An Accidental Life: The Quinn Brett Story

On October 11, 2017, tragedy befell an accomplished young big wall climber in Yosemite Valley. That was the day that Quinn Brett fell more than 30 metres from a fabled multipitch line on El Capitan’s Boot Flake.

The injuries she sustained were harrowing. The impact shattered her T12 vertebra and split open her scalp. Most heartbreaking of all, it robbed her of the ability to use her legs.

An autumn portrait of El Capitan, the stone that changed the course of big wall climber Quinn Brett's life. Photo: Nate Ptacek

An autumn portrait of El Capitan, the stone that changed the course of big wall climber Quinn Brett’s life. Photo: Nate Ptacek

 

Quinn Brett & the accident that changed her life

It was no small miracle that she survived the incident. Flight For Life lifted Quinn from the Valley and carried her to a new chapter. It would prove far more challenging than any big wall route ever could.

She underwent a litany of operations, began physical therapy, and slowly started to learn how to live in a body so transformed from the one that had carried her to the world-renowned summits of Longs Peak, Half Dome, and Cerro Torre, to name a few.

An Accidental Life, a mountain festival film, documents Quinn after her fall. Through it, director Henna Taylor bears witness to Quinn’s tenacious spirit as she fights to reclaim her strength, peace, and stoke.

In a 2018 essay, Quinn Brett on Her Life-Changing Accident and Her Passion for Wilderness, the young woman wrote:

My accident rerouted my life, but I’m still alive. I can still act. The therapists have a machine that supports my legs so I can stand, and although I can’t feel my legs, standing tall feels good in ways that I cannot describe. When my friends help wheel me onto gravel and gentle dirt trails, my heart sings. I still love wild places so much.

An Accidental Life premiered this week at the 2022 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. Viewers can take in the feature-length film here from February 23-26, 2022.

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing. In 2020, Jilli left her corporate position to pursue an outdoor-oriented life. She now works as a contributor, an editor, and a gear tester for ExplorersWeb and various other outlets within the AllGear network. She is based out of Austin, Texas where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.


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Thrill seeker
Thrill seeker
3 months ago

Life is fragile,it can be taken away or altered in way’s both big and small in a heartbeat.
All the best to her!

Last edited 3 months ago by Thrill seeker