FALL ON ROCK, PROTECTION PULLED OUT, EXCEEDING ABILITIES Oregon, Smith Rock State Park, Godzilla
Mark Kent (42) and his father, Terry Kent (64), arrived at Smith Rock State Park on a Saturday morning, September 18, to find that the trad climbs they had researched were taken by other climbers. They found Godzilla around the corner near Monkey Face, a 5.8 climb rated one star by Alan Watts in his Climber's Guide to Smith Rock.
Godzilla is a traditional unbolted climb given a mixed review by Watts for its climbing, including a dirty flair and a 5.8 under-cling at the top of the route. Godzilla requires gear to three inches according to Watts.
Terry Kent is a past Climb Leader with the Portland based Mazamas club. Terry belayed as Mark worked his way up the route. Near the top, Mark set a flexible shaft cam in a two-inch horizontal crack and climbed upward over a bulge. About four feet above his last piece and with clear air below the bulge, Mark found nowhere to go and, after warning his belayer, he dropped off.
Mark remembers a jerk as the last piece pulled out, before falling an estimated 25 feet to a ledge. He landed flat-footed on the ledge and then fell over backward, striking his head and hanging upside down. He was wearing a helmet that may have prevented him from losing consciousness.
Terry lowered his son toward the ground as Mark made his way through the complexity of the climb. They were alone in this part of the park. They called 911 from their cell phone. A Ranger appeared and soon two firemen charged with rescues at Smith. Mark was given morphine. The four carried Mark down the steep narrow trail to the Crooked River where other firemen were rigging a boat to a waiting ambulance. Mark was released from the hospital with his x-rays and soft casts. He returned to work five weeks later and is mountaineering again.
Mark suggests that climbers create a redundant anchor below a crux move. He is concerned about the soft nature of the rock in this part of Smith which does not protect well. He feels, in retrospect, that this route was a bit beyond his current level.