Monday, June 12, 2006

Bob's Ankle Buster

Nole posted a quick note on my accident. I thought a full report was warranted.

The route I was on was a first ascent on easy trad of about 5.7-5.8 or less with a big sloping ledge with trees about 20' up. Sort of alternating slabby and vertical. I had rapped the route a few times and cleaned it a little, there was ample opportunity for pro and although there was some lichen it was not obscuring the holds and was easily brushed off. After we built a bolted anchor at the top and rapped down to check out the routes Darrell and I set up to climb a route each, I went first. The treed ledge made it hard to find the best place to start up to my chosen line from the ledge. At first I started way off to the right and had to retreat. The second start had me still right of the line I wanted so my route angeled to the left. I placed a 1.5" hex below the large ledge and on the ledge went left behind a tree - if I fell then I would have been on the other side of the tree and it would act like my second piece. From the ledge there was an 8' slabby section I put my real second piece at the top of this, a large nut. About 10' further up on the vertical section I put in a cam (blue Rock Empire #0.5?) with a full, length runner. From here on I planned to go straight up A little higher with my feet at the level of the cam I was on a good hold with my left foot, stemming for balance with my right, using my left hand on a sidepull, and my right hand was fiddling with biner full of nuts trying to get one to fit perfectly. When the "good" hold under my left foot broke off with a loud crack and I dropped straight down.

After a second or so of panic I caught my balance on the slabby section, looked up to see that the cam looked to be holding well and looked at my screaming ankle. The outside of the joint was swollen to the size of a softball and getting bigger. After a bit of shouting back and forth to clarify the situation, Darrell lowered me to the ground and came over to help with my ankle which was now the size of a small cantaloupe. I held up my leg with my hands behind my knee while Darrell taped my ankle, being careful not to tape on the pull loops of my shoes. We got into my high top hiking boots, tying them up as tight as possible and then taping them tighter.

With my ankle somewhat secured we now had to get back to the car. About 75m away was a rough path that would take us the half K or so to the car, between was steep 45 degree bushwacking. We had had to duck under deadfalls and push through alders on the way in, going out with a broken ankle was no fun at all. Darrell found a stick to use as a staff and provided a shoulder whenever I needed it. My main concern was speed. I was afraid the adrenaline would wear off leaving me useless.

The ER doctor gave me a half cast and told me I had broken my ankle on the inside, a large chip off the tibia, and badly sprained it on the outside. The orthopedic Dr. confirmed this three days later. If the doctors are right I should be walking in July and I hope to be climbing in August, I'de rather be cautious than hurt myself more.

After quite a bit of thought the only mistake I can think of was using a full length runner on the cam. It added four feet to my fall. I probably would not have hit the slab if I had clipped directly into the cam. I was worried about rope drag and wiggling the piece out but I could easily have downclimbed and lengthened the sling after putting in the next piece. Also if my reflexes were fast enough I might have pushed off a bit so I would slow down on the rope before swinging into the rock, but if they were that fast I could have grabbed a better hold and not fallen at all. Of course I might have noticed that the hold was suspect and not used it at all, I'm usually paranoid about that kind of thing so I think this was one of those that would have given no indication that it was about to give. I was standing on it for a minute or more before it gave.

I was climbing in a new area that I have been looking at for almost a year now. I've made several trips into it during which I've hiked in to a number of faces chosen and rapped the first routes and blazed the access trail. Beautiful feature rich granite with at least five faces that will have dozens if not hundreds of one pitch sport or trad routes. There's also lots of potential for bouldering. All this within a half hour's drive of downtown St. John's and the closest face only 15 minutes from the car. I hope to spend years developing this area; I already have the first half dozen routes planned out. I was going to finally climb the first route and look what happened. If anybody wants directions I'm not keeping it secret.


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