Sometimes it’s easy to let your guard down. Weekend cragging at familiar places can quickly become routine for a seasoned climber. This past weekend a few of my close friends and I traveled to the Keene Valley. Truly one of my favorite places, the Keene Valley is about as close to heave as a trad climber can get in the Northeast. With us this weekend were two first time climbers, so we opted to head to the Beer Walls, one of the most popular spots in the Dak’s. As I was following “Seven Ounces”, I heard a thunderous crash to my right. A group above us had knocked a block, “about the size of a mini-coop”, loose, and it came hurtling down to the earth below. As it struck the wall on its way down it shattered into hundreds of watermelon sized pieces, scattering about just 25 feet to the right of the rest of our group. Had anyone been below at the time it fell, it’s hard to imagine they’d be anything but entirely crushed.
So what’s my point?
We had what the outdoor industry calls a “near miss”, that oh shittttt…. moment when you know how lucky you are to be standing on two feet. We’re lucky no one was hurt that day. But what if someone was? Would you have known what to do?
After the block fell I heard someone from the top of the cliff call “Is everyone OK?!”, I heard someone immediately shout back “Yes!”. Bullshit, I thought to myself. There is no way you checked on everyone in less than three seconds. Luckily I was close enough to the ground that I was able to jump of my route hit the ground with rope stretch. As I united looked over and watched as everyone simply stood, too stunned to move. It took me several minutes to fully ensure no one was caught in the fall zone. Not a single person came to help.
If you climb long enough you are bound to witness or fall victim to an accident. Question is, what are you going to do when it happens? Don’t be the one who stands around. Learn the proper steps in emergency response and take action. Learn self-rescue and wilderness medicine. Take the time to think about what would happen if an accident occurs at your home crag, and pray to god you never have to put your response plan in place.