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Accident Prevention

Lightning Strikes Twice – Rockfall on the Cassin, Cima Piccolissima

Lightning, rockfall and a narrow escape on the Cassin route, Cima Piccolissima, Italy.

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MY HELMET SAVED MY LIFE. STORY NO. 5 PRESENTED BY PETZL

Alex Ling won the helmet below from the Petzl – Rock and Ice #HelmetsMatter contest. Just a couple weeks after receiving it, he was in need of a new one.

Suz following on Pitch 7 of the <em>Cassin route</em> before the storm. Photo: Alex Ling” title=”Suz following on Pitch 7 of the <em>Cassin route</em> before the storm. Photo: Alex Ling”><strong><span>We topped out the </span><em>Cassin route</em></strong>    on Cima Piccolissima and abseiled into the couloir between the peak and Punta Frida. The ropes caught on multiple abseils and we had to cut one of<br />
    them. Then it started to hail. Then Suz had to pee, on the exposed face, in full view of everyone with binoculars below. She held it. But it seemed<br />
    like things just kept getting worse.</p>
<p>Then the lightning hit.</p>
<p>We were halfway down the descent on a rock-covered ledge. We had untied from the rope and I was scouting a way down the scree to the next abseil anchor.<br />
    I felt a shock of electricity run through me. I thought I’d been hit by something. Then I heard the noise. Lightning hit the face above us and released<br />
    a torrent of rocks. </p>
<p>The ledge we were on was in the middle of a funnel for any debris coming down the mountain. Rocks began to fall around us and we tried to hide under our<br />
    helmets and hold onto the ledge. They pummeled us for over thirty-seconds. </p>
<p>During the rock fall, we shouted to each other to confirm that we were both still conscious. When the rock fall finally stopped, Suz had a shattered thumb<br />
    and had deep cuts on her legs. Her helmet at first glance appeared intact. I was bruised and battered yet otherwise okay, but my helmet had taken multiple<br />
    strikes.</p>
<p><img src=Suz slid to the edge of the ledge and we began the four final abseils. She somehow managed the first
abseil with her damaged hand and then I led the following raps. Once on the ground I ran to the Refugio for help. We were taken to separate hospitals
and Suz underwent immediate surgery. I was able to return the next day to find the bloodstained gear we’d left at the base of the cliff gone.

When Suz was released from the hospital, we took the next flight home, and went straight to another hospital. It wasn’t the best way to end our European
holiday but we’re happy to be alive. Helmets definitely do matter.

—Alex Ling

Petzl reached out to the pair after the incident. Suz needed more surgery to repair her thumb but is expected to make a good recovery. Alex is back climbing. Alex had won the previous #HelmetsMatter contest with a picture of himself after a groundfall that cut his scalp and cracked a couple of his vertebrae, he was not wearing a helmet then. Both of them hope that 2016 will be a hospital free year.