Near Misses

Threads related to Colorado mountaineering accidents but please keep it civil and respectful. Friends and relatives of fallen climbers will be reading these posts.
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mpaskiewicz
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Near Misses

Post by mpaskiewicz » Sun May 06, 2018 12:02 am

On March 18, I took a fall down Challenger. Specifically it was down the Pencil Couloir, and the fall lasted over 1,000 feet. I went airborne a few times doing complete flips. Clothes ripped and microspikes were shattered. I managed to walk off the mountain, even though I had several cuts to the bone.

My physical wounds are almost healed, but psychologically the event still lingers. I guess my goal here is to hear other close call experiences if anyone is willing to share.
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Re: Near Misses

Post by bmcqueen » Sun May 06, 2018 6:09 am

Yikes. Glad you’re ok! Ours had nothing to do with a fall, but happy to chat anytime if you need. The mental healing is definitely harder than the physical.
"Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment." --- Nasreddin

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Re: Near Misses

Post by Eli Boardman » Sun May 06, 2018 6:43 am

Not my story or trip report, but if you want reports of near-misses, this was last year.

https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/triprepo ... trip=17700
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Re: Near Misses

Post by Mtnman200 » Sun May 06, 2018 8:37 am

You might find this April 4, 2008 trip report interesting. The author, Sarah Meiser, has climbed all of the Colorado 14ers in winter and has also climbed all of the Colorado 13ers. This was her first attempt at Lenawee Mountain. If you read the report, you'll see why it took her a second attempt to reach the summit of Lenawee.

http://www.13ergirl.com/LenaweeAttempt/ ... ident.html
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Re: Near Misses

Post by rpdawes » Sun May 06, 2018 10:33 am

mpaskiewicz wrote:On March 18, I took a fall down Challenger. Specifically it was down the Pencil Couloir, and the fall lasted over 1,000 feet. I went airborne a few times doing complete flips. Clothes ripped and microspikes were shattered. I managed to walk off the mountain, even though I had several cuts to the bone.

My physical wounds are almost healed, but psychologically the event still lingers. I guess my goal here is to hear other close call experiences if anyone is willing to share.
Glad that you returned home in one piece after a terrible fall. I have several questions to ask of you.

1) Were you bleeding from cuts while walking back to your car? Any bones broken or fractured? any joints dislocated?

2) It must have taken you 10 miles walking back to your car without limping. That's a feat!

3) Were you hiking solo?
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Re: Near Misses

Post by CoHi591 » Sun May 06, 2018 1:20 pm

I'm glad to hear that you're okay. The trauma effects of that kind of near miss are real.

I had a somewhat similar experience a few years ago, except I was on skis. It was sidecountry terrain at Telluride, and I had no business skiing it, but I had been working at the resort and skiing every day and I had a friend in town and I wanted to show off how much I'd improved so, despite terrible snow conditions, my arrogance and I went off. I lost control somehow and fell probably about 800 feet through steep, steep trees. I don't even understand how I didn't hit one of the trees and kill myself. A gentleman died in almost the same spot a few weeks later, doing the same thing. I came away with smashed goggles, smashed lips, a minor concussion, some bruises, and a very vivid memory of what choking on snow while you somersault down a mountain feels like. I was able to get my friend to me with my whistle and luckily my legs were fine so we spent had to trek back up to the top and start collecting my gear. I'm more careful now. But I can tell you that for the few days after that experience, I certainly looked at life with an incredible appreciation for literally everything and everyone around me. I wish we could all force ourselves to live with that perspective *without* having a near-death experience first. I've had a few other scary days - lightning storm on Quandary one spring, talus-surfing down a steep gully in the Never Summers which resulted in a still-damaged tendon in my hand and still-damaging ER bill - but those weren't actually close-to-dying experiences. All I can do is shake my head and be grateful, and be careful, moving forward.
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Re: Near Misses

Post by seano » Sun May 06, 2018 2:02 pm

I had a less significant one a number of years ago, which I wrote about here. It took me a bit over a year to get my confidence back completely, to the point that I could mantle onto things without thinking about falling. It also made me think more about the fine line we walk while scrambling around the mountains, and the real risk of random injury or death.
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Re: Near Misses

Post by mpaskiewicz » Sun May 06, 2018 5:05 pm

rpdawes wrote:
mpaskiewicz wrote:On March 18, I took a fall down Challenger. Specifically it was down the Pencil Couloir, and the fall lasted over 1,000 feet. I went airborne a few times doing complete flips. Clothes ripped and microspikes were shattered. I managed to walk off the mountain, even though I had several cuts to the bone.

My physical wounds are almost healed, but psychologically the event still lingers. I guess my goal here is to hear other close call experiences if anyone is willing to share.
Glad that you returned home in one piece after a terrible fall. I have several questions to ask of you.

1) Were you bleeding from cuts while walking back to your car? Any bones broken or fractured? any joints dislocated?

2) It must have taken you 10 miles walking back to your car without limping. That's a feat!

3) Were you hiking solo?
First, thanks everyone for the responses. I live in Chicago so my interactions with people who know what it's like up there are limited, and this is helpful.

3. I did I have a partner on this trip although he had turned back because he wasn't as comfortable with the snow/ice as I was (but probably shouldn't have been). He was about 750 to 1,000 feet below by the time I began falling, and ended up about 300 feet above me by the time I stopped.

1. I was, but once I realized I had no apparent head damage and could walk (slowly), I didn't want to really know how bad it was under all the layers. Once I made it to the car 7.5 hours later I took my outer layer and down jacket off and was wearing I white thermal shirt above my base layer - (sorry this might be too much detail) The entire lower part of my side of my shirt was red. My chin was pretty busted. I didn't realize the worst though until I made it to the hotel in Buena Vista around 11. I wear compression knee braces due to a history of tendonitis, and under those were a massive cut that had exposed two inches of shin bone and the other knee had a deep puncture wound. Luckily these were compressed and areas that don't have much blood flow. Also wearing black pants and jacket helped keep my blissfully ignorant while I still had 5 or 6 miles to go from the end of the fall to the car.

As for other injuries there were just a lot of bruises and soreness. I don't know how I didn't break anything or dislocate a joint. Other than stitches, I didn't need any other professional medical help. That's the biggest thing lingering in my mind: How did I make it out of a fall no one should expect to survive with 20 something stitches?

2. It was definitely a sore limp, but I made decent pace, and my friend helped with my pack.
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Re: Near Misses

Post by spiderman » Sun May 06, 2018 8:23 pm

I am glad that you survived such a long fall. The 14ers are usually nice and easy when the conditions are good, but most people will encounter a potentially fatal situation sometime in their quest. For us, it was massive rockfall on the curx section of the El Diente-Wilson traverse. Other people have had issues with thunderstorms, and most people will run into icy snow at some point. Be careful out there!
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Re: Near Misses

Post by HikesInGeologicTime » Mon May 07, 2018 7:48 am

I didn't fall, but Longs Peak nearly shoved me off the mortal coil all the same.

I was on an insulin pump at the time. I was used to the altitude and all its wonderful side effects by that point - Longswas my 12th fourteener, after all. I guess my pump wasn't, though, because it shut down completely when I was in sight of the Keyhole. I sometimes turned it off on ascents anyway to avoid having to stop and deal with hypoglycemia every fifteen minutes, so I figured this time wouldn't be much different from normal.

I think the combination of having no insulin at all + Longs making for the single most physically exerting day of my life up until that point (and even up until now, for that matter...I haven't done any other Class 3s or attempted any Class 4s) caused my body to go haywire. I drank all four liters of water before I passed back through the Keyhole on the way down. I could barely put one foot in front of the other even after my then-best friend and I descended the Boulderfield and were back on the actual trail.

We were still above treeline when the 5 p.m. storm rolled in, taking a break at Chasm Lake Junction so I could finish my latest retching fit and rest my cramping leg muscles. He took off running as the thunder exploded right above our heads. I merely groaned and thought, "Do I really have to get up for this?"

We got separated when the hail started pounding. He dashed down the trail to call for help, and I stumbled along in what had quickly turned from the East Longs Peak Trail to the East Longs Peak Creek. The hail pierced my supposedly waterproof clothing in a matter of seconds, too, so in addition to being dehydrated and in the worst pain of my life, I was also colder than I felt I had any right to be in July.

I was still dragging down the trail after the storm decided to rage elsewhere. While the auditory hallucinations had started when I finally hit treeline (I thought I heard my friend yelling my name, but it turned out that I was alone), the visual hallucinations waited until the sun set to kick in. I'm honestly amazed I managed to stay on the trail, given that I wasn't sure if anything I was seeing was real.

When the help my friend sent for arrived at last, I was so far gone that I believe I may have introduced myself as the reincarnation of Jim Morrison, one of the recurring hallucinations I had. My temperature was 87.1, and my blood sugar was 3.5 times what it should have been (though, honestly, I'd expected it to be way higher - a reading of 350 is not going to win praise from an endocrinologist, but it's also not outside of normal range for me, alas). I would soon be diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which your muscle cells start dying and breaking off, eventually clogging your kidneys and causing them to fail if the condition is left untreated. In other words, when I'd thought that my legs felt like they were dying, I hadn't been exaggerating.

I spent two days in the hospital and the rest of that week barely able to walk, which was extra fun once I got back home, as it appears to be my fate to live on the second floor of elevator-less buildings as long as I am a Denver resident. But I was hiking again two weeks after Longs, and I even went on to conquer that same peak again a year later, and without incident!

I'm nonetheless pretty sure I have PTSD, given that hearing certain songs on the radio (by the Doors, naturally, though there are a few others that I heard on the drive to Longs on the fateful day) can put me in a really weird state for a decent length of time. Plus, I pretty much have to take July 27th off - it's the anniversary of my deep look into the abyss, and it's really hard for me to focus on anything productive.

Anyway, that's my near-death commiseration story. I'm glad you got out of your fall with no long-term physical effects, and I hope your overall recovery is going well.
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Re: Near Misses

Post by gspup » Mon May 07, 2018 3:04 pm

After rapping the Grand Teton last summer, a bowling ball sized rock missed me by maybe a foot. Sketch.
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Re: Near Misses

Post by Mtnman200 » Mon May 07, 2018 3:44 pm

gspup wrote:After rapping the Grand Teton last summer, a bowling ball sized rock missed me by maybe a foot. Sketch.
I'm glad you didn't end up like the guy in this story: https://www.outsideonline.com/1918036/dropped
"Adventure without risk is not possible." - Reinhold Messner
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