FALL ON ROCK, EXCEEDING ABILITIES, INADEQUATE PROTECTION
North Carolina, Table Rock Mountain, Slipping Into Darkness
On November 1, M. H. (mid 40s) and his two sons (7 and 14) attempted the route slipping into Darkness (5.9), a variation on Helmet Buttress. M. H. was leading and placed his first piece within the first 50 feet of the climb. He fell well above his last piece of protection prior to the crux and landed on the ground, injuring his back. As a result of the fall M. H., sustained a spinal injury. His seven-year old ran out to the Table Rock Recreation area parking lot where he found a driver to transport him to the North Carolina Outward Bound School Table Rock base camp. NCOBS Mountain Rescue responded, as did Burke County Rescue.
M. H. remained conscious and complained of tingling and numbness in his legs and tenderness in his spine. He was back-boarded and carried out to a waiting helicopter. He was diagnosed as having three cracked vertebrae and small pieces of bone floating around the spinal column. He was operated on in Johnson City, TN, where he himself is an ER physician.
Climber should have taken advantage of the numerous opportunities to place gear on this route rather than relying on a single piece. The lead climber should be aware of the belayer’s abilities. Belaying the leader requires practice catching and holding a falling leader. Credit is due to the seven-year-old who ran out for help! (Source: Aram Attarian)