On the afternoon of Friday, September 21, in the Church Bowl area of Yosemite Valley, a 23-year-old male climber and his partner decided to try the Church Bowl Tree route (5.10b). While the subject was setting up to lead the first pitch, his partner, who would be belaying the subject, noticed the subject's helmet in a rope bag. He removed the helmet from the bag and laid it on the ground near the subject to ensure he wouldn't forget to put it on. However, both of them were so focused on the climb that, as the subject started up the pitch, neither one realized he wasn't wearing his helmet.
The subject placed his first piece of protection about six feet above the ground. When he was approximately 12 feet up the pitch--and before he'd placed more protection--he lost his grip and started falling. The belayer immediately stepped backward to create as much tension on the rope as possible. When the subject was about two feet above the ground, the rope became taut. This slowed his fall, but in the process the rope entangled his leg, which flipped him upside down. He landed on his head, directly on the root of a tree, but did not lose consciousness. His climbing partner walked him to the Yosemite Medical Clinic, where medical providers treated his wound, a 3.5-cm head laceration. The subject commented to his providers, "If I had been wearing my helmet, I would have been fine."
Climber's head laceration after receiving stitches. NPS photo by Tim Yett.