July 21, 2019

Injured Black Mountain rock climber thankful for rescue

ASHEVILLE — A Black Mountain man who suffered serious injuries in a rock climbing accident earlier this week faces months of recovery, but his overriding emotion Wednesday was gratitude.

I want to put a thank you out to everyone who was involved in the rescue, Jackson DePew, 23, said in an interview from his room at Mission Hospital. Id like to send them my sincerest gratitude.

In the dramatic rescue Monday afternoon at Linville Gorge, rescuers used a Black Hawk helicopter to pluck DePew from a ledge about 200 feet above the ground on Shortoff Mountain.

Ive gotten lots of Facebook messages and phone calls from people who I havent heard from in years, said DePew, an experienced climber. I want to say thank you to everybody whos reached out to me and sent me their best wishes.

DePew suffered a concussion and broken leg and fractured his pelvis in five spots after falling and slamming into the side of the mountain, winding up on a narrow ledge high above the ground. He also broke his tailbone and suffered three broken ribs and a collapsed lung.

The accident happened about 1 p.m. as DePew was climbing the steep rock face from the bottom, using climbing cams metal anchors that fit into crevices and rope as safety equipment, along with a helmet. When he put his left hand on a part of the cliff, it broke loose. He fell about 35 feet before his cams and rope stopped him, keeping him from tumbling all the way to the ground. But he still hit the rock face hard.

His climbing partner, who was still on the ground, saw what happened and called 911.

DePew said he was unconscious for several minutes, then was able to answer a phone call from his partner. He remained conscious throughout the rest of the ordeal. It took about four hours before he was lifted off the ledge in a basket by the helicopter.

I was in an absurd amount of pain, said DePew, a 2013 graduate of Warren Wilson College who started rock climbing six years ago and has been a climbing instructor for three years. It was the most pain Ive ever been in in my life. But I also remember thinking, This is freaking awesome. This is the coolest thing. Theres a Black Hawk helicopter right there. Im just about to get the VIP escort out of here.

Burke County Emergency Management Director Mike Long said one rescuer rappelled down the mountainside while another came down from the helicopter to reach DePew, who was lifted into the helicopter.

The helicopter was dispatched through the N.C. Division of Emergency Management from an Army National Guard unit in Rowan County.

DePew said the accident wont deter him from returning to climbing once his injuries heal. He plans to make a career as a climbing instructor and wilderness expedition leader.

Climbing makes me happier than a lot of things, almost more than anything, he said. Im definitely lucky I didnt get hurt worse. I feel very fortunate. I think Im meant to do something with my life.

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Injured Black Mountain rock climber thankful for rescue

Gear We Love: Tecnu Poison Ivy Relief

Gear We Love: Tecnu Poison Ivy Relief

By Dougald MacDonald

Here’s how allergic to poison ivy I am: When I was a kid, I once caught poison ivy in the middle of winter, even though there was a foot of snow on the ground. It was so bad I had to go to the doctor to treat the oozing blisters that threatened to seal my eyes. He said, “It looks like poison ivy…but it can’t be. It’s the middle of winter.”

I still get PI frequently, even in winter. Recently, I caught it twice in one month, from the very same bush. (I’m a slow learner.) I was frequenting a good sunny crag near home, and the best warm-up started with a short finger crack in which the best jam was partially blocked by a small, twiggy bush with white berries. Twice that winter I buried my hand in that bush as I cranked the opening moves. Twice that winter I suffered PI’s itchy wrath. At least now I know what poison ivy looks like when the leaves are gone.

Last weekend I was climbing at a remote crag in Wyoming. Nearly half of the 2.5-mile approach was infested with poison ivy. The leaves are pretty in the fall—all glowing red and yellow—and the oil that blisters your skin is said to be less prevalent in late season. But then again, I’m the guy who gets it in winter. The PI on this approach is so notorious that locals wear gaiters or rain pants, and they carry soap to scrub themselves clean when they get to the cliff. I figured I was doomed.

Fortunately, Andy Burr, Climbing’s senior contributing photographer, was also on this trip. “Tecnu,” he intoned with Graduate-like simplicity. “You get it at Walgreen’s. I keep a jug of it in the shower and scrub with it anytime I suspect poison ivy.”

After wading through those waving fields of PI on the way out from the cliff, I drove straight to the first Walgreen’s I could find, continued home to Colorado, and jumped in the shower. Now it’s four days later and despite a few suspicious bumps and itches earlier in the week, I seem to be PI-free.

Now, I can’t be certain that Tecnu made the difference. But Burr swears by the stuff, and he says he’s just as PI prone as I am. (And, as a professional climbing photographer, he’s constantly wallowing into poison ivy.) I’m a believer.

Tecnu is supposed to work best if you rub it onto dry skin that’s been in contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac within eight hours of exposure, and then rinse it off. But it also can clean your skin of urushiol oil—the nasty stuff in rash-causing plants—after some damage has been done, minimizing the scale and duration of the rash. You can use it to clean packs, clothes, and even pets that come in contact with poison ivy, but I’d be too cautious to wash ropes, harnesses, or other life-safety gear with it.

I’ve had good results with Zanfel (zanfel.com) as well, and it might be the best stuff to use once a rash has flared up. But Zanfel costs about 40 bucks for a 1-ounce tube. I bought a 12-ounce tub of Tecnu (teclabsinc.com) for around $12.

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: “Thanks, Burr!”

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Gear We Love: Tecnu Poison Ivy Relief

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