Bad Fall on High Test

We scrambled up to Broadway Ledge, over towards the Gunsight. The ledge wasn’t very wide, but had a few big trees to anchor to. I asked Lou to anchor close to the tree: “I may take a whipper on this one, probably up by that roof…”

Tied in, rope flaked, rack neatly organized, I started up. The climbing was vertical, not hard, following a short right-facing flake system. About ten feet up I reached the top of the flake and hung from my left arm, wiggling a little #5 stopper behind the flake. I stepped to the right and spied a series of impossibly thin finger pockets running up towards the ledge above. “No way!” I thought and downclimbed back to Broadway. On my second run up the climb I stayed left and scanned the knobby face above the flake for anything I could wrap my fingers, fingertips even, around and make upward progress. Nothing. Back on the ledge, I took a ‘biner of micro-stoppers and placed them on the front of the rack…tiny finger pockets it would be. Back up, past the shaky stopper, right to the thin crack, reached up and plugged the tips of my right hand into a pocket big enough perhaps to fit a marble or two. My left hand wrapped over a slopy bulge above and found a similar pocket above. I oozed my fingers into the crack…if they would go in just a hair farther, I could use my right hand to slot a micro into the lower pocket and continue to the ledge above.


My only thoughts escaped my lips as I shot downwards. A hard tug as the little stopper tried in vain to arrest my fall. I landed on my feet on Broadway, crumpled and rolled backwards in a cacophony of gear, flesh, plastic, and rock. I saw the fin of Seneca fall away from me as I rolled off the ledge and continued for another fifteen feet, colliding with the next ledge beneath. As I fell backwards off the second ledge, a slight panic welled up and I screamed for Lou to catch me. The rope came tight.

“Phil, are you alright?” came the tentative question from above.

“I think so…just give me a minute.” As Lou held my weight, I took stock of my injuries. I had feeling everywhere, and nowhere was the searing pain that I so fully expected. I pulled myself up onto the ledge and sat down, facing away from the rock. My ears began to ring and my vision dimmed, as if I had jumped to my feet from a long nap. “Lou, keep me tight on that anchor for a bit, ok?”

Bruised my rear, ripped my pants, and bumped my elbow, and for the next few days I felt like I had lost a fight with someone much larger than myself. Unbelievably though, I was fine.


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