Ammon McNeely Is Back in the Game

Ammon McNeely in the Fisher Towers.

Ammon McNeely in the Fisher Towers. The Kingfisher is the taller tower in upper left. Photo by Dave Campell.

2/27/14 - Only four months after a serious accident nearly cost his life, big-wall speed climber and BASE jumper Ammon McNeely is back at it, climbing and jumping from the Kingfisher in Utah's Fisher Towers last weekend. On Saturday, McNeely and partner Dave Campbell climbed the Colorado Northeast Ridge (5.8 C2, 6 pitches), and then fixed ropes so McNeely could return for a BASE jump the next day. On Sunday, he and a BASE-jumping friend, Kresta Christensen, jumared back to the summit and then safely completed a jump from the 450-foot tower.

McNeely, 43, severely broke his lower left leg on October 28 during a failed BASE jump outside Moab, Utah. As his parachute opened he swung into the cliff face, 150 feet off the ground, and "rag-dolled" down to a ledge far below. Before his rescue, McNeely shot a video of himself on the ledge, in a state of shock, calmly assessing his nearly severed foot and apologizing to his mother. The video has had about a million views.

McNeely lost three pints of blood, and the prognosis was amputation. However, doctors managed to save his life and his leg, and after seven surgeries, including two skin grafts, he has recovered enough to resume climbing and BASE jumping.

Campbell said, “He was moving mega-slow on the approach, and hiking with a cane. But the energy picked up once Ammon tied into the rope. We were climbing in blocks while short fixing, yelling Guns N’ Roses lyrics. It is safe to say he is officially back in action."

McNeely, nicknamed "The Pirate," has climbed El Capitan at least 75 times, by more than 60 different routes. He holds numerous speed records for El Cap, including more than 10 first one-day ascents of various routes. He has done over 1,000 BASE jumps.

In a post at following the accident, McNeely posed the questions that every serious adventurer must consider: "Do we stand up and take the risks and have a blast enjoying your passion? Or, do we hide in the shadows, being afraid of what might happen if we are so bold to follow our dreams?"

Date of ascent: February 22, 2014

Source: Dave Campbell,