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Community News #HelmetsMatter Winner Confirms That Helmets Do Matter

#HelmetsMatter Winner Confirms That Helmets Do Matter

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 helmet.

December 9 2015

[Left] Alex enjoying Italian climbing. [Right] And his helmet after the rockfall. [Photo] Alex Ling


“I got this helmet just before Suz and I left for a European climbing holiday. It was a great trip until it suddenly came to end. We had just climbed the Cassin route on Cima Piccolissima and abseiled into the couloir between Punta Frida and Cima Piccolissima. We had gotten the ropes caught on multiple abseils and ended up having to cut one of them. Then it started to hail on us. Then Suz had to pee, on the exposed face, in full view of everyone with binoculars below. She held it. But it seemed like things just kept getting worse.


Then the lightning hit.


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. I felt the shock of electricity run through me. I thought I’d been hit by something. Then I heard the noise. The lightning hitting the face above us released a torrent of rocks from the side of the peak. The ledge we were standing 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 helmets and hold onto the ledge. We were pummeled with falling rock for more than thirty seconds. Through the whole experience we were shouting to each other to confirm that we were both still conscious. When the rock fall finally stopped Suz had shattered her thumb and had deep cuts on her legs, her helmet at first glance appeared intact. I was bruised and battered and otherwise okay, but my helmet had taken multiple strikes from the falling rocks.


Suz began sliding herself to the edge of the ledge and we began the four final abseils down the rock. She somehow managed to abseil the first one with her damaged hand and then I lead 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 was gone. When Suz was released from the hospital we immediately got on the next flight home, and from there straight to another hospital. It wasn’t the best way to end our European holiday but we’re happy to be alive. And, helmets definitely do matter.“ - Alex Ling


[Left] Suz following on Pitch 7 of the Cassin route before the storm and the lightning. [Right] The pair flying home from Italy. [Photo] 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. Both of them hope that 2016 will be a hospital free year.

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Warning: Climbing, mountaineering, and the activities described in this story are inherently dangerous. You are responsible for your own actions, decisions and safety. Wearing a helmet can significantly reduce the risk of head injury, but does not ensure protection against all impacts.