Incident:Laceration in Change Creek 2021/06/20

Jump to: navigation, search
Incident:Laceration in Change Creek 2021/06/20
Date 2021/06/20
Location Change Creek
Severity Injury
Canyoneering-related Yes
SAR involvement No
Navigation problem No
Environmental problem No
Communication problem No
Planning problem No
Skills problem No
Body movement problem Yes
Rigging problem No
Rappel problem No
Insufficient gear No
Gear failure No


Weather Sunny, pleasant

Time of Day 1pm

Incident Narrative On the third rappel of Change Creek, the first person down discovered a deep laceration in his right shin. According to the subject, he was unaware that he was injured until he climbed out of the pool onto the sunny rock, and noticed bleeding. It was probably 10 minutes before the other two of us descended - we saw the subject basking on the rock, looking relaxed, and he did not make any indication that he was injured. When the other two of us arrived, and he showed us his injury (which at the time was a slice in his wetsuit and a lot of blood), I began first aid while the third teammate searched for what could have caused the injury.

We were able to remove the subject's wetsuit and saw a deep, clean, laceration. Given the volume of blood, we weren't sure whether we'd be able to get him out ourselves, so we alerted a canyoning friend who lives in north bend, knows change creek well, and is on SAR, that we may need help getting out.

The subject was in good spirits and a good mental state. He was warm in the sun. Luckily, a pressure bandage was able to control the bleeding, and feeling no pain, the subject indicated that he felt ok to walk out.

The third teammate and I discussed options. We considered moving down through the creek, as moving down on rope can be easier and safer than a sketchy uphill scramble. But because of the open wound, and the fact that we could not put his wetsuit back on, we needed to keep the subject dry. The third teammate scrambled up to find a route to the trail. It included a 10' climb, which he was able to scramble up, and drop a rope. Because we all carry mechanical ascenders, the subject was able to ascend without much difficulty, and we were able to walk out.

At the cars we let our friend know that we didn't need help, and the subject drove himself to urgent care, where they cleaned and closed his wound with a steri-strip type bandage.

Lessons Learned None of us could figure out how this happened. The subject indicated that his rappel was clean (he did not swing). As it happens, he was also on a top belay on a second rope because the purpose of this trip was rescue practice, and so the the third teammate and I were practicing top belay techniques. The subject is also a reasonably experienced canyoneer.

Lesson 1: having at least 2 roller gauze in your first aid kit is hugely beneficial when it comes to pressure bandages. I'm known for having an "overly" fat group FAK... but honestly having two roller gauze was incidental. I can't say it was more intentional than me arbitrarily throwing two in for good measure. Definitely worth it for the bulk.

Lesson 2: In a canyon, water plays a big role in evacuation choices. Had he rolled his ankle, we might have chosen to move him through the canyon, because we can protect almost everything with rope, moving down on rope is easier than up on loose steep terrain, and he could have kept his wetsuit on. If we had had no other option in this case, we would have had to find a way to waterproof his wound, and likely cut his wetsuit in a way that he could wear it but we could still monitor his wound. That would have taken a long time. If it hadn't been warm and sunny, hypothermia, not just for the subject but also for the rest of the team sitting around waiting would have been a consideration. We would have had to create warm points with emergency blankets and candles (which we had - but that would have just taken more time).

Lesson 3: Our community's focus on efficient ascending techniques and year-round practice with ascending really paid off. The subject had no hesitation, and did not need coaching on how to ascend. It's one of those skills you seldom need, but when you need it, being proficient is critical. Had the subject not been able to ascend, our exit would have been much longer and more complicated.

Lesson 4: Minimum party size of 3 is a great baseline. This evacuation would have been substantially more complex and more stressful as a party of 2.

Conclusion Good weather, two non-injured canyoners, and solid, continual training prevented a simple non-life-threatening injury from becoming a major ordeal. While we all would have preferred for this not to have happened, it provided valuable experience (ironically on a day dedicated to rescue practice), and the purpose of this report is to share that experience with others.