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Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection, Alaska, Talkeetna Mountains, Archangel Valley

FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE PROTECTION

Alaska, Talkeetna Mountains, Archangel Valley

On July 1, 1994, Beav Deering and I finally made it up to Archangel Valley on a sunny day for some long awaited climbing. We chose an easier route, Toto (5.7)—on the Diamond Wall, to start off with after being turned away from the Monolith by an angry miner. Except for the shivering cold of the shaded route, everything went well. We spotted a small crag to the north of Archangel Creek getting blasted by the sun so we headed across and up the valley. After scrambling up a boulder field and steep grassy slopes, we came to the base of the crag and found some established face routes. None of the climbs was in the dated guide book of the area, so we picked one that “looked good.” I started up on the lead, clipped an old pin and then a bolt about 20 feet from the ground. The next bolt was up around the arete and out of sight. After a few hard moves and still not at the next clip-in, things were getting desperate, so I started down climbing to let Beav give it a go. In my attempts to down climb, I got stuck and forewarned Beav I was coming off. I briefly eyed my flight path and down I came. The fall was about 15 feet with a bad pendulum that resulted in slamming the inside of my left foot against the arete. I knew it was broken before I stopped swinging, but couldn’t convince Beav until after he lowered me. I showed him how my foot moved like a ball and socket joint. We splinted it with the few items we had and began our self-evac. It took us an hour to travel (hopping through boulder fields and getting piggybacked on the flats) the half mile or so to the truck. The accident occurred at 1900 and we arrived at the hospital in Anchorage about 2230. The X-ray showed a broken fibula just above the ankle, which required surgery and three screws to repair.

Analysis

I am a young climber, climbing for almost three years now, and so I am new to all the information compiled by and for climbers. The first time I read through this publication (ANAM) was after my accident, and I have found its accounts to be very educational, just as the old editions of Snowy Torrents are for backcountry skiers.

Falling goes hand in hand with climbing when one is testing and pushing the limits, and it's those unlucky falls that can turn us into victims. Since I am putting myself into life threatening situations, I am inherently the only one responsible for dealing with any injuries I might incur. Therefore, as a climber, I am obligated to myself and my partners to be properly trained in dealing with wilderness emergencies and to never expect outside assistance in the case of an accident. Both Beav and I have a fair amount of wilderness medicine training (Wilderness First Responder), and this helped us deal with the situation successfully. I’m hoping that people will stop going into the mountains unprepared to deal with the unimaginable disasters that can occur so that in the future we won’t have to pay stiff fees to climb popular mountains, such as now on Denali and Foraker. The big yahoo, party mentality, with planes and choppers on call, spoils it for us poor folk who would like to climb the big peaks as well.

Even though I wasn’t ready to onsight this climb, at least we were ready and able to deal with the consequences. (Source: Cliff Hilpert)

(Editors Note: Correction in the Alaska section of the 1993 ANAM, page 24, line 5: “Australian-Salzburg...” should read “Austrian-Salzburg...”)