FALL ON ROCK, PROTECTION PULLED OUT
Nova Scotia, Eagle’s Nest, “No Man’s Land”
September 30 was a great climbing day at Eagles Nest. The cool morning air of Fall was quickly warming up, the skies were clear, and the rock was cool to the touch. It was the type of day Brian Merry dreams of for climbing, and he was on his way with two companions to try the 5.11 route on “No Man’s Land” again. He had led it cleanly the previous season on fixed protection, but had a spotted record of attempts on it this year, finally getting up it on a top rope in August after a lot of falls, but he was not happy with that performance. He was feeling terrific this day, and eager to set the record straight.
First Brian rappelled down the route to inspect it, review the problems, and perfect a sequence of moves. Then he tried the climb on a top rope, and his sequence worked like a charm. High on his success, he decided immediately that he had to lead the route on natural protection, the only way he could feel he had really ‘nailed’ it. Even using the bolts on lead wasn’t good enough. He had to have the natural lead, and the top rope went so well that he had to have it today. As he was lowered off, he picked a spot for a critical piece he would need above the crux. He measured the crack with his thumb, and knew the #7 would stick like flies on jam. At the base, he carefully prepared his rack for the most efficient place-and-clip, while his belayer Mike tried to talk him out of it. Then the top rope hit the ground, and the fear factor instantly set in, which would help him make wise decisions and keep him healthy.
Then he was off, up the crack, but about a meter before the split, he felt he should get a piece in, for no particular reason, though he felt secure and would be able to place another one a bit higher. Unfortunately, he didn’t have what he needed, and had to climb down twice before he got it right—a 3.5 Friend. Right beside the first bolt, he had to choose between a bomber flexy Friend or a so-so #8 nut, and decided on the nut, as he might need the Friend a little higher up. He placed the nut, then climbed easily through the crux to the spot for the #7 DMM. With his left hand on a hold, he placed the nut, set it, then he pulled up rope and tried to clip in, but fumbled the ‘biner. He tried again, missed, and felt his hand slip a bit. He needed chalk, but could not reach it, so he got a better grip on the hold and went for the clip a third time
Less than a meter below the top anchor, at 1235, his hand popped off the hold and he was on his way earthward! Out of the corner of his eye he saw his #8 nut flapping in the air. He should have used that flexy Friend after all. Strange feelings rushed through him as he realized he was about to hit. His feet hit first as the rope came tight. Then his back hit, flat on the smooth rock, and was not injured. Luckily, his head did not hit, as he had no helmet. He ended up hanging inverted at eye level to Mike, who lowered him a few more feet to a ledge. Brian’s feet were obviously in bad shape, and Deborah, a nurse, cut his new climbing shoes off them, while Mike went for help. In the next three hours the Fire Department evacuated Brian, and the ambulance took him to hospital.
He had only a hairline fracture in the right foot, but his left heel was splintered, and the bone between it and the ankle was “shattered into a powder”. Also the left ankle and foot had torn ligaments. After five days in hospital, he went home in two casts and a wheelchair, and is recuperating, with hopes that the broken bones will fuse and he will be able to climb again. (Source: Brian Merry)