You are leading the eighth pitch of a 12-pitch climb on chossy rock when your rope dislodges a small pillar of loose rock. Your belayer is hit on her helmet by a chunk of the falling rock the size of a baseball; the remaining fragments shatter into small shards. Janey is initially unresponsive but awakens quickly. Despite the generally poor quality of the rock on this pitch, you are able to construct a solid anchor and within a few minutes Janey is able to give you enough rope to rappel down to her belay stance. Careful not to dislodge any more rock, you head down. When you reach the belay station she is awake and alert with a cracked helmet; she cannot remember the rockfall or being hit. During the focused spine assessment she reports both pain (4/10) and tenderness in her neck around C-3, says her entire neck is stiff, and she doesn't want to move it; she passes all the motor and sensory exams. Aside from a few superficial scratches from small rock shards and a headache (3/10), she has no additional injuries. From the base of the climb it is an hour hike over third and fourth class terrain to your vehicle and another three hours to the hospital. There is no cell coverage and there is roughly four hours of light left. It's cool on the route, and you need a thin insulated shell to stay warm while climbing. Nighttime temperatures are expected to drop below freezing and a front is expected to arrive sometime tomorrow morning bringing wind, rain, and perhaps some snow.
What's wrong with Janey and what do you do? Click here to find out.
Don't know where to begin or what to do? Take one of our wilderness medicine courses. Guides and expedition leaders should consider taking our Wilderness First Responder course.
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