Friday, November 03, 2006

Yosemite National Park (CA)
Follow-up On Fatal Climbing Fall

On the afternoon of October 23rd, dispatch received a telephone call reporting a fatal climbing fall. Jim Hewitt reported that he and his partner, well-known climber Todd Skinner, had been working on a first free ascent of the "Jesus Built My Hotrod" route on the overhanging west face of the Leaning Tower. Skinner's fall occurred when he was rappelling. Hewitt told investigators that he had been above Skinner when he fell. As he was rappelling on the low-stretch ropes that they had fixed on the route, Hewitt came to Skinner's Grigri descent device on the rope at the point where he'd fallen. The Grigri had a still-locked carabiner attached which had been connected to Skinner's harness. When Skinner's body was recovered, the belay loop on his harness was missing. The next day, rangers recovered a broken harness belay loop in vegetation at the base of the wall. It was very worn at the spot where the break had occurred. Hewitt later told investigators that Skinner was aware that the belay loop on his harness was in a weakened condition prior to the climb, and that they had talked about its poor condition three days earlier. [Submitted by Keith Lober, Emergency Services Coordinator]

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