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Author Topic: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14  (Read 1144 times)

cjdrover

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Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« on: February 24, 2014, 10:18:18 AM »

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
« Last Edit: February 24, 2014, 11:51:44 AM by cjdrover »
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markvnh

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Re: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2014, 12:15:46 PM »

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.
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rbuels

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Re: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2014, 03:45:15 PM »

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.
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rbuels

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Re: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2014, 04:29:49 PM »

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.
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Admin Al

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Re: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2014, 04:58:58 PM »

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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DLottmann

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Re: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2014, 05:36:35 PM »

Thanks for being open to sharing your experience!

Could you clarify where your 2nd was belaying? Hobbit is usually climbed in 1 or two pitches using those bolts, so Iím wondering why your 2nd was downclimbing? I might just not be reading this right...

To cjdrover, thanks for posting! I know the feeling about 2nd guessing after rescueís... one at Precipice in Bar Harbor and one at Cathedral still bug me as I feel I could have assessed better at the WFR level... would you mind sharing your Wilderness medicine training level? Even with a WFR I donít think I felt comfortable with assessments until after 2-3 re-certs, so donít worry about not clearing a spine ;). We learn so much more from reflecting on this occasions and will be better prepared for the next one!
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rbuels

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Re: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2014, 05:48:05 PM »

Well, Hobbit was very thin and drippy on Saturday.  The current neclimbs pic of it is about 2x fatter than it was on Saturday .  I fell as I was trying to pull up to a stance with my arm under the final short curtain before the top-out.

The short answer of why I fell is that I was just climbing harder than I should have been and was in over my head.

A slightly longer explanation is that as I went up the mixed middle section, there was just a thin (but solid) curtain kind of on the left, I was not able to find any crampon placements on the right (either on rock or ice) to stem a bit on for drilling.  So as I neared the top third of the climb, under the final little curtain, I was way above my last screw, getting pretty pumped, and was starting to freak out a bit.  What I should have done at that point was probably to drive in both tools hard and clip my belay loop onto one of them and rest, then find a way to sink a screw there.  I actually started to do that, but was a little too high to get them in well, so instead of downclimbing a tiny bit to do that, I saw what looked like a good rest stance a couple of moves higher, kind of underneath the little curtain at the top, and I decided to go for it.  Bad decision, I didn't really have enough pump to get there.  I actually had one tool sunk in the topout, past the top of the final curtain, using it to pull up into that stance, when I fell, I think because my feet pumped out, and the pick placement I was pulling up on was also crappy because I was too pumped to sink it well.

TL;DR: overconfident, in over my head, pumped stupid, should not have been on it.

Modification: clarified how I was not good enough to sink a screw in the middle third.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2014, 06:02:32 PM by rbuels »
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rbuels

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Re: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2014, 05:50:10 PM »

Regarding the second, she was belaying part way up the couloir, past some easy grade 2, in a spot that was sheltered from ice fall by a bulge that was protruding out into the couloir.  Far enough up that it could be done in one pitch.
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rbuels

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Re: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2014, 05:53:58 PM »

And sure, she could have been at the end of the couloir and we probably would have had enough rope, but there was a fairly nice spot closer up to the hard stuff, so that's where we belayed.
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DLottmann

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Re: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2014, 05:56:10 PM »

So refreshing for a victim to be so open and honest about there incident... really thank you! Most folks wouldnít be willing to share for fear of the kind of nit-picking questions that usually result (and I am usually one of those nit-pickers)... so with that confession;

Did she lead a bit of the bottom gully and decide to set up anchor mid-pitch? Iíve just never seen anyone belay on that route from anywhere but the ground, or the bolts, as a 60m can reach the top from the bottom (I personally like my 2nd to belay from the bolts so there is less rope stretch should I pitch off the crux, but hard climbers seem to walk it from the ground ;))

Addition as you are responding fast:

Got it... in that situation the route climbs great in 2 pitches when you step left and use the bolts...

Anyways, stellar job on the self rescue... hope you heal quick and get back on it next year!
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rbuels

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Re: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2014, 06:23:12 PM »

She didn't lead, we just both soloed past the grade 2 to the belay spot.  It was probably only about 20 or 30 feet higher than most people belay.  She was still pretty far down the gully, it was just a bit of a sketchy downclimb, and I was in a fine position to belay her down it.  I was at the bolts and the ankle wasn't yet very painful... it was just not working ... and it made some popping and grinding noises when I moved it, haha.  Actually, it's still surprisingly not that painful, if I don't bump it.  Maybe that's normal for broken bones, this is my first one.  I've only been using ibuprofen so far, and not much of even that.

It's really not such a bad break.  The orthopedist I saw today thinks it will heal fine with no surgery, as long as I don't do any further stupid things to it.  Attached is a fun X-ray of the break, taken at Memorial at about 4:30pm Saturday.  I played with the levels a bit and added a yellow box.

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tradmanclimbz

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Re: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2014, 06:50:08 PM »

Glad your not hurt too badly. Sounds like a reasonably long fall?  Typicaly every place you want a screw on Hobbit looks like swiss Cheese. never felt like the gear was optimal. I generaly belay at the bolts but that means a much harder fall on your screws if you do blow it. belaying from near the bottom probobly pretty soft on the top screw?
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xcrag_corex

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Re: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2014, 06:57:29 PM »

Heal up soon man!!! Self rescue +1! Its the hip new thing!!! ;D
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perswig

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Re: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2014, 07:38:21 PM »

Kudos to all involved, for keeping it together in an orderly retreat, and for after-action reflections from both the injured and the first responders.

Thanks, Chris Drover and partner, for lending your backs to the haul-out.

Heal quickly and well, rbuels.
Dale
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rbuels

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Re: Leader Fall on Hobbit Couloir 2/22/14
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2014, 07:50:09 PM »

Yeah, Chris you were a real beast on that haul.  Thanks for that.  We met some people on the way back that did a little hauling as well (my wife took a turn in the traces, hah!) but Chris probably did at least 90% of it by himself.  Looked fresh as a daisy after dragging my ass all that way, too.  Beast.

And yes, the fall was long, since I fell from almost the top, and kind of kissed the bottom of the couloir on the rope stretch.  I think the crampon snag was about mid-way down but I'm not completely sure.  It was a soft catch, yes, because my belayer was really on point (probably saving me from more broken parts!), and because there was quite a bit of rope out.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2014, 08:03:07 PM by rbuels »
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