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Smith Rock - warning - top rope belay error!

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.

On February 21, 2003, Timothy Garland (24) climbed Magic Light in the Overboard Area of Smith Rock State Park. Magic Light is a bolted route rated 5.12.b, two stars, by Alan Watts in his Climber’s Guide to Smith Rock. The lower portion is rated 5.11a and is often climbed, but the upper portion contains the real difficulties and is less frequently climbed according to Watts.

Tim easily reached the top anchors and was lowered off. He knew the rope was short and expected to be stopped to reset the top rope. Instead, he was lowered off the end of the top rope belay, falling a reported 75 to 100 feet sustaining a broken back, ribs and sternum and internal injuries according to Oregon State Park records. He was air lifted to St. Charles Hospital in Bend.

Analysis of Accident: What knowledge and techniques will help prevent future accidents?
Four months before this top rope error, a similar serious incident had occurred at Smith Rock: the belayer dropped the top roped climber about 30 feet off the end of the top rope. Typically, the belayer is concentrating on the climber being lowered, failing to mind the remaining belay rope. Sport climbers usually 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.

Smith Rock Ranger David Slaight says he now reminds climbers to always tie a simple knot near the end of the belay rope.

Additional Comments
Timothy Garland is a well liked 5.13 climber according to Redpoint Guide Jim Ablao, and is pictured in a popular climbing desk calendar. He is back climbing again, although the belayer, whose name was not released, has not climbed at Smith since the incident, according to Ranger Slaight.
--Report filed by Robert Speik for the 56th edition of ANAM to be published in 2003
Copyright© 2004 by Robert Speik. All Rights Reserved.




Read more . . .
American Alpine Club
Oregon Section of the AAC
Accidents in North American Mountaineering

Smith Rock - Fall on rock, protection pulled out
Smith Rock - WARNING - top rope belay error
Smith Rock - inadequate top rope belay
Smith Rock - climber injured on the approach
Smith Rock - WARNING - belayer drops climber off the end of the top rope
Smith Rock - novice sport climber injured
Smith Rock - fall on rock, protection pulled out
Smith Rock - fall on rock - poor position, inadequate protection
Smith Rock - pulled rock off - fall on rock, failure to test holds, exceeding abilities
Smith Rock - belay failure, fatal fall on rock

Smith Rock from above the Burma Road
Smith Rock rescue cache by AAC/ORS and TraditionalMountaineering
Smith Rock weekend
Smith Rock Monkey Face practice