Gurbaz Singh is thankful he’s alive to tell his story about falling down a mountain.
On Dec. 30, the Surrey teen was scaling Oregon’s Mount Hood with friends when he fell nearly 150 metres and broke his left thigh bone.
Surgically repaired the following day, the fractured femur is a reminder of the moment Gurbaz traversed an ice step that suddenly gave way, in an area known as the Pearly Gates.
“I was scouting it out and as I was going there, it was just so fast – everything broke and I was falling all of a sudden,” Gurbaz said Saturday during an interview at his family’s townhouse. “I had an axe and was checking it out, and then took a big step and that’s when I fell.”
He tumbled a few times before he instinctively tried to slow his fall, by creating friction with the snow below him.
“I don’t remember much, but I remember getting my hands out and managed to slow myself down, and I think that helped because I did end up stopping eventually.
“All I was thinking was, ‘I have to stop myself, I have to stop myself,’ and that’s what I learned in my training. If I kept going, eventually I would have went over a cliff, but I’m not certain about that,” he added.
“I was lucky to have survived. It could have been a lot worse.”
— Clackamas Sheriff (@ClackCoSheriff) December 31, 2019
Rescuers transported Gurbaz to a nearby lodge, and from there he was taken to hospital by ambulance.
At age 16, Gurbaz is already an experienced mountaineer who has done close to 100 peaks.
Over the past three years, his parents have done some hikes with him, but Gurbaz has progressed to join other, more experienced climbers on some adventures, including the one on Mount Hood.
“I used to be really fat and it was a weight-loss thing for me,” Gurbaz said of his hobby, “and slowly I lost the weight and got some endurance and started doing higher peaks and more technical stuff, as I got more experienced.
On New Year’s Day, fellow climber Mel Olson created an online fundraiser to help Gurbaz’s family pay for his hospital bills in Oregon.
“We hope he can go back to doing what he loves very soon,” Olsen posted to the gofundme.com page, which includes photos of his rescue. “I’ve created this page to assist him and his family in coping with the aftermath of this tragic accident and to get him back up on his feet as soon as possible.”
As of Monday, close to $9,000 has been raised on behalf of Rishamdeep Singh, Gurbaz’s father.
“It was a last-minute decision to go (to Mount Hood), so we tried to get insurance but couldn’t,” Gurbaz explained.
Rishamdeep said he has always encouraged his children to explore their passions and be independent.
“I know my son loves to climb and be on the mountains, so that’s what he will do,” Rishamdeep said. “We’ll take it slowly from here. This is his hobby, mountaineering and hiking, and apart from that he is also an honour-roll student in math and science. I’m very proud of him.”
A Grade 11 student at Tamanawis Secondary, Gurbaz is a member of the school kabaddi team, and was a competitive chess player as a preteen, before he got into mountaineering.
Now he’s learned to adjust to life with crutches, for the time being.
“I’m able to walk around a bit without crutches, and the pain’s gone down quite a bit, although it does hurt at night sometimes,” Gurbaz reported. “They say I might be running by spring break, so we’ll see – maybe April.”
“I might slowly ease back into it (climbing). It was a scary experience,” he continued. “From my experience I know this is an accident that could have happened to anyone,” he continued. “I don’t think I made any mistakes, I was just scouting it out and taking it slow, and it was an accident. You can be driving in your car and get into an accident, right?”