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Amputation of right index finger due to lead fall in climbing gym

Original Post
Austin Martin · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 40

To preface the discussion surrounding what happened to me at the rock gym, I will say that I have been climbing seriously for 6 years, and have much experience with sport, trad, and climbing in the alpine. The gym pictured is the gym that I train at most, I spend on average 4-5 days per week there.

On Sept 2nd I was climbing as I normally do, clipping bolts with a friend of mine. After about an hour climbing sport I got on a hard techy-face climb (around 6:45pm). As I was beginning to climb above the 2nd bolt (bolt maybe at my waist, to my left), I took a very much unexpected lead fall. I think my feet must have blown as I was neither pumped nor expecting a fall. I knew immediately that something was wrong, and when I looked at my right had this was affirmed. My belayer lowered me to the ground (which I was not far from), and I got a better look at my hand. My right index finger was fractured cleanly through the proximal phalanx (between knuckle on palm and next knuckle) and the bone was protruding out. It was quite a messy finger and hard to describe because of how twisted and gnarly it looked. Refer to the attached x-ray. I was bleeding, but not a whole lot.

Long story short, EMS came immediately and I was taken to the ER. By 9:30pm I was in surgery. I spent 11 hours in surgery as the surgeon did a nerve graft harvest from my Achilles region and vessel graft harvest from my right wrist. He reattached the finger, and it stayed on for 2 days however it received minimal blood flow. I had the entire right index finger amputated on Monday sept 5th, 3 days after the accident/reattachment, as it was very clear that it was the best option (and only option, at this point).

What happened during the accident was somehow, I am not quite sure how, the rope looped itself around my index finger during my lead fall. I am not one to grab my rope during a lead fall, and I take hundreds of lead falls per year. My belayer knows what she is doing, she has also been climbing for many years. The way I see it, it is a "freak accident", one that could have not been prevented. I have though a lot about this, talked with my belayer, others at the scene. I may attempt to get a video of the fall, as the gym has video cameras.

I am absolutely going to continue climbing. If i'm lucky my right hand will now be a different hand size than my left! Hopefully #1's?? Mechanically I think I will be very happy with my decision to have it amputated. I am very psyched to get back to climbing, the excitement continues to build.

Peace and Love,
Austin Martin



Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,546

Your spirit is obviously intact and strong. :-) If ever in Albuquerque and want to climb in the mountains, look me up!

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

OW. Sorry, dude...glad to see you're in good spirits. That is quite a freaky accident...can't say how I would have avoided it (or even anticipated something like this happening). Hey, missing a digit definitely didn't stop Tommy C! Good luck on your recovery.

Paul Hutton · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 721

Ouch! Keep crushin man!

nathanael · · Riverside, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 348


Brendan Blanchard · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 590

Love the sober analysis and willingness to accept a tough situation. Heal up and climb on!

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

I think you were just jealous of all the attention grog was getting. :)

Get well soon!

Alexander Stathis · · Athens, GA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 86
Nate Mankovich · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2012 · Points: 0

Dearest Austin,

Your stoke is like a fire. Specifically like the fire of un-extinguishable birthday candles. Much love from your friends at college.


JK- Branin · · Southern New Hampshire · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 58


Heal well.

3point14 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 0

Excellent overview of the incident. Incidentally, I am on a climbing hiatus as well since I got into a custody battle with my table saw over ownership of my thumb. Fortunately, I won. My prayers and thoughts are with you!

Jake Carroll · · The Springs · Joined Nov 2008 · Points: 180

My wife and I were there that night, about 20 feet away. Glad to hear that you're okay. We presumed that you were mid-clip and caught your finger on the carabiner, but it's interesting to hear your analysis of what occurred. Wishing you a quick recovery!

Climbing accident
Climb Germany · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 2,525

what the shit is it with people losing fingers lately! That's 2 in like two weeks

Nick Crews · · Colorado Springs · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 10

Thanks for putting this up düde. Much love.

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 290
3point14 wrote:Excellent overview of the incident. Incidentally, I am on a climbing hiatus as well since I got into a custody battle with my table saw over ownership of my thumb. Fortunately, I won. My prayers and thoughts are with you!
Glad you kept it! This is the traditional way to misplace fingers. And, people who have a lot of experience still manage to saw off parts. At least the OP was climbing!

Hope all of you heal up well, and don't get too bummed when/if the depression kicks in at some unexpected time in the future. Stuff like this is sometimes mentally harder quite a long ways down the road, when the cheerleaders have all moved on to other things.

Best to all the dinged up guys, and open ended climbing invite if in Idaho, Helen.

Hey, my best wishes to the belayers, too. It also sucks to watch someone you care for get hurt.
mnjsan · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 310

Only a climber loses a finger and thinks about all the bomber hand jams they'll get now that they have two different size hands. Hate to hear about the accident but love the psych and the glass half full attitude. Hope your back to climbing sooner rather then later.

Heidler16 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 25

Hey hope everything works out well. About 3 months ago I had a similiar accident. I took a lead fall, and my hand got wrapped around the rope, clean break of my left ring finger right below the knuckle and dislocated my pinky, and some nice ropeburn. Doctors wanted to do surgery but I declined. It healed really good and I'm climbing again after 2 months.

Rob M · · Shangri-LA · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 20

Man, that is gnarly but remember Tommy Caldwell. I think you'll be surprised how quick it can heal. I'm ten weeks out from a table saw injury and was climbing with it bandaged up surprisingly quick. You have a great attitude man, and that helps with healing.

One week out

At docs office today right now
Austin Martin · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 40
Brian Matusiewicz · · Bridgewater · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 35

I don't suppose they let you keep the finger?

Caz Drach · · Sugarhouse, UT · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 310

Keep at it my man. Wishing you a fast recovery!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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