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Weekend Whipper: Miscommunication Almost Causes Mid-air Collision

Two routes, two climbers, and a shared finish. What could go wrong?

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Readers, please send your Weekend Whipper videos, information, and any lessons learned to Anthony Walsh, awalsh@outsideinc.com.

Communication—be it with your bouldering spotter, alpine-climbing partner, or the person clipping bolts above you—is an under-utilized skill. Just ask Wren Cilimburg, who was climbing Johnny Can’t Lead (5.11a) at Malibu Creek State Park.

Near the top of Johnny Can’t Lead, another climber, unannounced to Cilimburg, began climbing an adjacent route, Hole Patrol (5.12b). “I was not aware that [he] was climbing below me, Cilimburg told Climbing. “I think he assumed that since I was near the top of the climb I would be coming down by the time he got further up. I don’t think anyone expected such a big fall!”

Indeed, when both climbers were on the wall, Cilimburg estimated that they were 25 feet apart. Mid-fall, however, they could have high-fived. “I think it is definitely possible that if he were higher up we would have collided,” Cilimburg said. “Hole Patrol actually meets up with the second half of Johnny Can’t Lead.”

About the fall itself, Cilimburg said she was “completely fine, but if I had not been wearing a helmet I definitely would not have been—my helmet smashed into the rock.”

Happy Friday, and be safe out there this weekend. To watch the full library of Weekend Whippers, click here.

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