Alex Honnold reported to the American Alpine Journal that he suffered a compression fracture of two vertebrae this summer after a fall at Index, Washington. In his report, he said, “I had run up the route Godzilla 5.9 to put up a top-rope for my girlfriend and her family. At the last second her parents asked us to hang their rope instead of ours. I didn’t think about it, but their rope was a 60 m and mine was a 70 m. I was climbing in approach shoes and everyone was chatting at the base—super casual, very relaxed. As I was lowering, we ran out of rope a few meters above the ground and my belayer accidentally let the end of the rope run through her brake hand and belay device. I dropped a few meters onto pretty gnarly rocks, landing on my butt and side and injuring my back a bit (compression fracture of two vertebrae).”
This has been a common mistake this summer that has resulted in a number of deaths world wide, including one in the Canadian Rockies. Takeaways are for belayers to stay focused despite distractions and to maintain communication about climbing logistics. Knots in the rope-end are always a good idea and belayers should remember to lower climbers slowly. For Honnold’s analysis see here.
[AAJ Photo of the Week] Illustration of Alex Honnold as he zooms through "The Triple," by Andreas Schmidt. Honnold: "It had dumped rain the day before, so the first half of Watkins and the Nose were running with water in places. It’s 5.10 crack climbing, so not a huge deal, but it made things a little slower and scarier. Up higher on Watkins the silverfish were out of control, just swarming all over everything. They don’t bite, but they were getting all over me and made it harder to concentrate."