incident at Gory Hole

ACA 1973 page 8
31st Mar 1973
Gory Hole
Incident type
Difficulty on rope
Primary cause
Used wrong rope
Secondary cause
Rappelled off end
Group type
Group size
Aid type
Surface aid
Incident flags
Data status

Injured cavers

Name Age Sex Injuries Injured areas
Cox, Terry Not recorded Male Fracture Vertebrae, wrist, ankle

Incident report

Saturday, 31 March 1973 Four Bloomington, Indiana, cavers, Bob Karne, Dave DesMarais, Shirley DesMarais, and Terry Cox. visited Gory Hole to take pictures for the 1973 NSS Convention Guidebook. "The entrance pit was rigged with one rope to the floor, a drop of 140 feet. Another drop, approximately 100 feet was rigged off a ledge 15 feet down and dropped to a large ledge about 30 feet off the floor. This was done to have a good photographic point on the opposite side of the pit room from the main rope and off the floor. "Various pictures were taken of Terry Cox on the main line by Dave on the ledge. After Terry reached the top, Dave rappelled on down from the ledge to the bottom to photograph from there. Dave then asked Terry to descend the ledge rope to give lighting of climbers from the ledge. Terry did this and stationed himself on the ledge 30 feet off the floor. "After these pictures were taken, Terry asked if the rope was on the floor. He was given an affirmative from below and rigged into the line he had come down on and not the one to the floor. This rope passed the ledge for only 5 to 10 feet and he fell the rest |of the way after rappelling off the end. "Terry landed on his side and he immediately supposed he had broken his wrist and ankle, and he had sharp pains in his lower back. With aid in balancing. he stood and walked to a drier place to await rescue." (Steele) Within two hours after the fall, six cavers were starting to rig rescue ropes. Cox was placed in a Reeves stretcher and pulled up in a horizontal position by people on the surface. The pulling was done by fastening Jumars to the rope and walking away from the pulley rigged across the entrance. Cox was taken by automobile to the hospital. He suffered a cracked vertebrae in his lower back, a fractured left wrist. and a badly sprained ankle. He stayed in the hospital for 3 weeks and was in an upper torso cast for another 3 weeks.


"Terry Cox is an experienced caver with much vertical training. His accident was caused by human error in rappelling on the wrong rope. This could have been avoided by having a knot in the bottom of the rope. Knots should be on the ends of all ropes." (Steele)

Even the precaution of a knot in the end of a rope is not foolproof. At least one mountaineer has fallen to his death after knots passed through his brake-bar rig. Some cavers tie any bulky knot such as multiple figure-eight knots; however a bowline is recommended because it provides a foothold which the caver can use while changing over to his ascending system.

Sources: Report by William Steele.


Shofstall, Don. (1973) "Accidents do Happen.` Petroglyph. Vol. 10. No. 1.
pp. 6-7


3 weeks in hospital, 3 weeks in upper torso cast. Petroblyph Vol10 No1 p6.

This record was last updated on 18th Nov 2023 at 00:30 UTC.