OK, enough already. We get it, you broke your leg. I know. Hard to believe, but even I am getting tired of talking about it.
Part of me hates to chalk it up to “bad luck,” but that may be the ultimate real-world explanation. Granted, I probably created, or certainly contributed to, my own bad luck. Perhaps it’s the flip side of that Thomas Jefferson line that I feel like I’ve lived for awhile now: “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
Most likely two or three seemingly minor things conspired to create enough slack to un-weight my crampons from the ice bulge when I leaned back, right at that crucial “edge transition” from horizontal to vertical, and send me airborne.
1. I should have yelled “take” or “up rope” first, rather than skipping to my call of “lowering,” to ensure Steve had me as snug as possible. Especially important with stretchy ropes, and when transitioning from horizontal to vertical.
2. Directly related to #1, and adding to my fall, when Steve heard me call “lowering,” he naturally let out a little slack (two feet, at most). He then, cautiously, locked me off to ensure a controlled lower, which makes sense when you can’t see the person. My not doing #1, to suck up the slack & stretch, resulted in the additional slack of #2, likely creating enough to do me in. Most of the time – countless times in the past, I’m sure – I’d have been all right. But that ledge, right there, with the sharp drop over the edge and the swing into the ledge/corner, and it’s a rare but perfect storm.
3. Perhaps the rope was caught behind a bulge or an icicle, making it feel falsely snug, but then, under full weight, the rope popped free. This would let out some slack abruptly, as we’ve all likely experienced sometime when lowering. It couldn’t have been much, but maybe just enough.
A handful of seemingly random factors came together. Some minor pilot error by me – a little slack normally doesn’t cost you this much – with the simple bad luck of hitting the exact wrong spot, with my cramponed foot in the exact wrong angle, and we’ve got a horrible and rare scenario that transmitted hellish force into my leg, shattering it.
Perhaps I’m in denial, but this doesn’t bum me out as much as I might have thought it would. I mean, really, what can I do? It’ll hurt when I’m supposed to be in Alaska and Pakistan — the sorts of things that I live for — but I can’t turn back time. I’ll learn from it, though.
Randomness fills our world. Ever stop to think about all the forks in the road of life, and how one seemingly innocuous event – a dinner conversation with some person, or the time you decided to cross the street on this block instead of the next one down and then you ran into someone (or you got hit by a bus) – ended up influencing your life in untold ways? When I close my eyes and drift to the incomparable joys and treasures I’ve known in my climbing life, I’m grateful for the randomness of life. Though I’ve lived in shacks, sacrificed plenty and busted my ass, I didn’t make all of it happen myself. Some of it just came together. I don’t know how. Sure, we take opportunities and we work with them, as Jefferson said, but still, sometimes randomness works for or against us, and we have to accept the good with the bad. Such is life, there is beauty in randomness.