Jorg Verhoeven: how my helmet saved me at the crag
This particularly scary fall could have turned into a disaster. As an avid trad climber, Jorg Verhoeven knows the inherent risks involved in placing his own protection on a route. Although unscathed in the end, he did not expect to take such a nasty fall while climbing in Dream Canyon (Colorado, USA). Jorg talks about his fall – and the benefits of wearing a Petzl helmet with TOP AND SIDE PROTECTION.
April 14 2020
It should not come as a surprise that wearing a helmet when climbing serves to protect your head both from falling objects (rocks or smartphones) and from impact in the event of a fall. While Jorg Verhoeven loves throwing himself at the hardest of sport routes, he also really enjoys trad climbing; he figures among those current climbers freeing big wall aid routes in Yosemite. A little more than a year ago, he put his helmet to the test in a spectacular fall. “China Doll is a fantastic trad climb at a crag in Dream Canyon, near Boulder, Colorado. I was in the area for a competition in Vail and decided to try some of the area’s stellar routes. When I saw China Doll, I wanted to jump on it right away. The route is pretty long, and climbs from a crack into a corner. Even though the lower half of the route has bolts, I decided to climb it entirely on gear.”
Falling is always risky
A former competitor, Jorg won the Lead Climbing World Cup in 2008, and has years of experience trad and sport climbing. He made the fourth free ascent of The Nose on El Cap (900 m, 5.14a) in 2014, and the second free ascent of the Dihedral Wall (900 m, 5.14a), another route on El Cap, in 2016. Regarding China Doll, “The route protects well is never really run out. I made a few attempts the day before and felt ready to send. The upper part of the route is bouldery, with a few precarious moves on poor feet in or just to the side of the crack. On my attempt to send, I gave it my all, fully committing to these few delicate moves.” But the climbing did not go as planned and Jorg fell. "When my foot slipped as I feared, the rope was behind my leg and flipped me over upside down during the fall. Thanks to a dynamic belay, I didn't hit the rock too hard. However, without a helmet, there’s no doubt that I would have hurt myself.”
©2020 PETZL Distribution -Jon Glassberg of Louder Than Eleven (www.lt11.com)
Thank you Petzl helmet!
Unfortunately, Jorg experimented with what climbers fear the most in a fall: the rope passing behind your leg while climbing, and then flipping you over upside down in a fall. “In trad climbing, weird falls like this are not uncommon, which is why I made the choice a long time ago to always wear a helmet for this type of route.” Yet, the risk of falling this way begins even only a step or two above your last piece of protection. At the crag, just a few traverse moves can cause the rope to slide behind your leg when you are fully focused on the climbing. “I think that even on small falls, whenever a climber loses control of their body it can be dangerous, and this is where a helmet serves to protect your head.” And not just the top of your head: with TOP AND SIDE PROTECTION, Petzl helmets protect against front, side, and rear impacts in a fall. This is exactly what happened to Jorg, who hit the back of his head pretty hard when he fell. A helmet with Petzl’s TOP AND SIDE PROTECTION certification protects the climber from falling objects as well as from impact in the event of a fall. Helmets provide additional level of protection for the most important part of the body, your head! “In rock climbing or mountaineering, there is always a risk of falling and hitting the side of your head, whether clipping bolts or placing gear,” Jorg explains. He really likes the mental aspect of trad climbing, “The entire process of finding your own way up the rock and placing your own gear is satisfying. It’s much different than other styles of climbing, which I also enjoy. Every time I climb, I ask myself whether or not I should wear a helmet. At your typical sport climbing crag, if a route is overhanging, I usually won’t wear one. It’s up to each individual climber to choose, based on their experience and the situation. However, taking the time to think about it before leaving the ground is the first and most important step.” Especially if you want to keep a cool head.