General > Epics and Accidents

Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14

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On Saturday around 2 PM, myself and my partner were hiking up to the Smear/Pegasus area after a few laps on Dracula. We encountered two climbers making a slow descent down the trail. One (male, age 25-35?) was clearly suffering from a leg injury and was unable to bear weight on the right leg. We asked if they needed help, and the partner indicated that they did. The injured climber had his right boot open with some snow stuffed in. He reported having taken a lead fall on the Hobbit Couloir and caught an inside crampon point on his right foot. We met them at location where the Smear trail splits off left. The climber continued to glissade slowly down to the RR tracks. Once we arrived at the tracks, we had the climber sit on an Ikea bag (our rope bag) and rigged a cord under the climber's arms to my harness. We dragged the climber out via the railroad tracks until we were met by another pair, incidentally the injured climber's wife and a partner. After we got him into the car, they took him to the hospital for an x-ray. At this point we were no longer involved.

We have heard through shared connections that he was diagnosed with a medial malleolus fracture in the tibia, consistent with the climber's report that he caught an inside crampon point in the fall. I cannot attest to the climber's experience level, and I will allow the injured party to self-identify if he chooses to chime in.

I did make a potentially serious error in failing to thoroughly evaluate the injured climber before continuing to assist in the rescue. I accepted his statement that only his ankle was injured when I probably should have made at least a quick evaluation for a head or neck injury before carrying out a drag. We opted not to go get the rescue litter because the snow conditions and slick Ikea bag for a seat made the drag-out very easy. Fortunately, the climber did not have any other injuries, but in hindsight we should have checked him out before we started. Lesson learned.

Chris Drover

Kudos Chris for getting involved and helping out. And it's probably somewhat natural to "beat yourself up" in hindsight. I did the same thing years ago after a rescue - actually after two rescues (both that we came upon).

I suppose being an EMT or WFR we would know better and check for more - but natural instincts take over and I know for me it was just wanting to help.

Sigh, I was that injured climber.  Embarassing.

At about 1:15pm on Saturday, I attempted to lead Hobbit Couloir, and took a fall onto a 13cm ice screw. During the fall, a crampon point on the outside edge of my right foot caught briefly on right side of the couloir, twisting the foot outward.  After the fall, I ended up on the floor of the couloir, having gently impacted it, with most of the fall force having been absorbed by the rope.  I realized at that point that my right ankle was injured and I needed to self-rescue, so I cleaned one of the two screws that I had in the top portion of the route, then hobbled over to the bolts on the left side of the couloir that are typically used by parties doing the rock finish of Pegasus.  I anchored myself, put my second on belay through the top ice screw, and directed her to downclimb the couloir while I kept her on belay, rather than risk lowering her from the top screw.  She volunteered to first clean another screw that I had placed in a grade 3 section above the belay, which I agreed to.  In retrospect, I should have told her to leave that screw, since cleaning it put her at more risk of a fall, and her belay, running as it was through a single ice screw as the top piece, was of questionable integrity.  But she climbed up, cleaned that screw, then downclimbed out of the couloir without incident.

After she was down, I directed her to untie from the rope, pulled it back to me, leaving the top screw in the ice, and I rappelled from the bolts.  After rappelling, my partner and I evaluated me, and the only injury seemed to be my ankle, which could not hold weight.  So, I packed snow in the boot (which felt quite nice!) and started carefully glissading down to the railroad tracks, using two ice tools, one in each hand, with picks downward for fine control.  During the glissade, I met Chris and his partner hiking up.  After a brief discussion, they followed me the rest of the way to the railroad tracks, and then Chris rigged the dragging setup that he described to get me back to the parking lot, which worked out quite well and was fairly comfortable for me, with low risk of injuring my ankle further.  I'm sure dragging also got me back to the car much faster than if I had tried to rig a makeshift crutch and/or hobble out on my one good leg supported by my partner.

After driving to Memorial Hospital and getting the ankle examined, I was x-rayed and diagnosed with a fracture of the medial malleolus, splinted, and discharged.  I will pay for my hubris with 8 or more weeks without climbing.

Regarding Chris's comment about not evaluating me for a head, neck, or back injury before dragging: given that I had been glissading for quite some time with no visible discomfort or loss of control, standing on one leg at points on the way down with no balance problems, and my conversation was completely lucid and oriented (by my standards, at least!), I think it was pretty reasonable to assume that I had no other injuries.  If I had just pancaked to the ground in front of him, that would be a different story.  But meeting me, as he did, already pretty near the tracks, smiling and joking about grooming the trail with my butt?  I guess you can never be too careful, but that doesn't strike me as much of an omission on his part.

Oh, I should add that a father/son party that was setting up to toprope Hobbit after my run gave me my last ice screw back as I was preparing to rappel from the Pegasus bolts.  I didn't get their name, but if they happen to read this: thanks a bunch guys!  Sorry for the inconvenience.

Admin Al:
It's impressive that you folks managed the self-rescue. That's at least 2 this season, maybe 3! I hope that you heal quickly. Can I assume that you into the mixed section? I'm curious, what do you think made you fall at that point? Just curious, and it's always good information for AINAM.


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