Alabaster Rock Climber’s Fatal Fall Blamed on Failed Knot

One of the most exhilarating and arduous sports is that of rock climbing.  Rock climbing is both a physically and mentally challenging sport, one that tests a climber’s endurance, agility, strength and balance.  A rock climber needs to have knowledge of proper climbing techniques and also the usage of climbing equipment to be safe in this strenuous sport. 

Last year in Virginia, unfortunately, one rock climber’s equipment failure led to his falling to his death near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The National Park Service has said in a report that a knot failure caused the death of Jonathan Sullivan of Alabaster, Alabama.  The twenty-two year old man was ascending the cliff face at the Raven’s Roost overlook, when he fell approximately eighty feet on June 15, 2011.  The National Park report says that the nonstandard knot, which is called a hitch/wrap knot, was weak, and that because  there was not a backup to handle the load if any portion of the rope climbing system failed, when the knot did fail, Sullivan had no backup and fell to his death.

The American Alpine Club keeps statistics on rock climbing and mountaineering accidents annually.  However, since they are in the middle of digitizing their catalogs, the most recent data available is that from 2005.  In 2005, 111 rock climbing accidents were reported in the United States.  In those accidents there were 34 fatalities. 

Whenever anyone rock climbs, safety needs to be the number one concern.  Whether you are an experienced rock climber or a new climber, safety checks need to be made before you leave the ground.  The safety checks ensure that knots are tied properly, that buckles are backed up , and that the lockers are locked.  The ten or fifteen minutes it takes to perform a safety check, can be the time best spent … when it saves a climber from injury or death.