Ammon McNeely


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Big Wall climber
Reno, Nevada
Oct 29, 2013 - 07:13am PT
*Warning: very graphic below*

Well, I was really trying to delay posting anything publicly until the surgeons could predict the outcome better and I had time to inform my family and close friends about this incident... but, I guess the cat is out of the bag.

Let me fist start off by thanking everyone for the well wishes. I truly appreciate it.

Second, I take 100% of the responsibility for this, and all other, accidents/injuries both in BASE jumping and rock climbing.

BASE jumping is a very hard activity to explain to those who have never experienced the sensation and freedom of leaping off a cliff. Just like rock climbing it's something that you have to be very passionate about to except the risks that come with the amazing feeling you get while following your dreams. For those who think climbing is any safer than BASE jumping are in complete denial of how dangerous rock climbing is. But, like climbing you can choose the risks that you take before you jump and decide if that is in your level of capabilities. I like to think of myself as a 5.10 trad BASE jumper with reasonable pro. Obviously, I'm not flying the 5.14x routes in Europe that is taking a lot of jumpers these days. That being said, we are not perfect and slipping on a 5.6 is still possible.

A little background information for those who don't know or are unclear of the days leading up to the Moab accident. Most of you know of my troubles with jumping in Yosemite. Back then I had three BASE rigs, two modern canopies and one old school Fox with a velcro container. My first time getting busted in Yosemite they allowed me to "buy" back my gear for 1,500, plus the 2,500 fine that went with being a "criminal". I figured I was just unlucky and continued jumping in the park. I ended up selling one of my rigs to help pay for the fine I had acquired. The second time, yes there was a second bust, they took my gear without the option of "buying" it back, gave me a $5000 fine and sent me to prison for 38 days.

I guess you could say that I learned my "lesson" after that. I was done jumping in National Parks and continued following my climbing and jumping passions elsewhere. That just left me with a very used old school velcro rig to play with, until I could afford some more modern gear. I adapted and learned to jump this older gear with precision and confidence. But, I started to notice that one of my brake settings was getting a bit frayed and needed replaced. This is where I should have been a lot more cautious about something new, but with 1000+ jumps, felt quite confident. Just like in climbing, it's best to experiment with singular differences rather than a handful, or even a couple of new variations. In this case, new brake lines and an exit that I had never experienced before. I should have taken them back to the bridge in Idaho or jumped an exit that I was very familiar with.

So, I was down in Moab mentoring my friend Dave who had 50+ jumps and hadn't been off a cliff, yet. He was doing all the right steps and I took him under my wing. We did a jump in Northern Utah and went down to Moab and hucked a couple of cliffs in Mineral Bottom, which he did great. The day of the accident, after picking up my repaired gear, we ran into Andy Lewis and came up with a plan for a sunset jump.

We were with one other jumper who was new and I voted that Andy goes first, the two new guys go in the middle and I go last. They had perfect exits, great openings with no wind. I jumped, probably took a tad longer delay than I should have, being it was a new exit with new brake lines and immediately had a 180 degree opening. I struck the cliff with my left foot and continued rag dolling down the cliff where I finally came to rest on a sloping ledge. I knew I was banged up but to my utter surprise my foot was flipped on its side looking very similar to a nalgene bottle with just a sliver of skin keeping it on.

My first thought was, I want to wiggle my toes, because this is the last time I will ever feel that sensation. Blood was squirting everywhere and I knew my only option was to somehow tourniquet it to stop the bleeding. I used my bridal (a flat piece of webbing) that attaches my pilot chute and canopy to wrap the ankle just above the open wound. I then used a stick and propelled it tighter and tighter until the spurts subsided. I yelled down that I needed a helicopter ASAP and that I lost my foot and might bleed out.

This is when Andy, Brent and a few other Moab locals jumped into action, also, Dave who is an EMT. It took about 45 minutes before they could get to me, drilled a three bolt anchor and had fixed lines set before SAR even got there. Setting up the lines saved the rescue a couple of hours of them getting me back to the road and most likely my life. I lost nearly three pints of blood and was very close to leaving this world by the time the helicopter got me to the hospital.

I was absolutely prepared to wake up the next morning, minus a foot. I joked about going full pirate mode with a peg leg but knew it could be a reality and was very sad about it. Somehow, they saved it. I'm not completely in the clear at this moment, due to possible infection... but, I survived.

Here is a link from a jump Dave and I did that shows how absolutely amazing BASE jumping can be:

And here is the carnage... the dark side of BASE jumping:

Images of the injury (graphic):
image 1
image 2
image 3

So, the question is; Do we stand up and take the risks and have a blast enjoying your passion? Or, do we hide in the shadows, being afraid of what might happen if we are so bold to follow our dreams?

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
Oct 29, 2013 - 07:31am PT

I had an injury which looked almost as bad as yours, in the same area.

Happened in Vietnam, and thought I was going to lose the foot.

One year later, I climbed the Nose and the Salathe.

You will be back at it for sure. Guys that have the drive to do what you do

will pull thru better than the average coach potato!

Oct 29, 2013 - 08:31am PT
Whoa, I'm very sorry about that injury, and I hope you heal up well. The clip showing the good jump is great, and your happiness when landing by the truck explains everything.

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
Oct 29, 2013 - 08:34am PT
im sorry, sir.
now, on to the next chapter.

it's entirely yours to author,
and based on your story thus far,
i'm certain it will be remarkable.


Trad climber
Oct 29, 2013 - 08:35am PT
Applying bridal tourniquet
Taking pics for our viewing pleasure
Joking about peg-leg

All while looking at your own bones and tendons and muscles 'n stuff.

And then actually SMILING in the hospital.

Totally Badass.

Pirate, I salute you!

May you heal soon and go up and down walls they way you were meant to.

John Mac

Trad climber
Littleton, CO
Oct 29, 2013 - 08:36am PT
Thanks for sharing and all the best for a good recovery!!!
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Oct 29, 2013 - 08:49am PT
Damn, that's gross. You acted quickly to stop the bleeding, and it sounds like the rescue was like clockwork. Some people would have just fainted there and bled to death but I guess you're good at handling pressure. It sounds like a story from the Vietnam war. I hope you get well soon and please save up and buy a new parachute for next time.

Trad climber
Oct 29, 2013 - 08:50am PT
Woah. That must take some steel to see your foot in that condition and remain present enough to take the actions you did. Also glad you were out there with a set of skilled friends who helped you get through the preparation for hand-off to the medical teams. I think that old saying "Hey - what are friends for?" would be an understatement here.

Hope the foot and leg heal up well, and glad that you are here to talk about it!

Social climber
An Oil Field
Oct 29, 2013 - 08:53am PT
Damn, Ammon,

You are who I want to be if I croak and are re-born! Sorry about the foot, but in the old days, nobody made it to a hundred without spending time in plaster. Me included.

What you need is a little speech from Fight Club:

God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh#t we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.

Heal up and keep fighting the war for us.

California dreamin' on the farside of the world..
Oct 29, 2013 - 08:54am PT
Aaaarrrgggghh are One Tough Pirate Dude!

Caught enough mangled-foot-through-squinting-eyes to be seriously horrified...and then figured that if you could deal with this trauma as well as you are right now, by god you are going to do what it takes to heal yourself.

In the meantime I'm sending you healing vibes and a vision of your leg and foot working perfectly again one day.

The Granite State.
Oct 29, 2013 - 08:55am PT
Sh#t, man. Bummer to hear this. Hope you get put back together correctly.

Edit; just watched your video. You're tough as nails, dude.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Oct 29, 2013 - 09:10am PT
Wow you are one tough dude. I am sure your level-headed ness saved your life. You are an inspiration to many of us here. Good luck with your recovery.

Jim Henson's Basement
Oct 29, 2013 - 09:24am PT
Whoa.. just whoa. Amazing how everyone kept their heads.

Wishing Ammon a speedy recovery.

Well, we know who's getting the Burt Bronson award of the year now ;)

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Oct 29, 2013 - 09:27am PT
Gore!!! Glad you're alive! F*#king A!!!

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Oct 29, 2013 - 09:39am PT
Best wishes to you. Rough injury. :/

Cardiff by the sea
Oct 29, 2013 - 09:58am PT
Glad your still with us ammon. Hoping to bump into you at the base or the summitt of the capitain again soon

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Oct 29, 2013 - 10:00am PT
Holy Moley! I'd heard there was a rough film ....
Nice poise and clear head in the face of disaster!
A tip of the bandana/patch to you!

Happy healing!

Big Wall climber
South of the Mason Dixon line
Oct 29, 2013 - 10:02am PT
This sux, but think he will get through this ok.

Trad climber
San Diego
Oct 29, 2013 - 10:07am PT
Get well soon. Total Gnar.

Oct 29, 2013 - 10:08am PT
hey Ammon,

We've never met but I'd like to be on the load welcoming you back to base jumping after you recover...I've always admired you through your posts.

peace brother, heal well,

PM/email me if you need help sourcing some GH releasing peptides which will speed recovery drastically.
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