Dangerous Rockfall ! Why is the rock wall going out?

Moab is dominated by sandstone

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Ei Capitan has appeared on large-scale rockfall. In 2017, Yosemite National Park suffered a massive drop in two days, killing at least one person and injuring two others. Back in 2013, two climbers died in a week due to small-scale rockfall. Both are caused by Ei Capitan. In the face of falling rocks, as a rock climbing enthusiast, we should be more alert. Security issues will always be the most important problem we face. Before enjoying the fun climbing, we need to understand what geological formations and rock conditions are suitable for climbing, as well as safety protection during the climb.


El Capitan

The cause of rockfall


There are two essential conditions for rockfall: steep rock walls and rock fragments. For the rock climber, the steep rock wall is not only inevitable but the pursuit of the climbers. So the key to avoiding rockfall is to choose a route that will not produce rock fragments.


Whether the rock wall is prone to rock fragments depends on the geological structure of the rock mass and the external environment. Air and water are the main external conditions that cause weathering and stripping of rocks. Rock fragments are easy to produce in the environment of long-term exposure to air circulation, surface water or groundwater.



Moab is dominated by sandstone

Moab is dominated by sandstone



Relatively speaking, hard basalt, granite, metamorphic rocks (such as marble) are not easily weathered under the same conditions. The possibility of falling rocks is less likely.

  • If the rock mass contains unconformity surfaces, that is, rocks of different types or different ages in the rock mass have obvious interfaces, the rocks on both sides of the unconformity surface are easily stripped to produce rock fragments.



Conglomerate and marble interface

Conglomerate and marble interface


  • Animal or plant activities may also produce rock fragments. Burrowing animals (such as hares) may use the cracks in the rock to make nests, thereby increasing the crack and finally cracking the rock.
  • The root cause of plants is also a cause of rock fragments. If the area where the rock mass is located is abundant, it may promote the rooting and germination of the plant in the rock mass. As the plants grow, their roots are deeper and deeper in the rock gap. In the end, the rock may be cracked and rock fragments are created.
  • Natural climate changes accelerate the fragmentation of rocks. The weather turns cold, and the thermal expansion and contraction of the rock will also cause fragmentation of some rocks. Rock masses that are cold and abundant in water are also prone to debris.



Natural climate change accelerates fragmentation of rocks
Page from geographyclassroom2014.weebly.com
  • Chemical weathering can also produce rock fragments.

For the sake of safety,  rock climbers need to be careful to avoid the rockfall area.


rock climbers

Baite Rigging teaches you how to deal with  rockfall


Rock climbers can start with the following five points to avoid rockfall effectively.


  • Do your homework before climbing and fully understand the climbing route. Understand the basic structure of the rock mass, avoid climbing the rock mass that is very easy to produce gravel.
  • Choose the right time and try to avoid climbing during the season change. Test the stability of the rock before the official climb and identify the location of the loose rock. Try to avoid using these loose rock points during the climbing process. If you have to use it, be sure to apply a vertical downward force to the problem rock. Never apply horizontal force to pull the rock out.
  • Familiar with the use of climbing equipment. How to tie the ropes more securely and how the equipment is safer to use.
  • Tap the rock points with uncertain safety and judge whether they are hollow from the sound. Hollow rocks tend to make a crisp sound. Solid rocks make a dull sound, even without sound. Hollow rocks are easily broken under external force and should be avoided.
  • Always pay attention to the position of the protection rope, whether it is rising or falling. Sometimes the movement of the rope or the external force exerted on the rock can also cause gravel or falling rocks.


It should be pointed out that falling rocks are a very common natural phenomenon. Yosemite National Park has an average of more than 80 large-scale rockfalls recorded every year. The small-scale rockfall that not recorded is countless. For wild rock climbers, in addition to avoiding falling rocks and doing preventive work, learning how to deal with falling rocks in climbing is also an important part of ensuring safety.


Once the rock falls during the climbing process, the first thing the climber must do is to control his body and emotions. Adjust your breathing and calmly judge your condition. At the same time, fix yourself to the wall with any tool available, and observe the position and condition of the companion.


You can carry your mobile phone with you when you are climbing, so you can call the police in case of unexpected situations. It is also a good way to carry a walkie-talkie. Use the walkie-talkie to find other available stations for help. If you don’t have a mobile phone or walkie-talkie with you, you can call for help. Wave colorful clothing or use a flashlight to help rescuers quickly locate their location for rescue.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *