FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Regina Stump tells CBS4 she’s beyond grateful to be alive after surviving a serious rock climbing accident almost at the summit of El Diente, a fourtneener near Telluride. Stump says a boulder she was gripping suddenly came loose, and she free fell 10 feet, then pin-balled off of a rock and tumbled 50 more feet.
“I do remember my body feeling thud, after thud, after thud of hitting rocks and boulders on this free fall down,” Stump said. “I do remember as I was falling and spinning, my body was telling me to find a way to stop, just stop, but my mind was just kind of waiting for everything to go black, and it was going to end, that was going be it.”
Stump says she doesn’t know what finally caught her fall, and her climbing partner told her he saw several rocks fall when the boulder she was hanging on to became loose.
“I don’t know how I was able to come to a stop, there was nothing there to get me to stop only after 50 feet, it should have been a couple thousand,” Stump said.
When she did stop falling, Stump said, “the first thing I thought was, am I paralyzed? How are my legs? So, I tried to straighten up, I could do that.”
Miraculously, only her wrist was broken. She also had a small gash on her eye that needed stitches, and several bumps, scrapes, and bruises. Even though she wasn’t wearing a helmet at the time, she incredibly didn’t suffer a concussion.
“This part of the climb wasn’t technical, or dangerous enough in mind to have warranted putting the helmet on, but in that sense, I definitely could have made a better choice and put the helmet on before reaching the summit,” Stump said.
Stump said she knew it would take several hours for a rescue team to come get her, so she and her climbing partner decided to climb back down the way they came. It was a seven mile trek, and she had lost her water bottle in the fall. She said she had only dry-swallowed two ibuprofens to ease the pain of climbing back down, as she didn’t want to drink too much of her climbing partner’s water.
“By the time a search and rescue squad would be organized, and come up that high, it would be several hours, five, six, seven hours, and I thought about my ability to still move, and I’m like, ‘I’m not going to sit up here for that long, I’m going to get myself down to the bottom of this mountain,'” Stump recalled. “Having to go down, having to not use (my left) hand, was really, really hard. I had to just use my feet and (my right) hand, to kind of guide myself down.”
Once she reached the bottom, she drove herself to a hospital in Telluride, because she and her climbing partner had driven separate cars to the trailhead.
At the hospital, her broken and dislocated wrist was reset. However, she felt burning and numbness in her fingers due to a hematoma causing pressure on her nerves. So, she was referred to a hospital in Montrose for further treatment.
Stump drove herself to Montrose from Telluride, where she ended up having surgery the next day. She now has nine plates in her wrist.
Asked how she was able to power through the experience, she said keeping a positive mindset was critical.
“Your power of mindset is always in your control, and you might be in a challenging situation, a situation that may seem really dire… we all have mountains in life, but whatever you choose to focus on, that will determine where your action goes,” Stump said. “You have more power than you think you do.”
She says she has a renewed outlook in life, and plans to use her her second chance at life to work harder at her job as a performance coach, to help others achieve their fitness and nutrition goals.
“I can’t put enough intensity behind the word gratitude. I don’t know how thankful I can be, here, sitting, talking communicating, with a clear mind, and a body that can still function,” Stump said. “I still can be functional for a reason, so the things that I maybe had taken for granted, such as being able to walk, now how can I use that to make people better?”
From now on, Stump says she’ll be wearing a helmet during the entire climb, and warns others that no matter how experienced you think you are, you should wear your safety gear at all times.
“I think that you can never be too prepared,” Stump said. “There’s always going to be things, in terms of environmentally, that we can’t prepare for, and that’s a great reminder of humility.”
Click here for more information about hiking safety.