Owens River Gorge Accident


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Oct 19, 2010 - 03:05am PT
I'd rather wish her well... We all can make mistakes...
You are out of your mind.

Trad climber
San Diego
Oct 19, 2010 - 03:11am PT
Wow, what a lucky person to be alive! Best wishes on a long journey to full health.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Oct 19, 2010 - 09:40am PT
You are out of your mind.


Woody Stark, JT pioneer, top of pitch accident.

Todd Skinner, rap accident.

John Harlin, Eiger accident.

John Bachar, Free solo.

Need I go on?

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Oct 19, 2010 - 10:06am PT
More accurate to say that we all DO make mistakes. For most of us (so far anyway), they haven't cost us our life or a great injury. Best wishes to her. Her injuries sound awful and I'm thankful it wasn't worse.

Jim Henson's Basement
Oct 19, 2010 - 10:09am PT
Wow- it's miraculous she fell that far and survived. I sincerely wish her good recovery.

It's all speculation at this point but... It seems likely that she threaded just one rope through her device instead of two, or threaded them both and missed one strand when she locked the biner. Visually it looks OK till you weight it and it would explain the mid-fall pause as the rope whipped through the anchors.

Anyhow.. I'm happy she is still with us regardless of the circumstances.

Trad climber
WAS Auburn CA, NOW Seattle WA
Oct 19, 2010 - 05:15pm PT
yo i was there too. me and T-bone ran over right after. we were at Mothership across the way. T's g-friend saw the entire fall! i think that there was a communication error and she thought she was going to be lowered to the first anchor (which is actually not possible because they had a 70 and the 2 pitches combined is like 55-60m. belayer thought she was going to rap the pitches. she leans back and is off-belay and falls the entire 160' only to be caught briefly when the rope snagged at 40' (saved her life) then she fell the 40' to the ground.


Social climber
Oct 19, 2010 - 05:18pm PT

Best wishes!!! to the young lady of concern...

I too am absolutly AMAZED that she survived such a fall...


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Oct 19, 2010 - 05:23pm PT
All power too her. what a thing to survive! Pulling for a full recovery.

Mike Friedrichs (currently going feral in Greece) had a similar accident with the same miscommunication. His groundfall was only around 75' and a tree in the middle broke it up. He broke his back in several places, was in a body cast for ten months. that was fifteen odd years ago and today at 51, he's climbing 5.13.
good luck

Trad climber
Alta Loma, CA
Oct 19, 2010 - 05:38pm PT
57 meters????

Trad climber
Alta Loma, CA
Oct 19, 2010 - 05:40pm PT
That is a fall!!!

Big Wall climber
Nor Nev
Oct 19, 2010 - 05:48pm PT
She was not the first to do this and not going to be the last. If I remember correctly was there not a very well know local who free fell from an anchor there in the mid to late 90's. In the central gorge. I will not name him but his fall was the result of a very similar situation I believe.

We all make mistakes it is just that some of us get away with it and others don't.

Watching the Vertical thing on TV the other night seeing Skinner talking about climbing made me sad to think a simple loop that was worn ended his life.

All he needed to do was check his harness and not rely on a belay loop as a single point of safety. Not really asking too much of a guy who had the skill set and time he had on rock. Sad!

Social climber
Oct 19, 2010 - 06:12pm PT

"the social scene at the base distracted him from finishing his knot."...

HAS happened to me and I've seen it happen to others as well...

Such a simple and stupid mistake like mistakes generally are...

to NOT get complacent is KEY...


Trad climber
Nevada City, CA
Oct 21, 2010 - 12:59am PT
Bump for update. Get well soon.

Sport climber
bishop ca
Oct 21, 2010 - 09:22am PT
the same day of this accident I overheard two novice climbers yelling at eachother over the roar of the creek wether to rap off or lower off. This is crazyness! make a plan with your partner before you leave the ground if you have any question as to what you are going to do when you reach the top of the climb. This is all to common an incident. Check your knot (and your partners), communicate your plan, pay attention. Climbing is dangerous!!! Get realistic about what you are involved in and treat it as such. Best wishes to our fallen. and happy climbing.

Social climber
Bay Area
Oct 21, 2010 - 01:05pm PT
I wish the young woman a speedy and full recovery, mentally and physically. Hope she can get back into climbing soon.
make a plan with your partner before you leave the ground if you have any question as to what you are going to do when you reach the top of the climb.

Well said but I would suggest
ALWAYS make a plan with your partner before you leave the ground so that you BOTH KNOW what you are going to do when you reach the top of the climb.

Spend an extra minute reviewing the plan so it's perfectly clear.
Don't change the plan unless there's a good reason and you BOTH can communicate.

I always do this. With steady partners it becomes a habit. With new partners, or with "social" climbing its easy to forget or get distracted in the milieu.

Always double check the rig, and check again if there's ANY doubt in your mind. Check your partner if you can see them.
The Devil's in the details.

Remember it's not a gym. You're responsible for your own rigging, and your partner's safety. Easy enough to forget a detail when you're out having fun.
I think I'm pretty careful and have climbed a long time yet I nearly blew a trivial rap setup. It almost certainly would have been fatal to me (300 nearly vertical feet to talus). My double check saved me.

Jim Henson's Basement
Oct 21, 2010 - 02:56pm PT
I speculated it was a mis-threaded rappel device since lowering someone on multi-pitch doesn't seem logical or even possible most of the time. Not sure how long the rope was or how far apart the anchors are though.

Years ago I witnessed a similar (single pitch)near-fatal accident where loud noise from traffic resulted in a mis-communication about whether or not someone was rappelling or being lowered. Climber thought he was getting lowered....belayer took him off belay and walked away.. 3rd-party (a total stranger) jumped in and grabbed the rope at the last second- saving the climber from decking when he unclipped from the anchor and leaned back. I guess it's a good lesson to all of us to communicate before we leave the ground to clean an anchor.

Be safe everyone, and again... well wishes for her speedy recovery.

Big Wall climber
Nor Nev
Oct 21, 2010 - 04:59pm PT

I just did not want to say it because I do not know him and i know that he is a very well versed climber, and from what I hear a really good person.

My point was just that this can happen to anyone not just this woman who fell. I recently was climbing with some friends in the valley and my friends wife was headed to tie in but got distracted putting on her harness. She forgot to double back. I caught it immediately and reminded her no matter what never stop putting your harness on till you have it on all the way and doubled back. The same goes for tying in.

I have this crazy thing about not talking to anyone while I am putting on my harness or they are tying in or putting on a harness. I then check them and myself before anyone leaves the ground. I was in the Gorge that day Bruce fell but in the upper gorge. I was shocked when I heard of the accident and who it was. I suspect the slab saved him as he glanced off it before he hit.

I have posted this a couple of time but I will repeat myself again.

The graph I saw on climbing accident was a real eye opener.

The first 3 years the spike was headed to the moon. Noob mistakes and stupid little things costing people their lives. After year three the spike grounded and remained flat for about 10 years. At year ten it began to shoot for the moon again. Then in year 12, 13, and 14 it declined back to a flat line.

Basically the bottom line is inexperience and then complacency are the biggest killers in our sport. Run it out a thousand times but remember it only takes one stupid mistake on ground you are well above the skill set on and your either dead or wish you were dead.

So no matter how good you are and how strong you are and no matter how many times you have done a route if your not tied in right or your harness is not finished you're either dead or very lucky like Bruce and this woman.

Cragman I look forward to climbing with you and we will make it happen but rest assured you will not be leaving the ground until I have seen your harness is doubled back and your knot is tied properly. That's what climbing partners do!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Oct 21, 2010 - 05:26pm PT
Update: she fractured parts of her spine and pelvis.
Two surgeries already done to stabilize her spine, with a 3rd today and 4th Friday or Saturday.
Prognosis is good. [Edit 10/22:] L2 level injury on one side. Will have to wait and see how this works out.

[Edit to add:] She is from the SF Bay area. I checked, and she prefers that her name not be given out at present. Her friends are still in the process of getting the word out (I just heard). She may be able to use a computer in the next week or two, and may make a post. Fortunately the information in this thread is pretty accurate, thanks to the eyewitnesses.

Big Wall climber
Nor Nev
Oct 21, 2010 - 05:30pm PT
Thats good news Clint thanks for the update. Was she a Reno local???


Mountain climber
Oct 21, 2010 - 05:51pm PT
Lucky isn't even a sufficient word. Glad she is going to be all right.
Too bad there wasn't a dog to land on like the accident in RRG the other week.

When putting on my harness and tying in I do not talk or do anything else. I solely focus on those tasks, nothing else. Learned this in my early days when I realized multi-tasking while doing these two things is a bad idea.
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