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First time witnessing accident. A change in perspective.
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By Paul Wilhelmsen
From sandy, ut
Jan 3, 2013
Just me with the waterfront behind me. Ice the size of golfballs kept falling down the Waterfront like clockwork while we climbed next to it. Super nice day <br />

I've been climbing for only 2 years; a newbie to most in this forum. Watched my first serious fall in a gym in Salt Lake City on New Year's day. I didn't post this in accidents and injuries because from what I saw and heard it appears to be a tie-in error, and that has been discussed at length, and there would likely be nothing productive from another 'gym accident' post. Mostly, I wanted to point out to the lucky 'non-initiated' newbies like myself (until recently) that understanding your sport is dangerous intellectually and witnessing a serious accident (free-fall of forty feet to mat) are two different animals all-together.
I thought myself inured to falls; from games, mountain project posts, movies and the occasional twisted ankle I've seen in real life at the crags; but I was wrong. I write this on my second night losing a little sleep because I can't stop thinking about the poor dude that decked on a warm-up climb and how that could be anyone. I don't have any idea how many runs i've done without triple-checking my knot. Probably only one less than the climber that decked.
Best wishes to the guy that fell!


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By Doug Hemken
Administrator
Jan 3, 2013
On Everleigh Club Crack.  Photo by Burt Lindquist.

Setting aside the "it could never happen to me" attitude is the first step on the road to real knowledge, and even a little wisdom.

And the good news is, once you've started thinking about how it really could happen to you, you realize there is a LOT you can do to lower the risk to an acceptable level.


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By wankel7
From Indiana
Jan 3, 2013

I got dropped about 25 feet at a gym and landed on my friends head... Not sure what she did but she dropped me and she was the one that got hurt.

I am pretty neutral on the event and I climbed the very next day. However it did have an impact on me for a while trusting new people on belay and when I weight the rope to be lowered.

I will never forget how fast I fell. It was the blink of an eye she and I were on the padding with her visibility in pain.

Was the guy you witnessed ok?

James


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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Jan 3, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

Late March of last year I saw a buddy of mine damn near break his entire foot off the end of his leg in a short, simple, low FF lead fall.

There were several contributing factors. The angle of the fall because of the right to left traverse of the route, the belayer was anchored in statically, as the climber was 50+ lbs heavier, and how his foot struck the rock.

The fall was about 8ft max, and all of his gear held- and the belayer caught the fall properly.

The only thing that could have been done differently is anchoring the belayer with the end of the dynamic rope so that there would be some give to the belay, but still have the belayer tethered. This was all single pitch from the ground.

Witnessing someone screw something up (like tying in, or not being attentive and/or properly belaying) and get injured is bad enough. When you get injured or watch someone get injured pretty severely knowing that there is little that could have been done to prevent it, that can throw you for a loop. It really wakes you up to the inherent dangers of what we love to do and that no scenario is completely void of potential for injury. But it's not necessarily a bad thing. Awareness will keep you diligent and vigilant. You can't let it own your head though. It took me a couple weeks after seeing that injury to be comfortable above gear or a bolt again- even on routes I knew to be well within my ability.


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By Wade J.
From Boulder, CO
Jan 3, 2013
winter aid climbing

Jake Jones wrote:
Witnessing someone screw something up (like tying in, or not being attentive and/or properly belaying) and get injured is bad enough. When you get injured or watch someone get injured pretty severely knowing that there is little that could have been done to prevent it, that can throw you for a loop.


Jake, thats for sure. It's scary when the system fails you.

I saw a guy fall while bouldering at the gym recently. Nothing special about it except his elbow hit right on the seam where the two pads meet. The impact was enough that his elbow hit the floor. I later heard that it broke in two places. I feel bad for the guy, who would have thought they would break their arm bouldering in a gym?


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By Ben Brotelho
From Albany, NY
Jan 3, 2013
Epic free solo with a pack on

Me and two buddies were ice climbing at Chapel Pond Canyon in the Adirondacks. My one friend was leading while my other one belayed...I was tooling around taking pictures of things and staying clear of falling ice.

There wasn't an abnormal amount of falling ice from my buddy leading the pitch (Crystal Ice Tower), but some sizable chunks as can be expected. My friend belaying happened to look up at the wrong time to ensure that a torrent of falling ice had stopped, and he get his lip sliced open pretty badly by a chunk.

I took over the belay, and lowered the leader when he finished the pitch. We took my friend to the emergency room and he had to get a lot of stitches to sew his lip up. I watched the thing hit him right in the lip (I wish I had been ready with the camera!!!!), and it is terrifying how close it came to hitting him in the eye or the forehead where it could have done more significant damage.

He healed up pretty well in about a week, but the entire event made me reflect on how random things can happen while climbing, and to never let your guard down. To be honest though, I had the same epiphany to a much higher level a week ago when I came very close to hitting a huge deer while driving at night...sheer luck kept me from hitting it. Life's a turbulent place dude!


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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Jan 3, 2013
Stabby

A young lady who works at my gym just had her ankle all torn up from landing between the seams at the Spot. I don't understand how these pad seams are not covered up by a solid membrane. Think the floor routine mats in gymnastics. But then I never go there or gym boulder, ever; so perhaps I am missing something.


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By Healyje
Jan 3, 2013
girl40

The widespread introduction of climbing gyms in urban areas combined with the increasing presence of climbing in popular media has resulted in a shift in social perception from that of climbing being an odd high-risk activity to that of it being just another risk-free, suburban pop-entertainment option. As a result, climbing now shares a lot in common with driving where our [societal and individual] familiarity with doing it overwhelms any type of continual concerns around traveling at speeds which can crumple auto and human bodies in an instant and with ease. A similar 'delusion' exists in climbing relative to gravity.

Both speed and gravity kill and maim and do so at the first hint of opportunity - the idea that driving or climbing are 'safe' is a convenient social delusion and one which comes at a collective annual price and toll. Our collective behavior in both activities is not at all unlike that of natural schooling / flocking behavior in that your goal in both is to not be one of the individuals in the school or flock which ends up with the statistical short straw. Or, to reprise a Devils Lake quote from back in the day:

Place thy protection well, lest the ground rise up and smite thee

And even if you do, there are no guarantees - turn the key on in your car or leave the ground and you can't avoid assuming an element of gambling in the process. The name of the game is don't buy into any delusions of 'safe' and minimize your risk exposure at all times and in all circumstances - you drop your guard at your peril. Climb or don't climb, but don't climb thinking it's 'safe', because it isn't (oh, and climbing being 'safe' isn't what it should be about either - climbing isn't, you should be.).


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By Eric D
From Gnarnia
Jan 3, 2013
Born again on the last move of the Red Dihedral, high Sierras.

I know how you feel. Seeing accidents rather than reading books and forums about them changes everything. We play a game of probability - we can play the odds and scratch by a couple of times but the longer we climb, the longer the game of probability will catch up to us. A 1% risk of getting hurt usually turns out fine the first few times but starts to change after 50 times. Be safe out there.


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By Guy Keesee
From Moorpark, CA
Jan 3, 2013
Big Boulder, just a bit downhill from Temple of Kali. Alabama Hills, CA.

Healyie..... excellent post.


It is good that nobody died...

But Paul, you were their so I must ask you.

What knot was used?


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By Glenn Schuler
From Monument, Co.
Jan 3, 2013
A grey fox skull wedged in a crack 100' up on a FA I was working on - don't see that every day...

Guy Keesee wrote:
What knot was used?


D'oh...here we go again


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By mission
Jan 3, 2013

Jake Jones wrote:
Late March of last year I saw a buddy of mine damn near break his entire foot off the end of his leg in a short, simple, low FF lead fall. There were several contributing factors. The angle of the fall because of the right to left traverse of the route, the belayer was anchored in statically, as the climber was 50+ lbs heavier, and how his foot struck the rock. The fall was about 8ft max, and all of his gear held- and the belayer caught the fall properly. The only thing that could have been done differently is anchoring the belayer with the end of the dynamic rope so that there would be some give to the belay, but still have the belayer tethered. This was all single pitch from the ground. Witnessing someone screw something up (like tying in, or not being attentive and/or properly belaying) and get injured is bad enough. When you get injured or watch someone get injured pretty severely knowing that there is little that could have been done to prevent it, that can throw you for a loop.


Jake, this is not a good system being operated correctly! Soft catches are important; if the weight difference between climbing partners is great enough that they feel the need to anchor, the climbing partners should strongly consider not being climbing partners. Unless the climber was going to hit a ledge below him, it seems likely that a dynamic belay would have made this fall much less problematic.


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By Paul Wilhelmsen
From sandy, ut
Jan 3, 2013
Just me with the waterfront behind me. Ice the size of golfballs kept falling down the Waterfront like clockwork while we climbed next to it. Super nice day <br />

Guy, it was a top-rope route, and at my gym all the top-ropes have the first half of a figure 8 left in them, so you can just walk up and retrace it through your harness and be ready to go. So I would say that chances are really high that it was a retraced figure 8 done wrong. I did witness the accident from the mezzanine, I was running on a treadmill watching him climb, but wasn't crowding around him when the EMTs came and moved him, so the possibility exists that he tied some other knot and I didn't see it, but I find it unlikely.


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By MJMobes
From The land of steady habits
Jan 3, 2013
modern man



"The widespread introduction of climbing gyms in urban areas combined with the increasing presence of climbing in popular media has resulted in a shift in social perception from that of climbing being an odd high-risk activity to that of it being just another risk-free, suburban pop-entertainment option.

As a result, climbing now shares a lot in common with driving where our [societal and individual] familiarity with doing it overwhelms any type of continual concerns around traveling at speeds which can crumple auto and human bodies in an instant and with ease. A similar 'delusion' exists in climbing relative to gravity. Both speed and gravity kill and maim and do so at the first hint of opportunity - the idea that driving or climbing are 'safe' is a convenient social delusion and one which comes at a collective annual price and toll. Our collective behavior in both activities is not at all unlike that of natural schooling / flocking behavior in that your goal in both is to not be one of the individuals in the school or flock which ends up with the statistical short straw. Or, to reprise a Devils Lake quote from back in the day: Place thy protection well, lest the ground rise up and smite thee And even if you do, there are no guarantees - turn the key on in your car or leave the ground and you can't avoid assuming an element of gambling in the process. The name of the game is don't buy into any delusions of 'safe' and minimize your risk exposure at all times and in all circumstances - you drop your guard at your peril. Climb or don't climb, but don't climb thinking it's 'safe', because it isn't (oh, and climbing being 'safe' isn't what it should be about either - climbing isn't, you should be.). " -Healyje



I agree with the lower part but I dont see it as a result of the highlighted beginning. Its been this way since before gyms and media.


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By Healyje
Jan 3, 2013
girl40

TRmasta wrote:
I agree with the lower part but I dont see it as a result of the highlighted beginning. Its been this way since before gyms and media.


I would disagree. The fact climbing is dangerous hasn't changed, but the widespread perception it is somehow a 'safe' activity did not exist before gyms and media.


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By Kilroywashere!
From Harrisonburg, Virginia
Jan 3, 2013
Kilroy

I was involved in a little incident while doing an approach to seneca. was about to tie in and somehow passed out(blood sugar/exhaustion issues) ended up rolling about 40-50' unconscious down cardiac hill(lots of trees, rocks and other shit to hit) with a nice little 7-10' drop at the end. ended up taking an ambulance out of there(was able to walk down to it after a complete workover and Focuses Spine Assessment by my partner who was also a wfr) but yeah man, it messes with you...you just have to remember, its a dangerous sport. let it be a lesson to you to double, triple, or even quadruple check your knot harnesses, belay devices, ect.

shit happens, its how we learn.


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By Bang
From Charlottesville, VA
Jan 3, 2013
Thanks Hank Caylor!

Kilroywashere! wrote:
shit happens, its how we learn.


Only if we are lucky enough to have a 2nd chance to learn it. Climb safe!


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Jan 3, 2013
At the BRC

Guy Keesee wrote:
But Paul, you were their so I must ask you.


Are you really the kind of guy that thinks it's funny to make a joke out of somebody's accident? Both this thread and the Mr Meanor one?


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By SMR
Jan 3, 2013

Although, I was not there, I personally know the climber and am getting updates. He is recovering after surgery for an L1 fracture plus will need more surgery for his fractured calcaneous and dislocated shoulder. He should make a full recovery.

Although he has been a climber for a very long time and is a safe climber, mistakes can happen and this is an unfortunate reminder of how easy it can be.

Climb safe everyone! Triple check your knot before getting off the ground, plus as the belayer do the same for your climber.


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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Jan 3, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

mission wrote:
Jake, this is not a good system being operated correctly! Soft catches are important; if the weight difference between climbing partners is great enough that they feel the need to anchor, the climbing partners should strongly consider not being climbing partners. Unless the climber was going to hit a ledge below him, it seems likely that a dynamic belay would have made this fall much less problematic.


I'm aware of that. My suggestion at the time was the same as yours and was summarily dismissed. You're preaching to the choir. I agree with you. My point was that other than that, no gear pulled, the belayer didn't drop him, no knot failed, etc. Even with a static belay, which still has some give (albeit not enough to drastically reduce impact), you don't expect to have your foot almost entirely broken off of your ankle with your entire talus showing and your foot hanging on by nerves, your soleus, and your achilles. Especially not with 60-70ft of rope out and only 4ft or so above the last piece.

There are those that still insist on static belays, or the belayer ALWAYS being anchored in. I am not a proponent of this philosophy. Quite the opposite- especially if it's single pitch from the ground.


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By Paul Wilhelmsen
From sandy, ut
Jan 3, 2013
Just me with the waterfront behind me. Ice the size of golfballs kept falling down the Waterfront like clockwork while we climbed next to it. Super nice day <br />

Thanks for the update SMR, I'm really glad to hear he'll make a recovery, that was a wicked fall.


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By Doug Hemken
Administrator
Jan 3, 2013
On Everleigh Club Crack.  Photo by Burt Lindquist.

Paul, if you have been losing sleep it might help you (and the climber) to make contact with the climber. Express your concern and relief that he is still alive and in one piece. Trauma like that is deeply emotional to everyone around, and it helps to acknowledge it to get past it.

Healye, I think the perceived safety of gyms and sport climbing has caused their popularity, not vice versa. And if you just focus on the most dramatic trauma - death - that perception is not totally unjustified. It's not like the guy in the story here *usually* climbs gym walls with an inadequate knot, its just that we all make mistakes eventually.

I often think of the climbers eschewing roping up on the glacier because they had avalanche beacons. Now there was a case of perception being truly out of whack with reality in a trad climbing environment!

I think the whole business tells us a lot about how humans judge risks and uncertainties, and how we typically go about trying to manage them.


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By Brian in SLC
Jan 3, 2013
Climbing in Smuggler's Notch

Paul Wilhelmsen wrote:
Guy, it was a top-rope route, and at my gym all the top-ropes have the first half of a figure 8 left in them, so you can just walk up and retrace it through your harness and be ready to go. So I would say that chances are really high that it was a retraced figure 8 done wrong. I did witness the accident from the mezzanine, I was running on a treadmill watching him climb, but wasn't crowding around him when the EMTs came and moved him, so the possibility exists that he tied some other knot and I didn't see it, but I find it unlikely.


He's a long time (and quite talented) climber and friend to quite a number of folks in SLC (me included). Long time fan of the double bowline, not that it matters which knot you fail to finish.

Long road ahead for him. Best wishes!

Sorry you witnessed that. Double check your partner!


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By Guy Keesee
From Moorpark, CA
Jan 3, 2013
Big Boulder, just a bit downhill from Temple of Kali. Alabama Hills, CA.

Mr. Mark... Respectfully. I am not making jokes about these accidents.
I have been climbing for many many years, going back to the beginning of time, climbers have always had a love-hate relationship with who/how/why somebody gets the chop.
This is how WE have learned just works and what does not work.

I mean do any of you guys in MP land remember Jim Madson? How he died and why? .... Stupid rap deal gone wrong. Now we are all much safer because of just what went down.

Do you guys back up and tie in whilst Jumaring???

A nice fellow had to die for US to start doing that.

I could go on for a few hours but that would be pointless.

I hope the injured party heals up soon and I hope all of you....esp Mr. Mark thinks about just what can happen if you do something wrong.


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By rging
From Salt Lake City, Ut
Jan 3, 2013
CoR

Just because you are the one standing on the ground doesn't mean you can't get hurt.


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By SMR
Jan 3, 2013

The report that I heard is he didn't finish the figure 8 knot.
Momentum doesn't allow bowlines, so most climbers abide by the Momentum rule.
In life, we all face the odds of being in imperfect systems. In a lifetime of climbing, we will ties 1000s, maybe 10,000 knots and there is always a chance of error. As the number of climbers expand, the probability of injuries increases in the population. As climbers, we have to evaluate this risk for ourselves and decide what we want to have. But remember, we each get into a car everyday and take the risk of driving somewhere; although that behavior, too, can lead to injury or death.

Anyways, be safe in 2013.


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