Friday, January 1, 2010

exciting day of ice climbing. . .

Yesterday me and my brother Corey set out to climb the Great White Icicle in Little Cottonwood canyon.

We had an amazing climb. The ice was a little brittle (extra cold), and it had just snowed a ton so we had to wade through waste deep snow on all the ledges.

Corey half way up the 2nd pitch

We had a great climb, the ice was a little funny because of the new snow, so we did go a little bit  slower than normal but we finished and where back to the car around 12:30.

At the car we were changing into our clothes and getting ready to go to work. Some people who were just out snowshoeing were asking us what we just did. We were pointing out through the trees what we just climbed when all of the sudden one of the climbers came shooting off the TOP of the ice.

He fell bouncing off all the ledges, body flailing and bouncing off every little ledge on the top of the route.  Then the last big bulge he shoots off head first and lands on the big ledge on top of the 2nd pitch and stops just out of our site. I quickly calculated the rope lengths and estimated that he just fell 300'!!!

We just saw somebody fall 300'!!!!

We took a deep breath, told the snowshoers to call 911, quickly gathered any gear that I though we might need, and my puffy coat to put him in just in case he was some how still breathing Corey and I took off running (the best we could).

We got to the route and found some other climbers, who didn't see or hear a thing.  We told them what happened and we all took off in a huge group up the ice as fast as we could. The other guys were already up the first pitch when I told them what happened so they got to Gene (the man who fell) first. The Alta fire department got there very quickly and were already coming up the trail when I was half way up the 2nd pitch. So we decided to try to set people up for a communication relay.

I couldn't see a thing but we managed to communicate that we needed a backboard to get him down on. So relaying between all of us we pulled the backboard up 500' to Gene. After I pulled the board up I went over and checked Gene out. His legs where a mess!! We couldn't quite tell what was up because of the snow clothes, but he seemed to think his hip or something in that area was broken. We were pretty sure that could not be all that was wrong. The guys who went up first had already put my puffy coat and another one just like it on him. That was good because we were going to need to keep him as warm as possible.

Once we got the backboard up the mountain, we started trying to figure out how to move him and secure him so he didn't fall another 180'-ish. We talked the guy below into giving us his harness so we could put a harness on him and anchor him to the wall. He was in a ton of pain and moving him was not fun. As he screamed in pain the four of us lifted him as softly and evenly as possible and slid the backboard under him. Strapping him down was a slow and painful process. He was on a slippery plastic backboard and on a 25 degree slop on the edge of the top of the 2nd pitch with a 170' drop below. It really is amazing that he stopped where he did and didn't slide 2 more feet off another cliff to his death.

I had already called my wife and told her that someone fell and we are going to try to rescue him, but if you see anything on the news its not me who is hurt. But it was right around this point that we asked Gene if we could call anybody for him. He said yes my fiance Lori.  Someone else called her and gave her the news.  He's was relatively ok so the news could have been worse. 

While we were trying to rig the descent and really  figure out how we are going to move him, this helicopter shows up. We were all pretty excited that it might be able to just land on the small ledge just to the left of us and carry Gene to safety.  He was getting worse by the minute.  But it kind of hovered for a minute and then took off. We where pretty bummed out, so once again we all put our game faces on and kept getting ready to lower Gene to the ground.

Gene is looking pretty pale at this point and we all agree that we need to get him out of there as soon as possible.

While we were getting organized and ready we had another guy in our group call 911 to see if he could find any info out. The conversation went like this:

US: we are the climbers trying to rescue the guy who fell ice climbing in Little Cottonwood
911: please tell me your address
US: Little Cottonwood, Great White Icicle
911: what is your address
US: there is no address we are 500' feet up on an ice climb in Little Cottonwood and need to know if that helicopter is coming back

I think we all laughed at this and kept rigging the rescue just incase we where on our own. When the guy got off the phone he told us they were going to lower a guy down to us to help and that we should move Gene onto the more flat ledge so they can work on him better.

We slid him and lifted him more delicately then you could ever image. I was on the rope slowly pulling him up while the other guys where making sure he didn't bump his legs on anything. We moved him 30 feet, he screamed horrifically the whole way and it made us all sick to our stomaches. But help was on its way.

The next thing we see is this total bad ass flying in on a cable hanging off of the side of a Helicopter. He was like a cowboy riding up to save the day. As the chopper got close, ice blasted all of our faces. It's a horrible feeling and any exposed skin is now getting frost bit. I can't open my eyes because they are being sand blasted. I open my eyes and soon as I can to see the cowboy standing on the edge of the cliff and signaling to the chopper that he is good. He's the man! The chopper needs to land another bag down to us, once more we are in sandblast frost bite hell. As the helicopter flies off the guy next to me says 'that wasn't too  bad.' Yeah, I didn't think it could get much worse. But I was the only one without glasses.

Once again we have to move Gene onto a new backboard/body bag. It's horrible, then to make it worse we have to strap his whole body down. All of it. So we tighten the straps down, he screams. Gene is tough as hell but you can tell it hurts really bad. His screams made me almost sick in sympathy pain.

But soon enough, it is all over for us. Once more I get my face blasted by ice and Gene is off to safety.
We got down pretty quick after he left. The other guys talked about finishing the route but it just didn't seem right after he had just fallen.

We all ran down as quick as we could, me and Corey decided we would take his truck to the hospital. I was told to drop off his truck and go into the emergency room. As I walked in the doors, there stands the sheriff and Lori. After seeing Lori (Gene fiance) I realize that she is my friend from collage who I've ice climbed and rock climbed with!

It totally blew our minds.  And as if spending hours on a freezing ledge trying your hardest to help someone out isn't personal, this made the whole experience even more personal.

He is currently in surgury, my brother in-law is giving him anesthesia. My sister-in-law will most likely be doing his ex-rays.

It's a pretty small world.

check out video of this whole thing here:

or the story here:

Yeah, a pretty long and exhausting day.  I'm chilling out today trying to recoup.


Lori Sume said...

OH MY GOSH! That is an amazing story!!! I hope he will be okay! How amazing that you guys were there to help out and to experience the whole thing. Let me know what happens to Gene. I hope he makes it! I will be praying for him.

Allison said...

I just read that story like it was a book. that is amazing that you were able to help him like that. good job casey! wow. I hope he's okay...

Tif said...

I saw this on the news and I thought I sure hope that wasn't Casey. Thats amazing that you helped save him! I hope everything turns out alright. What a crazy story.

Jason said...

We just got Gene out of the OR, he did great during the surgery and woke up fine. We got his leg fixed up and he will be just more climbing this winter for him though while he rehabs his leg!

Kim said...

Wow that is an amazing story. Good thing you were there to help. I'm glad he was ok.

Suzanne said...

Forget the badass cowboy! You’re the badass, never wavered, fearless rescuer. You’re the man!!!!

Ed and Susan said...

As I said before "It wasn't by chance that you 'happened' to see him fall," you and Corey needed to be there. The Lord knew you would help Gene.
We are all administering angels on this earth, it's our choice to take the step to help. You make us proud!

Dana said...

Oh my goodness! This was like reading a cliffhanger. My favorite part was reading about the bad-ass cowboy on the cable. :) What an amazing story, glad you wrote it down and glad you guys were there to help. Who knows what would have happened to him?

Anonymous said...

You saved a life! We followed this story through the news, but it didn't give much detail. It was amazing to read your account of what really happened. You should be awarded the purple heart!
So glad for the good outcome. Your climbing expertise truly saved a life!
Wendy Morgan

steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve said...

No one can give you crap about taking work off. Mary and I are glad you and Corey are ok. You guys kick a$$. Just a regular day for you though, take work off, ice climb, save a life, no big thing. Good thing you were there, I don't know if there are many people that would do what you did.

Heather and Dave said...

How scary! Thank goodness you looked up and saw him at that exact moment - or else the whole thing could've been much worse. You're living right case man! Way to be a good Samaritan.

Christy said...

I totally saw this story on the news! I can't believe you were there! Glad you are okay, and I hope Gene will be okay. When I was 10 my mom fell 60 ft and only miraculously survived (broke her back and both arms), so I can't even fathom 300 ft!

Kristy and Dave said...

Wow...that is crazy! I'm sure it was hard to watch but thank heaven you were there!

Hope to see you this week in AZ Casey!

Wendy said...

I just dropped by Gene's hospital room and he is doing really great! He is so grateful to the climbers that saved him and plans to get in touch as soon as he gets out (which could be as early as this week). This is such an amazing thing....he's absolutely fine; talking, smiling, cuddling with his girlfriend. wow.

Tom and Joellyn Clark and family said...

I too saw this on the news and immediately thought of you. That is a bit close for comfort, but what an incredible thing to experience and I'm sure they will be forever grateful that you were there to help!

Haylee Munk Brown said...

What a crazy story!!!! I am glad everything turned out ok and that you guys were there to help! He had the best people there to help him!!

Saucisson #3 (nivlac) said...

Dude. Case, you're a rockstar. Or an Icestar? Nice job and I'm proud to call you friend!

Talk of the Town said...

That's insane. If you hadn't looked up you would have never seen him fall. Then how long would it have taken to get him help.

Aren't you glad you know what you do? I am. Crazy.