• Falling

    One of my favorite climbing websites, UKClimbing.com, recently posted a story and video about a climber falling some 60 feet off a Grit route. Amazingly, the climber hit the ground and survived. Watching the video is rather sickening. You can clearly see his struggle escalate at the route’s delicate crux. Going for the move the first time, he fails, barely avoiding a whip, dramatically reeling his body and leg back in to a tenuous point of balance. Presumably at a point of no return, watching him recommit to the move for a second time is dreadful.

    O’Gradey’s Side-runnerless H9 6c/7a ** from Franco Cookson on Vimeo.

    Watching this put me in the mind of another very famous whipper, from the opening scene of an absolute classic climbing film, Hard Grit. The heart-thumping background noise never fails to make my palms sweat. Grab a chalk bag and watch this.

    The proliferation of climbing movies in recent years also means more and more whipper footage, including “the fall heard round the world”: Dave MacLeod’s mighty winger(s) from his trad route Rhapsody. That, along with chalkless 5.14 R climbing in Germany’s Elbsandstein, can be seen in this very enjoyable highlight reel.

    I remember my first proper fall, at Ship Rock off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was on an obscure 5.10 roof. The fall was clean, all air, and 10 feet at the most. I still have and lovingly use the cam I whipped on that day. Thankfully, the fall was nothing like those depicted above.

    Got a good whipper story? Care to share your air time? When was the last time you took your lashings and logged a proper winger? Of course, as you recollect your fall, please also remember to be safe.

    Zachary Lesch-Huie

    Zachary lives and works in Boone, North Carolina. Bad or good, rock climbing’s his most entrenched habit. Frankly there’s nothing he’d rather be doing. Fortunately climbing helps him meet great new people, and spend wonderful quality time with his soon-to-be wife. Without climbing, and the wonderful and weird people of the climbing world, he might be a loathsome hermit. When Zachary’s not able to climb, he distracts himself with work, swimming holes, and climbing media of various sorts, including this blog site.

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Discussion 6 Responses

  1. March 28, 2011 at 6:07 am

    I used to be so freaked out about falling on gear. It took hanging on gear a bunch and seeing that my placements were at least solid at that weight before I felt comfortable whipping on ‘em. The biggest whipper I ever took was aid climbing–which I suck at–when i was climbing the Prow on Washington’s Column. I was going over a small roof, an Alien blew at the lip, and I took like a 30 footer and bounced off the edge of the portaledge. My back was all worked but we still managed to finish the climb…even though I didn’t lead much more. :)  

  2. March 28, 2011 at 7:04 am

    Biggest one I took was while sport climbing at American Fork Canyon in Utah. I had a key heel hook with my left heel keeping me in while pulling up slack to clip from a tough stance. I can still see the coils of loose rope cascading down as my heel popped off and I barn-doored for a whipper. It ended up being about a 30 footer when all was said and done. Big clean air, although I almost kicked my belayer in the head. Got back on and finished the route, but I was really careful making that clip again.

  3. March 28, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Dang, great stories fellas!

  4. April 19, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Since you asked, I guess I’ll share.  I had been climbing a few years, always with my brother and mentor.  We were taking advantage of Indian Rocks on Grandfather while still legal.  For some unknown reason I decided to try my hand at Beam’s Reach Direct.  I grabbed Mike’s rack and set off.  I was cruisin’ it for a while.  Near the top, the gear got scarce but the angle backed off.  I kept going but was getting pumped and scared.  Two heads suddenly poked over the edge.  One was Chad Oliver.  THey were scrambling around; I don’t think they had even got into climbing.  Chad saw the obvious desperation in my face, and offered to give me a hand.  I couldn’t let go with even one hand, so I waited a moment and let go with both.  First thing I felt was a a slight blip as the stem on a #2 Friend broke.  THen a #2 TCU caught.  THe broken Friend slid down the rope and slapped me in the lip.  Chad and Mike still like to retell the story.  I should mention I weigh 205 pounds, so Mike got a pretty good ride too.  I did not finish the route.  THe cables on the TCU were hammered; had to be replaced.  I was nice and cozy in a Misty swami (tied), and leg loops.

  5. April 20, 2011 at 4:37 am

    Holy crap Phil, great story! Hilarious and terrifying.

  6. April 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    This is an add on to Phil’s story.  As he mentioned I was belaying him.  He had pulled the technical crux but still had the mental crux to get through.  To finish the climb you have to climb quite a bit above your gear on slopers but the angle backs off as Phil mentioned.  The problem is there are no holds for the last 10′-15′.  Phil stalled and I started to give him encourage to continue but he came flying off.  I tightened up and prepared for the catch.  I was sitting back about 25′ from the base of the climb and anchored into a large tree root.  When Phil’s gear exploded it jerked me so hard the root snapped and off I went like a rocket.  I was accelerating at Mach speed towards the cliff so I put my feet out in front of me to brace for the inevitable impact.  At the base of hte cliff was a patch of rhododeron which I came crashing through like an angry rhino, breaking a couple of the stalks and lessing the impact.  

    When the dust cleared we were both hanging off the ground and Phil’s lip was bleeding from the #2 friend that slid down the rope.  I looked to see Chad Oliver’s head poking over the top of the cliff his eyes wide as sausers.  We were both  so shook up we decided to not attempt to push the rope, not to mention our gear was slightly blown apart, so we hiked up and rapped down to clean the route.

    Chad Oliver and I became friends a few years later  and ended up putting up some routes together.  We got alot of milage out of the story once he realized it was us that he saw that day he was bushwacking up on Grandfather.  I don’t think he will ever forget that day he witnessed Phil’s giant wipper. 

    Mike Trew

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