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T wall: found gear after accident
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By Mike Flanagan
From Boone, NC
Mar 6, 2014

Brittany,

Package should arrive at Ross Young's house today per USPS tracking info. Sent him all info via email.Get better soon!

Cheers,

Mike


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By Brittany Decker 1
From Kennesaw, GA
Mar 10, 2014

Hey guys sorry I never noticed the rant that took place here.. Everyone calm down!!!. I'll agree... My last name being decker is kinda funny. To be honest... I don't really remember what happened. I pulled on the climb and did the bottom bouldery section. I looked down and told my belayer that the climb was really wet, wandered, and the gear sucked. That's about the last thing that I remember. I wish I knew what happened at the top because I've never blown a piece before, been decked, or knocked unconscious and all those things happened in one day. I told my friends when I got to the top that the gear sucked... I've fallen on lots of my placements before so I don't think it was due to lack of experience. I will not get on pg13 corners anymore. Originally we thought I fell 40 feet but we realized later it was closer to 60. Don't know how much that helps but yeah wear helmets and be safe!!


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By Brittany Decker 1
From Kennesaw, GA
Mar 10, 2014

Mike thanks so muh for sending my stuff back. I'm still missing hella things but that helped a lot!! I really appreciate you sending it back!!


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By Mike Flanagan
From Boone, NC
Mar 13, 2014

Brittany,

Bummer sorry! I'm glad we could help. All the gear I sent you was on the route new beginnings and we cleaned everything we saw. Hope you get the rest back and heal up quickly!!!

Cheers,

Mike


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By Adam Burch
From San Dieger
Mar 13, 2014
you local?

Feel good story! It's a shame not all the gear made it back to you, but at least you're alive and were made partially-whole with your gear. How long do the docs give you before you'll be out climbing again?

I've got a crazy idea that might work - maybe Jon can go talk tough to the rock wall, and it will give back the rest of the gear. He sounds like the man for the job.

So tough!


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By Brittany Decker 1
From Kennesaw, GA
May 28, 2014

Adam Burch wrote:
Feel good story! It's a shame not all the gear made it back to you, but at least you're alive and were made partially-whole with your gear. How long do the docs give you before you'll be out climbing again? I've got a crazy idea that might work - maybe Jon can go talk tough to the rock wall, and it will give back the rest of the gear. He sounds like the man for the job. So tough!


Thank you! Sorry I didn't see these responses till just now. I'm still hearing crazy rumors (from various sources) about what happened up there so I'm going to provide some clarification to the matter....

In the months since the accident I have had many flashbacks which have given me a little more insight as to what happened. Based on my flash backs and the many conversations that I've had with others who have been on the route... I now know that the pro is sparse and not very good. Now, the last thing I remember is placing a .1 X4 in a shallow horizontal slot and trying to slide it from right to left but no matter where it was, one sides lobes weren't properly engaged. It was useless to fiddle with and I was tired so I moved on but knew I was in trouble. This was the piece that I fell on and ripped.

To answer your question Adam - it has been about 3 months and I now am cleared to start easy top rope climbing again. Around 6 months from the accident I am allowed to start lead climbing again. I will not be able to boulder for about a year. Overall, I am healing really well.

Another reason I am making this follow up is to say that I appreciate the tremendous support that the climbing community gave to both me, my family, and my friends when all that happened. We all needed help and so many people I know from the climbing community were really awesome and did everything they could to help. I never would have expected to many visitors in the hospital. I really appreciate Mike sending back my gear that was left behind and everyone coming forward to say such kind words. It means a lot. Lots of strangers stopped to help on the trail. They waited for rescues, guided them up the mountain, helped my friends try to keep me calm, and did a lot to contribute. I have no idea who these people are but I want to know. If any of you know - please tell me! I just want to personally thank them for everything. It was super scary and my friends were happy to have people stop who had an even firmer grasp on how to handle the situation.

Important Lessons learned (for those who had asked):

1. I ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO WEAR A HELMET!!!! I forgot to put my helmet on for that climb (wore it the whole rest of the day) and suffered a skull fracture and some minor brain damage as a result. It's something really easy and simple to do that can save your life.

2. Be educated about what you're getting on!!! I had been in an onsight frenzy at T-Wall for a while when the accident took place. It was a fun frenzy and I got on a lot of new routes and really pushed my limits. However, I knew that arÍte's at T-Wall generally protect really poorly and this should have come into consideration when I nonchalantly chose that climb at the end of the day.

3. I chose that route as an after thought and didn't pay much attention when it was wet at the bottom, looked like bad gear, and involved difficult route finding. I didn't fully accept and comprehend the risk involved. For me, it was just another onsight attempt. It's important to recognize that what you are out there doing is serious and involves real risks and consequences - don't get yourself in over your head on something that you're not prepared for. Climb confidently... But don't get too cocky. You are not invincible.

4. I don't know how much this matters but I didn't add any additional gear to my harness after putting up a top rope for my friends on the climb next to us. I didn't think I would need it - but it may have made a difference. Hard to say for sure.

5. Get Wilderness First Responder Certified. Seriously. We are out there all the time and anything could happen. My friends that were there were WFR's and they knew to keep me still. I was fighting them like crazy but they held me down - thank god. My shattered vertebrae was pushing up against my spinal cord and if it had severed - I would have been paralyzed. The doctor said if I hadn't been kept still it could have easily happened. KNOW WHAT TO DO when shit goes wrong and climb with people who know what to do as well. I'm getting my training later this year.

6. Most of us trad climbers can identify gear that is bomber and gear that is total shit. If you're like me, in the past you've placed gear that was questionable and wasn't 100% sure about its capabilities. I've only fallen on these questionable pieces a couple times and was pleasantly surprised when they held. When possible... I'm going to spend extra time backing these pieces up with gear that I know is good and then deliberately falling on it to see if it holds. It won't answer all my questions... But it will remove some of the doubt and uncertainty that I have about mediocre gear.

Again, this is just an update because even though its been 3 months.. I still hear wrong information regarding the matter. More over - I want to thank everyone involved!!!


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By Adam Burch
From San Dieger
May 28, 2014
you local?

Glad to hear you are healing up, and there are many readers here that learn from each accident/aftermath posted up. We could probably all stand to review our own flow when it comes to safety.


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By John Byrnes
Administrator
From Fort Collins, CO
May 28, 2014

5.samadhi wrote:
You obviously do not get it so I won't spare very many words on your pathetic post. She fractured her spine. Why are you asking her to analyze her accident from the fucking hospital bed. This is much like a low hook turn in skydiving where the skydiver crashes into the ground at high velocity (which we see quite often by the way in the last 2 decades). There is nothing here for you to learn other than "don't do that". You know how to place gear? Great. Then why did you ask what went wrong. Its obvious what went wrong brother - she improperly placed protection and it ripped out and she decked because of that. Yes assumption taking the place of truth is OK with me here given that the target of your inquiry is a girl in the hospital with a broken spine. So back to my original point, mind your fucking business.


5.samadhi, perhaps you should take your own advice and "mind your fucking business" because just about every point you've made on this thread is wrong. (And JFYI, so are most of your other posts on other threads.)

Because climbing is a sport where you sometimes only get one mistake, it is imperative that accidents are analyzed and that information is shared, so that other climbers can avoid making the same mistake. Do you think that "low hook turns" aren't such a problem anymore because no one analyzed the problem and warned other skydivers? Doh!

In almost all climbing accidents there's more to it that just one mistake (this is no exception) such as "improper placement" of gear. I think Ms. Decker describes the "Cascade Effect" quite well.

The bottom line is that you're full of shit to say 'There is nothing here for you to learn other than "don't do that".' MP is populated by climbers of all abilities and experience levels. Not everyone is as smart as 5.samadhi and this is an important place for them to learn.

I broke my back many years ago because of a situation that I never anticipated. And at that time, lots of other climbers were also making the same mistake. That mistake doesn't happen much anymore because gear, guides and practices have changed. Gee, maybe we all should have kept quiet so YOU could make the same mistake too, eh? (Or maybe you did anyway... How'd you break your back?)

Clearly Ms. Decker was forthcoming so rest of us could learn from her accident. She'll never make those mistakes again, and if only one other climber avoids them too, it'll have been worth it. If that makes you uneasy, 5.samadhi, don't read these posts. But please, STFU.

Brittany, best wishes from another broken back.


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By Brittany Decker 1
From Kennesaw, GA
May 28, 2014

John Byrnes wrote:
5.samadhi, perhaps you should take your own advice and "mind your fucking business" because just about every point you've made on this thread is wrong. (And JFYI, so are most of your other posts on other threads.) Because climbing is a sport where you sometimes only get one mistake, it is imperative that accidents are analyzed and that information is shared, so that other climbers can avoid making the same mistake. Do you think that "low hook turns" aren't such a problem anymore because no one analyzed the problem and warned other skydivers? Doh! In almost all climbing accidents there's more to it that just one mistake (this is no exception) such as "improper placement" of gear. I think Ms. Decker describes the "Cascade Effect" quite well. The bottom line is that you're full of shit to say 'There is nothing here for you to learn other than "don't do that".' MP is populated by climbers of all abilities and experience levels. Not everyone is as smart as 5.samadhi and this is an important place for them to learn. I broke my back many years ago because of a situation that I never anticipated. And at that time, lots of other climbers were also making the same mistake. That mistake doesn't happen much anymore because gear, guides and practices have changed. Gee, maybe we all should have kept quiet so YOU could make the same mistake too, eh? (Or maybe you did anyway... How'd you break your back?) Clearly Ms. Decker was forthcoming so rest of us could learn from her accident. She'll never make those mistakes again, and if only one other climber avoids them too, it'll have been worth it. If that makes you uneasy, 5.samadhi, don't read these posts. But please, STFU. Brittany, best wishes from another broken back.


Just for the record... I totally agree. I think it's important that people try and learn from each other's mistakes... And we've all made them!!!! And yeah I think it's pretty rare when climbing accidents can be attributed to one singular mistake. It's often the result of many different factors. Just put of curiousity... What is the cascade effect that you describe?


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By Thierry
From Murfreesboro, TN
May 28, 2014

Brittany,
Thank you very much for the updates, your observations, and courage in posting them.
Analyzing accidents is an excellent way to try to prevent future injuries. I have put in several so-so placements, just 'mental' pieces, to keep going. I resolve to reconsider that practice.
Best wishes on your continuing recovery.


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By JSH
Administrator
May 28, 2014
JSH @ home <br /> <br />photo courtesy of Gabe Ostriker

Agreement - always something to learn, or re-learn - from yet another broken back (L1 burst, also had a broken chunk wandering way too close fir comfort). Your write up is perfect and very appreciated. Best wishes for continued healing.
Julie


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By Brittany Decker 1
From Kennesaw, GA
May 29, 2014

Thierry wrote:
Brittany, Thank you very much for the updates, your observations, and courage in posting them. Analyzing accidents is an excellent way to try to prevent future injuries. I have put in several so-so placements, just 'mental' pieces, to keep going. I resolve to reconsider that practice. Best wishes on your continuing recovery.



:) yeah those mental pieces are exactly what I was referring to! Haha - sometimes you just need them more for piece of mind than anything else. I know it's not always possible to back them up in the heat of the moment or that there may not be any other options for pro... but I want to have days where my entire focus is taking small falls on so-so pieces. Time to start testing the limits. Aid climbing (I've only done it a couple times) can help too! So I want to get more into that as well.


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By Brittany Decker 1
From Kennesaw, GA
May 29, 2014

JSH wrote:
Agreement - always something to learn, or re-learn - from yet another broken back (L1 burst, also had a broken chunk wandering way too close fir comfort). Your write up is perfect and very appreciated. Best wishes for continued healing. Julie


Oddly enough, it was my L1 that burst as well. I've met a ton of people who have fractured their T11- L2 since the accident... and these are all the same vertebrae that I broke!! I think it's kind of ironic. Anyway - it sounds like you healed up good as well and I'm happy about that. Thank you for your kind words!!!


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By John Byrnes
Administrator
From Fort Collins, CO
Jun 1, 2014

Brittany Decker 1 wrote:
And yeah I think it's pretty rare when climbing accidents can be attributed to one singular mistake. It's often the result of many different factors. Just put of curiousity... What is the cascade effect that you describe?


There's probably a formal name for it but I just call it the Cascade Effect.

It's when several small things combine to create a big, serious problem. No one of these problems, or even two of them, cause you much concern but together...

Example: You go sport climbing with one of your regular partners. He's running late and can't find his good rope, so he grabs his old rope. He forgot he cut the end off last year and that he didn't knot it. It's at the bottom of the rope bag. He's wearing his new belay glasses. This is an easy route you've done together many times before, no worries...

I'm sure MP-people could come up with thousands of examples from their own experiences.


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By 5.samadhi
Jun 1, 2014
me

its not relegated to just climbing. there is no single cause to any event in our reality. rather it is an amalgam of contributory causes for any event.


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By Kyle Harris
From Antoch
Jun 10, 2014

Brittany,

First off glad to hear you are making such good progress on your recovery, and I wish you the best to a full recovery that hopefully leads you back to climbing. I had planned a trip to T-wall the day of your fall but didn't make it and heard of your accident the next day wile climbing at Foster Falls. When I was informed that a climber decked on or near a bolder the first thing that popped in my head was "It Ain't So Easy"

I have climbed that one a couple of times and from the time you step off the boulder till you get to the first crux the pro is marginal at best. There are a few passive placements but they are on flakes of rock that would most likely break in a fall. Nothing really gets good again till just below the first crux. I think its important for people to know that it defiantly isn't poor placement or lack of ability that contributed to the fall, but more to do with the type of climb. Like most at the Tennessee Wall the bottom has poor placements and is why that and several others have a spicy and/or pg-13 rating with it.

I spoke with a ranger one afternoon at Sunset Park about the frequency of injury's and accidents due to the same factors that you described in your account. He told me in his 20+ years of being a ranger in Chattanooga area the amount of incidents have increased 10 fold with the accessibility of climbing gear and climbing areas. I truly hope those who read your account and others can heave the warning of not getting in over your head and to know what routes are within your ability. Again best of luck with your recovery.


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By Brittany Decker 1
From Kennesaw, GA
Jun 19, 2014

Kyle Harris wrote:
Brittany, First off glad to hear you are making such good progress on your recovery, and I wish you the best to a full recovery that hopefully leads you back to climbing. I had planned a trip to T-wall the day of your fall but didn't make it and heard of your accident the next day wile climbing at Foster Falls. When I was informed that a climber decked on or near a bolder the first thing that popped in my head was "It Ain't So Easy" I have climbed that one a couple of times and from the time you step off the boulder till you get to the first crux the pro is marginal at best. There are a few passive placements but they are on flakes of rock that would most likely break in a fall. Nothing really gets good again till just below the first crux. I think its important for people to know that it defiantly isn't poor placement or lack of ability that contributed to the fall, but more to do with the type of climb. Like most at the Tennessee Wall the bottom has poor placements and is why that and several others have a spicy and/or pg-13 rating with it. I spoke with a ranger one afternoon at Sunset Park about the frequency of injury's and accidents due to the same factors that you described in your account. He told me in his 20+ years of being a ranger in Chattanooga area the amount of incidents have increased 10 fold with the accessibility of climbing gear and climbing areas. I truly hope those who read your account and others can heave the warning of not getting in over your head and to know what routes are within your ability. Again best of luck with your recovery.



Thank you! It's really interesting to hear what you said about the gear. You're certainly not the first person who's told me this. Lots of people who have done the route before told me that the gear was not good so they can understand why it happened. One of my friends soloed it... he said he would have been more scared looking for gear then he was just climbing it. Haha.

Even more interesting is the bit you said about passive pro. This is super good for me to know! As I stated above, I didn't add additional gear to my harness after I put up the other climb for my friends. One thing that I left on the ground (but normally have with me) was most of my passive protection. I lost a lot of memory about what actually happened, but I've always had a nagging feeling that the passive pro would have come in handy... maybe it wouldn't have pulled. Regardless, it just goes to show that your instincts are usually right.

And yeah, people need to be educated. Especially with trad climbing. There are routes that offer very specific gear placements and if you miss them, you might be in trouble... which sounds like it may have happened in my case.

Either way, all is well that ends well so I'm psyched. Thank you!


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By NC Rock Climber
From The Oven, AKA Phoenix
Jun 19, 2014
tanuki

John Byrnes wrote:
5.samadhi, perhaps you should take your own advice and "mind your fucking business" because just about every point you've made on this thread is wrong. (And JFYI, so are most of your other posts on other threads.) Because climbing is a sport where you sometimes only get one mistake, it is imperative that accidents are analyzed and that information is shared, so that other climbers can avoid making the same mistake. Do you think that "low hook turns" aren't such a problem anymore because no one analyzed the problem and warned other skydivers? Doh! In almost all climbing accidents there's more to it that just one mistake (this is no exception) such as "improper placement" of gear. I think Ms. Decker describes the "Cascade Effect" quite well. The bottom line is that you're full of shit to say 'There is nothing here for you to learn other than "don't do that".' MP is populated by climbers of all abilities and experience levels. Not everyone is as smart as 5.samadhi and this is an important place for them to learn. I broke my back many years ago because of a situation that I never anticipated. And at that time, lots of other climbers were also making the same mistake. That mistake doesn't happen much anymore because gear, guides and practices have changed. Gee, maybe we all should have kept quiet so YOU could make the same mistake too, eh? (Or maybe you did anyway... How'd you break your back?) Clearly Ms. Decker was forthcoming so rest of us could learn from her accident. She'll never make those mistakes again, and if only one other climber avoids them too, it'll have been worth it. If that makes you uneasy, 5.samadhi, don't read these posts. But please, STFU. Brittany, best wishes from another broken back.


Spot on, John. Great post.

Brittany, I hope that you are continuing on your way to a complete recovery. Thanks for sharing the details of your accident so that others can learn.


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