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Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall
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rl23455


Jul 4, 2007, 4:57 PM
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Re: [majid_sabet] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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I think I will buy a Grigri or some other such device for whenever I climb with someone I don't know well enough. I have thought about alpine climbs where rockfall is more prevalent and if I have to move in a hurry to avoid rock fall, at least I wouldn't drop my leader, even if I did get hit.


wmarkham


Jul 10, 2007, 11:35 AM
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Hi there. I'm the guy who fell.

It looks like other people have already reported the accident itself accurately, so I can't think of much to add. Thanks, kostik, for retrieving my gear. Yes, that was probably my stuff (tape, toothbrush, 'biners) left behind. I expect that at least one of the biners was a "leaver biner", so I'm not really worried about getting any of it back.

Thanks as well to all of the other climbers on the scene. As has been noted already, I was well cared-for by the other climbers before the EMT's arrived. As I understand it, some of the climbers helped guide the EMT's to me, and helped carry their equipment in. Also, a number of climbers helped carry me out to the ambulance.

As I see it, a huge factor that led to the accident was my own overwhelming desire to get onto the rocks. That was the first time I had gotten out this year. Had I thought about it carefully beforehand, I don't think that I would have felt comfortable with my partner's inexperience. To the extent that I did think about it, I believed (without adequate evidence, I now think) that her belaying was awkward, but reasonably safe.

In the past, I have climbed with inexperienced belayers, and even after this experience, I think that it can be done safely. However, on those other occasions, I did two things (at least) differently that I think are important to note:

1. If I had any doubts about previous belayers' experience, I had always made it clear to them that catching a fall is their primary duty. Dealing out or taking in slack is completely secondary. So, don't let go of the brake hand (of course!) and when in doubt, keep it in the brake position.

2. In the past, I have gone out of my way to announce what is going on, as I climb. ("climbing", "clipping", "falling")

Of course it is difficult to say for sure, but either one of these could possibly have prevented the ground fall. Needless to say, not relying on this person to belay me at all would have prevented it.

My own gut feeling is that the accident would have been prevented with a grigri. Letting go of everything would have allowed it to lock on its own, even if her initial reaction had been to feed out slack.

Anyway, I broke my left elbow, three vertebrae (C6, T11, L2), and my sternum. Also, I dislocated my left pinky-toe, scraped up my back, chipped some teeth, and bit my tongue. I had surgery on my elbow shortly after arriving at the hospital. (It was an open wound.) I had surgery on the following Tuesday to fuse my T9-T13 vertebrae together. The C6 injury is just a hairline fracture, and I am wearing a collar to prevent any further injury while it heals. The L2 injury does not endanger my spinal cord, so it will be left to heal on its own. I left the hospital on Friday, June 29. I can walk and use my right arm. For the moment, my left elbow is immobilized. I can't lift anything heavy, or do anything even moderately strenuous. In general, though, my recovery is going fine. The surgeon who operated on my spine told me that I should be able to resume whatever activities I like after 6 months.

Weston


markc


Jul 10, 2007, 12:04 PM
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Re: [wmarkham] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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wmarkham wrote:
The surgeon who operated on my spine told me that I should be able to resume whatever activities I like after 6 months.

Great news. Best wishes for continued recovery, Weston.


billcoe_


Jul 10, 2007, 1:19 PM
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Re: [wmarkham] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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Weston, damn, near miss buddy. Glad this one is working out ..somewhat better than it could have been, but I'm sure it sucks worse than many of us even want to think about.

The story Majid quotes you as saying" Markham said. "I fell, but the rope did not catch me."


May I suggest you amend that to better read
"I fell, but my belayer did not catch me."

I would suggest that gri-gri or Atc debate is irrelavant: his was and probably still is a poorly trained person who almost killed you. Perhaps you yourself are as well. (Please do not think thats a slam, I do not know and we all start out there).

Spend some real time thinking this over will ya.


Btw: edited to add: My main point was - I meant to say that I think this is F*ed up thinking.
wmarkham wrote:
In the past, I have climbed with inexperienced belayers, and even after this experience, I think that it can be done safely.

Never climb with an inexperienced belayer. Never. It cannot be done safely, did your fall not just demonstrate this very clearly to you? If you choose to head out and repeat this major trauma.......well I'd be speechless fella.

Your greatest tool for self preservation is inside of your skull. You did not use it well before this accident, and that contributed to it - please re-assess that statement hey? I hope this doesn't sound too harsh, cause I think it might, but just give it a while to think on it and reflect OK?


Live long and prosper, good luck.

Bill


(This post was edited by billcoe_ on Jul 10, 2007, 1:27 PM)


Partner cracklover


Jul 10, 2007, 2:06 PM
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Re: [wmarkham] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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Weston: Thanks for posting up. Encouraging to hear that you're up and walking now, and expecting a full recovery in 6 months.

As for all the debates - that shit doesn't matter now. What's important is that it sounds like you're going to be okay. I'm guessing you'll have plenty of time to mull over what happened as time goes by.

Cheers!

GO


Partner j_ung


Jul 10, 2007, 2:16 PM
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Re: [cracklover] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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cracklover wrote:
Weston: Thanks for posting up. Encouraging to hear that you're up and walking now, and expecting a full recovery in 6 months.

As for all the debates - that shit doesn't matter now. What's important is that it sounds like you're going to be okay. I'm guessing you'll have plenty of time to mull over what happened as time goes by.

Cheers!

GO

Ditto that. You're among the land of the living, and that's all that really counts right now! Smile


davidji


Jul 10, 2007, 2:38 PM
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Thanks for posting. Keep up that recovery!


majid_sabet


Jul 10, 2007, 2:52 PM
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Re: [davidji] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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In reply to:
My own gut feeling is that the accident would have been prevented with a grigri. Letting go of everything would have allowed it to lock on its own, even if her initial reaction had been to feed out slack.

Weston

I am glade you are doing well but I still see some issues over your last comment.
Autoblocking devices such as GRI GRI are not designed to do autofall autostop. you still need to treat them like any other belay devices which includes having your hands in the correct positions.


MS


Vegasheat


Jul 10, 2007, 4:10 PM
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Re: [majid_sabet] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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Weston

Thanks for posting. Very happy to hear you are doing so well. I am very impressed that you still have such a great attitude and desire to climb again.

Best Wishes for a fast recovery.


bobruef


Jul 10, 2007, 5:58 PM
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Re: [wmarkham] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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Get well soon man.

Thanks for the update.


reno


Jul 10, 2007, 6:18 PM
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Re: [wmarkham] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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Here's to a speedy and uneventful recovery, guy.


healyje


Jul 10, 2007, 11:44 PM
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Re: [cracklover] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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cracklover wrote:
As for all the debates - that shit doesn't matter now.

Gotta go with BillCoe on this one. I'm glad you're going to recover and climb again, but Bill has hauled enough bodies off rock to be entitled to speak his opinion when and where he pleases. And when he reiterates you should never leave the ground without the assurance of a solid belay I have to agree. Most climbers wouldn't leave the ground knowing the bolts on a line may not hold a fall, why would you similarly take the same chance on a belayer? And as Majid said, a device is no substitute for knowing how to belay. People who are not yet ready to belay shouldn't be trusted beyond the context of more belay training.


overlord


Jul 11, 2007, 2:11 AM
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Re: [wmarkham] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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thanks for postin. i hope you recover quicklyWink


bent_gate


Jul 11, 2007, 4:00 AM
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Re: [wmarkham] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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Weston,

I'm glad to hear you're recovering, piece by piece. While I have had spinal surgery myself, it never involved that many vertebrae, so I can only imagine the magnitude of your experience. But I do know how hard it is to be out of commission for what seems like an unending amount of time. So I just wanted to offer you my best wishes during this time and let you know that myself and many others are always hoping for the best for you.

Keep getting well, and may you encounter unexpected and amazing experiences during this!


kostik


Jul 11, 2007, 7:37 AM
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Re: [wmarkham] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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wmarkham wrote:
Hi there. I'm the guy who fell.

Weston,

I'm glad you are doing well. It was quite an epic. I expected to see a bloody dead body, but you were in a good shape and calm, composed state of mind. You did really well.

The crater from your heels under the Green Piece is now a major tourist attraction.

Btw, how's the girl doing? There has been a discussion in the climber community that she is very pretty and therefore your choice of belayer was perfectly understandable.


billcoe_


Jul 11, 2007, 7:44 AM
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Re: [kostik] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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My comments above sound harsh to me. I apologise for that.

You had a real, real hard fall, Just reading about it jars a person, damn, I'm glad you're still with us.


wmarkham


Jul 11, 2007, 8:31 AM
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Re: [billcoe_] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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billcoe_ wrote:
Btw: edited to add: My main point was - I meant to say that I think this is F*ed up thinking.
wmarkham wrote:
In the past, I have climbed with inexperienced belayers, and even after this experience, I think that it can be done safely.

Never climb with an inexperienced belayer. Never. It cannot be done safely, did your fall not just demonstrate this very clearly to you? If you choose to head out and repeat this major trauma.......well I'd be speechless fella.
I appreciate the feedback. I do recognize this as being, on some level, messed-up thinking. In part, this is why I put it out there. However, let me first point out that there is a distinction to be made between "inexperienced" and "improperly trained". But also, I recognize that there is an additional risk involved in climbing with an inexperienced belayer. It is my belief that in most cases, this additional risk is relatively small. Every belayer was once inexperienced. As far as I know, there is no way to fully get that experience without actually belaying someone on lead, and actually catching lead falls. Those who are now experienced did this. I suspect that in most cases, they did not have a second belayer as backup. (Am I wrong about this?) And as far as I know, few of their instructors suffered serious injuries. I hope it is obvious that I don't think that any idiot off the street can belay with just a few minutes of instruction. But neither do I think that it is simply not possible to climb safely with an inexperienced belayer. Each climber should carefully assess how much risk they are taking with any given belayer, and decide accordingly whether or not that risk can be reduced to a level that is acceptable to them.

Weston


billcoe_


Jul 11, 2007, 1:09 PM
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wmarkham wrote:
However, let me first point out that there is a distinction to be made between "inexperienced" and "improperly trained". But also, I recognize that there is an additional risk involved in climbing with an inexperienced belayer. It is my belief that in most cases, this additional risk is relatively small. Every belayer was once inexperienced. As far as I know, there is no way to fully get that experience without actually belaying someone on lead, and actually catching lead falls. Those who are now experienced did this. I suspect that in most cases, they did not have a second belayer as backup. (Am I wrong about this?) And as far as I know, few of their instructors suffered serious injuries. I hope it is obvious that I don't think that any idiot off the street can belay with just a few minutes of instruction. But neither do I think that it is simply not possible to climb safely with an inexperienced belayer. Each climber should carefully assess how much risk they are taking with any given belayer, and decide accordingly whether or not that risk can be reduced to a level that is acceptable to them.

Weston

I agree with your first point concerning the distinction to be made between "inexperienced" and "improperly trained" Weston. Sometimes it is difficult to know the difference.

There is a way to get that experience without holding an instructor on a lead fall though. Thats just the way gyms are doing it now, not necessarily the correct way. I've trained hundreds of climbers. Many of whom went on to train others and outclimb me by a factor of 2 or 3. Some became guides and one of whom started a guide business. (I do not do this any more since climbing has gotten crowded ).

What I have learned is that although everyone is different, almost everyone, with proper emphasis on how important this skill is: can learn it perfectly in what is a relatively short time period. I don't mean 5 min in a gym and holding a lead fall.

I don't know why one cannot look at any N00b learning this and say right too them "THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU MUST LEARN, SO YOU WILL LEARN IT FIRST - YOU MUST LEARN IT PERFECTLY 100 PERCENT PERFECT AND PERFORM IT CORRECTLY 100 PERCENT OF THE TIME, IF YOU FAIL TO PERFORM THIS JOB EVEN ONE BRIEF MOMENT AND YOU WELL MAY BE RESPONSIBLE FOR KILLING ANOTHER HUMAN BEING. You will have anothers life in your hands, conversly, your life will be in their hands as well when they belay you. THERE IS NO MARGIN FOR ERROR, IT MUST BE 100 PERFECT 100 PERCENT OF THE TIME, you cannot climb if you do not learn it perfectly first." Then you explain what perfect means, about never taking your brake hand off the rope, and why its important etc etc. Then you show them how to do it and then have them do it then once they figure it out have them practice it over and over standing next to them on flat ground with them taking in most of a rope length until it seems second nature and smooth. Then have them change hands so the other hand is braking and do another rope length. Periodically you pull the rope and/or yell falling.

Then you tie them into somthing and as you are walking on flat ground you have them belay you, occasionally you run the opposite direction and do not yell falling...you are watching their movements as they do this to make sure that they have you locked off in an eyeblink, perfect, everytime.

They do it until it becomes rote and they can do it perfectly without thinking about it. You might even sent them home with a hank of rope and an atc to practice practice practice it all week before the next weekend. They haven't even gone climbing yet, nobody has even held an actual fall, despite the fact that you might be right at a climbing area. That re-emphasises how important this skill is. If you are in a building, same thing applies. Maybe you get people out in a hallway and one simulates climbing as they walk along and the other side are all belaying. Then they trade responsibility with the "climbers" becomineg the "belayers".

Later, as you get on the rocks, you can use backup belays, where a 3rd party has a hold of the tail of the rope in case a belayer "forgets" that the brake hand should be on the rope and not in their nose say. However, I've found you do not need this, at this point, and it may only be less than an hour of actually practice practice practice, these folks are generally ready to roll and do it 100 percent perfect 100 percent of the time. Occasionally you have a few folks who can't do it perfect, who seem a tad dyslexic, but you can see them doing poorly on the flat ground, so you have them practice some more and mayhaps do a backup belay if you are not 100 percent sure, or if it would make them more comfortable.

Only later you move to doing actual practice falls, and at that only on top rope, they have to fall as well and have another belayer lock off and hold them, but at that point, climbers and belayers know what's coming and are experinced enough to perform perfectly. Climbers learn the skill of realizing that they have a responsibility too. I regularly climbed with people I had taught and did so for many many years till they got old or moved away.

Use to do the same thing on snow slopes to train people how to self arrest. Later, there were plenty of playful instances where myself or anyone in play mode would take off running downhill hellbent to leather trying to catch offguard and pull an entire rope team off backwards and down the slope. It was great training. It is damn empowering when the snow gets steep and scary while you are looking at a fatal fall into some rocks, to know, with 100 percent absolute certainty and confidence, that on this slope, with these snow conditions, that you can hold 3 or 4 people if someone falls, cause you've practiced it over and over on many safe runout slopes, manybe seeper and with more people pulling and harder snow conditions.

Long ago, I use to hook up with just about anybody to climb when I was young, and I've told that story before of the young stud I met up with in Yosemite and learned on a 5.11 lead that he couldn't keep his brake hand on the rope (I looked down and caught him twice gesturing with both hands - when he should have been belaying me -as he hit on some touron chicas). So I'm not any smarter than anyone else about this, altough I am a lot more cautious as I age as I realize how lucky I've been.

When I started climbing, people would often just head out and it was trial and error with maybe (later) a Royal Robbins Rockcraft book. Most of the people I know experinced a near death or dumb accident experience. Myself included for sure. Around a campfire and a few beers these stories usually come out. It is then, at that point after an accident, that we realized the full import of the knowledge we needed, but did not know that we did not yet have enough knowledge to know what knowledge we accually needed to be safe that we became immensely safer.

Later, climbing schools and classes would impart these lessons much less painfully to people as they learned our craft.

One issue with the climbing gyms, is they do not share this goal, and thus not only short change people, but leave them into thinking they have it figured out and are OK when they most definatly do not.

{End Rant}

I wish there was something we could do as a group, without government involvement, that could get this back on track. Sigh......(I know that I sound like the ravings of an old F*for sure) But there's not, so I guess the rest of us just hold our breaths when we see a group of 6 noobs standing at the edge of the cliff unroped like I saw last night.

You might have used up at least 4 of your 9 lives
with that one Weston, and I'm happy that you didn't use them all up. Big time congrats.


notapplicable


Jul 11, 2007, 5:57 PM
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Good words. Thank you.


overlord


Jul 12, 2007, 2:02 AM
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billcoe_ wrote:
I don't know why one cannot look at any N00b learning this and say right too them "THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU MUST LEARN, SO YOU WILL LEARN IT FIRST - YOU MUST LEARN IT PERFECTLY 100 PERCENT PERFECT AND PERFORM IT CORRECTLY 100 PERCENT OF THE TIME, IF YOU FAIL TO PERFORM THIS JOB EVEN ONE BRIEF MOMENT AND YOU WELL MAY BE RESPONSIBLE FOR KILLING ANOTHER HUMAN BEING. You will have anothers life in your hands, conversly, your life will be in their hands as well when they belay you. THERE IS NO MARGIN FOR ERROR, IT MUST BE 100 PERFECT 100 PERCENT OF THE TIME, you cannot climb if you do not learn it perfectly first." Then you explain what perfect means, about never taking your brake hand off the rope, and why its important etc etc. Then you show them how to do it and then have them do it then once they figure it out have them practice it over and over standing next to them on flat ground with them taking in most of a rope length until it seems second nature and smooth. Then have them change hands so the other hand is braking and do another rope length. Periodically you pull the rope and/or yell falling.

ditto that. i think one of the reasons beginners do not pay attention to belaying lessons its because its boring (lets face it, compared to what they actually want to do (climb), belaying is BORING) and no one hammered it into them just how important this boredom is.


binrat


Jul 12, 2007, 12:02 PM
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Weston,
Good luck on your recovery. The Pinky toe I bet will be the 1 to slow you down for climbing again.

Binrat


limeydave


Jul 16, 2007, 5:45 PM
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kostik wrote:
wmarkham wrote:
Hi there. I'm the guy who fell.

Weston,

I'm glad you are doing well. It was quite an epic. I expected to see a bloody dead body, but you were in a good shape and calm, composed state of mind. You did really well.

The crater from your heels under the Green Piece is now a major tourist attraction.

Btw, how's the girl doing? There has been a discussion in the climber community that she is very pretty and therefore your choice of belayer was perfectly understandable.

If she was that hot, surely she'd be the one on the wall and he'd be the attentive belayer? Wink

Good luck with your recovery wmarkham.


calfcramp


Jul 17, 2007, 1:19 PM
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I can't believe I read the whooooole thing!

Glad to hear the story had a happy ending, sorta. Get well soon.

I don't know how to use a grigri. (For the stats...)


stymingersfink


Jul 17, 2007, 2:22 PM
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curator wrote:

2. the rope was moving very quickly through the device. (it was, as evidenced by the injuries to the climber)
The device would have locked, there is no maybe about it.
unless, of course, the device were accidentally threaded backward.

OOPS!Crazy

MY BAD!Blush


stymingersfink


Jul 17, 2007, 2:35 PM
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Re: [johanna2430] Gorge climber injured in 40 ft fall [In reply to]
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johanna2430 wrote:
I personally don't know even one single advanced climber, trad or sport, that uses a Gri Gri for their main belaying device.

Seems to be the only device I carry lately, unless I'm climbing ice, i guess.

You may work at the best store in the best climbing area in the best state in the best nation in the world... but that doesn't mean it doesn't all boil down to a belayer's experience levels.

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