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[TR] Moab UT - Various, Accident Report 2/17/2016

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This report is pretty delayed. A month ago I made a trip down to Moab Utah to do some climbing, while there I took a bad fall and for lack of better word, epicd. This report is gonna be long so if you just want to read about the accident skip to the bottom, but being the gimp that I am, I have nothing else to do other than spray on the internet so i’m typing up the events in full.


Everything got rolling because I got a week off from work. I do contract-temp work and the benefit of doing so is when jobs come to an end I can often take time to climb while waiting for the next one to start. So the job I was working in february ended rather abruptly, 2 weeks earlier than was scheduled by my employer. But to my benefit, 2 days later I was hired to start another job that would begin about 2 weeks later. This gave me 12 days off total to go screw around. Super stoked and motivated to do something awesome with the days, I started looking at the weather. Only problem - rain. Pretty much everywhere. Many of you probably still remember the warm and wet front that came through the northwest about 3-4 weeks ago. Very high freezing levels and high precip would last as far as the long range models would project. Shit.


Still very motivated to get out, with the fear of sitting on the couch the next 12 days in Seattle, I began to look beyond the NW for a more favorable forecast. Montana-rain. Oregon-rain. The Sierras- sun till wednesday, then rain. Then I looked at Utah. sunshine and moderate temps through the week. I had never been to Utah before and although I knew full well that moab was one of the greatest climbing destinations in the world, I hesitated. It would be a long drive, alone, to a place where I knew nobody with no climbing partners. Is it really worth the time and money to drive all that way with no guarantee that I’ll do any climbing? I didn’t let the doubts linger long. I wanted to be outside this week. I’m not a stranger to long journeys solo in search of adventure and also the ridiculously low gas prices of $1.75/gallon at most stations that week were a big motivator. So the next day I packed my car with enough shit to last me a week or more and started south.


That first day it took me about 12 hours to reach Salt Lake City. Other than gas stops it was a non-stop run until I finally surrendered to a highway rest stop at 1 in the morning. That next morning, my fears of not finding partners did not withstand. I got a call from a climber headed to moab along with a group of friends who invited me to join. Game on. I continued on my way to moab and by that afternoon got my first pitches of the trip in. Although the climbs were mediocre especially by Moab terms, it was awesome to get on the rock immediately upon arrival. Incidentally, these were my first climbs since thanksgiving, so warming up on a lesser crag was definitely welcome. Following some beers at the brewery in Moab that evening I retired to the night.


The next day, following a detestable hangover I met my friend Tasha from the previous day and new friends Daniel and Javi. We climbed at Wall Street, a highly popular crag for obvious reasons. Many exceptional routes are featured here and there is zero approach. When I say zero, that means I saw someone literally, belaying out of their car. The wall is that close to the road. I found quite a bit of humor at the sights and scenes of this “outdoor gym” but I gotta say REALLY admired the access locals have to climbing in Moab. Unreal. Amongst a couple others here we climbed Potash Bong Hit (5.10), Top 40 (5.8) and Banana Peal (10b).


Wall Street




Day 3 my new friends had returned to colorado and I was back on my own. In the morning, I visited one of the renowned arches and then made a trip up castleton valley to see some of the notable desert towers including castleton - a beckey favorite. Seeing the landscape was amazing, but as a climber without a partner, its kind of like a strip club. I could look, but that’s it. Blues ball guaranteed. I decided not to torture myself but I was definitely inspired to find some solid climbers and do something awesome.


so I returned to wall street in hopes of networking. I connected with some locals, one of whom, Brett Sherman, I was lucky enough to climb with for the next couple days. On day 4 we climbed El Segundo (5.9), a clean, eye pleasing dihedral high above the colorado river - finally, this is what I came to moab for. Following, we climbed Pocket Rocket (10c) a quality sport route more reminiscent of smith rock than Utah sandstone. Still being a fledgling 5.9 trad leader, being able to onsight Segundo inspired a lot of confidence. We ended with some beers, brainstorming about something to do the next day, something longer. Undecided on anything, I retired to my campsite agreeing to figure it out later. That following morning I woke up and checked my messages, one from Brett - “I was thinking about the North Chimney of Castleton Tower, you down?” Fuck ya I was down.


El Segundo





The Accident

We drove out to castleton valley and hit the trail at 10:30, about an hour later we arrived at the base. Ate some food, snapped some photos and racked up. I would take the first pitch - about 130 feet. The pitch is a pretty sustained 5.8-5.9 climbing through a short chimney opening into a dihedral with double sometimes triple hand cracks. I wasn’t being conservative with my gear but I wasn’t exactly sewing it up either.


Castleton Tower





The North Chimney



About ½ way up the pitch, shit began to get weird. While climbing I began to hear a buzzing noise. The noise got closer and louder until it was quite disturbing. With no idea what the fuck was happening I paused momentarily at a decent rest. Then Brett yelled “Taylor! There’s a Drone! Its getting closer!!” I couldn’t see anything other than the wall, but the noise continued to close in, then I heard a SLAM. the device crashed square into the tower, then I heard it spiral out of control to the ground and shatter upon impact. “THATS WHAT YOU GET YOU MOTHERFUCKER,” Brett yells into the void. Me and Brett exchange some looks and “WTF”s. If this had happened at the crag I don’t think it would’ve been quite as startling but being out in the middle of nowhere, high on the tower, I was pretty gripped. “Guess i’m gonna keep climbing!” I yell down to Brett.


I continue to move higher, nearing the top of the pitch now. At a good stance I place a medium sized wire nut. Continued a few feet higher to the crux of the pitch, a short calicite covered bulge with a wide crack above it, leading to the next belay 10 ft above that. I grabbed the largest piece I had, a 5 ½ inch cam. Too small unfortunately… I made my attempt to pull through, but I came off and started falling. The wire nut I placed pulled out. The next cam below that stopped my fall finally after a 40-50 foot whip. I would find out later i’m pretty lucky because the cam, although it held, was completely destroyed in the fall. Metolius was nice enough to replace it. It may have slipped where the crack was covered in calcite and caught further down. Maybe the placement walked into a wider part of the crack. At any rate the piece held and thats what mattered. A bit shaken, I was ok and uninjured, but I realized a few moments later that my ankle was swollen to the size of a large orange.


My blown up ankle



The blown up cam





Brett lowered me down and it became evident immediately that I was not going to be able to walk out. The shock of it all was intense but fortunately the weather was good and it was warm so I was calm about the situation. Further, we both had previously been WFR trained so we were at least somewhat used to crisis scenarios. First thing we did, after remembering the drone crash, we knew that another person must be nearby. Brett was able to go around to the opposite side of the tower and located the drone pilot and called him up to help us. It took him about an hour to reach us but in the meantime we tractioned my ankle, rappelled off the base of the tower down to the trail and began our self evac.


When the drone pilot (Charlie) finally reached us, we made a plan and continued our long descent off castleton. He got the scolding he deserved for scaring the shit out of me, but ultimately I was really thankful he was there to help. Due to the nature of the terrain, they couldn’t really carry me or hold me up in any capacity so the next several hours basically entailed crab walking/butt scooting through the dirt, mud and snow down the trail.


We made ok progress and moved as quickly as was manageable but unfortunately, sundown continued to encroach on time. I could tell Brett and Charlie were losing energy and patience and around 5 pm they began to talk about calling for more help. Due to the financial costs associated (and my pride) I rejected the idea. But after some discussion and with further dwindling daylight, the decision was finally made, and a call was put through to the Sheriff for assistance.


I could go on and on about justifying that decision. It’s really the only part that i’m really embarrassed by. I am still frustrated and disappointed by the call, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved when the help finally arrived. I had hoped they would show up with more personnel to carry me out but instead they came with a helicopter and I was airlifted from the hillside.


The approaching helicopter



As it would turn out I sustained a grade 3 sprain. 2 ligaments were torn completely and a third torn partially. My understanding is i’d be better off just breaking it. At any rate, glad it wasn’t any worse.


My freshly packaged leg




That pretty much concluded the trip. There was obviously no desire to linger around in Moab so the next morning I made a 16 hour straight push from moab back to washington. Needless to say, 16 hours alone in the car provides a lot of time for reflection on what happened. 3 days after arriving back in washington I started my first day on the job with my new company - on crutches haha. The reaction from the new boss was priceless. Lucky for me, its a desk job. I still can’t say I regret the trip. Just wished I pulled the crux…. Maybe after all the medical bills and time lost on injured reserve the experience will somehow make me a better climber and/or person.


At any rate Moab is one hell of a place, can't wait to go back

Edited by lutzman

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