Glück im unglück – Rote Punkt

Got back from the US, fighting jet-lag was not that bad this time. I decided to spent Saturday relaxing and cleaning all the mess around my apartment. For Sunday we planned climbing with Arne in Cheselenflue. This is the same crag, where I climbed in autumn with Masha the route dr. Blau Chafer. This time we planned to do something a bit harder – Rote Punkt – 6c.

Arne was there before, but did only three pitches (6b, 5c+, 6b+). Naturally we decided that I will lead the harder of those so he can take the harder on the other half of the route that he has not tired yet. The climb was pretty good. I cruised the crux on the first pitch, then the third pitch was almost 50m of climbing of sustained 6b, with a few rests, I felt slow as hell, taking rests whenever I could, nevertheless I led it clean, was pretty happy about myself. Than after an easy 5a pitch, Arne took a led on a in theory crux pitch – 6c. Moves are indeed harder, but the pitch is short, so didn’t feel that bad. Another 6a for me, and then last pitch… Arne went to climb final 6b. He was moving slowly but surely… I took a few photos, but in general was looking up only from time to time. The pitch has two small overhangs/roofs. When Arne was passing the second one, he dislocated a large rock, kinda foodball size. Since there was a bit of overhanging terrain, the rock did not touch the wall on the way to me, so I did not hear it.

When I have heard “rock” I saw it passing in front of my face. It crashed on my hands that were belaying.

The hands moved downwards, absorbing the shock…, the rock fall apart (later at home I realized that shrapnel must have also gone through my right feet as it was covered in blood)… huge pain… quick realization “I dropped the rope”… I picked it up quickly… heard Arne screaming to me… realized that he is fine and not going to fall… I was not able to communicate, I could scream out of pain… so I did… long and loud. Afterwards I was able to tell Arne “I cannot belay”. He said he’s fine I that I should drop the rope. He got to the next bolt – effectively pulling about a meter out of my belay device and rapped to me.

During this time I went through huge adrenaline or endorphin rush, sweeting and being cold.

When he finally reached me, quickly apologized, proposed to call Rega… there was no point in that, I just said he needs to lower me as I’m not able to hold the rope. It was probably five raps, we made it really efficiently. Before the second rap I was already able to tie my own knot :-), nevertheless Arne had to do all operations with ropes. The route was mostly vertical so being lowered down was easy. One pitch required clipping a few directionals, not to get a swing, but it was easy as well. Hence we got to the bottom, Arne packed everything and we were able to walk off, obviously he drove back, though at that point – after taking pain killers at the base of the wall I felt pretty OK. I mean OK to drive 5km or operate phone not really to climb nor anything else.

We went to hospital in Horgen where I got x-rayed and made sure nothing is broken. A week later I feel I’m mostly good, but it will take at least a week more or two to fully recover.

Lessons learned:

  • I kinda always ignored the advice not to look up when you hear “rock”. Now I’m doubting this. If I was a bit closer to the wall and looked up, this thing would have crashed my face, teeth, and would be horrible. So the “make yourself small and stick to the wall” advice is probably actually the best one. It obviously depends on the terrain, in a bit overhanging terrain it’s definitelly the only good one, in a bit slaby … the rock would hit the wall and you’d hear it.
  • I was considering clipping first aid kit into the harness (we did not take any pack), but did not. I think there are at least two things that are essential, and you can easily clip them or throw to the chalk bag. (1) climbing tape – you can improvise a lot with it. (2) painkillers – yes we had it at the bottom of the crag, but you can get them 1h or so earlier.
  • Painkillers – my first aid kit had only Ketonal – pretty heavy drug, Having something less radical is a good idea as well. Ibuprofen 400mg is a good choice – Arne had it and we went with this one.

Where we got lucky:

  • Arne didn’t take a fall. Had he done that, I would probably not catch him (unless it would be when I had the rope back). So it would be a long fall, would I be able to stand on the rope or something like that – hard to say. Though my mind was pretty clear.
  • Should one belay with megajul or other semi/autolocking device – I still think not. This things happen once in 10 years, while you don’t want to be slowed down by it. One thing to consider when a leader is starting evidently chossy pitch (I’ve done a few of those in my life ;-)) is to just tie a prusik as a backup. In this case we were doing things right.
  • It did not hit my head. Hard to say whether it’s better or worse, as I did have helmet etc… it’s definitelly better that it did not hit my shoulder or so, since there was no natural shock absorption
  • I didn’t move… look up or so – so the rock didn’t hit my face.
  • It’s not luck but experience I think, but neither of us panicked and we mostly did everything right, having a good partner matters.

Additional interesting thing is that there was at least 5 people in front of us climbing the same thing. One party doing the same route and a party of three joining last two pitches of our route from Meteorit-komb.

Anyways… good to realize we are not immortal. And happy that we are back safe without too much damage.

Photos. In particular you can see before and after.


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