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Watch an El Cap Climber Recover From a Spinal Cord Injury in ‘An Accidental Life’

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Quinn Brett was a respected Yosemite speed climber when a 100-foot fall interrupted her life as she knew it. A new film tracks her rebound.

An interviewer asks Brett, ‘Are you glad you didn’t die in your fall?’ She furrows her brow in thought. “I think so,” Brett replies.

The veteran El Capitan climber purses her lips and shrugs. Once, Brett ran it out as a key member of a core group of Yosemite Valley speed climbers.

Now, she uses a wheelchair due to her SCI, continuing to negotiate what might be a lifelong recovery from a 100-foot fall off “The Nose,” which almost killed her.

“An Accidental Life” is a chronicle of a warrior. Brett’s 2017 fall paralyzed her from the waist down. In the years since, she’s struggled to accept herself and her new reality, but doggedly maintained her enduring passion for the outdoors.

From the looks of things, the film’s dual texture reflects Brett’s lively personality. Many viewers will want to keep the tissues close by, but the heroine’s sardonic sense of humor punches through to lighten the load.

“[It was] the worst part of my life,” Brett reflects in the trailer, “and now you’re going to watch it.” Seated in front of a mirror, she allows herself a laugh.

But her accident hasn’t halted her passion for the outdoors. She’s a big advocate for public lands and accessibility, and she’s since picked up mountain biking (on a hand-cycle). She’s the first adaptive cyclist to do the Tour Divide, and she also tackled White Rim in a day.

Runtime (film trailer): 3 minutes

The film premieres now as part of the Bozeman, Mont., Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. If you’re not in Big Sky Country, you can stream it on the festival’s website now through Saturday, Feb. 26.

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