Fall on Ice, Gear Racked Randomly, Fatigue, Failure to Listen to Instincts, Possible Senility, South Dakota, Spearfish Canyon

Publication Year: 2008.


South Dakota, Spearfish Canyon

February 6. Aging ice climber (67) begins approach too tired to get to base of climb (100 feet from road), but with the aid of ski poles manages anyway. Almost senile, climber fails to rack his ice screws so as to easily get at them on harness. (Left them random racked randomly on shoulder sling.) Three or four screws up (leading), finally notices, but decides too much trouble to deal with. By now terrain is vertical. Creeping senility (also name of favorite rock climb nearby) still allows awareness of much-increasing tiredness. About four or five feet above last ice screw, whacking in ice tool, thinking probably good enough (really tired now), but knowing it could be better. Whacking away (limply) with second tool and not getting it to seat. Whack again, and... POP! He is off. (Gee, it sure was fast!) Right foot hits steeply sloping ledge about one-foot wide. Crampons catch. Ouch.

Good belay a foot or so farther brings old climber up just fine. (Belayer is EMT for local ambulance crew.) Not to be deterred (sure sign of arrived senility), climber climbs back up to give it another go, but notices (about three feet above the last saving ice screw) that his foot still hurts and he can’t really put weight on it. So, back down, then a lower to the ground. Belayer (fortunately not senile or out-of-it) looks at foot and says, “Hmmm…,” then retrieves gear.


Good foresight shown by climber in bringing ski poles for the lengthy approach, because they are much needed on the way out. Maybe not senile after all. (Source: Written by the not-so-senile climber after all, Peter Lev)