My Climbing Accident

July 29, 2017:

After a successful summer morning of bouldering in Little Rock Canyon, sending my old problem Fire & Ice….

….and sending the adjacent, harder Earth & Wind, an old nemesis…

…I was working my way back down the canyon and stopped at the old main bouldering area (that I had never been interested in before)…I thought I’d give it another chance. I found the main boulder that I wanted to try, and attempted the V6 arete. Too tired, and after several tries and only making it halfway up the boulder each time, I decided I was done for the day. I’ll come back and finish the problem another day. Before I go, though, I’ll do the topout of the problem really quick.

I stood on my pads and tick-marked the holds where I was going to grab and top out. Even though I was touching and marking the very chunk that would soon land on me, there was no indication that it was loose.


No that is not smoke or rock dust that puffs up partway through the video- that is just regular climbing chalk that puffs up when I slap the sloping handhold.

These 4 videos below show other guys that were lucky to not have the chunk drop on them when climbing the same boulder!

Lucky Guy #1

Lucky Guy #2

Lucky Guy #3

Lucky Guy #4

My friend Brandon says he also climbed the same boulder, as recently as April.

The low point of the rock breakage is about 10 feet high.  The rock weighs approximately 300 lbs. I must have lucked out and got an indirect, partial impact of the rock. The falling weight/force of the rock on impact was about 3300 lbs.

I landed on my pads, and quickly moved the rock off of my lower leg. After a minute of intense pain, I gathered my thoughts and realized that the remaining pain was all concentrated in my lower leg.  Looking down, I saw what I thought was my bone- it was actually my tendon showing.

There was no gushing blood, so I didn’t have any immediate concern for that. I then tried to stand up to see if I had any broken bones. It didn’t hurt any worse to stand. I popped some pain pills I had in my pack. I have always packed them since having a kidney stone, fearing the possibility of ever having a kidney stone again, but this time while out climbing. I packed up my pads and belongings and started to make my way down to the trail. I quickly realized that I was more hurt than I thought and that bringing my stuff was not viable.

I moved down the trail, slowly walking, and crab-walking when needed over boulders or steep terrain. After going a decent distance, and having made my mind up that I wouldn’t need a rescue, I pulled out my phone to call my wife. As I went to dial, she called me. I answered and said, “Don’t freak out, everything’s fine, but I have had an accident…”  She asked if I needed rescue or a ride, and I said I really didn’t think so.  I figured that I could either sit here and wait for an hour for help to arrive, or I could be at medical help before then. Easy choice. At this point, I still didn’t think I had a broken bone.

I hiked the 1/4 mile back to the car. Normally it would have taken about 5 minutes, but with my injuries it took about 25 minutes.  As I crab-walked to get down the last steep dirt trail section to my car, a guy pulled up and started his hike up the canyon.  He looked at my injury and offered me a ride.  I declined. I was just fine driving, but everything tightened up about 10 minutes later, making it excruciating to push the brake pedal. I started braking way ahead of time on each approaching stoplight.



This picture was taken in the waiting room at the Instacare, where my wife met me in the parking lot with a wheelchair.  The doc took one look at it and said, “We don’t deal with open wounds- go to the ER.”

12:00 PM

My wife drove me to the ER, where they gave me morphine and before long, I was laughing about the whole thing. Stitch me up and then I’ll go home. But then I started hearing things like:

“We need to irragate that laceration.”

“He has a damaged tendon.”

Then the radiologist handed me the x-rays and I looked at it and could see a clean break on my fibula (smaller, calf bone).


“Stay in the hospital for 2-3 days for a course of iv antibiotics.”



7:00 PM

Went in for surgery.  Woke up in another room and it was all over.

The surgery consisted of:
1. Irrigating/cleaning the laceration.

2. Stitching the partial tendon tear (peroneus longus)

3. Manipulating my ankle to see if fibular shaft fracture affected the ankle – negative. (Otherwise, they would have put a screw and a plate between my fibula and tibia.) Luckily just a simple, clean fracture of the fibular shaft.

4. Stitching the laceration semi-closed.

After 3 days in the hospital, they put a wound vac on my laceration and sent me home.

1 Week:



The surgeon prescribed the topical medicine Silvadene for the road rash which turned the wound silver/black. m

The wound vac was quite an experience- dressing changes every 2 days for 3 weeks. Pulling the tape off the wound and the sponge from the wound vac application was the most painful thing.  After 4 nurses over 2 weeks had redressed the wound-vac, all differently, I figured out the best way to do it so that it would work well and not hurt when removed. When I returned for my 2nd post-op visit, the doctor asked who had applied the wound vac that he was removing.  “Me.”  “This is beautiful,” he said, “This is exactly how it should be done.”

The purpose of the wound vac (Negative Pressure Wound Therapy – NPWT):

  • Drainage
  • Increased Blood Flow
  • Promote Tissue Growth (Granulation)
  • Reduce size of wound
  • Barrier to bacteria

jlh3 weeks:

Stitches removed. Dr said I could stop wearing the wound vac or continue if I wanted. I wore it for 2 more days, then stopped. I ditched my crutches a few days later and began walking like a penguin.

4 weeks:r

Walking awkwardly had caused me to bruise my heel, so I began wearing a plastic cup on my heel (that was given to me by a podiatrist for a prior minor heel injury).q

5 Weeks:t

Still wearing heel cup in shoe. Can walk almost normally now.  Going up stairs is easy. Going down stairs is awkward.

I started gym climbing a tiny bit this week.  Can’t put much weight at all on leg,  especially pushing with my toe. Mostly working the hangboard, situps, pull-ups.

I still re-dress the wound twice a day using either Medihoney or Bag Balm.  I’ve learned a lot about wounds in the last few weeks. Recent medical studies state that a moist wound heals better than letting it scab. Also Triple antibiotic is no longer recommended. Non-stick gauze is a life saver.

8 Weeks:

My wounds are now completely closed.



15 Weeks:

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Were you climbing alone?   Yes.

Is your wife mad at you?   No.

Will you still go climbing?   Yes.


Huge chunk of rock breaks off with Utah climber still clinging to it





13 thoughts on “My Climbing Accident”

  1. Great read! Your video made me gasp out when the rock gave way! I definitely like the old school mentality of being self sufficient, considering we live in the day of people using spot devices frivolously. Get well soon and I hope you can start standing on crystal nubbins again soon🙂


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