An ATC to the head could make someone dead

So there I was, 80 feet up at the chains of an overhanging 5.11a in the beautiful Red River Gorge. I was feeling pretty good that morning, having just warmed up on a slab 5.9 and another 5.9 face climb. I had taken a few falls at the crux roof on this climb, but was able to pull it and finish it so I had a big smile on my face as went through the motions of cleaning the anchor, and that’s when it happened. My ATC belay device slipped off my carabiner and in slow motion fell towards the earth. I managed to eek out a pathetic “ROCK!” once I realized what had happened, and with horror I watched it plummet and land squarely on the top of a guy’s head. He immediately fell face first into the dirt and just laid¬†there motionless.

I just stared, thinking I had just killed someone. I swore under my breath over and over as his friends gathered around him. After several minutes he came to and his friends took care of him. I apologized profusely and when I got back to the ground I noticed suddenly everyone around us wearing their helmets (hint hint, always a good idea). The guy seemed to be ok and even tied in and started climbing an 11c next to us. I snapped this photo evidence of him to prove he was still alive when we left the crag.

guy hit in the head with atc
guy hit in the head with atc

As we walked to our next crag, my friend Ben told me that the victim of my runaway ATC had literally just said that this area was a helmet zone and he should be wearing his.

And if that wasn’t enough insanity for one weekend, my friends and I managed to get conveniently rescued by Muir Valley Response Team when the valley flash flooded the first day.

We had finished up taking down our soaking wet ropes from 2 hours of rain, so we headed down the trail to find another wall that might be dry when we came upon a little stream that wasn’t a stream any more. The water had washed away the plank bridge, and as we pondered what to do a truck pulled up and these guys jumped out and quickly got to work grabbing the washed out plank and resetting it back across the water. We were able to cross without getting our feet wet or being attacked by trolls.

Sandrine crossing the Nile
Sandrine crossing the Nile

Our rescuers told us to jump in the back of the truck with another group of climbers and they drove us back to the parking lot. Having never been rescued before, I’d say it was pretty fun and hell of a lot better than hiking out with all my gear.

All in all it was a great trip and I was very grateful that I didn’t kill someone and that I only choked on one bug that somehow got into my waterbottle.

Till next time!

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