Kentucky, Red River Gorge, Global Village
On May 13, I (Matt Queen, 32) was gearing up at the base of Father and Son (5.7) when a member of my party, climbing above me, dislodged a block weighing approximately 10 pounds while traversing between the anchors of Father and Son and the adjacent route Kentucky Pinstripe. Both routes start on a very large ledge. I had my back turned to the cliff when I was struck on the top of my helmeted head and knocked unconscious. Members of my party noted that the climber above yelled, “Rock!” but I don’t remember hearing the warning.
After the impact, another member in my party grabbed me and kept me from falling off the ledge. I regained consciousness after about one minute. After I had gathered myself and was checked for further injuries, I was evacuated by the three members of my group.
I sustained a concussion from the impact, and my memory from the following couple of days is pretty fragmented. But I believe my helmet probably saved my life. Like most climbers now, I started climbing in the gym, and after my transition to outdoor climbing I still kept my gym attire—i.e., no helmet. It wasn't until I started trad climbing that I started wearing a helmet, and even then I would only wear it during gear-protected climbs. It took me longer than it should have to realize that my logic was flawed. Thankfully, I’d already made the decision to always wear a helmet before this particular incident. In hindsight, I'm glad that I got blasted by rockfall that day. Now I have a great story to tell people that may save someone’s life.