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Bad Fall, Broken Ankle in the Pyrenees
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Rudmin


Jan 22, 2010, 12:26 PM
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Bad Fall, Broken Ankle in the Pyrenees
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This isn't really a climbing accident, but it happened in the mountains so I hope it is okay. On December 28, I left with a friend for our first alpine trip climbing some peaks in the Pyrenees. We had done Mt. Washington a few weeks earlier, but that was it. Our goal was to take technically easy routes and gain some experience while hitting up several of the well known 3000 m peaks.

The weather didn't cooperate. We spent several days at Aneto waiting for a break in the snow before completing our first peak. We scrapped our plan for the next few peaks and made our way to Gavarnie to climb Vignemale.

On the trek to the base of that climb on Jan 6th is where I had my accident. We were taking an easy day to snowshoe to the base following an established trail that a lot of people walk in the summer. According to our map the trail followed next to a river path. Well the river went up a waterfall, so we picked the best path we could see up a steep ridge to the left.

The slope was about 70 deg of soft snow with big rocks poking through. We went up unroped with snowshoes and a mountaineering axe at first. I switched to crampons at the first ledge. The rest was a 4th class scramble of mostly rock. The sun had come over a ridge and warmed things up considerably. This loosened up the snow and I rolled down a tire sized boulder, falling with it about 10 feet or less.

My partner says that he will never forget my scream. I remember watching my foot flopping over as I tried to move it. And yelling out "Fuck it's broken!" I hadn't fallen far but had landed with crampons on rock and a 55 lb pack on my back.

I pushed the rock over the edge mostly out of anger and tried to drop my pack. It ended up bouncing down about 100 feet and luckily didn't roll into the river. After a scary and painful crawl back down to my friend, we assessed the situation. He set up a rappel. I ate some chocolate, drank some water, and tried not to black out. I was seeing a lot of spots and feeling very tired as I sat still.

The rope was of course tangled and took forever. The snow wouldn't hold much, but my partner ended up getting two pickets into something soft between the rocks. We lowered his pack first, then I made my way down holding the rope in one hand and mountain axe in the other.

From there, I crawled about half a km through deep snow and avalanche debris to a bridge. My partner retrieved my pack, and then made the trip twice carrying both packs. At the bridge, he splinted my leg with some cord and both of our axes. I used a probe for a walking stick and hobbled the next 1.5 km back to a dam that had a small hut.

At the hut, it was about dusk. I settled down with some food and sleeping bags. My friend geared up to run to the nearest town. I expected him to be back on snowmobile the next morning, and settled in. Every time I slept my foot would go numb though. Around 10 pm, a helicopter with two rescue technicians showed up. Luckily this was the only clear day of the entire trip. I wasn't expecting a night rescue though, and it took a minute or two to pack everything up. It was very rushed.

The helicopter flew me to Gavarnie. My friend was proud that the rescue technicians left the splint on my leg when I arrived. An ambulance took us to Lourdes. The doctors there put some screws and a plate into my ankle.

I lost two pickets out of my pack and my friend left one behind at the rap and lost the other one which he tried to throw down. So if anybody wants, there are 4 pickets and a carabiner to be found near the Barrage D'Ossau by Gavarnie, France when the snow melts.


ClimbClimb


Jan 22, 2010, 12:37 PM
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Re: [Rudmin] Bad Fall, Broken Ankle in the Pyrenees [In reply to]
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Sad story. Hope you're feeling better and heal up soon!


majid_sabet


Jan 22, 2010, 12:43 PM
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Re: [Rudmin] Bad Fall, Broken Ankle in the Pyrenees [In reply to]
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Did you guys had any phone to call and how long did it take him to get down for help ?

Also, how much stuff did you have you ? were you able to bivy for few nights if he was not able to get the chopper or if the bad weather moved in ?

just wondering


boymeetsrock


Jan 22, 2010, 12:52 PM
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Re: [Rudmin] Bad Fall, Broken Ankle in the Pyrenees [In reply to]
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Heal up soon! Good on you and your partner getting yourselves out of there.


Rudmin


Jan 22, 2010, 12:57 PM
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Re: [majid_sabet] Bad Fall, Broken Ankle in the Pyrenees [In reply to]
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majid_sabet wrote:
Did you guys had any phone to call and how long did it take him to get down for help ?

Also, how much stuff did you have you ? were you able to bivy for few nights if he was not able to get the chopper or if the bad weather moved in ?

just wondering

We had North American phones with no service. We didn't try them on the ridge, but down at the dam. I am pretty sure that European phones would be dead as well. Even where the accident occurred, we were not high up with a clear line of sight to anything.

We were carrying our full packs with bivy gear and a few days of food and fuel to the base of the mountain. So I had my sleeping bag and his sleeping bag and my bivy and all the food and stove. He just took his bivy and a space blanket and down jacket in a small pack and ran back. The hut at the dam provided a good shelter in the case of really bad weather.

Before he left, we decided that if he wasn't back by the next afternoon, it probably meant something had gone wrong and I would start hobbling back. I also specifically said, "don't send a helicopter, I can't afford it". Luckily the French military provides rescue services free of charge even to foreigners and there was a pilot willing to fly at night. If the helicopter wasn't available, the rescue team he found would have skied in that night. If there was no rescue team, he would have borrowed or rented a snowmobile from someone in town the next morning.


Gmburns2000


Jan 22, 2010, 1:16 PM
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Re: [Rudmin] Bad Fall, Broken Ankle in the Pyrenees [In reply to]
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Damn dude. Heal up soon.


bill413


Jan 22, 2010, 6:29 PM
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Re: [Gmburns2000] Bad Fall, Broken Ankle in the Pyrenees [In reply to]
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R. Sounds like a lot of things went right in the rescue, but you were also prepared for them to not go so well (hut, food, bivy equipment).

Heal soon. Best to you & your partner.


socalclimber


Jan 22, 2010, 7:16 PM
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Re: [bill413] Bad Fall, Broken Ankle in the Pyrenees [In reply to]
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Sounds like you guys had your acts together. Those type of foot injuries can become very serious very quickly if your not prepared!!

Sorry about the ankle, but good on you guys for handling it well.


Adk


Jan 23, 2010, 9:32 AM
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Re: [socalclimber] Bad Fall, Broken Ankle in the Pyrenees [In reply to]
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Get well soon. Glad your accident wasn't any worse!


Partner robdotcalm


Jan 23, 2010, 9:41 AM
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Re: [Adk] Bad Fall, Broken Ankle in the Pyrenees [In reply to]
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Good thing that rolling boulder didn't hit your head.

You did well in getting to the point where the rescue personnel could take over.

Best wishes for a good recovery.

Cheers,
Rob.calm


alpenweg


Mar 29, 2010, 5:21 AM
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Re: [Rudmin] Bad Fall, Broken Ankle in the Pyrenees [In reply to]
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i am glad u guys are ok

bivy sac is good ja!


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