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shockabuku


Jun 1, 2011, 10:38 PM
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Fall with broken ribs
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On May 29th, 2011 I was climbing a route called Calisthenic at the Gunks. Itís a 5.7 and Iíve climbed it before but years prior. It has a jump start to a two hand bucket with mediocre feet and then a slightly long reach to another good hold before you can get your feet up on something decent. Itís rated PG for gear, meaning it has some tricky placements or slightly run out areas. We started climbing on it around 9:30 a.m., the weather was warm, overcast, and fairly humid; the cloud cover varied and we experienced patches of sun as well as some spitting from the clouds during the climb. My partner, Eric, was a newbie. I had met him the day before but this was my first experience climbing with him. I think Eric had some previous experience climbing in the gym during the school year in the Intro to Climbing course that the Physical Education department at our school teaches. At this time, Eric was a student in the three week rock climbing course that the school teaches during the summer and I was volunteering to help out with the course. The course was in its sixth day, having spent two and a half days in the gym, half a day at a sport crag, and the previous two days at the Gunks. The day of my fall was Ericís fourth day outside but his first multi-pitch climb.

Just to my left were two other climbers from our group on a climb called Ribs, a 5.4 I think. Matt, the past captain of the school climbing team, was leading another newbie, Gabby, on what may have also been her first multi-pitch climb. The objective for the day was to get each new climber on a multi-pitch climb with an experienced leader. I was supposed to be the experienced leader in my team. Matt and I were climbing at about the same pace and were occasionally engaged in conversation.

Prior to climbing into an area with some shrubs and small trees, I stopped to build a belay anchor on a small ledge using two cams and a large slotted nut tied together with a cordelette. At the same height Matt reached a bolted anchor to my left and stopped to belay up his partner. He was about 20í away. We belayed our partners directly off the anchor using a ďguideĒ style device because that was what the lead instructor for the course was teaching.

I was tied into the powerpoint of my cordelette using the climbing rope and, as Eric climbed up to the belay, I flaked the rope onto my tie in using successively longer loops. When Eric arrived I positioned him to my right side and had him clove hitch into a locking biner on the shelf of the cordelette making sure he clipped one strand from two different pieces. Once he was attached I took him off belay, flipped the rope over onto his tie in and transferred gear. Prior to departing the belay on the second pitch Eric placed me on belay and I clipped the lead rope into a draw on the powerpoint of the anchor. After placing a piece or two I climbed up into the shrubby area and onto a ledge. Just above and to the right side of the ledge was a short, left facing dihedral that was formed by the end of a large flake. There was a crack in the corner that ran parallel to the cliff. I placed a cam in the crack at about chest height, climbed up about four feet and placed a large nut, independently slinging both with 24Ē slings. I climbed up another few feet and assessed the direction I wanted to go and, based on the presence of a shrub to my right and lots of lichen decided I needed to go to the left more. I spoke briefly with Matt, on the other route, about it, and then decided to downclimb to a better place to traverse. Iím not entirely sure what happened, but I recall that I started moving down and was essentially in a fairly relaxed layback position. Something slipped, I think it was my left foot, and I started falling. As I fell I rotated to the left (counter-clockwise as seen from above) with my fall carrying me to the left also, not straight down, so that I was facing away from the cliff as I dropped onto the ledge described above. I distinctly remember falling for longer than I thought I should have. I braced for the impact as I saw the ledge coming and struck a small (2-3 inch diameter) pine tree with my right buttock, hip, and ribs. I pulled up short without a significant impact to my feet. My side hurt and I think I had the wind knocked out of me. I estimate the total fall length was in the 10-15í range.

Matt, Eric, and Doug, a guide who was following Matt up Ribs, all asked me if I was okay. I really didnít know; the pain was pretty intense but I needed a moment to assess myself. Doug asked if he should come over and I told him I wasnít sure; he came over. I asked Eric for a little slack so that I could reposition myself on the ledge and sat down. As Doug was on his way over I noticed that a bunch of my gear was strewn about on the ledge and hanging in the tree; I thought that was odd. It turns out that either some of my gear or my gear loop caught in the tree and snapped the gear loop on the front right side of my harness.

As Doug arrived I was catching my breath. He looked at my side and indicated that I didnít have any bleeding, helped me recover my gear, and asked if I wanted to retreat or if I would keep going. After a minute or two I decided that I would keep going. I thanked Doug for his help and he returned to his clients. I continued on with the pitch. I was a little shaken and although the pain had diminished it was still significant and limited my movement. Since I had decided to go more left at my high point, I went that direction, put in a cam about five feet to the left of my highest piece (large nut) and then did a very short traverse and cleaned the nut. It was set solidly enough that I had to pound it out using my nut tool. During the remainder of that pitch Eric kept me on a very tight belay, so much so that I had to tell him to loosen it to allow freedom of movement. I reached the GT ledge, built an anchor, and had Eric climb up. While looking around at the climbing ahead of me and assessing how I felt I decided it was best to descend from the bolted anchor on Ribs which was about 25í to our left. Eric gained the ledge, traversed over to the bolted anchor and clipped in and then belayed me over to the anchor. From there we descended. I made the mistake of sending Eric first with instructions to clip into the rap anchor on the tree below. I think Matt and Gabby had set another belay there which is why it was in my mind, but I should have had him continue to the bolted anchor which I knew was below us. When I rappelled down to Eric I realized that something was amiss. He was safely clipped in to the tree so I told him to stay there, rapped a little lower until I could see the bolts, descended to the bolts, clipped in, got off rappel and swung the rope over to Eric. Eric then rapped down to me. At some point prior to this I had realized that Eric had not cleaned the anchor at the top of our first pitch and realized that we had to recover it while on rappel on our way down. Fortunately it was just over to our right at the same height as the bolts, and I had Eric pendulum over to it and clean the gear before he clipped in to the anchor. I should note at this point that occasionally while moving I was feeling a popping sensation in the area where I had impacted the tree.

We descended the remainder of the route without incident and I collected my gear and went home. The pain was still pretty significant and, having had a couple of broken ribs previously, I was pretty sure I had at least one again. I drove to the hospital emergency room and after numerous pokings, proddings, blood and urine tests, blood pressure checks, and x-rays it was determined that I had four broken ribs (9-12), some minor scratches and scrapes on my right elbow, right knee, and left calf, my left calf was sore, my right elbow was sore from hitting something again (old injury from multiple impacts while throwing for dynos) but probably no further internal injuries. Oddly enough, although I had significant bruising on my back right side, and a small bruise on my left butt cheek, there were no actual cuts or significant scrapes there.

Overall I came away with the following:

1. I was lucky I didnít suffer more significant injury (kidney, liver, etc.) that could have been life threatening.

2. I didnít have the right mind-set for climbing with a new climber. I was climbing well within my ability range but should have had more of an ďIím soloingĒ attitude.

3. My concentration was compromised by my ongoing discussion with Matt on the adjacent route and my overconfidence with the relatively easy climbing.

4. I need to widen the area that I consider my potential fall zone, allowing for lateral motion.

5. When dealing with an injury of unknown extent, consider taking the earliest retreat option to allow a more thorough assessment of the injury in a relatively unconstrained environment.


The rope was a relatively new Sterling 10.1, 60 m, non-dry. Eric was belaying with a BD ATC Guide. We were both wearing helmets. I was wearing a Mammut Togir Light harness. We both used friction hitch back-ups during our belay.


sungam


Jun 2, 2011, 4:26 AM
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Re: [shockabuku] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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Damn, dude. I'm glad you're okay. When you say you fell further then you expected, do you mean that your buddy didn't catch you right away, or that he had way too much slack, or that you weren't paying enough attention to where your last placement was?

I'll hold off mocking you for breaking your ribs on a 5.7 for, ohhh, I'll give you a month.


patto


Jun 2, 2011, 4:26 AM
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Re: [shockabuku] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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Glad you are relatively OK.

shockabuku wrote:
2. I didnít have the right mind-set for climbing with a new climber. I was climbing well within my ability range but should have had more of an ďIím soloingĒ attitude.
So are you suggesting your fall was longer due to the belayer?

shockabuku wrote:
We both used friction hitch back-ups during our belay.
Are you saying you belayed with a prussik as well as an ATC? Thats odd....


sungam


Jun 2, 2011, 4:27 AM
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p.s. badass points for getting back on and finishing the pitch, 4x combo bonus for having broken ribs while doing so.


patto


Jun 2, 2011, 5:22 AM
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Re: [sungam] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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sungam wrote:
I'll hold off mocking you for breaking your ribs on a 5.7 for, ohhh, I'll give you a month.

I'd be guessing, but I'd expect that a larger proportion of significant incidents and injuries happen around the grades of 5.7 than around the grades of 5.11.

Though sadly these days a majority of climbing related accidents seem to be rapelling, lowering or other such related activities.


gblauer
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Jun 2, 2011, 5:27 AM
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Re: [shockabuku] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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Hey, I am glad you are ok. Take care and heal quickly.


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Jun 2, 2011, 5:35 AM
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shockabuku wrote:
On May 29th, 2011 I was climbing a route called Calisthenic at the Gunks. Itís a 5.7 and Iíve climbed it before but years prior. It has a jump start to a two hand bucket with mediocre feet and then a slightly long reach to another good hold before you can get your feet up on something decent. Itís rated PG for gear, meaning it has some tricky placements or slightly run out areas. We started climbing on it around 9:30 a.m., the weather was warm, overcast, and fairly humid; the cloud cover varied and we experienced patches of sun as well as some spitting from the clouds during the climb. My partner, Eric, was a newbie. I had met him the day before but this was my first experience climbing with him. I think Eric had some previous experience climbing in the gym during the school year in the Intro to Climbing course that the Physical Education department at our school teaches. At this time, Eric was a student in the three week rock climbing course that the school teaches during the summer and I was volunteering to help out with the course. The course was in its sixth day, having spent two and a half days in the gym, half a day at a sport crag, and the previous two days at the Gunks. The day of my fall was Ericís fourth day outside but his first multi-pitch climb.

Just to my left were two other climbers from our group on a climb called Ribs, a 5.4 I think. Matt, the past captain of the school climbing team, was leading another newbie, Gabby, on what may have also been her first multi-pitch climb. The objective for the day was to get each new climber on a multi-pitch climb with an experienced leader. I was supposed to be the experienced leader in my team. Matt and I were climbing at about the same pace and were occasionally engaged in conversation.

Prior to climbing into an area with some shrubs and small trees, I stopped to build a belay anchor on a small ledge using two cams and a large slotted nut tied together with a cordelette. At the same height Matt reached a bolted anchor to my left and stopped to belay up his partner. He was about 20í away. We belayed our partners directly off the anchor using a ďguideĒ style device because that was what the lead instructor for the course was teaching.

I was tied into the powerpoint of my cordelette using the climbing rope and, as Eric climbed up to the belay, I flaked the rope onto my tie in using successively longer loops. When Eric arrived I positioned him to my right side and had him clove hitch into a locking biner on the shelf of the cordelette making sure he clipped one strand from two different pieces. Once he was attached I took him off belay, flipped the rope over onto his tie in and transferred gear. Prior to departing the belay on the second pitch Eric placed me on belay and I clipped the lead rope into a draw on the powerpoint of the anchor. After placing a piece or two I climbed up into the shrubby area and onto a ledge. Just above and to the right side of the ledge was a short, left facing dihedral that was formed by the end of a large flake. There was a crack in the corner that ran parallel to the cliff. I placed a cam in the crack at about chest height, climbed up about four feet and placed a large nut, independently slinging both with 24Ē slings. I climbed up another few feet and assessed the direction I wanted to go and, based on the presence of a shrub to my right and lots of lichen decided I needed to go to the left more. I spoke briefly with Matt, on the other route, about it, and then decided to downclimb to a better place to traverse. Iím not entirely sure what happened, but I recall that I started moving down and was essentially in a fairly relaxed layback position. Something slipped, I think it was my left foot, and I started falling. As I fell I rotated to the left (counter-clockwise as seen from above) with my fall carrying me to the left also, not straight down, so that I was facing away from the cliff as I dropped onto the ledge described above. I distinctly remember falling for longer than I thought I should have. I braced for the impact as I saw the ledge coming and struck a small (2-3 inch diameter) pine tree with my right buttock, hip, and ribs. I pulled up short without a significant impact to my feet. My side hurt and I think I had the wind knocked out of me. I estimate the total fall length was in the 10-15í range.

Matt, Eric, and Doug, a guide who was following Matt up Ribs, all asked me if I was okay. I really didnít know; the pain was pretty intense but I needed a moment to assess myself. Doug asked if he should come over and I told him I wasnít sure; he came over. I asked Eric for a little slack so that I could reposition myself on the ledge and sat down. As Doug was on his way over I noticed that a bunch of my gear was strewn about on the ledge and hanging in the tree; I thought that was odd. It turns out that either some of my gear or my gear loop caught in the tree and snapped the gear loop on the front right side of my harness.

As Doug arrived I was catching my breath. He looked at my side and indicated that I didnít have any bleeding, helped me recover my gear, and asked if I wanted to retreat or if I would keep going. After a minute or two I decided that I would keep going. I thanked Doug for his help and he returned to his clients. I continued on with the pitch. I was a little shaken and although the pain had diminished it was still significant and limited my movement. Since I had decided to go more left at my high point, I went that direction, put in a cam about five feet to the left of my highest piece (large nut) and then did a very short traverse and cleaned the nut. It was set solidly enough that I had to pound it out using my nut tool. During the remainder of that pitch Eric kept me on a very tight belay, so much so that I had to tell him to loosen it to allow freedom of movement. I reached the GT ledge, built an anchor, and had Eric climb up. While looking around at the climbing ahead of me and assessing how I felt I decided it was best to descend from the bolted anchor on Ribs which was about 25í to our left. Eric gained the ledge, traversed over to the bolted anchor and clipped in and then belayed me over to the anchor. From there we descended. I made the mistake of sending Eric first with instructions to clip into the rap anchor on the tree below. I think Matt and Gabby had set another belay there which is why it was in my mind, but I should have had him continue to the bolted anchor which I knew was below us. When I rappelled down to Eric I realized that something was amiss. He was safely clipped in to the tree so I told him to stay there, rapped a little lower until I could see the bolts, descended to the bolts, clipped in, got off rappel and swung the rope over to Eric. Eric then rapped down to me. At some point prior to this I had realized that Eric had not cleaned the anchor at the top of our first pitch and realized that we had to recover it while on rappel on our way down. Fortunately it was just over to our right at the same height as the bolts, and I had Eric pendulum over to it and clean the gear before he clipped in to the anchor. I should note at this point that occasionally while moving I was feeling a popping sensation in the area where I had impacted the tree.

We descended the remainder of the route without incident and I collected my gear and went home. The pain was still pretty significant and, having had a couple of broken ribs previously, I was pretty sure I had at least one again. I drove to the hospital emergency room and after numerous pokings, proddings, blood and urine tests, blood pressure checks, and x-rays it was determined that I had four broken ribs (9-12), some minor scratches and scrapes on my right elbow, right knee, and left calf, my left calf was sore, my right elbow was sore from hitting something again (old injury from multiple impacts while throwing for dynos) but probably no further internal injuries. Oddly enough, although I had significant bruising on my back right side, and a small bruise on my left butt cheek, there were no actual cuts or significant scrapes there.

Overall I came away with the following:

1. I was lucky I didnít suffer more significant injury (kidney, liver, etc.) that could have been life threatening.

2. I didnít have the right mind-set for climbing with a new climber. I was climbing well within my ability range but should have had more of an ďIím soloingĒ attitude.

3. My concentration was compromised by my ongoing discussion with Matt on the adjacent route and my overconfidence with the relatively easy climbing.

4. I need to widen the area that I consider my potential fall zone, allowing for lateral motion.

5. When dealing with an injury of unknown extent, consider taking the earliest retreat option to allow a more thorough assessment of the injury in a relatively unconstrained environment.


The rope was a relatively new Sterling 10.1, 60 m, non-dry. Eric was belaying with a BD ATC Guide. We were both wearing helmets. I was wearing a Mammut Togir Light harness. We both used friction hitch back-ups during our belay.


While I agree with your number 2 in principle, I don't necessarily think it was a factor in this accident. If Eric didn't rein in any slack as you downclimbed, that might change my mind a bit. But as I'm sure you know, slack has a way of building up and ropes stretch to surprising length.

Glad you're okay, man! Excellent write up! Most of the time when people post such things, I have to parse the paragraphs to try, often in vain, to figure out how everything unfolded. Not so with yours.


(This post was edited by j_ung on Jun 2, 2011, 5:36 AM)


funnelator


Jun 2, 2011, 5:58 AM
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Re: [shockabuku] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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Glad you're ok Shock.

When taking out newbies we are effectively guiding. One has to be ready for that and in a guide frame of mind.

I don't know what your background is. Perhaps you have experience guiding. Perhaps not. Regardless, it's not uncommon for people without too much experience climbing to take people with very little experience climbing with them. This presents risks which sometimes both climbers may be unaware of.

Ribs take a few weeks before they really start to stick in a way that makes the pain go away. Take it easy and heal up.


Partner robdotcalm


Jun 2, 2011, 6:27 AM
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Re: [funnelator] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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Thanks for such a thorough report. Best wishes for healing well.

rob.calm


lena_chita
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Jun 2, 2011, 6:51 AM
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Re: [shockabuku] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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I'm glad you are O.K.! It must have been a heck of a learning experience for your newbie.

And sigh... climbers are crazy! (in an admirable way, but still crazy) Yeah, let's lead a pitch with 4 broken ribs... I know someone who climbed for a week with collapsed ung, before seeking medical attention. Just a little pain, shortness of breath and coughing, you know... nothing major.


shockabuku


Jun 2, 2011, 6:55 AM
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Re: [patto] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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patto wrote:
Glad you are relatively OK.

shockabuku wrote:
2. I didnít have the right mind-set for climbing with a new climber. I was climbing well within my ability range but should have had more of an ďIím soloingĒ attitude.
So are you suggesting your fall was longer due to the belayer?

I don't know if there was any belayer error or not but, it would have been better if I didn't fall given that my partner was untested.

In reply to:
shockabuku wrote:
We both used friction hitch back-ups during our belay.
Are you saying you belayed with a prussik as well as an ATC? Thats odd....

Sorry, I meant rappel. My ability to proof read my own writing is lacking.


Partner rgold


Jun 2, 2011, 7:26 AM
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Whoa, glad you are ok. I have a friend with an international reputation in both rock climbing and mountaineering who slipped on a 5.7 layback and, with nothing in yet, went twenty feet or so to the deck. Hitting dense bushes at the ground kept his injuries to bruises and scrapes.

Because adhesion in laybacks is obtained by virtue of applied counterpressure, even a moment's loss of focus can cause a slip. I find laybacking to be the scariest of all climbing techniques for this reason.

As for falling further than you expected, I have this impression almost every time I've fallen. (Which doesn't mean that you might really have fallen further than you should have.)

Speaking generally and, of course, without any specific knowledge of your situation, I think there is a tendency, reinforced by sport climbing practices adapted to overhanging rock, to leave way too much slack in the leader's rope. The J-loops you see hanging from belayers' devices in the gym and at sport venues are totally inappropriate in a trad context when there is going to be stuff to hit.

Again speaking generally, beginners trained to give slack belays on sport and gym climbs need to be retrained to manage slack a lot more closely on trad climbs. Among other things, keeping slack out of the lead line means having to be significantly more attentive to rope movements to avoid short-roping the leader.


potreroed


Jun 2, 2011, 8:03 AM
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Re: [shockabuku] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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Ouch! I know exactly what four broken ribs feels like.


shockabuku


Jun 2, 2011, 8:13 AM
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Re: [j_ung] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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j_ung wrote:
While I agree with your number 2 in principle, I don't necessarily think it was a factor in this accident. If Eric didn't rein in any slack as you downclimbed, that might change my mind a bit. But as I'm sure you know, slack has a way of building up and ropes stretch to surprising length.

I don't know if it was a contributing factor to the injury or not and I know it wasn't a contributing factor to the fall. The point was more that, given the situation, I should not have let myself lose focus and I should never have fallen and then all of this would be moot.

I'm still trying to sort out the effect of downclimbing and its contributing slack, etc. I didn't clearly communicate that I was downclimbing to my partner and I don't know what he did with the rope.


bearbreeder


Jun 2, 2011, 8:33 AM
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Re: [rgold] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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rgold wrote:
Speaking generally and, of course, without any specific knowledge of your situation, I think there is a tendency, reinforced by sport climbing practices adapted to overhanging rock, to leave way too much slack in the leader's rope. The J-loops you see hanging from belayers' devices in the gym and at sport venues are totally inappropriate in a trad context when there is going to be stuff to hit.

Again speaking generally, beginners trained to give slack belays on sport and gym climbs need to be retrained to manage slack a lot more closely on trad climbs. Among other things, keeping slack out of the lead line means having to be significantly more attentive to rope movements to avoid short-roping the leader.

xactly ... not to mention the gym practice of standing far away from the wall

glad yr alright ...


Partner cracklover


Jun 2, 2011, 8:42 AM
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Re: [shockabuku] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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Good write-up, and hope you heal up fast.

Sounds like your second got a lot more of a full value day than he expected. Might want to follow-up with him when you're ready, to insure he learns the right lessons from the experience.

GO


Partner j_ung


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Re: [lena_chita] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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lena_chita wrote:
I know someone who climbed for a week with collapsed ung, before seeking medical attention.

And boy was I pissed. LaughLaughLaughLaugh


lena_chita
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Jun 2, 2011, 9:54 AM
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j_ung wrote:
lena_chita wrote:
I know someone who climbed for a week with collapsed ung, before seeking medical attention.

And boy was I pissed. LaughLaughLaughLaugh


Wait, there is more than one! I actually wasn't talking about you. Laugh


sspssp


Jun 2, 2011, 10:39 AM
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shockabuku wrote:
Doug was on his way over I noticed that a bunch of my gear was strewn about on the ledge and hanging in the tree; I thought that was odd. It turns out that either some of my gear or my gear loop caught in the tree and snapped the gear loop on the front right side of my harness.

When I heard some harness makers were making their gear loops tie-in strong, I had mixed feelings. If your gear loop had snagged a tree and not broken, that could have been a really hard stop.


sspssp


Jun 2, 2011, 10:42 AM
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Re: [sspssp] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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Glad to hear you are ok, you said you fell further than expected about 10~15 feet. Not clear all the details of the situation, but any fall that is not a "take" can be 8 or 10 feet with slack and rope stretch.

Yea, I can understand wanting to get back up and finish the lead. Not always a good idea. I've heard of leaders starting back up only to pass out [presumably] from internal bleeding.


sethg


Jun 2, 2011, 11:55 AM
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Re: [sspssp] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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I'd like to second rgold's comments on fall length. Being just a few feet out from your gear, combined with stretch, the belayer possibly being yanked off his or her stance, and the smallest amount of slack in the rope, will get you to a 15 foot fall in no time. I would guess your belayer did nothing wrong.

Glad you're going to be okay, I'm sorry about your injury.


moose_droppings


Jun 2, 2011, 12:40 PM
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Re: [shockabuku] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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Glad to hear your going to mend up OK.
I've broke some ribs skiing before and inevitably your going to hear every good joke all your friends can muster up just so they can see you cringe while laughing.
Wink



While it doesn't sound to me like your belayer added much to your fall length, I agree with Gabe that you should go over this accident thoroughly with them to glean and share all that can be learned from it.


shockabuku


Jun 2, 2011, 3:06 PM
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Re: [shockabuku] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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Thanks, everyone, for the well wishes.


jt512


Jun 2, 2011, 9:28 PM
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Re: [lena_chita] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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lena_chita wrote:
I know someone who climbed for a week with collapsed ung, before seeking medical attention.

That's unconscionable. If I were j_ung, I'd sue.

Edit: D'oh! Totally GUed.

Jay


(This post was edited by jt512 on Jun 2, 2011, 9:33 PM)


Partner j_ung


Jun 3, 2011, 2:58 PM
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Re: [jt512] Fall with broken ribs [In reply to]
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jt512 wrote:
lena_chita wrote:
I know someone who climbed for a week with collapsed ung, before seeking medical attention.

That's unconscionable. If I were j_ung, I'd sue.

Edit: D'oh! Totally GUed.

Jay

LaughLaugh I own the rights to the joke.

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