Rock and Bone
Jason and I are extreme sports enthusiasts. We gladly put ourselves in potentially painful situations again and again for the thrill of speeding through the trees or the challenge of a beautifully chaotic gravelly slope. However, we didn’t expect our first experience with a new extreme hobby, rock climbing, to be quite as wild as it turned out.
Jason’s grandparents spent many of their retirement years repelling down cliffs and setting up ropes courses so when they passed away they left behind a lot of climbing gear. Jason and I ended up inheriting this equipment; I think mostly because everyone in the family thought we were the only ones that might actually use the stuff. They were probably right. We supplemented our inheritance with some new gear and we were ready for our first outdoor climbing adventure.
One of my good friends, David, is an avid climber so we were happy that he agreed to take us climbing with him. For our first climbs we went up American Fork Canyon to the south face of Hard Rock. There are two great walls for beginners in this cluster of cliffs: Rockapella (5.7) and Stoic Calculus (5.8).
That morning David also brought his brother, Danny, and a buddy, Hamilton, with him so we had a good climbing group and we had a great time scaling 80 feet up those two sheer faces until our arms and legs could take no more. Compared to climbing in indoor facilities, which we have done before, it was pretty exciting to clamber up real rocks. I’m mildly afraid of heights so I thought that phobia might decrease my enjoyment of this sport but I didn’t find those elevations nearly as terrifying as I thought I would. Sure, looking down from 80 feet up was a little intimidating but looking around you at 80 feet up was amazing.
On my second climb, which was on Stoic Calculus, my rope got caught on a ledge when I was about 50 feet up and I couldn’t free it. A few minutes later, while it was still jammed, I slipped. (Yeah, it figures that the only time I lost my footing while we were climbing happened to be when my rope was stuck.) When I slipped the caught rope made me swing down and around and slam into the wall. I won’t lie, it didn’t feel awesome but I just got a few cuts, scrapes, and bruises from the affair so my injuries weren’t anything out of the ordinary for me.
When we were ready for a new challenge we decided that an adjacent wall, Eight to Eleven, looked pretty sweet for the climbing. Danny began to lead the rope for this climb but when he was about 30 feet up, and trying to reach the next bolt, he slipped and fell roughly 10 feet onto a small outcropping. Although this wasn’t a big fall, he landed funny and immediately started yelling in a panic that he had broken his ankle. (Yeah, that’s the edited version of what he said. For the sake of the children I will leave it at that.) No one questioned whether he actually had or hadn’t, we simply got beneath him and helped lower him to the ground. It was instantly apparent, upon inspection, that his ankle was already swelling and did require medical attention so our next task became getting him back down the narrow mountain trail we had traveled to reach Hard Rock. We hadn’t hiked too long to get to these cliffs but still, getting Danny back to the parking lot was not a simple or easy task. Jason and Hamilton both took a side and supported him, David held his injured foot up as much as possible, and I brought up the rear carrying as much gear as I could. Our strange group slowly made its way downhill and where the pathway tapered here and there we became odder still. When the trail narrowed too much to allow our makeshift man-crutches to squeeze through Danny had no choice but to slide on his bum while David continued to walk backwards in front of him struggling to elevate his jacked-up appendage. Finally, after a very laborious descent, we got Danny back to his car and off to the hospital.
It turned out that he had done more than just broken his ankle bone-he had shattered it and severed his ligament almost all the way down to his big toe. He had to undergo emergency surgery the next day to screw his bone back together. Poor guy.
While all of this made our first outdoor climbing experience a very eventful and memorable one, I hope our next time will be a little less exciting. But this accident didn’t frighten me and Jason into giving up our newfound hobby, as it might have with lesser noobs. We plan on going climbing again as soon as David will take us. After all, the beautiful things in life are worth a broken bone now and then…but I do think I’ll get a climbing helmet. I’d prefer to have my cranium remain in its unbroken state.