Sometimes We Fall - Hatcher Pass, Alaska 08/25/07

PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska GrinninRegistered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
edited August 28, 2007 in Journeys
Okay so this post is sort of an accident report / trip report! I hope its enjoyable. My camera however took a major blow (story below) and now all my pictures are at a really low quality. I think I'll have to get it checked out. So please excuse the quality of the photos! ;)

On Friday I met with Dane and a few friends for some kung fu practice. After practice I told Dane I wanted to head into Hatcher Pass and he could definitely come. Firstly because I had no way of actually getting there and second because I needed a climbing partner. Basically I was grossly underprepared. Dane thought it sounded like a great idea and at 8:30am in the morning we were headed from Taproot Cafe to Hatcher Pass. The drive takes a few hours and we were at the end of Archangel Road at roughly 11am. Not exactly the earliest start but plenty of time to get a good climb in, we still did not know what we were going to climb. The weather was looking great and the peaks were showing. Then it came to me, The Pinnacle! I had seen this peak about 4 years ago and wanted to climb it ever since. Today's the day! Dane agreed that it sounded like fun and we packed up all our gear for the climb in. On the way down the trail we met a nice couple who were sitting by a fire the guy asked "Would you like a burrito, weve got lots extra?" Dane replied nicely with a no thank you and instinctivly I did as well. Then I came to my senses and thought "What the heck am I saying?!" and was chomping down on a wonderful tasting breakfast burrito moments later. Ah I love it when you run into great people on the trail.
We continued along the outskirts of the lower rockfalls in the direction of Fairangel Valley and finally got a good glimpse of the peak. The clouds were minimal and the climb looked awesome.
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We headed onto the boulder field and hopped around to the gully which would lead us to the base of the Pinnacle Climb. The climb can be done all along the ridge but we opted not to do that. Maybe another day! It looks like a great climb. Heading up further through the boulder, tallus, and scree field we were finally getting some good glimpses of the wall we were going to head up.
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This peak on the other side of the valley looked really impressive. I think there must be some great climbs on this wall or else its begging to be done.
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It was a steep slog up the mountainside so we definitely needed some breaks. The clouds were constantly changing. Dane enjoys a few moments rest.

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And then it was back up the mountainside.

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And then we finally made it to the base of the wall. It looked like a great climb that we knew nothing about. All I knew is I had heard there were sections that go at 5.11. I had no idea where they were or even if we were going to start at the right place. We headed up just inside the left ridge in this photo. The rock was crumbly and didn't seem to want to stay in place.

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Another view of the ever changing clouds.

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All the rock directly below the headwall dosen't exactly give the feeling of a strong unbreakable wall. We left our backpacks here.

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The first pitch was a relatively easy slab climb which we soloed and then roped up for the next pitch. Notice the helmets? I don't normally wear a helmet but I have been trying to be more dillegent at doing so. This climb I had my helmet on.

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The clouds would come in randomly and we would lose view of all around us. It never lasted long though. Dane climbing the first pitch. It had a good bit of bad rock and moss on it but I imagine it went at 5.8 or 5.9 at the most.

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Dane checks out the next few pitches.

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Dane led the next pitch. A nice fun crack that would lead us up to a good belay ledge with another crack looming ahead. He's checking for protection here.

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Nice crack for some pro. It would be fun to climb as well with a bit of cleaning. Its nice to know that that little piece of metal is supposed to be a lifesaver.
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We were probably a few hundred feet up the wall now and we came to a fun looking crack that was my turn to lead. I started up and the slipperyness of the rock made it harder then it had looked. I put in a piece of protection and climbed up a bit further. I put it another and continued on. I got about 20+ feet above dane and did a layback move on the crack bringing my feet up a bit high, that was all it took. Soon I was falling and I yelled "Falling" I felt a small jerk which was my first piece of pro catching and then I was falling again. I slammed to my back and then rolled over my head somersaulted over and began a roll down the mountain. I felt a slam on my side and then air again. I heard "Kelsey" then "@#$# it blew" and the noise came from beside me. I knew I was at dane and still falling. I continued my slam down the mountain hitting rock and spinning in different directions. I seemed short and seemed like an eternity at the same time. I thought both my pieces had blown and it was up the slings we had used wrapped around the rock now. If they go then its a trip to the ground. I finally was stopped and whipped around into sitting position a foot or so away from the rock my feet dangled in the air a few hundred feet of exposure below. I let out a few good yells "Wahhhoooooo! Heck Ya!" I couldn't help it. It was definitely a good feeling moment to know the rope had cought and I didn't feel to bad. Nothing felt broken. I clung back to the rock and climbed the 15 feet or so back up to dane. I inspected myself for injuries. There were tender areas for sure and one good cut on my hand but nothing had been beaten into submission. My finger was the only vital thing that had hurt enough to make a difference. Dane asked me "Is this yours?" and he was holding my 2 ascenders in his hand. Odd, I thought, those were attached to me before and they had fallen in his lap. I figured they had just become unclipped but I was wrong. I tried to clip them back only to notice my side loop had completely busted open and dumped my gear down the mountain. A gri-gri and caribiners both locking and non locking had been lost. It hadn't been a huge fall but it was plenty for me. All while somersaulting head over heals. I let out some hurried comments and it only took me an instance to know I wanted to continue but I wasnt going to be leading this section. That had been my largest fall in the mountains so far while climbing and involuntarily I was shaking. My brain actually felt fine. I felt very calm and confident my body just wasn't cooperating. Dane climbed the crack and put two pieces in but climbed without falling. After he had setup a belay station I climbed the same spot and my mind was playing tricks on me! My arms and legs shaking and my grip felt weak. It felt silly. I felt drunk. It was strange knowing the falls that others had taken and continued on and my fall seemed so small yet effected me greatly. I got to where my piece had been when it came out and a part of the inside of the crack had broken off completely and become a free hanging flake. Not a good sign. But with luck we live to learn!
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We climbed on and after a few pitches had reached the summit ridge. I hadn't led since my fall but now wanted to lead atleast one more pitch to know that It didnt effect me beyond the point of being unable to lead. So I led the final section to the summit which was an easy 5.6 or 5.7. I had checked my camera before this point after remembering it was attached to me during my tumble and I certainly landed on it several times. It still turned on and took pictures but I am finding now they are a bit of lacked quality.
Dane sits on the ridge ready to follow to the summit.
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Another one of Dane on the ridge.
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There were incredible views from the summit. The clouds parted around us and gave us views of the lakes and peaks.
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The side we had climbed up had really nasty looking slings and protection so we were happy to see better looking slings we could rappel down on the other side and a gully. It was a nasty rockfall area and we took it slowly.
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Amazingly enough the days weather just got better as we went along. The temperatures were great and the views were intoxicating.
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We made it down through the gully on about 4 rappels and traversed back to where we started the climb and left our gear. I was overjoyed to find the gri-gri had stopped about 5 feet from my bag after falling several hundred feet! There was no sign of the locking caribiners though. Back at the talus field the sun hidden behind the peak shines only on the other side now.
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The hike down was nice and slow and we took plenty of breaks to enjoy the weather and abundent blueberries.
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At the base of the climb we finally take deep breaths and accept that we succeded in another peak. I had twisted my ankle a bit on the way down and fell a few times. I felt like this peak was trying to get me!

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The clouds had completly disappeared as we finished the climb and headed back to the car. I felt great about everything that had happened today. I loved the climb, felt great about the fall and feel I had learned some and we had a succesful summit in great weather. Can there be a better day?
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Total climbing / hiking time was about 9 or 10 hours.
Hardest section of climbing probably 5.10.
Dane didn't remember saying "@#$# it blew." Maybe it was me..?

Comments

  • schmooschmoo word nerd Registered Users Posts: 8,468 Major grins
    edited August 26, 2007
    Kelsey that is a nasty wound on your hand but I'm VERY GLAD that you're well and alive enough to share that picture with us!

    The vistas are wonderful (as well as the cloud shadows) and I still think your camera is doing a pretty good job.

    Again, so glad you are OK! I know climbers go into it knowing the risk but it's hard for your audience to accept such a huge accident.

    Whew.
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited August 26, 2007
    bowdown.gifbowdown.gif
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited August 26, 2007
    schmooo wrote:
    Kelsey that is a nasty wound on your hand but I'm VERY GLAD that you're well and alive enough to share that picture with us!

    The vistas are wonderful (as well as the cloud shadows) and I still think your camera is doing a pretty good job.

    Again, so glad you are OK! I know climbers go into it knowing the risk but it's hard for your audience to accept such a huge accident.

    Whew.

    Thanks for the reply schmooo. It was a pretty crazy feeling fall. Having no idea where I was and if I would stop or just keep going to my death. The rock was really sharp and I was afraid it was going to cut the rope. The risk is something thats there and I am willing to take but normally I try to avoid tempting it. ;)
  • DJTHEMACDJTHEMAC Big grins Registered Users Posts: 70 Big grins
    edited August 28, 2007
    That must have been a terrifying experience! I do a bit of indoor rock climbing every now and again, so I can picture in my mind the sickening feeling of your pro failing. Good shots and glad you made it back safely. bowdown.gif
  • geminiphotosgeminiphotos Big grins Registered Users Posts: 35 Big grins
    edited August 28, 2007
    WOW; Glad your ok; But what an amazing shot of Dane on the ridge;

    WOW

    D
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Administrators Posts: 21,386 moderator
    edited August 28, 2007
    Glad to see you're in one piece. And you got a great tale to go with thumb.gif
    Moderator Journeys/Sports/Big Picture :: Need some help with dgrin?
  • ChrisJChrisJ Major grins Registered Users Posts: 2,159 Major grins
    edited August 28, 2007
    If there's a "Best Journeys" experience/writer award... It's no contest. Holy sh...moly, Prez!
    Chris
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Alaska Grinnin Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited August 28, 2007
    DJ - It was a pretty crazy feeling knowing my piece had blown! Next time I'll have to try and be more careful.

    gemini - Thanks for the comment. I really enjoy that photo as well. :) The sights there were just awesome.

    ian408 - Thanks! I was still on the mountain when I said "I can't wait to go home and write this one up!" I knew I would enjoy looking back. My friend always calls me lucky. I told her this story and she said "Are you kidding me?! The first day you decide to actually wear a helmet while climbing and it possibly saves your life?" It was definitely nice to have.

    ChrisJ - Thanks a ton! I have really enjoyed writing these reports and I hope that I can keep coming out with more! I'm honored!
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