Forums: Climbing Information: Accident and Incident Analysis: Red River Gorge -- Motherlode Accident: Edit Log


Mar 8, 2011, 8:11 AM

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Registered: Aug 27, 2007
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Red River Gorge -- Motherlode Accident
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This happened Friday, March 4th 2011. I was climbing at The Motherlode on a route called Kick Me in the Jimmie. The route is a constant 10-15 degrees overhanging for 55-60 feet.

The last fall of the last climb of the day should have been a routine, clean ~12' lead fall onto the fifth bolt. After the expected catch passed, it became clear that my belayer didn't have control of the rope. I fell about 35 feet to the ground. If someone could pick the spot on the ground to crater on at any given point on that climb, I probably landed on that spot. It was a smooth boulder that sloped gently towards the ground. Another foot in any direction would have been much more devastating.

I remember bracing myself for impact, hitting the ground, and notifying everyone that I was okay about one second after I hit. I was, against the odds, just about completely fine. My ankle was a bit tweaked, and my ass hurt. I was able to walk out of the crag just fine, and now I can hardly even feel the bruise on my butt. The belayer had rope burns on the wrist of his guide hand (non-brake hand).

My belayer has been climbing for ten years (never dropped anyone before this accident), and I've been climbing with him for just over a year. He was belaying with a tube-style device that looked this, although it's possible it was a different model/brand. The rope was a Maxim Glider 9.9 Basically, it sounds like he just took his brake hand off the rope for a split second when he was trying to move into a better position to catch the fall (not sure why he wasn't there beforehand?). Once he realized his hand wouldn't be able to get the rope, he just tried compressing it by leaning forward and just pressing his forearms onto the device/rope (hence the rope burns on the forearm).

This was completely unnecessary, and it never should have happened. It reminds me of the scene in Ocean's 11 when Don Cheadle's character has a partner that screws up something during a heist, and Cheadle's character yells at him, "You had one job to do!"

Relying on a belayer is difficult for me mentally now. I tried climbing on the following Sunday and Monday. Even being lowered is terrifying if I start to accelerate even a little bit (the reasonable variance that happens sometimes). If this accident had at least been with an inexperienced belayer, I could have realistically blamed myself, and found fault with trusting "beginner" belayers. But now, considering that someone with ten years of experience--and no previous dropped falls--dropped me, it's got me in this mode of "How can I really trust anyone?"

It's only my faith in belayers that is shaken now. I believe that if I was comfortable soloing something before, I'd be just as comfortable soloing it still.

My plan is to go to the gym and practice taking larger and larger falls until I can get back to my old self.

Please stay alert while you're belaying, it's your only job.

(This post was edited by spikeddem on Mar 8, 2011, 8:18 AM)

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Post edited by spikeddem () on Mar 8, 2011, 8:18 AM

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