Fall on Rock, Inadequate Protection, Overconfidence, Colorado, Durango

Publication Year: 2008.


Colorado, Durango

After 17 years of rock climbing, bad judgment finally caught up with me. Don’t let it happen to you. Climbing near Durango, I was on a route well within my ability and moved about eight feet above a piece of protection, which I knew was probably less than ideal. Thinking, “There’s no way I’ll fall on this,” I continued up. No sooner had I moved up and my left hand greased, followed by my left foot. I slid down the rock (it was just slightly less than vertical), the piece popped and I fell approx 25 feet. I hit a ledge, snapping my left foot. Luckily, I stopped on this ledge and didn’t continue to fall further.

I did have my helmet on and lucked out that I didn’t fall over backwards, causing worse injury. I suffered a compound fracture of the medial malleolus, severed a posterior vein and artery and a section of nerves on the medial side of my left foot as well as all of my tendons, ligaments, and cartilage on the medial aspect of my foot. My foot was basically hanging off by some skin and tendons on the lateral side. After an excellent splinting job, I was able to hike out to the trailhead with the assistance of three friends and my wife ... and with the aid of two chugged beers once I was off the rock. (Hey, it hurt like hell).

I thank my lucky stars I was not injured worse.


My mistakes? All amount to BAD judgment: overconfidence, inadequate (poor) protection, and a feeling of “It won’t happen to me.” Once I am back on the rock, I will be much more cognizant of my mistakes.

I am damn glad I had my helmet on; even though I didn’t hit my head, I feel it could easily have happened. (Source: Edited slightly from a report on line—www.mountainproject.com—submitted by joel Claus, the climber)

(Editor’s Note: We always appreciate it when we receive reports in the first person.)

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