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Adam Campbell’s gripping recollection of his near-death climbing accident

Canadian trail runner Adam Campbell recounts his climbing accident in Rogers Pass in the Selkirk Mountains that nearly cost him his life.

Adam Campbell

Accomplished trail and mountain runner Adam Campbell is on the road to recovery after a near-death rock climbing accident that happened on a recent trip through the Selkirk Mountains. The 37-year-old was out in Rogers Pass in British Columbia with friends Dakota Jones and Nick Elson who helped save his life. 

Campbell broke his pelvis and spine T8-T11 and suffered “severe lacerations and soft tissue injuries,” which he says required eight hours of surgery to repair. The three were covering 14 peaks through Rogers Pass in “fast style,” meaning that the trio were relatively light on gear. As Campbell was scrambling up an area on Aug. 30, he reached for a rock, but it was loose which caused him to fall. He took quite a hard fall and was rushed to hospital. Campbell, who has since been released from hospital, told Canadian Running that he tumbled upwards of 200 feet. His helmet, which was destroyed, helped save his life. 

The backbone of my recovery and health. My pillars of support, my family. Thank you, I love you

A photo posted by Adam Campbell (@adamo1979) on

“I was conscious the whole time,” describes Campbell, who is also a lawyer. “Nick was able to call 911 and there was a search and rescue training mission in the area. I was transported in a special air ambulance and treated on the road before getting to Kamloops.”

RELATED: See more photos from Campbell’s climbing accident.

While at Royal Inland Hospital, he suffered post-surgery complications and his “entire digestive system shut down.” His stomach swelled to five times its regular size and his hemoglobin dropped significantly. According to Campbell, his doctor told him that it was one of the few such instances they’ve seen in 30 years. Campbell attributes a lot of the pain to having a ruptured appendix for six days. That, he says, was more painful than some of the broken bones he suffered as a result of the Aug. 30 accident.

Campbell was still in Kamloops, B.C. as of this past Friday after being released from hospital on Sept. 11. The lengthy drive to Canmore, Alta. required he recover a bit more before making the trip. Campbell notes the silver lining though saying that during the trip, he reconnected with friends with whom he had lost touch. His father flew in from Thailand, his brother from West Africa, and the family was by his side throughout his time in hospital. Campbell also recognized the tremendous support he has received from the running community. His social media posts have been inundated with well wishes.

I apologize if this is too graphic for some, it’s my exposé in vulnerability. I have had a strange relationship with it in most of my adult life, ignoring it, denying its existence within me, fearing that it will hold me back from exploring my physical limits and suffering emotionally for that denial because it is inherently dishonest; but confined to these hospital walls, struggling daily, not recognizing the body that dangles below my head as my own from a week ago, suffering mysterious physical pains, surrounded by the groans of others battling their own fights, having a thousand thoughts and emotions per hour, fearing the night and quiet, being a bit stressed when people are around, feeling emotionally drained, reminding myself to be patient, celebrating each small victory with child like glee while worrying about the next setback, having incredibly tender moments with my nearest and closest, bonding us in special ways, at the same time worrying that I am taking too much, or that they are giving too much of themselves to me as I see the fatigue, fear and concern in their faces, thinking about my choices, I am my vulnerabilities, they are my strength.

A photo posted by Adam Campbell (@adamo1979) on

Still though, he realizes how close he came to being paralyzed or dead. “It was a matter of inches,” he says. “I could have fallen on a different rock, the search and rescue team could have been delayed.” In addition to having Elson and Jones nearby, certain pieces of hear helped save his life including a helmet, emergency beacon, bivvy sack and a jacket to keep warm.

RELATED: The 10 essentials for trail running and backcountry adventure.

The Alberta resident says that, as a physical person himself, one of the toughest parts has been having physical capabilities be taken away. “You feel this sense of vulnerability,” says Campbell, recounting on the recent events. During his hospital stay, Campbell did lots of writing and drawing, which he describes was very in the moment and a way to release some of the emotions he was feeling.

“I have had a strange relationship with vulnerability most of my adult life, ignoring it, denying its existence within me, fearing that it will hold me back from exploring my physical limits and suffering emotionally for that denial because it is inherently dishonest,” Campbell wrote on Instagram. Outlining the emotions he felt in the hospital including being mentally drained, confined to a hospital room, and celebrating each small victory as if it were a milestone, he admits, “I am my vulnerabilities.”

The Rogers Pass trip was the first time he has travelled with Jones and Elson and Campbell recognizes how vital they were in getting him to safety. “They were such rock stars,” Campbell says. “So knowledgeable and calm throughout the process. They knew exactly what to do.”

The trail and ultrarunner has since taken a break from social media for the time being in a sort of a “digital cleanse.” The reasoning behind this idea includes a personal check, deep evaluation as well as giving himself a chance to connect with those closest to him.

“The short-term goals include setting myself up at home,” Campbell says of what’s next. “I’ve been recovering well but not sure what that means long-term. I’m taking any pressure off the table and let it come day-by-day.”