Top climber Emily Harrington was rescued Sunday after she fell while attempting to climb Golden Gate VI 5.13 in a day. She “pinballed” down a pitch and ended up with severe rope burns on her neck.
Adrian Ballinger, Harrington’s parnter, wrote online, “The most important person in my world crumpled on a ledge after a big fall in below freezing temperatures with real injuries and a lot of reasons to suspect spinal injury.
“But looking back it was also the best case scenario of the worst case scenario – Alex Honnold with Em calmly maintaining spinal immobilization on the wall, getting things ready for an evac, and telling stories and keeping her talking throughout.”
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I had an accident yesterday on El Cap. I’m banged up but gonna be ok thankfully. Not much to say except I took a bad fall and pin balled a bit then somehow hit the rope w my neck – 🤷🏼♀️🤦🏼♀️ All I know is that I am extremely grateful to have had @adrianballinger @alexhonnold @jonglassberg @sannimccandless @tarakerzhner and YOSAR of course there to get me out and help me through ❤️ // thanks everyone who sent kind messages and thoughts – feeling so supported and loved 💕 // 📸 portrait by @tarakerzhner + neck selfie
Ballinger continued, “Clear and consistent comms and planning by Jon Glassberg and Sanni McCandless from the ground. Tara Kerzhner keeping me calm as we ran from the other side of the mountain and up the wall to be first on scene to get Em warm and stabilized. YOSAR (Yosemite Search and Rescue) on scene within 90 minutes with a big crew and the necessary equipment to get her off the wall and to the road.
“Competent paramedics and Trauma 1 Center docs to give the good drugs and eventually to clear Em of spinal injury despite some gnarly wounds. The outpouring of help and support from friends at home and in Yosemite to clean up our chaos from plans very rapidly changed. And finally, Em herself and her warrior mentality. She dealt with the pain, helped where she could, and stayed positive throughout.”
While speed climbing has been criticized in the past, those few elite climbers who attempt it understand the risks and take time to prepare, but things can still go wrong when running out gear and moving quickly.
In 2017, fellow top Yosemite climber Quinn Brett took a 100-foot fall while trying to climb The Nose in a day. Brett broke four ribs, punctured a lung and bruised her liver in the fall. She suffered a burst fracture of her 12th thoracic vertebra that left her paralyzed.
In 2018, Tommy Caldwell took a 100-foot fall when trying to get the speed record on The Nose with Honnold and was luckily O.K. “It was pretty scary because it was such a gargantuan fall,” said photographer Austin Siadak. “I saw him hurtling upside down through the air and then bouncing on the end of the rope.”