Horner, who lives in Keene, was climbing a route called Rhiannon when he fell about fifty feet and hit the cliff, breaking most of the bones in his face and suffering a concussion and a brain hemorrhage, among other injuries.
The news spread quickly among climbers on Facebook. When Horner posted photos of his swollen and bruised face from a hospital in Vermont, he received comments from more than three hundred well-wishers.
“I am blown away by all the love and help! Thank thank thank you!” he wrote in another post a few days later.
Horner was climbing a route well within his ability. Friends say he does not recall the fall, and his belayer did not see what happened. He was guiding a client when the accident occurred. An ice screw placed for protection kept Horner from falling farther.
Forest Ranger Robbi Mecus administered first aid and transported Horner to a hospital in Elizabethtown. He was later transferred to University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.
Bill Schneider, a fellow climber, set up a $30,000 GoFundMe campaign to help Horner pay his living expenses. A climbing guide and sculptor, Horner is expected to be out of work for months. In the first two days, the campaign raised more than $20,000.
Horner is one of the strongest ice climbers in the Adirondacks. In the January/February issue of the Explorer, I wrote an article about his quest to climb Gorillas in the Mist, a difficult ice route on Poke-O Moonshine Mountain first done in 1996 by the legendary Jeff Lowe and Ed Palen, the owner of Rock and River in Keene. The route was repeated a few days later by Alex Lowe, another world-class climber (no relation to Jeff), and Randy Rackliff. It has not been done since, though Horner has come close.
The ice on Gorillas is so thin that it’s rarely climbable. It also offers few chances to protect against a fall.
“I would say there would be ten people who could probably do it,” Palen told us. “It takes a good head and somebody’s who’s willing to risk it.”
He counts Matt Horner among those who could.
Photo by Phil Brown: Matt Horner on Avalanche Lake a few weeks before the accident.