|The scene in the ER a few hours later|
I packed up my stuff and walked out with the friend I came up with. Occasional handfuls of snow helped keep the bleeding in check and after a leisurely hike down to Bear Lake and drive home, it was off to the ER for a cleaning and six staples in my scalp. The next day I took it easy and the day after of course I went climbing at the Boulder Rock Club (where I nearly had a rerun of the same accident, bouncing off a pad). Needless to say, it wasn't great times but I felt (for no good reason) that I ought to get back out there so to speak. Trail running was certainly done with even more caution than usual
A few more indoor sessions were followed by a day at Evans Area A the day before the staples came out. The truth is that, for me anyway I became much more aware of the potential for harm outdoors and it will probably be at least a month or more before I am back at the level of confidence I had before I fell. In a way this is a good thing as it should help keep me safer and more careful about potential problems with landings. In another way, it's a bad thing as what should have been a safe fall wound up being a potentially dangerous/lethal fall and I will be second-guessing these situations for a long time to come.
Should I have had a spotter? Probably, though I have fallen off that move solo many times before. Should I have worn a helmet? The outcome says it might not have been a bad idea and having helped take a well-known bouldering author to the ER long ago in a similar fall situation, I had been warned that this kind of accident could happen. That boulderer is well known today because of his helmet use while bouldering.
There is a great article on helmet use and design in the current issue of Climbing that emphasizes the risks that climbing poses to the head and more specifically the brain. There is increasing awareness with articles like this and films like The Crash Reel that there is a price to be paid eventually for repeated blows to the head. In the world of climbing, there has been relatively little attention paid to the affects of low-grade head and body impacts so far, especially in regard to bouldering. The Climbing article mentions that Metolius had plans for a bouldering helmet but that idea will have a lot of resistance to overcome from the bouldering world.
|Alexander Huber solo on the Brandler-Hasse V 5.12a|
For my part, I regard thorough padding of a problem to be part of the protective gear in the sport, much like a helmet for trad climbing or alpinism, making helmet use redundant, especially if you have a good spotter. This time I misused the gear, fortunately without too serious a consequence, as far as I know. I work primarily with my brain and have a vested interest in keeping it as coherent as I can. I know that for any serious climbing I may do in the future where potential for head-impact is genuine, I will be wearing a helmet. Frankly I am surprised that some of the serious highball problems being done these days don't involve helmet use. And if children are bouldering on anything at all serious, I strongly recommend considering it. But regardless of fashion or past practice, understand that if it happened to me, it can happen to you, only you might not be as lucky. Be safe out there!