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Bad Couple of Days on Longs Peak
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By Christian Mason
From Arvada, CO
Sep 21, 2013
Dragon's Tongue - Vail, Co.

I don't have a lot to add to this stagnant thread, but I thought that (as the injured climber) I should post.

One of the hardest things for me has been not knowing what caused the accident. A falling rock knocking me out seems like the most logical explanation, but I really have no idea. I had always thought of myself as a safe and reasonably conservative alpine climber.

I remember swapping leads with my partner about two thirds of the way up the North Chimney. I remember placing the #1 Camalot that I fell on and continuing up around 20 feet to another ledge. The rock quality was pretty poor there, and after looking at the potential fall I started looking for something solid enough to place reliable gear. That's my last clear memory. I can remember bits and pieces of the next three days, but it's very disjointed.

I ended up with two skull fractures, six broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken left scapula, a broken neck (fracture of c1-2) and broken back (t5 and t6).
Amazingly, I don't appear to have any nerve damage. While I'll have a fairly long recovery, I should be able to recover more or less fully.

I really appreciate a fantastic response from the people around me. I think the outcome probably would have been very different had a bunch of factors not lined up in my favor (NPS personal on scene on longs already, knowledgeable first responders climbing near me, etc..)

I'm happy to answer any questions that I can.


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By Mark Pilate
Sep 21, 2013

I think everyone is just happy as hell that you are going to recover and climb again. Best of luck!


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By Norse Force
From Front Range CO
Sep 21, 2013

Glad to hear you will recover Christian.


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By Justin Tomlinson
From Monrovia, CA
Sep 22, 2013
Summit of Mt. Langley

Wishing you a speedy recovery and cheers you will pull through.


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By David Appelhans
From Lafayette
Sep 22, 2013
Imaginate

Christian, out of curiosity were you simulclimbing or pitching it out? And had you climbed the north Chimney before?


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By Christian Mason
From Arvada, CO
Sep 22, 2013
Dragon's Tongue - Vail, Co.

David Appelhans wrote:
Christian, out of curiosity were you simulclimbing or pitching it out? And had you climbed the north Chimney before?


We started simulclimbing with my partner in the lead. Around two thirds of the way up the chimneys he put in a belay because the rope drag was getting really bad.

I swung leads past him, the plan was for him to belay me until the rope came tight, then pull the anchor and climb with me until we reached Broadway.

I'm normally comfortable soloing easy fifth class. We elected to simulclimb because of the lose rock. I generally feel like choss deserves a rope and a belay.

I hadn't climbed the North Chimney before.
I've climbed some winter mixed routes on Longs before, but this was my first attempt on the Diamond.


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By KevinK
Sep 22, 2013

Christian, I'm glad you are recovering nicely but I'm astonished by the $400k medical bill that you have racked up. Is this going to be paid for by your medical insurance or is this in addition to whatever your insurance policy covers? Do you not have medical insurance? Are they not covering this accident?


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By Christian Mason
From Arvada, CO
Sep 22, 2013
Dragon's Tongue - Vail, Co.

I didn't have medical insurance, but my understanding is that a lot of policies don't cover rock climbing or "adventure sports".

I moved out here (leaving a stable university job) a few years ago and started over as a freelancer. Since I'm a contractor I don't have health insurance through my work.

I'd been planning on getting a high deductible plan for precisely this type of catastrophic accident. With the Colorado exchange opening on October 1st, I decided to wait until then. Obviously this was a huge mistake, and one I accept responsibility for.

The hospital has worked with us a little bit and now the bill is looking more like 275-300K.
My fiance started a support fund. She also posts updates on these semi often. Here are two links:
Give Forward
You Caring

On another note, I've been completely blown away by all the people that have helped. I didn't really expect the support (both emotional and financial) that I've received. At the risk of sounding cheesy, if there's a positive side to this accident, it's been that it's really changed my opinion of people for the better.





KevinK wrote:
Christian, I'm glad you are recovering nicely but I'm astonished by the $400k medical bill that you have racked up. Is this going to be paid for by your medical insurance or is this in addition to whatever your insurance policy covers? Do you not have medical insurance? Are they not covering this accident?


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By JPVallone
Sep 22, 2013

Tank Evans wrote:
nicelegs, The North Chimney is totally safe on its own, other parties make it dangerous. If you have to rope up in the NC, don't climb the Diamond. A rope endangers everyone below you because a) it directly dislodges rocks, b) you don't pay as much attention to what you are doing because you perceive that you are "safe", and c) you often climb the shitty chossy right side of the chimney to be able to get gear placements. Please just wait until you are comfortable soloing before attempting the Diamond, most parties that rope up in the NC just end up bailing anyways because they are to slow. Practice soloing the 1st flatiron, if you can do this comfortably you can solo the NC.



I can pitch the North Chimney out with a partner faster then I can solo it with a partner. The rope doesn't slow me down, In fact it speeds things up in that situation for me. If you think that all the things you claim are dangerous about using a rope in the NC are true, then I might speculate that your rope management skills and technical systems could use some work.

If folks are gonna simul climb in the NC with a running belay, I really don't think that is a bad thing, but IMO the terrain is not the place to stretch out your rope and be 60meters apart. Just not the right application in that terrain to be that far apart for so many reasons.


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By pfwein
Sep 22, 2013

Glad you're recovering well. Not to derail this too much, but I think the below may be a bit of an urban legend. I've had to buy my own health insurance for many years, have a policy through Kaiser, had a few claims related to climbing accidents and injuries--no problems.
You may be able to find some policies that don't cover climbing accidents--obviously don't get such a policy if you're a climber!

(I don't necessarily recommend Kaiser, for other reasons).

Christian Mason wrote:
I didn't have medical insurance, but my understanding is that a lot of policies don't cover rock climbing or "adventure sports".


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By Christian Mason
From Arvada, CO
Sep 22, 2013
Dragon's Tongue - Vail, Co.

JPVallone wrote:
I can pitch the North Chimney out with a partner faster then I can solo it with a partner. The rope doesn't slow me down, In fact it speeds things up in that situation for me. If you think that all the things you claim are dangerous about using a rope in the NC are true, then I might speculate that your rope management skills and technical systems could use some work. If folks are gonna simul climb in the NC with a running belay, I really don't think that is a bad thing, but IMO the terrain is not the place to stretch out your rope and be 60meters apart. Just not the right application in that terrain to be that far apart for so many reasons.


That's absolutely correct. We should have shortened the rope here. If we'd done this, I suspect the rope drag never would have become unmanageable.


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