Being fairly new to traditional climbing, I was keen to try out my new rack of climbing gear. I have over seven years of sport climbing experience but had only led my first trad climbs in Albany at the beginning of 2021. I had just returned from an exhilarating weekend with CAWA in the Stirling Ranges, where we climbed some stunning multi-pitch trad routes, and I was hooked.
This was only my second visit to Churchman’s; the first time I successfully led Pink Knickers grade 12 on the Fang wall with my new trad gear, just prior to the Stirling Ranges trip. I knew that I needed more practice and experience. To date, I have seconded more trad routes than led, from Kalbarri to Albany.
I arrived at the car park to meet with two fellow climbers, Linda and Merel, who both have extensive trad climbing experience. We decided to try First Route, 30m of grade 15 on the Fang wall, as our first climb of the day. I watched the first climber ascend, taking note of areas where I might possibly struggle. I asked her to leave gear above the small cave overhang (crux), and her anchor at the top. As she descended, she cleaned the rest of her gear to allow me to practice placing my own. As I racked up, inspecting the route, my fellow climbers pointed out a placement for a large cam near the start, which size I did not have. However, I declined the offer to borrow a larger cam as I thought I could get gear in a bit higher.
It was taken to Royal Perth Hospital to be admitted to the orthopaedic trauma ward, which took 45 minutes. The accident and emergency department were extremely busy and I witnessed ramping of 10 ambulances first-hand. After thorough spinal checks, I was finally cleared. Nineteen X rays later a fractured left heel (calcaneus) and a shattered tibia with 4 to 5 fractures of the adjoining ankle bones (tibial plafond displaced fracture) was diagnosed. Around 7 pm, an initial attempt to decompress the fracture manually and then application of a cast was unsuccessful and the following day I had to have surgery to install temporary external fixation to hold the bones in place whilst the swelling subsided.
I was transferred to Bentley hospital for 18 days until the 31st of March when I was transferred back to RPH for surgery to fix screws and plates to my right ankle. The surgery was successful, and I was discharged 4 days later. On the 11th of April, I returned to RPH to have the sutures removed and the left heel X rayed.
Rehab and physiotherapy will be planned for my next appointment in May.
I would like to add that Merel and Linda have been incredibly supportive in recounting the accident that day and no blame or fault was placed on anyone but myself. I also want to thank the overwhelming response and concern of the wonderful climbing community in visiting, well-wishing and genuine messages and generous offerings of help, treats and support. I am doing well and on the road to recovery and return to the sport I love so much.
See you all very soon. Lily