ROCK CLIMBING 2 January 2009 – Fatal fall/rope cut, Pierce’s Pass, Blue Mountains, NSW

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Jan 4, 2009, 8:53:09 PM1/4/09
to Australian Accident Register
ROCK CLIMBING 2 January 2009 – Fatal fall, Pierce’s Pass, Blue
Mountains, NSW

A 24 year old Sydney man, Nick Kaczorowski died after falling from a
route at Pierce’s Pass in the Grose Valley late on the morning of
Friday 2nd January. The man was lead climbing the route Bunny Buckets
(a multi-pitch grade 18) with a male climbing partner when the pair
got off-route near the fifth pitch and began following a line of new-
looking bolts to the right of the original Bunny Buckets route. This
line of new-looking bolts – expansion bolts with fixed hangers – is
probably a new un-finished route or “project”. Nearby climbers told
the AAR that they believed the pair (and a second pair of climbers
following closely) thought they were still climbing Bunny Buckets.
Part way up this line of bolts the two climbers stopped and improvised
a belay (using a single bolt) on a small ledge. Mr Kaczorowski started
to lead the next section, clipped into the first expansion bolt and
was attempting to clip the second bolt. At this time the nut and fixed
hanger became detached from the expansion bolt (leaving the threaded
stud remaining in the rock) and he fell past the ledge and his
belayer. At this time his rope ran through and was completely cut by a
sharp V-shaped notch of ironstone (a hard rock intrusion sometimes
present in Blue Mountains sandstone). The rope was slightly aged, a
little faded but not noticeably furry or worn looking. No longer
connected to the belay the man fell more than 150m to the base of the
cliff. Nearby climbers raised the alarm and helped the man’s climbing
partner to safety. The man was pronounced dead by ambulance paramedics
later that day. His body was recovered by police officers and the
police helicopter around 11am on the 3rd January.

Editor comments

Expansion bolts are generally not advised for use as permanent
fixtures in Blue Mountains sandstone climbs. They are prone to working
loose over time, perform poorly under tension (pull out force) and the
nuts usually need tightening before use. Expansion bolts are often
used by those establishing a new climb as a temporary measure before
more appropriate bolts are placed.

Climbs in the Grose Valley are often long and have a higher level of
hazards such as loose rock, difficult access and remoteness compared
to other more popular cliffs in the Blue Mountains. Route finding is
often difficult.

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