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Weekend Whipper: Broken Hold Causes Ragdoll Down Slab

“The movement was fun—until it wasn't anymore.”

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

It was Emmeline Wang’s first day of a climbing trip to Red Rock, and she wanted to take it slow, to get familiarized with the rock. She and a group of friends headed to Cactus Massacre, an area primarily known for its bolted offerings, and chose to hop on the sole trad route at the crag: Cactus Head (5.9).

“At first the rock was pretty bomber, you know, that blackened patina-rust sandstone,” Wang described. “And the movement was fun—until it wasn’t anymore. About 60 feet up, I was about seven feet away from my last placement, and, as I looked around, every potential crack I looked at was all flared [and] offset, with barely any potential to place protection. I tried to place a small [nut] on my left, above where I was, but every slight test-tug prompted the piece to dink right out of the crack.”

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Wang realized she didn’t have any immediate options for gear at her stance and chose to push on, eyeing a “lightning-bolt-looking crack” just four feet away, guarded by a band of softer, friable stone.“I started knocking on hand holds and foot chips before making my next move,” she said, when a half-torso-sized block peeled away underfoot and sent her airborne.

“After hitting a ledge and going upside down for what felt like a minute my gear finally caught, rope went taught, [and] I felt this burning sensation and looked down at my left ankle. It looked EFFed,” she said. Wang fractured her fibula and ruptured several medial ankle ligaments, necessitating surgery on that ankle replete with a plate, screws, and suture anchors. Wang is looking at a 10-week recovery period, but reports she’s “optimistic and have been training my upper body pretty hard. I can’t wait to get back on the rock!”

Happy Friday, and be safe out there this weekend.

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