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What was your biggest, scariest, or most destructive fall?

Original Post
Andrew McLean · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 370

I read many route beta comments on R and X rated routes of people commenting about how they figured out protection or how scared they were before getting through a runout. I rarely read any comments about falling on such routes.

20 ft. onto a 3/8" bolt over a clean face. This occurred at Happy Hour Crag in Boulder Canyon. Not really a big deal, but that is the largest whipper I have taken. The older guy rope soloing the route next to me suggested I don't take falls that big onto gear. I agreed. As for trad. I have not fallen more than 6-8 feet on gear and they were most always good pieces that held.

6 feet onto questionable .4 Camelot after getting off route on Ophir Wall. The piece held and I got back on the 5.6 I thought I was climbing :)

Most Destructive:
I took an 18 ft. fall to the ground and broke 4 bones bouldering in Flagstaff. I missed the crash pad. I no longer high ball boulder.

I would love to hear about YOUR biggest/scariest/most destructive falling moment!

Phil Lauffen · · Innsbruck, AT · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 3,098

25 footer onto the pin right above the belay on the Yellow spur.

I was a relative newb(guess I still am) and decided to try it even though it was at the limit of my abilities. We were confused as of the route and set up the belay right below the 5.8 traverse out right.

I climbed up to the pin I fell on then ignored the nice pin ladder to my right and set out for a bolt I could see quite a ways up to the left. I got a terrible nut in for pp about 10 feet above the pin, climbed two feet, my feet slipped and the nut held long enough to spin me facing upside down.

It's kinda cool falling from 200ish feet up face-down. But at least I know the pin is good.

John McNamee · · Littleton, CO · Joined Jul 2002 · Points: 1,690

interesting topic.

Close to 120 feet. See scariest

Watching both tools pull out while alpine climbing and realizing that i had only a only a ice screw 40 feet below and then a knife blade about 20 feet below that. The screw pulled and the Knife blade held. Still don't know how it held. Came off relatively unharmed. Went back a week later to finish the lead. Still black and blue at the time.

Most destructive
70 foot ground fall while soloing. I had climbed it many times before. Grade 18, 5.9, top of the climb, pulled onto a ledge after the crux layback and was resting on a narrow ledge about 4 inches wide. Multiple injuries, had to drag myself to my car and then I crashed it on the way to the way to hospital. I guess I blacked out. I was 16 at the time and had just broken up with my girlfriend so I was probably mentally unstable. Good lesson though.

Went back about 6 months later and climbed it again to get rid of that demon. I was shaking like crazy when I topped out.

Shawn Mitchell · · Broomfield · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 250

Biggest: 1981. About 30', ripping a few pieces, when I was off route (supposed to be A2) near the blocky ledge about 3 pitches from the top of Mescalito on El Cap.

Scariest: 1978. My first trad lead fall on Hernia, 5.8, on Suicide rock in So Cal. A flaring groove can be delicately jammed or awkwardly liebacked about 10 feet to a jug. All strength, no technique, I liebacked, popped just before the jug, and fell about 20.' I got the jug the next try. But I still remember the panicky, suffocating burn of adrenaline in my chest both times.

Most damaging: 1979. About 6 pitches up Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome, I got off route in some confusing corners,took a long, swinging fall, slammed into a wall and got knocked senseless for a while. My partner, also 16, got pretty scared when I kept asking him if we were on Half Dome.

Shawn Mitchell · · Broomfield · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 250
John McNamee wrote: Went back about 6 months later and climbed it again to get rid of that demon. I was shaking like crazy when I topped out.
Wow, John. That's a new wrinkle. I thought your fall ended your soloing. When did you decide no more?
Phil Lauffen · · Innsbruck, AT · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 3,098

most destructive:
fell about 6 feet onto a ledge on some 5.7 on cob rock in november when it was fecking cold. really hurt my ankle. didn't break it though.

John McNamee · · Littleton, CO · Joined Jul 2002 · Points: 1,690


I gave up soloing and instead started rope soloing a few years later to scratch the itch.



koreo · · Denver, CO · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 85

I'm still a relative newb (been climbing for 8 months) so I really don't have anything all that gnarly.

Biggest- 20 feet on a lead climb, at the third or fourth bolt, reached for my rope to clip and my right hand just slipped on me. Was about a foot from decking.

Scariest- 10 feet on a lead climb on High Wire, was leading Jackpot, was two moves past the overhang crux, thought I had a secure right hand hold, did a big throw with my left and fell. It was scary because I was overconfident, I thought I had the move on lock down.

Destructive- 17 feet onto a crash pad while bouldering...crash pad didn't do much good. Sprained my ankle, bruised my ass, and psyched myself out of that route for a week.

Francisco Di Poi · · Boulder, CO · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 20
John McNamee wrote: Most destructive 70 foot ground fall while soloing. I had climbed it many times before.
Wow....I didn't realize people could survive a 70 ft ground fall...did you roll for 70 feet down a slab? or straight up fall for 70 feet and hit the ground?
John McNamee · · Littleton, CO · Joined Jul 2002 · Points: 1,690

No it was a clean fall on a vertical cliff onto a beach with the tide coming in. I was soaking wet. I landed between rocks. It just wasn't my day to die I guess. I measured it when I went back and climbed it.

Landed on my left side, with my hip and ribs taking the force. Lots of damage.

tcamillieri · · Denver · Joined Sep 2008 · Points: 1,140

25 foot ground fall bouldering off of Mesthelioma in Bishop... I feel like a pansy posting next to all these other people. I screamed like a girl the whole way down. No injuries.

clint dillard · · Louisville, Co · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 10

Biggest 40+ to the ground soloing an ice slab, some how did on get a scratch. 30+ onto an old 1/4 inch bold when I broke hold passing the belay. The hold I broke was the size of a bowling ball and missed my head by inches.

Scariest: putting up a new rope solo aid route and blew 3 pieces of pro stopping with my ass 6 inches from the ground on the first pitch.

Most destructive: catching my leg on the rope for an unknown distance, flipping and hitting the back of my head and stopping next to the belay. Had a nice night of vomiting and a rocking headache. Dropped my rack off my neck when I flipped and it fell from the second pitch. Luckily it hung in a tree and did not hit the ground. I'm the guy with the helmet on, even sport climbing.

Aaron Martinuzzi · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 1,485

hmm...lots of falls on bolts that might have been big, but nothing spectacular.

scariest, though, was definitely last summer on Kor's Door on the Lower East Face of Long's Peak. I clipped the P1 bong and got a nice stance with that piece at about my knee. Looking up, I figured, "hey, that crack looks like it'll take gear a little further up," but, unfortunately, I wasn't able to work out a stance. Getting into running-it-out terrain my foot found a nice wet spot of crack and, with just some palming/smearing going on with my opposing limbs, I went for a nice 25+ foot ride. I was a solid 13+ feet out from the bong. The only reason I know it was a BIG fall is that I had time for both the initial "fuckfalling!" when you first peel off, as well as a huge, echo-ing "FUUUUUUUUUCK!" that was loud enough for a party on The Obelisk to ask if we were OK. It was scary. Since then I've taken a few other trad falls, another one of note was on Fat City Crack at Lumpy Ridge - I fell at the roof crux with a runner behind one of my legs, sending me down head-first, which was pretty exhilarating.

Cota · · Bend OR · Joined Dec 2008 · Points: 0

50+ feet in the fisher towers when an aid piece pulled (perfect red alien) Broken ankle, oh well. Before that I have had a few other 40-50 footers, usually scared the belayer more than it did me.

steve edwards · · SLC, UT · Joined May 2004 · Points: 645

Biggest, scariest, and most damaging were one in the same; sailing for 165' off the Ranch when substantial piece of the Captain decided it had seen enough freeze/thaw to where a camming device was enough to seperate it from terra ferma. Luckily below the chunk that ripped I had about 30 moves of traversing hooks and heads so nothing caught me, otherwise the rope would have been hacked. Came to rest on the last piece of real gear I'd placed, a nut a few feet off the belay. The damage done wasn't to me. I walked away but the scar on El Cap can still be seen from the Valley floor.

Two weeks later I was dropped 40' to the ground while being lowered from a sport climb. Walked away from that, too, but it was enough to have me crowned "whipper of the month" in consecutive issues of Climbing, a record that I don't believe has been eclipsed.

Haven't really had a month like this since. The worst I've been injured climbing was on a campus board.

BenCooper · · Broomfield, CO · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 585

Biggest (and probably my scariest too): 25 foot headfirst fall on the second pitch of Right Chimney, The Penguins, Arches NP. I had no gear larger than a #3 camalot at the time. My ego told me that sandy offwidth wouldn't be that bad. I peeled near the top, the rope caught my ankle, and flip! My helmet and shoulder collided with my belayer as he was yarded up. Came out with bruises and scrapes, a shiner, and a sorely injured ego. Also came out a bit smarter.

I'm enjoying this thread. Entertaining, but also enlightening. John, I can't believe you're still here after those falls! On a knifeblade nonetheless!

Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,280

Biggest: 1979. 300 ft. in the Tetons. Alpine route, solo. About 40 ft in air, hit a steep snow/ice slope, bounced a few times trying to self arrest, then the slide to the finish just before a big drop off. Hiked out, no big injury, but had to clean the crap out of my pants.
Scariest: 20 ft. trad lead fall from a roof lip that slammed me right back into the rock face. Never saw it coming. I hate when trad gear rips out.
Most destructive: This one is a classic. Out to ice climb, March 1st 2008. Big loaded pack full of tools, screws, food, clothing, hot beverages, etc. Probably weighed over 70 lbs. Got 50 ft. from the car, slipped on the parking lot black ice, fell down on my butt right on a folded over right ankle. Busted it, inside a high double boot!! First broken bone of my life. Limped back to car, drove 90 miles back home, past my hospital cuz my HMO says I must see my primary care guy first. He sent me right back to hosp. for X-rays but I saved over 200 bucks of co-pay. In pain of course. 8 weeks later cast is off. 20 months later it's still is weak and I've not jumped down from anything higher than 2 feet since.

Skyeler Congdon · · Western Slope · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 2,899


I was putting up a new route ground-up in Rough Canyon a few years ago. I placed a orange TCU at about the 12-15ft mark then did several face moves up to about 25 ft where I thought I should place a bolt to prevent a ground fall. So I equalized two hooks and started drilling. More than halfway through drilling and the hooks blew, sending me on a whipper to ground level. I fell within about 2 ft of the ground and was able to straighten my legs and stand right up. Pretty spooky to fall holding a hammer and hand drill in each hand!

Still haven't gone back to finish that route...

Monty · · Golden, CO · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 3,520

I once fell 12ft onto the deck at Rockn Jamn when a hold spun on me on my third clip.. walked away ok but my pride has never recovered

Adam B · · CO · Joined Sep 2006 · Points: 105

Biggest: See scariest

Scariest: see most destructive

Most Destructive: Fell 30 ft to the ground/pile of rocks below Terror in Tiny Town at City of Rocks. I climbed past the bolt, placed a yellow C3 in a slot, then a purple tcu from a stance. My ego was swelled from flashing Crack of Doom the day before, and I just went for it. Was getting pumped out and told my belayer I was going to take a short fall and "rest" on the tcu. The purple f'ing TCU!! Well, that ripped along with the C3 and I decked, playing pinball between the wall and shelf below on the way down, me being the ball. My belayer thought I was dead. Scarier for everyone else there really, as I was unconscious. Anyhow, As I came to, I kept asking what pulled. Eric (my belayer) kept telling me that "a purple TCU and a yellow C3 ripped and I decked. I looked him square in the eyes with both dilated pupils and promptly said "dude, I cant beleive that green alien ripped ...". We had the same Q and A over and over again until my brain was suitably rebooted about a half hour later. Classic concussion behavior apparently. No broken bones, back, neck or serious head injuries, although my body on the whole was pretty pissed. I couldnt walk without crutches for a week. All in all, low consequences for what should have been some serious repercussions. This was week 3 or 4 of a 3 month road trip, so we headed back to Fort Collins where I spent a week recovering at a friends house. After tiling his kitchen on exchange for a bed, I hitched a ride down to Indian Creek and spent another week recuperating at the Bridger Jack campsite. First lead back was a 60ft #1 camalot corner crack at Supercrack buttress. I placed 12 cams in 60 ft! Good thing we were a big group with alot of gear! My irrational fearlessness climbing on gear has evaporated, but never stopped climbing. Still meditating on the whole thing to try and glean the 'ultimate' lesson to be learned from this death dodging experience.

I thought my fall was bad and that angels were watching over me, but after reading some of these I cant believe what some of us manage to get ourselves into and out of for that matter. Glad everyone is here to relate their story. On another note, I did earn my 15 seconds of fame (or is it infamy) with a short blurb in the 2008 Accidents in N.A. Mountaineering (insert fist pump, fuck yeah!).

Mike C · · Sweden · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 30

There is a lot of narly stories in here... So I thought I'd post some answers from your average joe safe climber.
Biggest: I suddenly slipped and fell on a solid nut which was maybe 3 or 4 feet under me. I was not scared of falling as I was not prepared for it. I do remember wondering how long I was supposed to fall before the rope would start to stop me. It seemed for ages but of coarse it wasn't.
Scariest: Falling on my smallest nut at the time (#1 walnut) which was just a couple of feet under me. Small nuts did not feel bomber to me, however well they were placed. I fell because I could not hold on any longer or proceed climbing. I had plenty of time to build up the fright of falling before finally letting go. It held and was a clean fall, it's just that I was scared out of my pants to let go. It was my first fall ever on trad gear.
Most destructive: Well, I sprained an ankle on a bad landing on a boulder problem, nothing worth mentioning really. I'd rather tell of what could have been my most destructive. I'm always really careful about not stepping in front of the rope so I don't get flipped upside down, but sometimes being careful about that doesn't matter. My hands slipped on during a heal hook when I was a feet or so above the last bolt, I was flipped upside down and whacked my head pretty hard on the rock. When I can down I was literally laughing out of relief that I had not cracked my head open. Just a head ache and a little blood. No helmet either... The scary bit was that the back of my head was not very far away from a shiny and sharp bolt. I shudder when imagening what would have happened if the back of my head whacked right over that bolt's hanger... Using a helmet when sports climbing is really not a such a bad idea.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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