Spotlight: Kaitlin's Story and Yenu

Many of our climbers will recognize Kaitlin as a constant and positive presence behind the desk at The Cliffs at LIC. She's also often found sport climbing in the high bay and drowning gym puppies in affection. In October of 2017, Kaitlin was badly hurt at a crag in Pennsylvania when a falling rock hit her right knee. She was rescued from the scene and went into surgery a few hours later, to be followed by a long and slow recovery process. 

Now, a few months later, Kaitlin has just about returned to her regular routine: working at The Cliffs, spoiling all the gym dogs with treats, and she's back to climbing, too.

 Photo: Alice Sun

Photo: Alice Sun

Another one of our staff, Alice, recently started a project that celebrates the diversity of climbing voices and lifestyles. That project is Yenu, a website dedicated to climbers pushing their boundaries.

Alice is telling the stories of climbers through Yenu's newsletter, videos, and photographs, and she recently interviewed Kaitlin to find out more about her accident, recovery, and triumphant return to climbing. Here's an excerpt:

Out of nowhere I hear him scream “oh sh*t” and then I see this huge flake fall off. I tried to react quickly,” she explains. Kaitlin started to recall what had happened during her accident when she was hit by a thirty pound rock that had peeled off from the wall her partner was climbing on. Her partner was at the third clip, approximately thirty feet up when she started to see tiny pebbles falling down.

In an attempt to get out of the way, Kaitlin mimicked how she pushed against the wall but the movement only turned her body and pushed her closer to the wall after her climber had already fallen. “That was when the big ass rock hit my right leg,” she remembers. Looking back on the experience, she laughs about a comment made moments before the accident. “Earlier we were joking about how bad it would be to get rescued here versus somewhere like the Gunks,” she admits, with a chuckle. “It was the first climb of the day and I was supposed to be taking it easy because I was getting an MRI on the same right leg the next day.” After they waited at the crag for a good 20-30 minutes post impact, the first responders arrived to bring her to a hospital. The entire time she was apologizing to her climbing partners, explaining outside experiences weren’t always like this. “It was (a friend’s) first time and I didn’t want this experience to be her impression of rope climbing outside,” she explains, exasperated. She went into surgery shortly afterwards to get 11 screws and 1 plate in her right leg.
 Photo: Alice Sun

Photo: Alice Sun

Head to Yenu to read Out of Nowhere, the full story of Kaitlin's recovery and return to sport climbing! In the interview, Kaitlin says: “I wasn’t expecting how generous people would be. I knew the climbing community takes care of their own but I really wasn’t expecting that much. It was pretty overwhelming when I started to see how much was coming in from other people. The bigger donations were from people from the gym who I wasn’t close with but knew from interactions. I appreciate the climbing community even more. Now I feel indebted to it. I want to keep giving back to (the community)."

We're so glad to have Kaitlin back on our team, but most importantly, climbing again. Make sure to subscribe to Yenu's newsletter for stories like these featuring #thecliffscommunity and more.