Fall on Rock, No Hard Hat, Exceeding Abilities

Colorado, Boulder Canyon, Happy Hour Crag
Climb Year: N/A. Publication Year: 2001.

On February 26, while lead climbing in Boulder Canyon with two relatively inexperienced members in my group, I lent my helmet to Rob, the least experienced person in our group (who had never climbed outdoors before). Darin, our most experienced climber, was climbing a 5.8-5.9 buttress immediately west of our established position, while being belayed by Dave (who had a great deal of experience in the gym, but likewise had never been outdoors before). Lance belayed me on a route that looked like it might have been 5.6-soft 5.7. Rob was going to top-rope the route. For the first 80 feet of the route, I placed pro approximately every 10 to 15 feet. The route arced from left to right. My final pro placement was a threaded sling through a pothole, from which I had a 30-foot traverse to the natural anchor. Within 10 feet of the anchor, I slipped and fell about 25-30 feet, hitting the top of my head on the rock face. Lance made a sure-handed catch, but I had lacerated my scalp. The copious blood flow impressed upon me the necessity of being examined by a medical professional. Lance accompanied me during the short down-climb/rappel and drove me to the Boulder Community Hospital, where I received seven stitches to close the laceration on my scalp.


I clearly should have worn my helmet, especially while on lead. My reason for leaving my helmet with Rob (so he might climb with a greater feeling of security) demonstrates that I began the climb without a clear idea of whether the second was going to follow me up to the natural anchor, from which we would continue up, or if he was merely going to top-rope. I had obviously underestimated the difficulty of the route and/or overestimated my own ability. Further, the arcing route I took made the problem of rope drag a factor, which may or may not have contributed to me falling in the first place.

You can be certain that I will never again climb, let alone lead, without wearing my helmet. (Source: Jon Canon - 28)

Share this article