FALL ON ROCK, NO HELMET
Maine, Acadia National Park, Gunklandia
On October 8th around 11:30 a.m., my girlfriend, a group of friends, and I were top-roping Old Town and a few adjacent routes at the Precipice. Two young women were climbing the nearby route Gunklandia. For reasons unknown, the experienced lead climber, L.B. (21), lowered off after climbing through the crux and switched ends with her partner S.B. (21), a beginner. Minutes later I looked up to see S.B. falling. Her feet hit a small ledge and sent her over backwards, and as the rope came tight, she hit the back of her head on the wall. The fall was estimated to be 30 feet. After righting herself, she felt the back of her head, which was covered in blood. Her partner lowered her. My girlfriend called 911 on her cell phone and I came over to assist. S.B. had a deep gouge on the back of her head that was bleeding profusely. Using a t-shirt and athletic tape, we bandaged her head, and after L.B. (EMT) looked for spinal injury, we assisted her in walking her down the trail to meet the park rangers.
After the rangers took over her care, I went up Old Town and rapped down Gunklandia to retrieve their gear. Her last piece, a #4 BD stopper, was clipped to the rope with a long sling. There were three other pieces of gear, all stoppers clipped to the rope. No gear failed and all the placements looked secure. It is not known if S.B. placed any of the gear, since they had switched rope ends. The area she fell from was past the difficulties, and she reported “just slipping”. There were ample places for protection in the area she fell.
It is fairly certain a helmet in this fall could have significantly reduced the seriousness of the injury. One can speculate about inexperience, inadequate protection, climbing above one’s limit, etc. What one can not speculate on is whether a helmet would have reduced this injury. Of the dozen or so climbers in the area that day, only a minority wore helmets. This occurred three days after an earthquake had released tons of rock in this area. (Source: David Lottmann, EMS Climbing Guide)