I experienced the most terrifying fall in April 2015. I was climbing “Stick to Your Guns” 5.12a in Green Valley Gap in Saint George, Utah. I want to preface two things: one, we were using a GriGri which is an assisted-breaking belay device. If the climbing rope is tugged, the GriGri is designed to lock the rope in place. This makes it nearly impossible for the climber to hit the ground. `Two, my Dad was not wearing gloves while belaying. This means that if he were using an ATC (standard belay device) and I fell, the rope could easily slip through his hands and give him terrible rope burns, sending me to the ground.
My Dad and I had been filming all day and our GoPro died right as I started this climb. I highly regret filming us eating lunch, rather than saving our GoPro battery for shooting this intense fall. I had been working this route for about an hour and finally made it through the crux. I came over the roof of the climb and went to clip.
(Unfortunately, this is not a picture of me, I got it off Mountain Project. I want to note this guy is exactly where I was at when I fell. Though, my hands and feet were in different positions.)
With my right hand clinging onto a small crimp, I quickly clipped a quick-draw to the bolt. Then, I pulled the rope with my left hand. As I had several feet of slack out and just centimeters from clipping the rope, I fell. I managed to push off and turn away from the rock. Within that split-second of flight, I prepared myself mentally. I don’t really know if anyone can prepare themselves for this shock, so I had just accepted the fact, I’m falling. When you’re falling you don’t think about what has happened or what will happen, your train of thought is only in the moment. As soon as, I came to the realization that I was falling, I was down. I landed one foot off the ground. I looked around startled and spotted my Dad shaking out his left hand. I caught my breath and after a minute I finally stood up. My Dad and I were shocked. He explained that as I fell he tried to pull in the slack but it tightened and burned his hand. Gravity pulled me down so quickly that human instinct would not be fast enough to catch me. Had my Dad been using an ATC, I would be on the ground with possible spinal injuries, even paralysis. THE GRIGRI SAVED MY LIFE! It wasn’t until several minutes later that I felt the sting of the rope burns on my leg. The adrenaline from falling was overpowering. Thankfully, my leg and my Dad’s hand were the only injuries in this fearful event.
This experience solidified my belief in the reliability and safety of this device. The GriGri has caught me countless times. With the GriGri, I feel like I can climb harder and I will be safe if I take a fall. I have used the GriGri for most of my climbing career and I will never go back to an ATC for belaying.
Have you had a dangerous fall? Comment Below!