Vicious Tree Attacks Defenseless Climber

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Mark Dixon, bandaged up but still climbing, after a burn on Blockhead (5.12b) in Boulder Canyon.

Mark Dixon, bandaged up but still climbing, after a burn on Blockhead (5.12b) in Boulder Canyon.

Mark Dixon was one of the most intriguing characters in our major helmet story in the August issue: a 5.12 climber who wears a helmet whenever he's leading, including indoors at a climbing gym. But even though Dixon is much more safety-conscious than most sport climbers, he has his limits—and this week he paid the price.

"One of my hobbies is to collect the trash at the base of crags," he told me. "I was busy doing this at Animal World in Boulder Canyon when I carelessly stood up and whacked my head on a sharp branch!" Naturally, he wasn't wearing a helmet, and the tree carved a six-inch gouge across his pate. "There was blood everywhere," Dixon said.

Dixon considers adding another bandage.

Dixon considers adding another bandage after his no-helmet tree encounter.

Dixon, an ER doc, thought he might be done for the day, but he got his wife to bandage up his head well enough to do a couple more pitches. Then, when he got home, he applied a railroad line of butterfly bandages across his head instead of going in for stitches. "I don't like to go to doctors if I can avoid it," he said.

So, will Dixon now begin protecting himself in the woods below crags? "I can't bring myself to start wearing a helmet while trash picking yet," he said, "but if that changes I'll let you know."