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Looking for info on climbing accident in Bishop on 12/8

Original Post
ClimbHunter · · Nevada City, CA · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 15

I heard that an acquaintance of mine had a climbing accident near Bishop on Friday 12/8. She is currently in a coma due to brain damage. Anyone know what happened or where? Thanks.

Carey De Luca · · Yucca Valley, Ca · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 10

There is a thread with much detail on Supertopo.  That is, if this incident happened at The Gorge.

Jon W · · Bishop, CA · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 0

I know the climber, dm me if you want more contact info. This is Viren's Facebook post: 

Hi there Owens River Gorge Rock Climbers...

I wanted to write some thoughts out and draw some learning lessons for myself that other climbers can hopefully learn from. I don't know the victim personally and am not including any names or details beyond a general summary and my learning lessons. I am hoping for the best possible outcome for the victim. I would love to hear how she does but please do not put any personal details or critical comments about the climber or the group on this post!!! I am sharing this for our community to learn from. I was not in any professional role on this day off which makes me more comfortable sharing some of this information for people to learn from. Please let me know if anyone who was involved feels this post is inappropriate to share and I will remove it immediately. I have intentionally not tagged people who helped and been vague on some details to protect rescuers, patients, and their climbing partners privacy.

Yesterday at the Gorgel I witnessed a climber fall from the 3rd bolt of "China Doll (5.8) on the left side of the Great Wall of China". The climber hit the ground from a height of ~35'. Her belay rope did not come tight and I saw her fall backwards and almost upside down. She impacted the ground with her head neck, left shoulder and back. She was wearing a helmet that did not crack or have visible damage though her head seemed to impact a rock. I feel strongly that her outcome would have been different had she not been wearing a helmet.

Initially she was complaining of back and shoulder pain and by the time I was there she was in a seated position where we attempted to maintain spinal control due to the nature of the fall.

She initially seemed to have an appropriate mental status and able to answer questions but did not remember the fall. she seemed to have difficulty breathing (I was worried about lung injury and broken ribs) and could answer questions appropriately as I performed a physical examination. She described pain on her spine and diminished sensation to her feet. she had abrasions and soft tissue injuries on her back shoulders and swelling around the base of her neck around C-7 but no obvious deformities to her skull.

She had a great group of climbers sharing the crag with her including an ER Pysician, a few nurses, an OT, a WEMT and a slew of experienced climbers who have been involved with rescues in the past.
Once we assessed the seriousness of her injuries Efforts were made to get a call out for help and people went to grab both the litters that are cached in the central gorge (one from the bathroom across social platform and one from the Eldorado roof bathroom)

Within 10-15 minutes after impact the patients condition quickly deteriorated and she became repetitive and confused. I assessed her pupillary response and she had non-reactive pinpoint pupils. She continued to get more combative and aggressive - signs of increasing intra-cranial pressure. Her friends who were climbing with her did a great job trying to calm her down as folks tried to package her safely for a carry out.

We were able to package the patient and transport her down the trail to the river and over rough terrain to the new "high water bridge" that was placed to access the china wall. This took a lot of teamwork and cautious movement in this rough terrain. We were able to meet Symons Ambulance from bishop at the power plant at the end of the paved road that comes down from the lower gorge parking area. The ALS ambulance showed up with members of Cal Fire and Inyo County Sherrifs office at the same time as the littler team arrived. This speedy extrication from the climbing site to the ambulance access point was thanks to the amazing climbers at the wall that day that dropped what they were doing and offered to help.

With minimal delay the paramedic was given a concise report and the patient was transferred to the journey and loaded into the ambulance. - the ambulance was on scene no more than 10 minutes
Symons Emergency Services transported the patient to NIH where she was evaluated and stabilized and then she was flown by Sierra Life Flight to Renown Regional Medical Center for care further care not available in our rural hospital.

I currently don't know how this patient will recover and what her prognosis is but I hope the best for her and that she makes a full recovery. The Injuries she sustained are serious and she will need our thoughts, prayers, good vibes, and positive energy flowing her way up in Reno.
Learning Lesson points for me
* I had a satellite messenger that is checked out to me from Sierra Mountain Guides and I would never think about being down in the gorge on a guiding day without a sat phone or the Delorme In Reach. It would be considered negligent for me as a professional yet I typically don't throw it in my pack on personal "day cragging" missions. There is not the best view of the sky but you could probably get a message out .... I will start carrying a 2 way sattelite communication Device on my days off!!!

* There is a phone at the power plant. Nobody in our rescue group knew about this and this could have saved some time to get the call out to dispatch about our location and activated EMS sooner. It is a Yellow box behind the LADWP port-potty (not placed there by our kind hosts for climbers to use as far as I understand). The phone does say "in case of emergency" and if you dial "0" you will connect with an LADWP operator who can relay a message to the Bishop PD dispatch (much of the gorge is in mono county but a cell call tends to hit bishop repeaters and Symons can usually access the lower gorge road quicker than Medic 3 out of Mammoth). A more involved rescue would typically be run by Mono County SAR but in the past when Inyo SAR has arrived 1st on rescue efforts Mono has acted in an assisting capacity.

* Helmets have their place in sport climbing. I am as guilty as many folks climbing in the gorge and often don't bring mine for "practice climbing" in the gorge new goal is that I never want to have a head injury while the helmet is in my pack, or in my car, or at home!!!

* Get medical Training.....I am biased but think all climbers should have the self reliance to deal with some emergencies and should take a WFR course....Again I am bias.....Pre-hospital Emergency Care in a wilderness context is challenging - get training and stay current!!!

*If your not feeling solid it TR or carry a big stick climbing partner yesterday had just bought a "golf ball retrieving stick" that could clip many 2nd bolts and mitigate ground fall risks...Im not a fan for me personally but honestly I'm less of a fan of hitting the ground

*Cached Rescue gear can really speed up getting a seriously injured patient to care. without the litter and backboard placed in the gorge we could have easily added several hours to the rescue. That said the Cached equipment is old and dated. I am trying to work with local rescue groups, and EMS organizations to update some of the equipment in heavily trafficked climbing areas - if you have any ideas for getting resources placed in areas like the gorge, Lee Vining Canyon, and maybe the Happy Boulders Please contact me

* Be an attentive belayer. sometimes a "soft catch" is really great at the gym or an overhanging route with a fall far off the deck.... sometime a soft catch is not appropriate... this is a general statement and not a criticism of the belayer in this case but rather a general lesson.... remember to be ready to take in slack if someone is above a bolt especially near the ground or above ledgy terrain.

* Respectfully say something.....I hesitate to say this last lesson but feel it is valuable. In speaking with some of the folks closer to the base of this route they saw some red flags that day but hesitated to say anything. This is a slippery slope but if something seems wrong - sometimes it is worth trying to offer some mentorship. Everyone is in a different part of their learning process.

* Bolts are not spaced the same as at the gym. Pay attention to bolt spacing and if the route is at your limit it may be better to find a different route. This particular climb has had several accidents though the bolt spacing is not much different from many other routes at the cliff, it has gotten quite slippery and as one of the more moderate routes sees quite a lot of traffic. It has been suggested to contact the FA party to discuss moving some bolts but in the meantime I think I want to place a "perma-draw" on the 3rd bolt. This is common at many areas for more difficult routes but this particular route could use it in my mind. If someone disagrees with this please contact me and I am happy to take it down if it is offensive to someones personal ethic :)

Thanks for reading...if you made it this far wow!!

If you hear any updates about the patient I would love to know through a PM.

Viren J. Perumal, M.Sc., WEMT
Sierra Mountain Guides
AMGA Certified Rock Guide/SPI Director

ClimbHunter · · Nevada City, CA · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 15

Thanks Carey. The link is below if anyone else wants to read. Sad to hear that it sounded preventable.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Injuries and Accidents
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