Fallen Haul Bag Hits Climber


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Trad climber
Boulder, CO
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 5, 2018 - 12:19am PT
Donini mentioned I should start a new thread for the accident I was involved in June 2016.

SuperTopo link:

I have updated that original thread and I will give a short synopsis of what happened here.

While climbing in Yosemite on El Cap a haul bag was dropped 100 feet or more and hit my arm.

The initial report was written here: http://www.climbingyosemite.com/portfolio/accident-report-dropped-haul-bag-el-cap/

I was helicopter evacuated, I spent a long time in intensive care for a broken arm/hand...32 days.

I spent a long time in physical therapy and still continue to go.

I have my arm and my hand, and it functions rather well.

@maldaly aka the "limb reaper" you don't need to worry about asking me to cut it off. :)

I have sent the person that dropped the bag an open letter.

The letter and the explanation has been copied here from the thread mentioned above:

I am the "Pete" from the accident, my name is actually Paul.

I have indeed survived the incident.

Some of my story can be read here: http://themountainfold.com/?page_id=1071

My story is one of amazing people coming to my aid in a time of need. I am extremely grateful and very fortunate for my life and my arm.

The person who dropped the haul bag has not reached out to me since the incident.

I have written an open letter to Jonathan who dropped the haul bag here:

If anyone is interested to hear more about my story or help in some way you can contact me here or via my website.

At one point I decided to to a gofundme page to attempt to recoup some of the financial losses, I took it down as Jonathan did not have an opportunity to let me know his intentions.

As you can maybe understand it has taken a lot of time and conversations to put down on paper my letter.

I will update my site with Jonathan's response on my website if he decides to have his response open.

I have contacted several lawyers about my case, they have informed me that the case hinges on whether or not Jonathan had insurance that covered him for negligence. It is unclear if he does or not and I have asked him to answer this question in my letter. If you are a lawyer or have some insight you would like to offer me please reach out to me.

An accident like this is incredibly complicated and hard to commit to paper. Since this accident played out here on SuperTopo, in Rock and Ice and in Accidents I thought it would be useful to the climbing community to make my letter to Jonathan an open letter. A respected figure in the climbing community advised me to read Michael Kennedy's open letter in Alpinist 38 hisson Hayden called The Sharp End

You can read the letter here: http://www.alpinist.com/doc/ALP38/11-the-sharp-end

While the topic of my letter is not the same as Michael's perhaps there is something to be gained from making my letter open as well.

I do not know what lessons one can learn from any accident. It is my intention with the open letter to give one example of what to do and to reach out in a significant way.

Thank you to everyone from Jonathan himself aiding in my rappel off El Cap to my climbing partners, my family, the doctors, my physical therapists, and to everyone over at Paradox Sports who very loudly showed me that injury is manageable, and to the climbing community at large who helped me recover.

For those interested in my physical recovery with respect to climbing I physically can climb. Between surgery 7 and 8 I was able to lead up some climbs in the gym, albeit with a much weaker left arm. When I tried climbing outdoors it became a different story every thing that was abovet that fell or had potential to fall or was someone yelling from above me would cause me to flash back to the accident. I have been diagnosed with PTSD from it, luckily my PTSD is related to a very specific activity and I have been able to manage it mostly by not going climbing.

Thanks for your time.


Mar 5, 2018 - 05:02am PT

thanks for making this letter public. i'm incredibly sorry this happened to you as having something that we love fUck up our lives in the deep manner that it has done to yours is doubly horrifying: it takes both the activity we love away at the same time as it takes deep parts of our greater lives away.

now, with that said, i'm going to come at this very hard, because your letter sends chills upon chills up my spine.

and so i fully admit what is to follow is going to be to some degree an emotional response and i have not reviewed what follows with a lawyer [only a partial joke]. ie. you put this up on social media, in part with the claim that you want to have a conversation... so consider this my contribution to said conversation. most importantly because it is a conversation and this is admittedly a first pass, i reserve the right to take a complete one eighty, even though right now i don't expect i will...

the part above is what sends chills up my spine.

for me, in this moment without all of the details and without considering all of the angles that i'm sure will come up, this situation appears pretty simple: there was either intentional gross negligence in the fashion of someone intentionally trundling rocks or intentionally dropping a haul bag because they were lazy and on the other hand there are accidents. as no one has implied that this was in any way intentional i'm assuming this was an accident plain and simple [however "negligent"] and you see it that way as well.

given how you are coming at an accident in a game that is dependent on self reliance, it is taking everything inside of me to not directly say the only thing i want to in this instance [yes, it starts with f and ends with u]. and the only reason i'm holding back is because of how fUcked up you ended up after this accident.

i'm pissed off because of the serious implications that your possible path might bring to the american entirety of this pursuit that i hold so dear.

that is because i didn't see in your letter a place where you are making your intentions clear regarding whether you intend to sue if Jonathon doesn't agree to your "request" and so you appear to be threatening another climber with a legal fight regarding an accident that happened in the mountains/on the rocks.

what's next:

 a bolt replacer forgets to tighten a couple hangers, someone takes a ground fall and the "do gooder" gets sued because of their "negligence"?

 the national park service in doing a rescue of someone notices a dangerously loose rock, but decides to leave it in place. later that rock falls and kills a climber. should the nps be sued because of their "negligence"?

and of course there are a thousand other examples where human climbers do things that might be termed "negligent", as you have termed what in all likelihood appears to be someone forgetting to tighten a locking carabiner...

the point:

 you chose to climb

 you chose to climb in an area where there could be people above you

 you appear to have chosen not to check whether there were people above you

and so in sum: only you are responsible for putting yourself in a situation where an individual's unintentional "negligence" had a negative impact on your life.

and so to keep this short:

1. if this is truly a "request" and not the "threat" that i, having read a few too many letters vetted by lawyers, assume this to be, then i hope you will in writing clarify whether or not you intend to sue Jonathon, if he doesn't agree to your "requests".

2. if it is the "threat" that i assume it to be, and there is no the rest of the story [that this was somehow an intentional drop], then please consider what i have written above and reconsider your trajectory.

regarding the greater conversation as a whole i have two thoughts:

1. i've had at least three memorable very close calls where i was either inches or seconds from being very fUcked up and likely killed while in the mountains. all involved rock fall, but one involved "negligence" from a party ahead of us on a mountaineering route where they dragged a rope across a ridge and started what basically amounted to a rock avalanche that ran a hundred or so metres down a rock gully. i and my partner had soloed up the bottom of said gully and had crossed to safety about 15s before said rock avalanche. the take home for me: i've pretty much stopped climbing under people. there are too many things that can go wrong, including people forgetting to lock a locking biner at the end of the day.

2. this letter and its implications is only something that could even be considered in the u.s. of a. if you folks go down a road where i have to make sure my homeowner's policy covers me for negligence while i'm climbing, then it's time to strike the u.s. of a. off my climbing list. fortunately it's a big planet.

with all of that said, i do appreciate you [Paul] making this public. this is a vitally important debate for us as a community to have and so while i vehemently disagree with my understanding of your approach to this, do know that the one thing that makes me respect what you are doing, is that you are doing it publicly...

and so i do look forward to the conversation, even if i end up accepting that some of what i have written above was mistaken...

Ice climber
hartford, ct
Mar 5, 2018 - 05:56am PT
....i'm assuming this was an accident plain and simple [however "negligent"] and you see it that way as well...

From the write up on one of the supertopo links he posted it was indeed an unfortunate accident (i.e. not some d#@&%e cutting the bag free on purpose)

The Good Places
Mar 5, 2018 - 06:08am PT
I have always avoided climbing under other people for the reasons illustrated above, but were I in Paul's position, sans any overture from jonathan, I'd be pretty well disposed to ask for a little redress. Thus forces me to consider the fact that while I refuse to climb beneath other folks, I don't really GAF if others choose to follow up, pitches below me.

I hope the two involved can get through thus constructively.

Paul, I really appreciate your including us in this conversation. we all gain by addressing such questions now rather than later. I can't help but think that the Jonattan fellow might benefit from some type of dialogue, even though it sounds as if he has purposefully avoided one thus far.

Really happy to hear you got to keep your paws attached to your body Paul. Keep healing well, and know that I'd rather have at least some significant degree if mutual burden sharing in similar event.

v JtM...what else did you expect of her? :-)

Jim Henson's Basement
Mar 5, 2018 - 06:09am PT
Well written post with a lot of good points nah000. ^^^


Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
Mar 5, 2018 - 06:09am PT
This could be solved by requiring permits and monitoring for climbing multi=pitch routes, limiting them to 1 party at a time.

I personally would not want this solution.

Clipping in a haul bag to a single loose bolt, is negligence. The idea that this the responsibility of the bolt re-placer "people" is sad and irresponsible.


Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Mar 5, 2018 - 06:33am PT
hows that sh#t going to work on the nose???? If someone hucks the pig deliberately they need to go to jail. accidents, well that is the risk you take.... Go fund me is the way to do it.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Mar 5, 2018 - 06:44am PT
Good thread and posts. A few years ago I was leading one of the stoveleg pitches. I was ten feet or so above my gear when out of nowhere a haul bag pendulumed into to me. I never saw it coming but the force knocked the wind out of me although I somehow managed to hold on and not take the whipper.

El Cap is not Baffin Island and you have to remember that there will likely be climbers below you and THINK accordingly.

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Mar 5, 2018 - 06:59am PT
looking at from the perspective of someone who has done lots of anchor replacement and new routs with fixed gear. I follow best practices but you never know..... I had a bad batch of power wedges once that loosened up... Bad business.... but if we start sueing each other that is a rough road to go down....
Delhi Dog

Good Question...
Mar 5, 2018 - 07:20am PT
great post nah000

" I was leading one of the stoveleg pitches... I was ten feet or so above my gear when out of nowhere a haul bag pendulumed into to me...I somehow managed to hold on and not take the whipper"

Bomber jams!

Mar 5, 2018 - 07:25am PT
The accident happened June 2016.

Paul, in your "Blog" called "My Story" you link your accident report to a report to a different accident that happened in 1989 on the Salathe Wall.
steve s

Trad climber
Mar 5, 2018 - 08:17am PT
Climbing is a dangerous activity. You can mitagate the risks by being aware of your surroundings i.e. not climbing below other people.
Sorry you got injured.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Mar 5, 2018 - 08:32am PT
True Locker...but those chances can be mitigated to a large degree if the climbers above you are aware and take precautions like properly managing their haul bag.

Yo...it's Cali, if you want to get on a good multi pitch without anyone else you need to have the same patience required for waiting for a weather window in Pataginia.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Mar 5, 2018 - 08:42am PT
Yes, and thatís another reason I like climbing in Patagonia.

Trad climber
Boulder, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 5, 2018 - 08:54am PT

I understand this is an incredibly complicated subject and I appreciate your concern an insight thank you for your comments.


Trad climber
Mar 5, 2018 - 08:59am PT
Itís not that complicated. Climbing is a dangerous sport. Especially climbing underneath other climbers. Take responsibility for yourself.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Mar 5, 2018 - 09:14am PT
Sure, climbing in Patagonia reduces the risk of having a bag dropped on you. But you will up your game much faster taking gut punches from haul bags while on lead. American Ninja on the sharp end?

The talk of suing bothers me too. Climbers just do not do that, the concept of assumption of the risk applies.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Mar 5, 2018 - 09:14am PT
Iím sorry to hear about what you had to go through during recovery. As much as that sucked, it sounds like you are also pretty lucky to be alive. Whenever confronted with a tricky situation or question of morality, I consider what the world would be like, what would be the consequences if everyone followed my approach/solution in that situation. Would the world be better overall or would it suck?

At least in a marriage you get to build up some intimacy and trust before you start talking financial contracts. This would trigger blind-date prenups and background/credit checks before heading out with a new partner.

Maybe the better alternative going forward is to have some personal coverage for the equivalent of ďuninsured motoristĒ in your car insurance policy.
Keith Reed

Johnson county TX
Mar 5, 2018 - 09:25am PT
A lot of this litigation could go away with health care for everyone.
The victim could still go for negligence , pain and suffering, but the medical care has got to be enormous.

Good luck to all

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Mar 5, 2018 - 09:29am PT
Hmmmm....there are lines on the popular routes in Yosemite nearly every day. Iím not trying to bash California, the thread is about an incident in Yosemite. The same can be said about popular climbing areas throughout America....Rado included.

My point is that climbing today in America means that there will be many instances of people climbing above other parties and, consequently, climbers should be reminded to consider other parties they are sharing a route with.
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