American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Protection Pulled Out, No Hard Hat

Colorado, Boulder Canyon, Practice Rock

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 2012

Reid Pletcher (22), and I (Mali Noyes) were climbing together on May 26. This was going to be our last climb of the day. He was leading the climb, placing gear as he ascended. When he was about 20–30 feet up the wall, he unexpectedly fell. At this point, he had four trad pieces in, but the top two pulled out. He landed on the rock ledge next to me. Because the ledge is downward sloping, I had to keep Reid on belay to keep him from sliding off the ledge. So I called for help.

For the minute or two that I waited for help, I could see Reid spitting and slowly moving his arms and legs. The four other climbers that were nearby were very helpful. We tried to calm him down and stabilize his head. He had a laceration on the back of his head and was bleeding a lot from his left ear. He was very confused and uncooperative. He kept on trying to stand up. While it was not ideal, he was most comfortable in the fetal position with his head in my lap. I applied pressure to the laceration on the back of his head and treated him the best I could for shock. While I was not next to him for the first one to two minutes after the fall, he was conscious and knew his name and my name the entire time. The Nederland Fire Department, Pridemark Paramedics, and Rocky Mountain Rescue safely removed Pletcher from the rock ledge and he was taken by helicopter to St. Anthony’s Hospital where he was diagnosed with two skull fractures, brain contusions with a subdural hemorrhage and a wrist contusion. He is expected to make a full recovery after rehabilitation.

Analysis

Reid was not wearing a helmet. Wear a helmet! Helmets are designed to protect the climber’s head by absorbing energy and protecting against penetration. The consequences of not wearing a climbing helmet and sustaining a head injury could lead to impaired motor skills and paralysis, memory loss, altered personality, speech difficulty, and other life - changing issues. (Source: Mali Noyes, mountainproject.com)

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