FiFi Pulls and Suddenly I'm a Gymnast

Vantage Aid Climbing: Aid placement fails, climber flips over edge of starting ledge, does a 360 degree mid-air somersault, and just misses nailing the landing on a large boulder.
David Shema David Shema
October 28, 2014
FiFi Pulls and Suddenly I'm a Gymnast
Climbers at Vantage - Frenchman Coulee
Date: May 4  
Location: Vantage, Frenchman Coulee
Injuries: Bruises, bruised ribs, bruised ankle

Cause of Accident/Incident: Gear pulled when weighted on Aid Climb

While standing on a Fifi suspension hook at the start of an aid climb, the climber was searching for placements for the next piece when the Fifi pulled. The climber fell on his back on the starting ledge, varying from 3 to 10 feet from the ground proper, and flipped over the ledge. He hit a large boulder then struck the ground, leading with his shoulder and ribs.

Course of Events of Accident: ~11:30ish didn't have a watch on me.

  1. Pulled up on the ledge from the left side.
  2. There was a directional below the ledge that we had been using on my previous climb though it was close to the ground.
  3. The crack was very thin and dirty so I spent some time looking for a placement.
  4. Used a Black Diamond offset nut, in the crack at chest level. Called out I was testing to my belayer.
  5. Tested the piece with the aider, full downward pull yanking while standing on the elevated platform.
  6. Called out I was climbing and climbed up the aider and “fifi'd” into the piece and clipped the rope. 
  7. Started looking for the next piece to place.
  8. While reaching up to investigate next piece, while moving around with the Fifi pulling in a more horizontal direction on the piece, I heard a pop, pop sound and I hit the platform on my back. 
  9. Outward, horizontal momentum continued as I tried to grab the platform with no luck.
  10. My legs went over my head as my back was on the platform and I flipped over the ledge.
  11. I almost landed on my feet as I turned in the air onto the large rock boulder below. Then I dropped another 3 feet from the boulder onto my ribs/shoulder on the dirt ground where I came to a stop.

Post Accident Events:

  1. My belayer was first to me. The fall knocked the wind out of me so it took a second for me to catch my breath.
  2. He let me sit on his pad and we slowly worked to get all the gear off.
  3. Others around came to us, all offering help. Someone offered to fetch the litter.
  4. I asked my belayer to check me out,  while others checked my helmet for cracks.
  5. I repeated I was okay. My belayer did a thorough first aid check and asked me a series of questions to ascertain level of consciousness. He did a good job.

My Assessment:

In hind sight I should of been more aware of the following conditions:

  1. I was climbing a dirty crack. It's Vantage: we all know the rock quality varies greatly.
  2. I had a false sense of security standing on a big ledge, it happen to be about 10 feet down on one side, where I fell.
  3. I was using someone else’s gear for the first time
  4. Given the above situation I should of put in several pieces and anchored my point before weighting the piece.