A 19-year-old rock climber from Cary, N.C., died Sunday after falling more than 200 feet while trying to rappel off of a Moore’s Wall cliff in Hanging Rock State Park.
David Cook, park superintendent, said that Eric Metcalf fell to his death around 7 p.m. on Sunday at the Sentinel Buttress area of Moore’s Wall, a popular spot for rock climbers. The incident is still under investigation, but Cook said a rope-handling error by the climber may have led to the fall.
Metcalf fell around 270 feet, Cook said. According to witnesses, the accident came in two stages. Metcalf and the rest of his party hiked to the top to rappel down. Metcalf, the first to go, began to rappel down the cliff when his rope came loose and he fell to a ledge about 100 to 110 feet below. From there he rolled off the ledge and fell the rest of the way. The area below the cliff is forested.
The party of climbers used a cell phone to call 911. Cook said people are usually able to get some cell phone reception from the top of the mountain. While members of the public access the Moore’s Wall area by taking a 3/4 mile hike from the Hooker Farm Road access lot, first responders were able to drive within half a mile of the spot using a utility easement then had to hike the rest of the way.
Two park rangers were first to arrive and attempted CPR. Paramedics then arrived, and use of a defibrillator indicated no heart activity. Metcalf was pronounced dead on the scene. Rescue personnel and deputies also responded. Responders had to carry Metcalf’s body down the trail back to the parking area.
Cook said Metcalf was an experienced climber, and Moore’s Wall is an area where rock climbing and rappelling are allowed. Metcalf had a valid permit. Cook said this is the first instance he recalls where a rock climber fell to his or her death at the park.
He noted, “We have so few accidents.”
Moore’s Wall and Cook’s Wall are the two areas where climbing and rappelling are allowed at Hanging Rock State Park. Climbers must fill out a free permit and keep a copy and place one in a box at the start of the trail. The climbs are considered appropriate for experienced climbers, Cook noted.