not tie into the bottom end of the top belay rope. Tying a stopper knot or tying the rope into the sport rope bag would have prevented these incidents.
Report filed by Robert Speik for the 56th edition of ANAM, year 2003
Copyright© 2003 by Robert Speik. All Rights Reserved.
American Alpine Club
Oregon Section of the AAC
Accidents in North American Mountaineering