Owens River Gorge Accident

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Jessie_11

Sport climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Oct 17, 2010 - 01:41pm PT
Does anybody know any details about yesterday's accident? We were down there climbing and heard this and that, but aren't sure of the details. Sure hope she's okay.
climbingchristopher

Sport climber
San Francisco
Oct 18, 2010 - 04:09am PT
My friend and I were around the corner from the accident and arrived within a few minutes of the fall. A number of people came to her aid and we assisted as best we could to stabilize her. Me and one other guy ran to call 911 at the phone located at the power station, which was in working order and saved us from having to run up the middle gorge approach to get cell reception.
A young woman took a very long fall (57 meters or so) from the top of the 2nd pitch of a climb South of El Dorado roof ("Members only" at Staying Power Towers). After falling roughly 110 feet, her rope, which was running through the anchors, snagged briefly at the anchor and the sudden tension behind her leg flipped her upside down. This caused a brief pause in her fall, but then the rope popped free and she fell the remaining 50 feet to the ground, where she landed on her lower back. Fortunately she landed on a flat dirt area, free of rocks and debris.
It was obvious that moving her was going to be difficult given the amount of pain she was in and the questionable nature of her injuries. Fortunately, she didn't hit her head and her appendages were in good shape, although she might have injured her ankle. She was conscious the whole time and was able to communicate her condition. She was able to move her toes and had feeling in her legs so there was some relief amongst the people at the scene.
A climber/search & rescue guy helped out considerably by helping to get her into a litter and secured for transport. She was more or less ready for transport by the time that the paramedics and the fire crews arrived. The paramedics were able to monitor at the scene and the crew moved her into a truck and straight to the Bishop emergency room.
She was flown to Reno following scans and x-rays.
Apparently her injuries included a broken pelvis and some vertebrae. This could've been much worse considering the overall length of the fall and certainly the brief pause at +50' saved her. She was dealt a very fortunate hand. I haven't heard anything further regarding her status, but I'm hopeful that she'll make a full recovery.

Many climbers came to her aid and everyone involved should be commended. I'm proud to be part of such a supportive community.
John Moosie

climber
Beautiful California
Oct 18, 2010 - 04:19am PT
Wow Christopher, thanks for the report. That is wonderful that her injuries weren't anymore severe. That sounds like a horrendous fall. If you hear more about her condition, please let us know. I want to keep good thoughts and prayers going her way.

John
climbingchristopher

Sport climber
San Francisco
Oct 18, 2010 - 04:24am PT
She's been in our thoughts and I'm sure she'd appreciate to know that strangers in the community are praying for her recovery. I'll post an update if I hear anything further.
hb81

climber
Oct 18, 2010 - 04:27am PT
Glad she is relatively ok... I wonder though how that fall happened?
bjj

climber
beyond the sun
Oct 18, 2010 - 04:34am PT
Yea, how the hell does anyone fall that far at a clip up joint like ORG? A bad belayer f*#k up is the only thing I can imagine.

IIRC, there's litters in the gorge (been 10+ years since I been there).
climbingchristopher

Sport climber
San Francisco
Oct 18, 2010 - 04:54am PT
That doesn't seem to be the case. She wasn't being belayed at the time. My understanding from talking with her partner was that she was supposed to rap down to the 1st pitch anchors, then pull the rope and rap again to the ground.
Somehow she became detached from the anchor before pulling the rope up and she fell. She's the only one who knows the details of how that occurred.
Accidents happen. It was a good opportunity for me and my partner to examine areas where we could be safer. Hopefully other climbers have similar conversations.
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
Oct 18, 2010 - 04:54am PT
hey there all, say... i will be chipping in my prayers.... glad to know she made it through that awful fall....

god bless, to her, this eve...
:)
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Oct 18, 2010 - 09:03am PT
Holy buckets.

We're very lucky that she's alive after such a fall. Sounds like she has some experience?

At any rate, we're pulling for her here at the Taco, and hope she has a complete recovery.

Hang in there girl!
Crimpergirl

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Oct 18, 2010 - 09:47am PT
Best wishes to her.
Jessie_11

climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 18, 2010 - 10:09am PT
Chris,
Thanks so much for the update! You guys did a great job of caring for her, and sticking to that phone! We chatted with you a bit when you used the phone, and while you WAITED by the phone for what probably seemed like hours! Patience always pays off. Thank goodness this woman had some very good people to support her, and also some VERY good luck that day!
chez

Social climber
chicago ill
Oct 18, 2010 - 10:18am PT

Sounds like this gal got very lucky. Hope she recovers fast.



bjj your an ass, go imagine somewhere else.
Lambone

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Oct 18, 2010 - 11:09am PT
Rappeling accidents are scary and too common! Double check your sh#t y'all!

Amazing she is alive.
Chinchen

climber
Way out there....
Oct 18, 2010 - 11:19am PT
I may know the parties involved and am worried about who this may be. I have heard some roumors around town. One is that there was miscommunication and that the climber thought she was to be lowered...
Can someone PM the name of the climber who fell?
Vulcan

Sport climber
Oct 18, 2010 - 11:35am PT

No names but is she from Mono or Inyo county???
climbingchristopher

Sport climber
San Francisco
Oct 18, 2010 - 12:08pm PT
No, she's not from mono or inyo county.
labrat

Trad climber
Nevada City, CA
Oct 18, 2010 - 12:20pm PT
Thinking good thoughts for a full recovery.
Erik
426

climber
Buzzard Point, TN
Oct 18, 2010 - 01:30pm PT
Gnar, these days I always 3x check before, starting, and after, "are you sure you're going to rap?"

I also make sure rope is tight before I unclip, cuz I'm scared like that...often downclimbing to avoid the initial mini"drop"...

Best wishes on recovery
hb81

climber
Oct 18, 2010 - 04:26pm PT
I also make sure rope is tight before I unclip

I've learned never ever to do otherwise. Always transfer your body weight onto the rappel device before unclipping from the anchor. Failing to do so is one of the main causes for rappeling accidents.

couchmaster

climber
pdx
Oct 18, 2010 - 09:04pm PT
I'd rather wish her well than speculate how this came to be. We all can make mistakes, indeed, it's possible for this to happen to any of us with a slight moments inattention. Amazing that she's doing so well. Best of luck to continued recovery and health for this lucky girl in the future.

Remember though...life is already an eyeblink, and you probably used up 8 of your 9 lives with this one.
Ŗ ő ō T « H

climber
Oct 19, 2010 - 03:05am PT
I'd rather wish her well... We all can make mistakes...
You are out of your mind.
Port

Trad climber
San Diego
Oct 19, 2010 - 03:11am PT
Wow, what a lucky person to be alive! Best wishes on a long journey to full health.
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Oct 19, 2010 - 09:40am PT
You are out of your mind.


Hardly.

Woody Stark, JT pioneer, top of pitch accident.

Todd Skinner, rap accident.

John Harlin, Eiger accident.

John Bachar, Free solo.

Need I go on?
Crimpergirl

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Oct 19, 2010 - 10:06am PT
More accurate to say that we all DO make mistakes. For most of us (so far anyway), they haven't cost us our life or a great injury. Best wishes to her. Her injuries sound awful and I'm thankful it wasn't worse.
justthemaid

climber
Jim Henson's Basement
Oct 19, 2010 - 10:09am PT
Wow- it's miraculous she fell that far and survived. I sincerely wish her good recovery.

It's all speculation at this point but... It seems likely that she threaded just one rope through her device instead of two, or threaded them both and missed one strand when she locked the biner. Visually it looks OK till you weight it and it would explain the mid-fall pause as the rope whipped through the anchors.

Anyhow.. I'm happy she is still with us regardless of the circumstances.
bobmarley

Trad climber
WAS Auburn CA, NOW Seattle WA
Oct 19, 2010 - 05:15pm PT
yo i was there too. me and T-bone ran over right after. we were at Mothership across the way. T's g-friend saw the entire fall! i think that there was a communication error and she thought she was going to be lowered to the first anchor (which is actually not possible because they had a 70 and the 2 pitches combined is like 55-60m. belayer thought she was going to rap the pitches. she leans back and is off-belay and falls the entire 160' only to be caught briefly when the rope snagged at 40' (saved her life) then she fell the 40' to the ground.

-patrick
locker

Social climber
Oct 19, 2010 - 05:18pm PT



Best wishes!!! to the young lady of concern...


I too am absolutly AMAZED that she survived such a fall...

Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Oct 19, 2010 - 05:23pm PT
All power too her. what a thing to survive! Pulling for a full recovery.

Mike Friedrichs (currently going feral in Greece) had a similar accident with the same miscommunication. His groundfall was only around 75' and a tree in the middle broke it up. He broke his back in several places, was in a body cast for ten months. that was fifteen odd years ago and today at 51, he's climbing 5.13.
good luck
brotherbbock

Trad climber
Alta Loma, CA
Oct 19, 2010 - 05:38pm PT
57 meters????
brotherbbock

Trad climber
Alta Loma, CA
Oct 19, 2010 - 05:40pm PT
That is a fall!!!
Silver

Big Wall climber
Nor Nev
Oct 19, 2010 - 05:48pm PT
She was not the first to do this and not going to be the last. If I remember correctly was there not a very well know local who free fell from an anchor there in the mid to late 90's. In the central gorge. I will not name him but his fall was the result of a very similar situation I believe.

We all make mistakes it is just that some of us get away with it and others don't.

Watching the Vertical thing on TV the other night seeing Skinner talking about climbing made me sad to think a simple loop that was worn ended his life.

All he needed to do was check his harness and not rely on a belay loop as a single point of safety. Not really asking too much of a guy who had the skill set and time he had on rock. Sad!
locker

Social climber
Oct 19, 2010 - 06:12pm PT


"the social scene at the base distracted him from finishing his knot."...

HAS happened to me and I've seen it happen to others as well...

Such a simple and stupid mistake like mistakes generally are...

to NOT get complacent is KEY...

labrat

Trad climber
Nevada City, CA
Oct 21, 2010 - 12:59am PT
Bump for update. Get well soon.
Erik
milky

Sport climber
bishop ca
Oct 21, 2010 - 09:22am PT
the same day of this accident I overheard two novice climbers yelling at eachother over the roar of the creek wether to rap off or lower off. This is crazyness! make a plan with your partner before you leave the ground if you have any question as to what you are going to do when you reach the top of the climb. This is all to common an incident. Check your knot (and your partners), communicate your plan, pay attention. Climbing is dangerous!!! Get realistic about what you are involved in and treat it as such. Best wishes to our fallen. and happy climbing.
HighTraverse

Social climber
Bay Area
Oct 21, 2010 - 01:05pm PT
I wish the young woman a speedy and full recovery, mentally and physically. Hope she can get back into climbing soon.
make a plan with your partner before you leave the ground if you have any question as to what you are going to do when you reach the top of the climb.

Well said but I would suggest
ALWAYS make a plan with your partner before you leave the ground so that you BOTH KNOW what you are going to do when you reach the top of the climb.

Spend an extra minute reviewing the plan so it's perfectly clear.
Don't change the plan unless there's a good reason and you BOTH can communicate.

I always do this. With steady partners it becomes a habit. With new partners, or with "social" climbing its easy to forget or get distracted in the milieu.

Always double check the rig, and check again if there's ANY doubt in your mind. Check your partner if you can see them.
The Devil's in the details.

Remember it's not a gym. You're responsible for your own rigging, and your partner's safety. Easy enough to forget a detail when you're out having fun.
I think I'm pretty careful and have climbed a long time yet I nearly blew a trivial rap setup. It almost certainly would have been fatal to me (300 nearly vertical feet to talus). My double check saved me.
justthemaid

climber
Jim Henson's Basement
Oct 21, 2010 - 02:56pm PT
I speculated it was a mis-threaded rappel device since lowering someone on multi-pitch doesn't seem logical or even possible most of the time. Not sure how long the rope was or how far apart the anchors are though.

Years ago I witnessed a similar (single pitch)near-fatal accident where loud noise from traffic resulted in a mis-communication about whether or not someone was rappelling or being lowered. Climber thought he was getting lowered....belayer took him off belay and walked away.. 3rd-party (a total stranger) jumped in and grabbed the rope at the last second- saving the climber from decking when he unclipped from the anchor and leaned back. I guess it's a good lesson to all of us to communicate before we leave the ground to clean an anchor.

Be safe everyone, and again... well wishes for her speedy recovery.
Silver

Big Wall climber
Nor Nev
Oct 21, 2010 - 04:59pm PT
Cragman,

I just did not want to say it because I do not know him and i know that he is a very well versed climber, and from what I hear a really good person.

My point was just that this can happen to anyone not just this woman who fell. I recently was climbing with some friends in the valley and my friends wife was headed to tie in but got distracted putting on her harness. She forgot to double back. I caught it immediately and reminded her no matter what never stop putting your harness on till you have it on all the way and doubled back. The same goes for tying in.

I have this crazy thing about not talking to anyone while I am putting on my harness or they are tying in or putting on a harness. I then check them and myself before anyone leaves the ground. I was in the Gorge that day Bruce fell but in the upper gorge. I was shocked when I heard of the accident and who it was. I suspect the slab saved him as he glanced off it before he hit.

I have posted this a couple of time but I will repeat myself again.

The graph I saw on climbing accident was a real eye opener.

The first 3 years the spike was headed to the moon. Noob mistakes and stupid little things costing people their lives. After year three the spike grounded and remained flat for about 10 years. At year ten it began to shoot for the moon again. Then in year 12, 13, and 14 it declined back to a flat line.

Basically the bottom line is inexperience and then complacency are the biggest killers in our sport. Run it out a thousand times but remember it only takes one stupid mistake on ground you are well above the skill set on and your either dead or wish you were dead.

So no matter how good you are and how strong you are and no matter how many times you have done a route if your not tied in right or your harness is not finished you're either dead or very lucky like Bruce and this woman.

Cragman I look forward to climbing with you and we will make it happen but rest assured you will not be leaving the ground until I have seen your harness is doubled back and your knot is tied properly. That's what climbing partners do!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Oct 21, 2010 - 05:26pm PT
Update: she fractured parts of her spine and pelvis.
Two surgeries already done to stabilize her spine, with a 3rd today and 4th Friday or Saturday.
Prognosis is good. [Edit 10/22:] L2 level injury on one side. Will have to wait and see how this works out.

[Edit to add:] She is from the SF Bay area. I checked, and she prefers that her name not be given out at present. Her friends are still in the process of getting the word out (I just heard). She may be able to use a computer in the next week or two, and may make a post. Fortunately the information in this thread is pretty accurate, thanks to the eyewitnesses.
Silver

Big Wall climber
Nor Nev
Oct 21, 2010 - 05:30pm PT
Thats good news Clint thanks for the update. Was she a Reno local???

bergbryce

Mountain climber
Oakland
Oct 21, 2010 - 05:51pm PT
Lucky isn't even a sufficient word. Glad she is going to be all right.
Too bad there wasn't a dog to land on like the accident in RRG the other week.

When putting on my harness and tying in I do not talk or do anything else. I solely focus on those tasks, nothing else. Learned this in my early days when I realized multi-tasking while doing these two things is a bad idea.
Crimpergirl

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Oct 21, 2010 - 06:00pm PT
Glad she's got a great prognosis. The surgeries sound like hell though. Best wishes!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Oct 21, 2010 - 06:44pm PT
Focusing is good when buckling your harness and tying your knot (and when setting up a rappel).
When belaying / lowering, it is more of a communication issue between the partners.

I was part of a similar accident a few years ago - I could not see or hear my partner who had led a pitch > 100 feet. I thought he knew to make a rappel, but he started lowering himself and then he thought I was lowering him, so he let go of the rope. He started accelerating, but fortunately it was not vertical and he managed to regrab the rope and stop himself. It could have easily been fatal. The problem could have easily been solved if I had not taken him off belay until I could reliably communicate with him. But I was trying to speed up the process of his pulling up the rappel rope by taking the rope out of my ATC. Not a good shortcut to take. My mistake.
labrat

Trad climber
Nevada City, CA
Oct 22, 2010 - 12:28am PT
Thanks for the update!
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Oct 22, 2010 - 02:52am PT
Lots of healing thoughts going her way. Glad there was quick response and a good medical team for her surgeries.
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Oct 22, 2010 - 12:25pm PT
Significant wake up call bump.

Look alive people!
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Oct 22, 2010 - 01:48pm PT
So, she's in a bay area hospital, now?



Thanks for that vignette, Clint, it Can happen to anyone.
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Oct 26, 2010 - 06:06pm PT
Update anyone?
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Oct 27, 2010 - 12:10am PT
10/23 update: 3rd spinal surgery went well. Still in Reno. Hope to transfer to a rehab facility in the bay area in a few weeks.
11/2 update: Last planned surgeries went well. Took some steps around the room with a walker. :-)
FRUMY

Trad climber
SHERMAN OAKS,CA
Oct 27, 2010 - 01:41am PT
thanks for the up date.
my best thoughts to her.
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Oct 27, 2010 - 02:57am PT
Healing thougbts and prayers going her way
Tahoe climber

climber
Davis these days
Oct 27, 2010 - 12:27pm PT
Best wishes and speedy recovery to the accident victim.
Respectfully request her to post details so we can all have one more reminder on how to prevent what happened.
TC
Tradtimbo

Trad climber
Danvers, MA
Nov 19, 2010 - 08:00pm PT
All the best!!! She's is the sister of my friends girlfriend! Glad we're seeing some updates!!!! I'm sure we'll eventually hear about how it actually happened. She has an angel on her shoulder...
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Dec 17, 2010 - 06:50pm PT
any updates?

Edit: wondering how she is doing with her rehab
le_bruce

climber
Oakland: what's not to love?
Dec 17, 2010 - 07:57pm PT
Clint wrote:

I was part of a similar accident a few years ago - I could not see or hear my partner who had led a pitch > 100 feet. I thought he knew to make a rappel, but he started lowering himself and then he thought I was lowering him, so he let go of the rope. He started accelerating, but fortunately it was not vertical and he managed to regrab the rope and stop himself. It could have easily been fatal. The problem could have easily been solved if I had not taken him off belay until I could reliably communicate with him. But I was trying to speed up the process of his pulling up the rappel rope by taking the rope out of my ATC. Not a good shortcut to take. My mistake.


Being self-critical in any analysis is good, and that sounds like the kind of thinking I'd want in a partner.

But in the situation you've described, as much or more fault lies with your partner, who probably now will remember to never, ever take his hand off the rap unless he's 100% certain his belayer is lowering him.

Really glad to hear about any time a near accident is avoided. My partner very nearly killed himself while rapping off of Goodrich the other week. Distracted, he didn't clip into the anchor when he hit a bolted belay on a tiny stance (top of p3). Took his ATC off the ropes, pulled the lines, and chatted for a good two minutes before either of us realized he was attached to nothing.

If he had leaned back, he would have gone three hundred feet.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 17, 2010 - 10:19pm PT
Thanks, Bruce. It is a communication issue, but I still feel largely at fault for the older accident because I took my partner off belay without clear communication.
And it was for convenience - to help speed up the process of his pulling rope up to the anchor.
Now I keep people on when I'm uncertain. Often they pull up rope at about the same rate I can feed it through my ATC, so there is no real loss of speed.

For an update on my friend's condition - she transferred from Reno to a rehab ward in San Jose, was there for a few weeks, and then was discharged around December 1. She has full strength in one leg, and significant weakness and numbness in the other. She has a lot of pain due to the broken pelvis and fractured sacrum. She described it late November as level 7/10 when sitting, and never less than 5 when lying down. She moved into a ground floor apartment near the rehab hospital, so she does not have to travel far for physical therapy. It is still early in the recovery process, so she is adjusting to some of the complications, and hopefully she will regain some more function. Her friends are in contact and we use a google spreadsheet to plan visits so that we can provide a little entertainment to distract her from the pain while she is healing up.
TheLittleUnit

Trad climber
SF Bay Area
Dec 8, 2012 - 05:32pm PT
Hello, all.

It has taken 2+ years for me to recover emotionally and physically enough to read, let alone post on ST again. I am the girl who fell 140 ft to the ground and survived.

I know it was 140 ft because I had just linked 2 pitches with a 70m rope. It is true, it is quite miraculous that I survived, let alone escaped without a Traumatic Brain Injury. What saved my life, probably, was the fact that about half-way down, one end of the rope coiled around my left leg, braking my fall momentarily, before I continued to fall the rest of the 70+ ft. I was also wearing a helmet.

The result of the accident was "burst" (that is the medical term) vertebrae i.e. I don't have a L2 vertebra any more, just a cage in its place, a torn spinal cord (T-10 incomplete, I was lucky there, a complete tear would have resulted in complete paralysis as opposed to my partial paralysis), a shattered sacrum and pelvis. 8 surgeries later, months of rehab, PT, time in a wheel chair, countless questions and weird looks from people as I first learned how to live life in a wheelchair, then moved on to a clunky leg brace, I am now what you would call a "walking paraplegic". With more blood, sweat and tears than I can convey, I have managed to learn to walk somewhat normally again, without a leg brace, and if I am walking on flat ground, most people would have difficulty noticing anything different about me. I know I got away lucky, but most of the time I wished I had died that day, rather than deal with the other physical and emotional effects of the accident.

I have not tried to climb since that day, even though I have not been able to bring myself to sell my climbing gear. I cut myself off from the climbing world because it was too hard to hear people talk about their wonderful adventures/trips, see places I used to climb, see this celebration of one's physical abilities. Perhaps the biggest challenge in recovering has been the emotional one, rather than the physical. One result of my accident is that I quit my job as an engineer because I decided I wanted to try and become a doctor! Haha, how many 30 year olds make that kind of career move? :) It has been hard to find new hobbies to replace climbing. Well, nothing will ever replace climbing.

My friends, family and rescuers know how much gratitude and love I have for them. They really pulled me through some very very dark times.

Best wishes and stay safe,

Wendy Ong
eKat

Trad climber
BackInTheDitch BackInTheDirt BackInTheDay
Dec 8, 2012 - 05:36pm PT
WOW, Wendy!

Thanks for the nice, informative post.

Miraculous!

Welcome back!



SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Dec 8, 2012 - 05:37pm PT
Oh my Wendy......an amazing story. Incredibly courageous in sharing the reality of what you have gone through and are going through. I'm glad you have not cut yourself off from the crazy, poignant and moving ST.

Susan
locker

Social climber
state of Kumbaya...
Dec 8, 2012 - 05:38pm PT

Wendy, real glad to see you back posting and super happy for you that you are doing so well...

As far as a career change???...

Why the hell not???...

As far as climbing and quitting???...

Don't sweat it if you don't get back on the rock...

So MANY other things in life to enjoy...


Again, happy for you to be doing so well...

:-)

The user formerly known as stzzo

climber
Sneaking up behind you
Dec 8, 2012 - 05:41pm PT
Wendy, thanks for posting.

It sounds like you are a fighter.
Srbphoto

climber
Kennewick wa
Dec 8, 2012 - 05:43pm PT
Good luck Wendy!

If you never feel the urge to touch stone don't sweat it, you'll find another passion. Just don't let what happened ruin the great memories of your time moving over stone.

Believe it or not, 30 is young. you still have a lot of living to do.

Go kick ass!!!
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Dec 8, 2012 - 05:47pm PT
Wow, Wendy, what an amazing journey you have had. Your story is an inspiration.

May you continue to heal in every way! My prayers are for you!

Best,
DR

Ken M

Mountain climber
Los Angeles, Ca
Dec 8, 2012 - 05:54pm PT
Wendy, thank God for the good luck of the fall circumstances, and that you are still alive. Miraculous.

I can understand the dark places, and have seen it often in such circumstances. But you are climbing out.

I think the decision to pursue Medicine is a wise one. The intense focus required will help you. The immense sense of helping and accomplishment in seeing others do better through your efforts is huge.

I'm a physician, and have served on a Medical School admissions committee in the past. If there is anything that I can do in terms of information, or you would like to bounce ideas, don't hesitate to PM me.

Best wishes for continuing progress on all fronts.
TheLittleUnit

Trad climber
SF Bay Area
Dec 8, 2012 - 06:00pm PT
Well, I'm actually 31 :)

I can't believe the kind words of support I am getting from people who do know even know me. It is making me cry (in a good way).

Yes, an event like that makes you re-evaluate what is important in life and your perception of time. Shitting my life away in front of a computer screen at a job I wasn't completely passionate about was no longer an option.

On the plus side, I get to park in handicap spots. Although, I've lost count of the number of times people have yelled at me, thinking I stole the placard or something.
Tork

climber
Yosemite
Dec 8, 2012 - 06:01pm PT
Holy shizzle!

Youv'e come a long way, keep it up and good luck.

Have you talked to James? He is also a walking miracle
ncrockclimber

climber
The Desert Oven
Dec 8, 2012 - 06:12pm PT
Much respect to you for all that you have gone through. Many people would have given up long ago. You are obviously a fighter. I am sure that you will find a way to achieve your goal of becoming a doctor. Best wishes to you for making your future whatever you want it to be!
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Dec 8, 2012 - 06:17pm PT
Wendy, I rescued a gal that fell in the Gorge and broke her back. If you would like, I'd be happy to put you in touch with her...she lives in the Bay area.

She is climbing again.
10b4me

Boulder climber
Somewhere on 395
Dec 8, 2012 - 06:18pm PT
Wendy, we are all glad that you are around to post.
As far as climbing, sure it is your passion, like it is for so many of us here.
However, it's not the end of the world if you never climb again. There are many other things to experience, i.e. kayaking, photography, just being outdoors. Don't let it get you down.
One last thing, don't be a stranger to Supertopo. Come back and enjoy the banter.
graniteclimber

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
Dec 8, 2012 - 11:41pm PT
I am so happy to see that you are OK!
graniteclimber

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
Dec 8, 2012 - 11:41pm PT
I hope you don't mind me posting this link?

http://c4waterman.typepad.com/my-blog/2011/09/inspirational-rider-wendy-ong.html
The user formerly known as stzzo

climber
Sneaking up behind you
Dec 8, 2012 - 11:54pm PT
Please forgive my ignorance...

I'm wondering, if you can walk without showing your injury, could you climb easy stuff (if you wanted to, that is)?
susan peplow

climber
Joshua Tree, CA
Dec 9, 2012 - 12:29am PT
Wendy, thank you for taking the time to re-connect with the ST cyber family. Hearing of your progress and candid thoughts of recovery brings more to the community than the various trolls, political talk and whatever else is normally going on here.

I'm sure I'm speaking for many when wishing you the best in whatever these next chapters will bring you. Medical school, kayaking, writing or deciding to fish and live in a van by the river... we want to hear about it.

Everyone here is adventurers at heart, stay with us. Better yet, guide us!

~Susan
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Dec 9, 2012 - 12:49am PT
Wow ,this is great news. Thanks for posting Wendy !
TheLittleUnit

Trad climber
SF Bay Area
Dec 9, 2012 - 10:12am PT
Well, my left leg is much weaker overall than my right leg and I don't really have left-quad function. So when I walk up and down steps, I always lead with my right leg and lift my left leg to match it (i.e. I take steps one at a time as opposed to raising one leg to take the next step). I've gotten used to geriatrics blazing past me :)

So to answer your question, I think I could climb easy stuff if I wanted to, if I were to always lead with my right foot, but I can't really put much weight on my left leg. There have been so many nights where I have stayed awake, thinking about making some kind of heroic climbing come-back with three limbs. I stand-up paddleboard without full use of both legs, so I suppose it would be possible...I've also imagined just following on aid since I used to do that with one leg anyway.

The thing holding me back isn't fear of falling or anything like that. It's more remembering how I used to climb and worrying about feeling sad, frustrated etc that my body fails me. I know this is all stuff we have to deal with as we age, but it just makes me sad that I'm having to deal with this much earlier than most people, without having that many more adventures and experiences I could have had under my belt before accepting our physical limitations and the natural aging process.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Dec 9, 2012 - 10:30am PT
Wendy,
Return to climbing or not,
YOU GO GIRL
Glad you have recovered and shared you story.
Tad
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Dec 9, 2012 - 10:35am PT
I can't help the feeling that, even if you can't put a finger on their form right now, you still have a lot of adventures and experiences left in you after having come this far. All the best to you and please do keep us posted from time to time on what you are up to given you're now family here.
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Dec 9, 2012 - 10:38am PT
I am glad you stopped in to share with us. I doubt I have any amazing advice to give you. It does sound like a part of you wants to get back on the rock.

My hope for you is that whatever you do you are surrounded by friends and love. That the moments of joy are there for you from time to time. Follow the road of your passion. If this turns you into a great doctor that would be very cool.

If you do go climb again I hope it brings more joy. Just being out in the vertical environment and soaking in the views with good friends might be great when it is time.

I hope so.
bajaandy

climber
Escondido, CA
Dec 9, 2012 - 10:43am PT
You are inspirational! I don't know you, never met you, only vaguely remember reading about your accident, and now I'm inspired by your words and by your drive to heal yourself physically, emotionally and psychologically. And you've really touched on something that so many people just don't get... that healing is SO much more than physical. The human body is an amazing machine, and there are many, many super talented physicians and healers out there... but trauma requires healing of those aches and pains we cannot put a bandage on. You sound like you are on the healing path. All the best to you in your future endeavors, whatever they may be, whether they include climbing or not.
Andy
BillL

Trad climber
NM
Dec 9, 2012 - 10:45am PT
Wendy,

Thank you for chiming in about how you are doing post-accident. In a first-order kind of way, it is helpful to a lot of folks out there who believe in a kind of self-immunity.

And second order, your paddle-board experience and attempting a career change speak volumes of you as a person. When old age finally does overcome, the accident won't have robbed you of a sense of having had a good life.

Best Wishes,
Bill L

DanaB

climber
CT
Dec 9, 2012 - 11:05am PT
Hi Wendy,

Have you heard of of Paradox Sports? www.paradoxsports.org

That organization might be a good source of practical help and information. And if you can contact Malcolm Daly, one of the Founders of Paradox and an avid climber - he could be a good resource, I am sure.

Sending you all the best,


Dana Bartlett
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Dec 9, 2012 - 11:11am PT
Wow!
Kick ass!
You're gonna be a great doctor, the empathy shown in telling us about what's up with you now will take you a long ways (I was married to a physician for 18 yrs, I can sense it in you!)

I suspect you're going to find your way back into climbing and enjoy it for whatever it is for you now.

Good luck to you, we'll be watching for updates!
Prod

Trad climber
Dec 9, 2012 - 11:23am PT
31 is young. You can do whatever you want to do.

Cheers.

Prod.
Fletcher

Trad climber
The rock doesn't care what I think
Dec 9, 2012 - 12:23pm PT
Wow... good on ya! For your tenacity in recovering, for coming back here and sharing, and for your new path of work in life!

Our paths often take strange and sometime painful (on many levels) twists. But if you are paying attention, sometimes those dark times are part of how we get to where we need to be. Wouldn't wish that accident on anyone just to further her past, but it did happen for you and it's inspiring to hear what you're taking away moving forward with it.

cheers,
Eric
Capt.

climber
some eastside hovel
Dec 9, 2012 - 12:44pm PT
Wow...Glad to see your posting Wendy.Positivity is about the most important healing tool you can have.Keep it up and good luck with the new career choice.You and I are members of a club I think we both would rather not be a part of. http://supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1613063/Gorge-accident-9-11-11 If you ever need to converse with a fellow "Gorge Survivor" feel free to PM me.
Kirk Sager
steveA

Trad climber
bedford,massachusetts
Dec 9, 2012 - 12:52pm PT
Wendy,

I'm sure you already know that attitude and the human spirit can make all the difference in dealing with severe physical issues.

When I was 21, I nearly lost my foot in Vietnam. The doctor said I would never run again. At 52, I did a 5 minute mile.

I know that at your young age, your facing the prospect of dealing with significant pain, perhaps for the rest of your life, and that really sucks.

You have already shown that you have what it takes to overcome great difficulties, and I have NO doubt that if you want to change professions and become a doctor, you will succeed. As Jaybro said, you will be able to relate to many patients for obvious reasons.

I hope you are around close friends over the holidays,

Best of luck!

Steve

Mike Friedrichs

Sport climber
City of Salt
Dec 9, 2012 - 07:07pm PT
Wendy,

About 15 years ago I was dropped from the anchor of a 70 foot route. I burst my L1 (I could count more than 15 pieces in the xray), and also broke T9 and L2. Falling 70 feet I was lucky to be alive. I spent the whole summer in a full-length body cast.

At first, I didn't think about climbing again. I wanted to walk again. When that seemed likely, I started thinking about running again. Movement. Any kind. When it seemed like I was going to have a full, or nearly full recovery, of course I wanted to climb again.

I went on to climb often and hard, at least for me. But I never forget how lucky and fortunate I am to be able to just climb at all. When I see the tantrums at the crag from the prima donnas who fell off their project, I reflect on how lucky I am to have the perspective that just to be playing this game makes us privileged in a big way. I guess that perspective is the gift I got from my accident.

My L1 is a small fraction of its original size. I lost about a half inch. I do have pain, more so recently. It hurts to go on long hikes. I've found that posture and alignment matter a lot for me. I do yoga once or twice every week. I try to sit up straight. Yoga has really helped me.

Good luck with your path, whether it involves climbing or not. Try to find something positive that you learned from your accident. It's there if you look for it. I can tell that you are smart and thoughtful. You'll be great at anything you do.

mike
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Dec 9, 2012 - 07:10pm PT
I feel for ya Wendy!


I fell over 100 feet right at the start of my climbing. Walked away from it with cuts bruises rasberries and a couple a slightly cracked ribs. Was back at it in weeks.. go figure...Long flights with impacts have their effects on one,, i know..
Bargainhunter

climber
Dec 9, 2012 - 09:03pm PT
I started med school at age 31 and had many classmates the same age and quite a few much older. So go for it Wendy!

I would second the suggestion to contact Malcolm Daly. He's a super-friendly and inspirational guy and has had more than his share of climbing mishaps...losing a leg, and then later having a heart attack while ice climbing. The story of him being shocked back to life in the back of a paramedic's rig is amazing...a few minutes later in making it to the ambulance would have meant game over for him. Read his story!

Also, Chris Kalous recently interviewed Greg Demartino on the Enormcast. Greg fell in a similar manner as you, and ultimately lost his leg, and has some other chronic pain issues. But he is back in the game and sending hard! Listen to his story on the podcast here:

http://enormocast.com/episode-11-what-has-two-arms-one-leg-and-climbs-like-a-mofo-craig-demartino/

Godspeed Wendy!
Wen

Trad climber
Bend, OR
Dec 9, 2012 - 09:21pm PT
Being ready to read the taco seems like the first step in returning to this sport. It may be a while, but on a larger level it shows you are healing from the emotional trauma and ready to think about the climbing world again. Slowly but surely you'll move to the next step, whatever that may be.

Your words literally give me shivers, thank you so much for sharing them. Puts so much in perspective.
Footloose

Trad climber
Lake Tahoe
Dec 9, 2012 - 09:25pm PT
Wendy,

Unbelievable that you're still alive after that! It's proof that miracles do happen. Your story and positive attitude are an inspiration. I hope you continue to post here when you can to share and inspire.

Best wishes for your continuing progress and for everything you're going to do.

Bill
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Dec 9, 2012 - 09:35pm PT
Hooray for you to survive this ordeal! Keep working toward what you love. The desire to do what you want to do is senior to any physical limitations.
PAUL SOUZA

Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
Dec 9, 2012 - 09:48pm PT
Wendy, glad to see you make such an impressive recovery!

Read this book: "Man's Search For Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. It may just change your life as it has mine and many others. It's a cheap and easy read.

Good luck! :)
nita

Social climber
chica de chico, I don't claim to be a daisy.
Dec 9, 2012 - 10:09pm PT

WOW...After the initial reporting of your accident...It's amazing to hear you are ok and doing well...
It looks like you are doing great things with your second chance in this world. Wishing you a sweet journey ahead.

Please don't take two years to come back with news... keep us updated..

Thanks....
Cheers,
nita

ps...31 is young...enjoy.
Jingy

climber
Somewhere out there
Dec 9, 2012 - 10:16pm PT
Wendy,

I heard about this tragic fall, saw the thread header and opened it up to see the beginnings of the story.

I couldn't read on, as much as I wanted to.

Now that I've read your side and as bad as I know a fall of this magnitude is I am glad to know that you are alright.

I cannot possibly understand the loss of climbing in one day, the pain of a fall, but I can understand the loss of climbing from ones life. To me it was like a love affair that slowly turned without me noticing the sadness and the anger at its loss. But there are all the positive memories I will have forever. All the extremely strong minded, strong willed, talented and brilliant people I would never have met without that love. I ask, who would you be if you hadn't lead your first climb? What about that one climb you did that scared the piss out of your friends when you got a little better at climbing? Who else but you knows how far you are willing to go to achieve your dreams? And the achievements both big and small are all within you even today. No fall can take that from you.

Its what you do with your life now that climbing is not in it. And knowing whatever you do is going to be good enough. After allÖ what else can it be?


Cheers to you Wendy. Maybe you can become that doctor and help others or, possibly even save lives. The universe of possibilities are all at your door. Its up to you to open it and begin the journey.
The user formerly known as stzzo

climber
Sneaking up behind you
Dec 10, 2012 - 12:22am PT
The thing holding me back isn't fear of falling or anything like that. It's more remembering how I used to climb and worrying about feeling sad, frustrated etc that my body fails me. I know this is all stuff we have to deal with as we age, but it just makes me sad that I'm having to deal with this much earlier than most people, without having that many more adventures and experiences I could have had under my belt before accepting our physical limitations and the natural aging process.

I can relate to that on one level, as I've seen my body age and be unable to do what it used to do. But I know it's not the same as what you're going through.

But, you can still have adventures and experiences. They won't be the same ones, but they can still be challenging and pushing your limits.

If you need a belayer, I'm in East Bay...
BuddhaStalin

climber
Truckee, CA
Dec 10, 2012 - 04:11am PT
Wendy, glad you have recovered well. I was one of your nurses in Reno. I can attest to just how lucky you are.
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
Dec 10, 2012 - 01:06pm PT
Wendy,

It is amazing that you are still with us to tell your tale. Thank you for taking the time to share it. You are an inspiration, never give up your fight. Don't worry about climbing, the time will come when you're ready. You'll know. Your love for the rock and vertical plane will take over from your past expectations.

Just get out and enjoy climbing, when you're ready, or not, it's all up to you.

I have a feeling as others have said that your return here is a good sign, you are starting to think about climbing again.

I wish you Good Luck on your new path and am positive you will find your way.

Mike Cowper
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Dec 10, 2012 - 06:42pm PT
Wow Glad your alive!!!!!!

Thank you for posting your story, we all can learn from it.

Guy Keesee
TheLittleUnit

Trad climber
Cambridge, MA (formerly) SF Bay Area
Dec 10, 2012 - 07:14pm PT
Thank you so much for everyone's well-wishes. I've pretty much accepted that I have regained any function that I can hope to get back by this point. The fact that I am walking, let alone walking without the aid of a brace, surpasses some people's expectations. I've been "training" so that I now can walk around 4 miles straight, on flat ground mind you. I can't run or do anything that involves your left quad (which is a lot of things). I'd like to say that the accident gave me a whole new perspective on life, and how I don't sweat the small stuff anymore, but I'm no saint :) There are a lot of as#@&%es in wheelchairs :) I still worry about finding a partner who will accept me and my physical limitations, which makes dating very stressful!

I'm living in Cambridge, MA now (for school), but I'll be sure to take you up on your offers to belay me when/if I'm ready to return to climbing. Now that I'm in New England, the idea of ice-climbing has been planted in my head...
10b4me

Boulder climber
Somewhere on 395
Dec 10, 2012 - 07:18pm PT
I don't sweat the small stuff anymore, but I'm no saint :) There are a lot of as#@&%es in wheelchairs :) I still worry about finding a partner who will accept me and my physical limitations, which makes dating very stressful!

I don't think you will have any trouble finding someone to date. The way you have expressed yourself speaks volumes.


but I'll be sure to take you up on your offers to belay me when/if I'm ready to return to climbing.

I would be honored to give you a belay.
Grampa

climber
from SoCal
Dec 10, 2012 - 07:20pm PT
Best wishes for a full recovery.

So many rapelling accidents this year.......
t-bone

climber
Bishop
Dec 10, 2012 - 07:33pm PT
Hi Wendy,
Congrats on walking! Sounds like a major accomplishment to be proud of.
Just last week, a few of us (that were at the Gorge that day) were talking about you and wondering about your mobility. Your improvement is great news.

Don't worry, someone with your passion and determination is sure to find many adventures in life. You just have a bit more to overcome now, which will make your adventures that much more rewarding.
Good luck and thanks for the inspiration (...as I sit at my engineering job)

Tony
The user formerly known as stzzo

climber
Sneaking up behind you
Dec 10, 2012 - 08:24pm PT
I still worry about finding a partner who will accept me and my physical limitations, which makes dating very stressful!

Hmmm... How much is a flight to Cambridge, MA?

Oops. Did I say that out loud?
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Dec 10, 2012 - 08:28pm PT
Oops. Did I say that out loud?

Yep! Cool!


Susan
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 11, 2012 - 01:39am PT
Since this has been referred to as a rappelling accident, and someone has asked for the details, "bobmarley's" (patrick)'s post on Oct 19, 2010 - 02:15pm has an accurate description:
i think that there was a communication error and she thought she was going to be lowered to the first anchor (which is actually not possible because they had a 70 and the 2 pitches combined is like 55-60m. belayer thought she was going to rap the pitches. she leans back and is off-belay and falls the entire 160' only to be caught briefly when the rope snagged at 40' (saved her life) then she fell the 40' to the ground.

I will add that she lowered her belayer from the top anchor. The expected plan (based on their previous long climb) was for him to stop at the intermediate anchor and then lower her. But while Wendy was leading he voiced his preference to be lowered to the ground instead. Unfortunately she was concentrating on the lead at the time and did not remember this by the time she reached the top. He followed and did not remind her of his new plan. He was lowered (out of sight) to the ground. There was not enough rope for him to lower her to the ground. He assumed that Wendy remembered the new plan, so she could figure this out and do a rappel instead.

The mechanics of the situation also contributed to the miscommunication. Due to the rope weight of the 200' of rope from the anchor down to her partner, when he was on the ground and she disengaged her lowering device, the rest of the rope fed by gravity down to the ground. So it appeared to Wendy that he was setting up the lower for her as she expected. And when she detached herself from the upper anchor, the rope weight lowered her slowly at first (she's light), so it appeared he was lowering her and she let go of the far side of the rope.

Another factor is that this was the first time she had climbed with this partner. It brings up the difficult issue of how well you should know someone before you trust them with your life. This accident could have happened to partners who knew each other fairly well, so I am not sure how big a factor this was.

In hindsight, the correct thing for her partner to do would have been to stay tied in to the end (or anchor it to the ground), and call out to other climbers to borrow a second rope, and tie it to their rope to do the lowering she expected. Another way the problem could have been prevented would have been to discuss the plan explicitly when he reached the anchor. He would have then found out that she didn't think she could rappel to reach the first anchor; that lowering each other to reach it might have worked (or getting a second rope). Similarly, Wendy could have prevented the accident by lowering herself until she could confirm visually that her partner was lowering her.

More details are recounted on Wendy's blog:
http://wendy-o-ng.blogspot.com/2012/12/notes-from-my-accident.html


In my earlier years of climbing, I would have read accident details like the above, and thought "Oh, I would not have done X, so this would not have happened to me." In reality, each of us and our partners make small mistakes or decisions that seem reasonable in isolation, and sometimes they add up to a big accident like this. So please be aware that we are not immune to getting hurt like this. We should still act to minimize risks, but be aware that there is a certain level of risk that will still exist.

Like other things (such as running), climbing is "a gift" that depends on a lot of abilities, and our climbing careers can be over in an instant. Or put on hold for many months or years. This can be a chance to examine our lives and adapt to our new circumstances. Having such major injuries is very rough. Finding a way to enjoy life in our given circumstances (and to improve them) is what we all try to do, with varying degrees of success.
limpingcrab

Trad climber
the middle of CA
Dec 11, 2012 - 02:08am PT
You're awesome. It's great to see you focusing on challenging yourself and exploring what you CAN do instead of giving up and focusing on what you CAN'T do (though I'm sure there are moments).

When it's all said and done, investing in people is what it's all about and you've still got that. Investing in climbing, adventure and work is fun and exciting, but not where joy comes from.

Keep it up and and thanks for updating everyone on your story!
Jebus H Bomz

climber
Reno, Nuh VAAAA duh
Dec 11, 2012 - 02:36am PT
In my earlier years of climbing, I would read accident details like the above, and think "Oh, I would not have done X, so this would not have happened to me." In reality, each of us and our partners make small mistakes or decisions that seem reasonable in isolation, and sometimes they add up to a big accident like this. So please be aware that we are not immune from getting hurt like this. Like other things, climbing is "a gift" that depends on a lot of abilities, and our climbing careers can be over in an instant. Or put on hold for many months or years. This can be a chance to examine our lives and adapt to our new circumstances. Having such major injuries is very rough. Finding a way to enjoy what we can is what we all try to do as best we can.


I am glad you added this to the analysis, and I could not agree more with what's written.

All the analysis, 20/20 hindsight stuff does, as you say, lose sight of the context of real life happening.

I hope everybody takes something away from this and other accidents. It's easy to think it won't happen to you. Maybe you can't imagine even being in step one of a scenario that begins to unravel. Tell that to this strong woman, Wendy, though, or to the guy who literally wrote the book, John Long.

If ever there was a perfect time for us to pull our collective heads out of our myriad of asses and look at those slightly questionable practices we do and dicey circumstances we put ourselves in, it would be right now.
jopay

climber
so.il
Dec 11, 2012 - 07:06am PT
Wendy something tells me there will be many chapters of success, experiences and adventure in your life ahead, and this accident will be but one of them. I came back from an accident,and I know a bit of what you have to sort through, but I did, and if you chose to climb I'm sure you will as well. I too would recommend Malcolm Daly as someone with experience in folks with challenges. I have a couple of climber friends in Boston that I'm sure would be more than willing to assist in any way should you decide to get back in the game, just e-mail me if you want their names.Best of luck Wendy.
TheLittleUnit

Trad climber
Cambridge, MA (formerly) SF Bay Area
Dec 11, 2012 - 08:29am PT
Thanks Clint. I would also like to add that it would have been very difficult (if not impossible) for me to rap to the 1st set of anchors because they are very far to the side of the 2nd set of anchors. My partner and I had been following the same protocol the whole wkend and I did not think it was going to change for this climb. There were definitely things that made me apprehensive about climbing with him: his eagerness to simul-rap back down from climbs (I vehemently declined), his rush to get back to the ground etc. I should have followed my instincts and cut my losses there.

I have not spoken to my partner since that day (and he has not contacted me).
10b4me

Boulder climber
Somewhere on 395
Dec 11, 2012 - 12:48pm PT
I have not spoken to my partner since that day (and he has not contacted me).

IMO, very poor conduct on his part
TheLittleUnit

Trad climber
Cambridge, MA (formerly) SF Bay Area
Dec 11, 2012 - 03:04pm PT
If anyone is interested, I kept a blog about my experiences as an SCI-survivor while I was in Guatemala this past summer:

http://guatemalog.blogspot.com/

I've also just started writing again in my current blog:

http://wendy-o-ng.blogspot.com/

Warning, it is pretty raw stuff.
Bad Climber

climber
Dec 11, 2012 - 04:59pm PT
Wendy: You have a huge fan club here. I'm so impressed by your strength and determination. Most of us here probably wonder if we would do so well in your shoes. As an educator (community college), I encounter a lot of people, and, interestingly, I had a student who suffered a terrible attack by a crazy gang member. My student was a wonderful young man, and everyone in the class liked him, a lad in no way involved in gangs. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was shot AND stabbed. By a very slim margin, he survived but ended up in a wheel chair. I don't know if he'll ever walk again, but his spirit, like yours, would not be dimmed, and he completely changed majors and is now working towards a medical degree. I know both of you will be fine, compassionate doctors. Keep up the good fight. You will have many grand adventures!

BAd
oldtopangalizard

Social climber
ca
Dec 11, 2012 - 05:47pm PT
Half the time it seems like ST is centered around shocking stories or statements, climbing related or not. Wendy and her partner from the accident not talking at all since that day may be the most shocking thing I've ever read here.
Wendy, good luck to you in every way. Reading your blog, I feel confident your life will pass through this and be fulfilling to your satisfaction. My Mom always says it best at the end of every call, 'God Bless You'.
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Dec 11, 2012 - 06:22pm PT
Warning, it is pretty raw stuff

As a regular reader of ST I'm thinking I'll be able to handle it!
Your inspiration grounded in reality is so moving. Too often we get swayed by what I call "The Sunday Night Movie" mentality that we never get to see or experience the true grit required in long term recovery. Yes, your story is inspiring, but your bluntness, strips away the veneer of "can do" and makes us ask ourselves "oh, you really think you 'can-do'?"
Thanks for being brutally honest. For me, that is your true inspiration for me!
I keep coming back to Wow. incredible story of moving from survivor to thriver....Thanks

Susan
Alexey

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Dec 11, 2012 - 06:34pm PT
Wendy - my best wishes . I wish your bad memory gone in the future.
I am not surprise that you are not talking anymore with your partner, I surprised that he never try to reach you to explain what happen. No matter what was communications between you - I would feel guilt in his place
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Dec 11, 2012 - 06:38pm PT
Wendy and her partner from the accident not talking at all since that day may be the most shocking thing I've ever read here.

I've been here since day one and I agree 100% - what could even come close?

Wendy, you are truly amazing and inspirational beyond words.
nah000

Mountain climber
canuckadia
Dec 11, 2012 - 08:31pm PT
TheLittleUnit:

i just wanted to thank you for your honesty.

i read/skimmed some of your blogs and appreciated the vulnerability you've shown both here and in your blogs.

you are inspiring and i wish you all of the best as you continue to heal on all fronts.
Rankin

Social climber
Greensboro, North Carolina
Dec 11, 2012 - 09:07pm PT
Hey there Little Unit, thanks for sharing your struggles and successes with us.
bobmarley

Trad climber
Auburn CA, Seattle, Bishop
Dec 12, 2012 - 10:59am PT
Hi Wendy,

Glad to hear about your incredible recovery. It was Tony (t-bone), myself, Holly, and Olivia, and some others that were there that day. Olivia was the one that ran to the top of the Gorge to call for help. She witnessed the entire fall. t-bone, Holly, and I stayed with you until help arrived. None of us have ever forgotten that day and actually bring it up frequently. Too bad about your partner never contacting. If he is reading this right now I'm gonna have to say that is pretty spineless. I'm sure he has his own demons about the whole thing.

As far as the original accident report, I might have gotten it slightly incorrect because I did not know that the rope wrapped around Wendy's leg to slow down the fall. Instead I hypothesized that the rope kinked in the anchor while zipping through making Wendy slow down about 40' above the ground.

-patrick
crunch

Social climber
CO
Dec 12, 2012 - 03:02pm PT
Inspiring story. Best wishes for the future.

I'm 3 years out from a (very minor) spine injury. Slipped on ice in back yard, hit lower spine on step hard enough for legs to fly up in the air. A few days later either bruising or swelling began compressing my spine, went to ER with right leg in extreme pain and (idiot doctor) they sent me home with paperwork on how to lift properly. Next day entire leg was numb with slight tingle in big toe, which, apparently, was a good sign, damage was done, too late for doing anything. Been recovering ever since. At 2 years out I expected that the recovery I had was as much as I'd ever see, but not so, those nerves keep working away behind the scenes, trying to reconnect or work around the damage.

I'm now effectively close to 100 percent recovered. Can't really run or jump properly but I donít really care, I can just about push up on front of right foot so that my climbing and hiking ability is no longer limited. This, for me, is great, except now I gotta fall back on other excuses.

It gets to where you don't notice improvement any more, it's far too slow for that, but one day you notice can do something you could not a few months previously. You may be at that stage now. Sounds like your spine is now about where mine was at its worst. One leg little better than an unresponsive stump. Acupuncture can help stimulate circulation and nerve/muscle function, but Iím sure you know that by now. Hiking, every day, at least a bit, is a great exercise.

At three years out Iím in better shape that a year ago, for sure. So, if you're 2 years out I reckon you will still get incremental improvements in the next year at least. Not huge improvements, you know better than that, but better than you have now.

With the trauma of what happened, can't blame you for not trying climbing. If certain muscles in your legs don't work then standing and pushing on footholds becomes hard to do and climbing, especially easy-angled slabs, is frustrating. Easy-angled outdoor slabs, however easy they are supposed to be, will suck. If you do feel the urge to try, try toproping at a gym where you can get on terrain that is steep and juggy with well-defined, large footholds and your upper body can compensate for leg/foot weakness.

In fact, I found sessions in the gym on vertical/slightly overhanging terrain worked great for training my weak leg/foot to function better. Outsideís different, much more tricky; 1.5 years out I fractured ankle (evulsion fracture) without noticing, simply by working it too hard. Weeks of swelling and pain and forced rest/scary hiking.

The stand-up paddling looks like a great way to get the leg muscles working and teach the nerves what you expect them to do. I thought of putting up a slackline, too, that would help in a similar way, but Iím maybe beyond that stage now.

Your comment here really resonates loudly:

ďIt's more remembering how I used to climb and worrying about feeling sad, frustrated etc that my body fails me. I know this is all stuff we have to deal with as we age, but it just makes me sad that I'm having to deal with this much earlier than most people, without having that many more adventures and experiences I could have had under my belt before accepting our physical limitations and the natural aging process.Ē

It resonates because, in my 50s, Iím exactly the reverse and Iím well aware of it; Iíve already done so many wild, hazardous and crazy things Iím just glad to be here at all. Never broken a bone. Iím extremely lucky not to have had to deal with far worse, along the lines of what you are going through, long ago. Iíd surely feel the same frustration as you, if were so much younger. Probably react in much less positive ways.

Good luck!
couchmaster

climber
pdx
Dec 12, 2012 - 03:15pm PT
Every day is a gift. Congrats on surviving it and wish you the best going forward.

"On the plus side, I get to park in handicap spots."
LOLZ!
A5scott

Trad climber
Chicago
Feb 11, 2013 - 01:18pm PT
You are an inspiration to us all, and you are a bad ass for sure!

Wendy update?? ;)

Scott
shady

Trad climber
Feb 11, 2013 - 07:02pm PT
The makings of an epic biography. With so many chapters still to come, Little unit's big adventure continues.

Wendy, you have my very best wishes for a long and happy life.
TheLittleUnit

Trad climber
Cambridge, MA (formerly) SF Bay Area
Feb 18, 2013 - 10:53pm PT
Thanks A5Scott and Shady (although the bar for biographies these days is pretty low these days ). Scott and I met at the Paradox Sports Ice-climbing weekend in North Conway, the weekend of Snowmageddon. It was the first climbing I had done (ice or otherwise) since my accident. Going into the weekend, I braced myself for a flood of mixed emotions - nervousness, sadness, frustration, perhaps even elation? It was so much fun to prepare for a trip again(even if it was a short weekend one without any camping), planning what gear to bring, dusting off old climbing gear and hot athletic clothing that had not seen the light of day since before my accident. A lump came to my throat as I came across the harness I had worn the day of my accident (my rescuers had managed to take it off without cutting). I'm not sure how it had remained in my possession (my mother had discarded most things in her despair/fury/desire to eliminate any memory of that day), but there it was. I hesitated for a moment before I threw it in the bin and summarily ordered its replacement online. I don't miss it.

I had deliberately chosen to ice-climb before getting back onto rock (I had never ice-climbed before) because I thought this would decrease the chances of feeling angry, sad and frustrated at not being able to do the things I used to be able to do. I'm much less self-critical than I used to be, but it did not make me immune to feelings of deep sadness, disappointment/setback about my changed physical state, as I struggled to walk up to the base of the climbs, as I couldn't kick my left crampon into the snow as hard as I needed to, as I had to worry about not peeing in my pants during the day.

In spite of these moments of sadness, I was surprised by how happy I was to just be out of the city, in the mountains, outside, enjoying the frigid winter air, feeling my ice-tool grab the ice, being able to move upwards with my good leg, shooting the sh#t with fellow climbers, able-bodied and disabled, at and away from the crag. I met Sean O'Neill and other less famous, but no less bad-ass, mofos. It turns out that I rather like ice-climbing. And I wasn't even that bummed when I found that I could barely fit into my usual size climbing harness (I guess that's what happens when you go for the send with every huge meal put in front of you - A5Scott can attest to TheLittleUnit being able to pack away quite a bit :))

My heart and soul sung quietly many times that weekend.

I did have to deal with some bad pain issues after the trip, which sucked. But I'm a glutton for punishment (some things haven't changed) and I'm heading to Ouray at the end of the month for another wkend of ice-climbing :)

I couldn't have asked for a better occasion and better group of people, to mark my foray back into the world of climbing.

P.S. I know the ice-climbing season is coming to a close, but I would love to find some ice-climbers in the Northeast, willing to teach a noob a few things or two.
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Feb 18, 2013 - 11:10pm PT
Go Girl...
Michelle

Social climber
Toshi's Station, picking up power converters.
Feb 18, 2013 - 11:12pm PT
There's hope! Thanks for that.
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 18, 2013 - 11:42pm PT
Oh boy, pretty speechless here, just something special..really special.


Susan
A5scott

Trad climber
Chicago
Feb 19, 2013 - 12:18am PT
Yes Littleunit, it was amazing to watch you eat! You'd make competitive eaters proud... Friday night you had a couple pizzas, and Saturday night you ate a small school of salmon! Good thing though cause you needed the energy for all the ass and ice kicking you did. It was great to hang out and climb together... I felt as if I witnessed your rebirth into the climbing world, and I hope you take it by storm! Every time you climb you will build upon the last, create new experiences and break down barriers that only exist in your mind.
Watching you only makes me want to get my ass in gear and keep pushing. Looking forward to your Ouray TR and others to follow!
All the best,
Scott
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Feb 19, 2013 - 12:36am PT
Wendy, you might find the following video of interest from the one-footed (and no footed) climbing perspectives. It's all interesting, but keep watching, because there is climbing at the end and one of the climbers, doing it for the first time, has only one intact leg and no prosthesis on the other. The other climber is Hugh Herr, a double amputee, who you may have heard of.



Hugh is up by you at MIT and might have some insights, even though he is primarily in the business of prostheses.

Here is a video of Paul Pritchard, who has found his way back to climbing after the injuries from a severe accident left him with no use of his right arm and partial use of his right leg.

http://www.thebmc.co.uk/modules/video.aspx?id=78&s=2

I wouldn't be surprised if rock climbing turned out to be easier than ice climbing, especially in corners, grooves and other multi-planar features where hip and body scumming would provide opportunities to maintain a stable body position while advancing the power foot. Think new techniques for unijambistic climbing rather than "oh crap I can't do this the way I would have before..."

The Gunks are a few hours from you and are in many ways an ideal place to see if reconnecting to the rock has some interest for you now. Best wishes for your new path in life!
10b4me

Boulder climber
Somewhere on 395
Feb 19, 2013 - 01:43am PT
Way to go.
You will love Ouray
Morgan

Trad climber
East Coast
Feb 19, 2013 - 02:11pm PT
Hey Wendy,

It was great to meet you and a whole bunch of new friends at Paradox Ice. It's too bad a number of folks couldn't make it due to storm NEMO, but it was a super-fun time. You, Scott and the rest of the crew rock.

I figured out the place in the Sierras I was asking you about. I'm pretty sure it was Pine Creek. Glad to hear you're psyched to keep after it!

Nice link, Rich. The Herrs, with daughters, joined us on the ice at last year's Paradox Ice event in North Conway, which was the first time for this area.

Chad

Paradox Posse @ Cathedral Ledge
Paradox Posse @ Cathedral Ledge
Credit: Morgan
shady

Trad climber
Feb 19, 2013 - 02:35pm PT
Wendy....Just accepting the invitation to go climbing was a huge milestone. The flood of emotions while at the base of that climb must have been overwhelming. As I see it, the moment of truth came to look you in the eyes, and you didn't blink. That first tool placement was the punctuation on an enormous statement about your character.

Well done!

Best wishes.
shady
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Feb 19, 2013 - 05:12pm PT
Sounds like fun. One convenient thing about ice climbing (on thick ice) is that you can often place your tools and crampons anywhere. So usually no forced "high step" moves. And you can always pull on your tools.

Strangely full circle - North Conway is where I got my spinal cord injury, in an ice climbing leader fall (with no pro in). 35 years ago. And where Hugh Herr lost his feet shortly after, due to a winter open bivouac after stream breakthrough. Well, I guess many things happen where there is climbing!
duncan

climber
London, UK
Mar 13, 2013 - 04:44pm PT
http://vimeo.com/48138177

Women's world para climbing champion Fran Brown trains at my local gym. She's very impressive.
Schatzi

Social climber
Brooklyn
Apr 27, 2013 - 09:23am PT
Hey ya'll:

I had the lovely privilege of joining Wendy (thelittleunit) in Ouray this past March for some great ice climbing. I was there with NPR to profile Claudia Lopez, a photographer and the first Colombian woman to summit in the Himalayas, but Wendy's story moved me and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to document a little bit about her comeback.

Have a listen! Keep kicking ass Wendy!

http://www.futuromediagroup.org/lusa/2013/04/26/peak-shots/

Juliana

Schatzi

Social climber
Brooklyn
Apr 27, 2013 - 09:34am PT
If you like the story -- post it on Facebook or wherever! I'd like to do more climbing related radio pieces :)
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 29, 2013 - 07:51pm PT

One of Juliana's shots of Wendy at Ouray.
shady

Trad climber
hasbeen
Apr 30, 2013 - 10:18pm PT
Hey Clint, thanks for the pic-post.
Seeing The little unit, on route, is awesome.
The user formerly known as stzzo

climber
Sneaking up behind you
Aug 27, 2013 - 11:58pm PT
I thought the Taco could use some more good news.

Here's a pic of Wendy back on the sharp end, Bulldozier P1 (taken by permission).



There would be a photo of her leading West Crack P3, but I was distracted by belay duty -- ready to catch her as she held on by her fingers when her feet slipped.
10b4me

Ice climber
Wishes-He-Was-In-Arizona
Aug 28, 2013 - 12:00am PT
Good for you Wendy
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
Dec 9, 2013 - 12:49am PT
hey there say, all... thanks for the updates, as to
getting back out there, :)

nice shares... :)
very happy for her!
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Dec 9, 2013 - 07:04am PT
This is just great. It's made my day!

Steve
Bad Climber

climber
Dec 9, 2013 - 09:16am PT
Wow, from mega screamer to climbing again. Amazing. We're so happy for you! Although I'm sure you're pretty happy for yourself, too.

Climb strong, stay safe.

BAD
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