Seriously, folks, climbing is a dangerous sport.
It’s so easy to become complacent when you’re doing something every single day of your life, but climbing is inherently a dangerous sport sometimes, and even the most comfortable, skilled climber can have an accident. It happened here at Red River Gorge a few days ago.
My wonderful, kind, strong, incredibly well-spirited friend Roro was climbing a trad route at Pistol Ridge (the same place I had just had my wow-I-love-adventure-climbing experience) in the north portion of Red River Gorge a few days ago – business as usual. From what I gather, the route was a bit chossy (something that would never deter his passion for climbing lines), and he took a fall – and his first piece of protection popped. According to this press release, he fell 40 feet, and decked, hard.
Fortunately for my buddy, the universe was on his side and Roro landed right in between a boulder sticking out of the earth and a few stumps. It easily could have been a very, very bad situation, but thanks to his climbing partners that day and the folks who came to help rescue him, Roro made it out relatively unscathed after a four-hour mission to get him down from the crag.
I thought I’d help him out a bit by spreading the sole message he posted while in the hospital:
“Attention rock climbers. Wear a helmet.
It saves lives. Don’t be a square.”
I won’t debate helmets for bouldering, or even for sport climbing (because I shamefully don’t wear one), but if I ever get on a trad climb, you can bet your bottom dollar I’d be wearing a helmet. Niko bought one the moment he started placing gear, and every wise climber I know wears one on trad lines. Our friend we met here a few weeks ago admitted that he always wears a helmet, but didn’t when he came to Red River Gorge because he didn’t see a single person with a helmet – let’s change that.
But mostly, just use this accident as a reminder to never, ever get too comfortable when climbing. Always double check your knots, always inspect your gear, always have good communication and double-check everything with your belayer. It doesn’t matter if you climb 5.14d or 5.9+, always be aware.
And never stop being grateful for your climbing partners. Don’t let the moment they get hurt be the moment you realize how awesome they are to have in your life. Roro, we can’t wait for you to get back to camp buddy, we all miss you.
Want to really show your appreciation for the folks who keep climbers safe? Donate to the Wolfe County Search and Rescue team to support Red River Gorge safety, or find your local crag’s SAR crew and give them some love.