Accident at Red River Gorge Offers a Too-Close-for-Comfort Reminder to Stay Safe While Climbing

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.

The climbing community owes a huge THANK YOU to the Wolf County Search & Rescue team for keeping climbers safe at Red River Gorge.  *click the image to see their photos of the rescue*

The climbing community owes a huge THANK YOU to the Wolfe County Search & Rescue team for keeping climbers safe at Red River Gorge. *click the image to see their photos of the rescue*

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. 

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7 thoughts on “Accident at Red River Gorge Offers a Too-Close-for-Comfort Reminder to Stay Safe While Climbing

  1. The Weekend Warrior says:

    WOW! That’s insane. When I was there over Labor Day, a climber at Chocolate Factory (I think) was climbing a route in the 5.13+ range and realized toward the end of the route that his rope was frayed and almost gone!

    A buddy of ours was there and was saying that it’s a route where there’s permadraws or someone left their quickdraws there and they hadn’t been replaced in years. Overtime, one draw got worn from all the friction and got sharp. basically it started cutting into his rope so he had to figure out a way to get rid of the bad end attached to him and then get lowered.

    Scary situation, but luckily he was able to get lowered and nothing bad happened.

  2. Jillian Bejtlich says:

    I wear a helmet for all the helmet worthy activities I do (climbing, snowboarding, white water sports, etc), and I can’t imagine doing otherwise. It might just be because I’m clumsy, but I’m on my 3rd snowboarding helmet and my climbing helmet is absolutely covered with dings, scratches, and dents – so for all the naysayers out there on the helmet issue, helmets have ABSOLUTELY protected me from a serious amount of injury (as well as let me walk away with two minor concussions instead of major head trauma).

    It’s funny you point out the “no one else is wearing one” factor. At NH’s most popular climbing area helmets are really common so we don’t seem to notice the dorkiness factor as much. I haven’t climbed anywhere yet where they weren’t common so that has to be a weird feeling!

    Hope you’re friend is doing well!

    • Joshua Riggins says:

      Truth. Ive only climbed trad twice and didn’t place the gear. Admittedly didn’t wear a helmet. The one bad fall I had in my youth I almost decked from 20-30 ‘. 3 things went wrong that day. 1- belayer got complacent and wasn’t paying attention. 2- I failed to communicate with my belayer my struggles. 3- belayer should have known his climber was uncomfortable and struggling based on experience and my tentative feelings

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