Fatality on Moonlight Buttress

May 14, 2016 Posted by: Zion National Park

On the afternoon of March 9, 2016 two climbers on the Moonlight Buttress Route saw an individual fall from above them. The climbers stopped, descended the route and reported the incident to Dispatch. Rangers investigated and located the body of a male at the base of the climb. This individual was wearing a harness, climbing shoes and had a closed grigri belay device on the belay loop of his harness. According to guidebooks the Moonlight Buttress Route is about 1000 feet tall and anywhere from 9 to 11 pitches depending on what belay anchors are used. The investigation found that the climber had fixed a 70 meter rope to the top anchor on the climb, rappelled to the next anchor down and fixed the rope again there. It is common practice to fix the upper pitches of Moonlight Buttress in order to practice free climbing the upper pitches;it is likely that this is what the subject was planning on doing.

While the cause for the fall will never be known, the investigation showed that there was no knot tied in the end of the rope. There also did not appear to be any kind of back-up such as a prussic or short tie-in involved. A knot at the end of the rope on long rappels, especially where it is known that the rope does not reach the ground, adds a safety backup and may prevent a person from rappelling off the end of their rope. Another safety mechanism such as a prussic above or below a rappel device can also provide a competent backup.

Search and Rescue, Fatality, Fall, climbing

Last updated: May 14, 2016

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