Author Topic: Accident 7/5/17  (Read 941 times)

Offline darthgator

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Accident 7/5/17
« on: July 14, 2017, 09:27:05 AM »
I was involved in a climbing accident in a remote location in Maine and my partner (Pokey) and I were able to self rescue, but in essence, my partner's skill and competence got me out of there.

Situation: We were new routing, trying to take the climb to the top.  We were on the 4th pitch which was new terrain for us both.  I climbed up some dirty, but featured face to get to a slabby ledge capped by another head wall with large spruce tree above that.  My partner and I discussed that the objective was for me to anchor at this tree to complete my pitch.  I was approximately 50' above my belayer and 15-20 above my last piece of gear (#3 camalot) with several pieces below that on the face, and about 20 feet left of last piece of gear (and belayer).  Despite understanding the runout, dirtiness, and fall potential, I opted to make the thin move (5.7-5.8ish) to a hand hold where I could subsequently tether a tree for protection.  Upon executing the move, the handhold crumbled/dislodged, resulting in me falling back and rotating counter-clockwise.

Experience: I remember falling and tumbling down the slabby ledge. I remember hitting a tree or tree scruff and being please by this as I was hopeful it would arrest my fall or at least slow me down.  Next, I remember the rap.  My partner commanding me to allow gravity to do its work as he controlled our rappel, in tandem.  We then walked out which was a slow going and painful process.  We loaded up and he drove me to health care.

I recall telling him that I thought I needed to go see a dentist as my teeth felt messed up.  My partner then declared that I was going to a hospital, not the dentist.  Initially I insisted that we go to Maine Medical Center in Portland, but eventually, with my partner's reasoning, we decided to call an ambulance and we caravaned to the nearest hospital after rendezvousing at gas station.

Injury: I sustained multiple facial injuries and a self diagnosed concussion.  Specifically, I fractured my lower jaw, cheek-bones, skull, nose, and two ribs.  I am a big advocate of wearing a helmet and am confident that it helped me, but upon subsequent inspection of my helmet, it looks unremarkable.  I am now one week out from the incident and for treatment, I have had my jaw wired shut and have pain medication.  I am told I will have my jaw wired shut for approximately for 4 weeks to let the bone set.  The good news is that I am now at sending weight as I have lost 15lbs since having my jaw wired shut.

Prevention:  This is a difficult part for me to examine, but one thing I could have done was drilled bolts for protection, but I did not want to alter the rock as I was not satisfied with the route and not confident it was 'the route.'  Ultimately, I was in a place where there was no protection or options for building an adequate anchor.  I could have retreated down and traversed back right to my last piece and built an anchor there, but I was not satisfied with that location or terminal for the pitch to end.  Moreover, I was having fun!

Lesson:  I am grateful that I was climbing with a competent, experienced, and skilled partner who was able to get us out of there as I did not have the cognition after falling to make reasonably safe decisions.  Always when new routing, climbing alpine, or in a situation where self rescue is required, climb with a partner who is competent in self rescue and has the means and knowledge to perform such a task in such area.

I am expected to make a full recovery and I believe I am already ahead of schedule.  I am thankful for my partner Pokey for getting be out alive, the support from family and friends, and the climbing community as a whole as everyone has been supportive.

Ben Smith

Offline xcrag_corex

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Re: Accident 7/5/17
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2017, 11:16:02 AM »
Glad to hear that you are expected to make a full recovery! Abbot told me about the accident. Heal up soon man!
-Jeremy Ballou

"know how to rock, ain't afraid to roll"

Offline Admin Al

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Re: Accident 7/5/17
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2017, 11:35:18 AM »
sorry you had to go through this experience Ben, but VERY glad you're going to be OK. you're a very lucky guy. sounds like you have still got a sense of humor tho, and that's a really good thing. [wry grin]
Al Hospers
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Offline tradmanclimbz

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Re: Accident 7/5/17
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2017, 06:08:38 PM »
Sorry you had the accident, Glad you will recover. Hope the recovery is fast and Full. one of the things that I do when new  routeing on lead is  i over drill the bolt holes. If I don't like it at the end of the day I can take the hanger off and pound the stud in...

Offline markvnh

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Re: Accident 7/5/17
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2017, 10:16:50 PM »

First, glad you're ok and on the mend. Thanks for sharing. But damn that's a helluva way to get into "sending" shape!


Offline Smear

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Re: Accident 7/5/17
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2017, 06:50:27 AM »
So sorry to hear of your accident.That does not sound like a fun day out!
I am happy to hear that you will make a full recovery and hope to see you out there again soon.
Take care ,
Bob Ahearn