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Gear Failure on West Face Leaning Tower results in whipper.
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By Shern
May 6, 2013

Hey all--

My climbing partner and I had a pretty interesting experience on the West Face of the Leaning Tower last week. My partner was leading the 7th pitch when a nut placement popped after he weighted it. The crazy part is that the three placements below him all failed--resulting in a 55-60 foot whipper (factor 2?) arrested by my grigri. He fell from ~30 feet above the anchor and ended up ~30 feet below me hanging from my harness. Here's a short video right after his fall once I fixed the haul line and he was jugging back to the anchor: Anthony takes a fat drop.



From the anchor to his fall, he clipped a bolt with a trad draw, placed a nut with trad draw, and a .5 c4 with a trad draw. As he fell, the rope side biner on the c4 back clipped off the draw, and as far as we can figure, the rope side biners on the nut and bolt must have both crossloaded and broke. We decided to bail mostly because of time constraints, but admittedly we were both pretty shaken by the failure of three pretty solid pieces of gear. Once we rapped back to the ledge at the bottom of the first pitch, we met a party humping water up for a climb the next day. They actually found one of the broken biners on their approach! Pretty nuts.
failed mammut bent gate biner with intact biner for comparison.
failed mammut bent gate biner with intact biner for comparison.


What do y'all think? These were all my trad draws--mammut wire gates with mammut dynemma slings and mammut bent gates for the rope side. All three biners that backclipped/broke were the bent gates. They're about 7 years old and have been taken pretty good care of. Are these biners garbage? Should I send one somewhere? Thanks for the input.


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By ChristopherAust
From Ohio
May 6, 2013
omg

wicked dude. glad you didn't die


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By Caprinae monkey
May 6, 2013

Whoa that is scary. Maybe send the biners to mammut for testing. There is a site you can check what kN force the falling climber generated: www.myoan.net/climbart/climbforcecal.html

I'm sure it didn't generate more than what the biners are rated for.

Are you saying the bolt the belayer was anchored to also failed? Or just the trad draw clipped to that? Because if the bolt that the belayer was anchored to failed, then the belayer was no longer anchored... and was trying to catch/pulled down by a huge fall force while on a ledge (or worse a hanging belay). Which in that case I think both would have tumbled.

Phew.... thank goodness for close calls.


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By Shern
May 6, 2013

Caprinae monkey wrote:
Are you saying the bolt the belayer was anchored to also failed? Or just the trad draw clipped to that? Because if the bolt that the belayer was anchored to failed, then the belayer was no longer anchored... and was trying to catch/pulled down by a huge fall force while on a ledge (or worse a hanging belay). Which in that case I think both would have tumbled.


No--I was belaying him from a two bolt anchor. He clipped a bolt 5 feet above the anchor and the ropeside biner on that trad draw failed.


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By John D
May 6, 2013

Wow, now that is a weekend whipper! that's a gnarly rope burn/scrape on your arm/wrist. That's a scary fall, I think if I ever passed the belay, I'd figure it was game over.

So 3 rope end biners broke and the bottom one (that was on the bolt) unclipped? was the trad draw on the bolt tripled?


I wonder if the biners fell victim to gate flutter. I think (in my infinite wisdom of internet speculation) that some how the gates opened and that weakened the biners enough to break them. If they did get cross loaded like you think, you might want to rethink trad draws (I might rethink using them too). I've only done the south face of wash column, but I think I used a fair number of sport draws and clipped alot of cams direct. If I wanted a sling, I'd used one extended. I've never been a big fan of trad draws, they're so bulky and fiddly. Pretty scary, I'm glad both of you ended up ok.


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By Shern
May 6, 2013

John D wrote:
So 3 rope end biners broke and the bottom one (that was on the bolt) unclipped? was the trad draw on the bolt tripled?



three pieces had extended trad draws. the first (c4) must have come unclipped off the draw when he fell--the biner was still on the rope. the next two (a nut and bolt) also had extended trad draws. both biners broke.

yeah--we felt lucky.


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By alleyehave
From San Diego, CA
May 6, 2013
Start of Pitch 3

Just out of curiosity, was he freeing that pitch or aiding it? Since you said he weighted a nut i'm assuming he aided that pitch. In that case why only a piece every 10 feet? Backcleaning? That pitch takes small-medium gear in the first 80 or so feet, but definitely C1 all day. The fact that multiple pieces of gear pulled on a crack like that, is just as perplexing to me as a broken biner. Are you sure he was leading with the lead line and not a static haul line? :)

EDIT: Sorry, just read your post clarifying. A couple more questions, 7 years old and taken good care of, im assuming no drops of any kind and you're the original owner? If yes to both, I would definitely send them in ASAP to Mammut.


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By bargainhunter
May 6, 2013

So if you hadn't had a grigri, would you have held the fall? Or do you think if you had an ATC, would you have let go of the rope when your hand/wrist got torqued against the wall?

I've done that route, fortunately for your leader, it's way overhanging. I've also rapped off above the Wet Denim Daydream crux pitch...a good lesson on how to rap off overhanging walls, eh?

Glad you guys didn't die. That was a serious wake up call for me to back up gear and not trust a single piece/draw and to always have a directional thru the anchor. I would have shat my pants. Thanks for posting this!

What was the leader's perspective? What was going thru his mind as he fell past you?


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By AlexandreK
May 6, 2013

The rope side back-clipping out of one piece, then breaking two biners, including one on a bolt? Man, that is the worst luck I have ever heard.

There has to be some explanation though, Mammut makes bomber gear and bent-gate's are some of the more solid gear you trust climbing. I wouldn't be surprised with either cross-loading or the gate's having somehow come open (though on two consecutive ones...man).

I don't own a grigri, trust my ATC, but it is stuff like this that makes me want to buy one...would I have been able to hold that fall with my head bashing into the rock on an ATC? who knows...


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By Kaleem Khwaja
From Emeryville, California
May 6, 2013

wow, that's scary. The impact force of any dynamic rope fall should be way less than what it takes to break a biner, even with the gate open, no? Do you know how many kN those biners were rated to? And how much does the climber weigh?
Makes me wonder if bent gates are more prone to opening in a fall.
Serious wake-up call. Glad you're in one piece, and thanks for posting.


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By Optimistic
From New Paltz
May 6, 2013

alleyehave wrote:
Just out of curiosity, was he freeing that pitch or aiding it? Since you said he weighted a nut i'm assuming he aided that pitch. In that case why only a piece every 10 feet? Backcleaning? That pitch takes small-medium gear in the first 80 or so feet, but definitely C1 all day. The fact that multiple pieces of gear pulled on a crack like that, is just as perplexing to me as a broken biner. Are you sure he was leading with the lead line and not a static haul line? :) EDIT: Sorry, just read your post clarifying. A couple more questions, 7 years old and taken good care of, im assuming no drops of any kind and you're the original owner? If yes to both, I would definitely send them in ASAP to Mammut.


The question about the static line is a really good one, any chance of that? I think everyone would really like that to be the answer, because the alternative is kind of terrifying!

I don't know what to think about people's concern regarding "trad draws"...two biners connected by a sling has been a pretty standard thing to do for about 90 years, and has held quite a lot of falls without an outcome like this...should we be switching to 24" dogbones?


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By CraigS.
May 6, 2013

Could you take a picture of the fractured surface of the broken biner, under a Macro lens/setting if you have one? Would love to see that to better get an understanding of how it failed. Oh, yeah, glad you are all safe!


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By csproul
From Rancho Cordova, CA
May 6, 2013
Summit of Wolf's Head with Pingora in the background

I posted this on RC.com too, but I find this VERY hard to believe. A biner unclipping and TWO (rope side) biners breaking in one fall. Each of those events in incredibly unlikely, much less all three happening. Either you have the worst luck in the world, you have defective gear, someone out there really hates you and messed with your gear, or you've made the whole thing up. If this is real, I'd certainly contact Mammut and see if they want the biner(s); and glad to hear you're both ok.


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By The Phoenix
May 6, 2013
The Phoenix

Wow... glad u kids are safe!! Good point about going through the anchor and way to make a vid just afterwards to keep the details fresh. Please report back with any updates... Lots will be watching this one.


Alex - just go get a grigri. If your climber knocked off a rock and it knocked you unconscious would you still be able to lock off for your climber with your ATC? Obviously not...


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By JLP
From The Internet
May 6, 2013

How much does the guy that fell weigh?


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By yosenhuttle
May 6, 2013
Sail Away

Same question as bargainhunter, do you think you could have held the fall with an ATC?


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By Tabo
May 6, 2013

Caprinae monkey wrote:
There is a site you can check what kN force the falling climber generated: .


Sorry if my last post was confusing.

The Myoan calculator doesn't calculate fall factor properly.

If you (for example) put in
80KG climber
30' rope
10' above last piece
Dynamic Rope

you *should* get
Fall Factor 0.66 (not 1.33)

Force on climber and force on the top piece depend on a lot of factors, but using some standard numbers, you'd get
5.8kN on the climber
9.7kN on the piece

Which are both probably much higher than actual forces due to a number of force-reducing things which are too numerous and difficult to account for.

Reducing (increasing) the weight of the climber in the calculations reduces (increases) the forces by a couple of tenths of a kN.


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By Locker
From Yucca Valley, CA
May 6, 2013
...

"I posted this on RC.com too, but I find this VERY hard to believe".

Only the LINK you posted takes you to a LAW FIRM, not, RC.n00b.




As to the OP and such...

WOW! Talk about some shit happening.

Seems to be quite a bit of FAILURE that took place.

STRANGE!


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By Colonel Mustard
From Reno, NV
May 6, 2013
Colonel Mustard

Locker wrote:
"I posted this on RC.com too, but I find this VERY hard to believe". Only the LINK you posted takes you to a LAW FIRM, not, RC.n00b. As to the OP and such... WOW! Talk about some shit happening. Seems to be quite a bit of FAILURE that took place. STRANGE!


On the plus side, a law firm probably has more to do with climbing than that site ;).

Crazy whipper!


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By Greg Barnes
May 6, 2013
Hanging out with Karin on the summit of Warlock Needle. Photo by Josh Janes.

Biners break more often than people think...the gate-open strength of a typical biner can be exceeded in lots of falls. Not to mention the biner slapping against the rock, pinched in a corner, etc. The reason you don't hear about it more often is that people tend not to take hard falls. You have to assume that any biner will be loaded gate-open, even with wire gates (although they are much less likely to vibrate or slap open).

Example: a friend of mine was leading pitch 4 of Direct NW Face on Lembert Dome and fell at the crux (10c fingers, easier if your fingers are thin - but he has sausage fingers). Very short fall on an old fixed nut - which broke (the wire of the old nut). The next two pieces were bomber - but each biner broke, and he knocked his belayer off the belay ledge - she caught them both hanging from the anchor!

Another example - the Korean guy who pulled an old bolt on Shakey Flakes in Yosemite. He grabbed a draw, and the old 1/4" bolt simply broke. He slid 50 feet down the slab, and the rope-end biner on his draw snapped (huge fall, but on a slab, with a lot of rope out - not a high fall factor!). He continued for another 50 footer and luckily the anchor held, and the team managed to self rescue to the clinic. I have that biner in the ASCA collection - this incident was one of the reasons the ASCA was started!

Another friend climbed with a well known member of a major European climbing safety board - and that guy would clip any crux bolt with two opposite and opposed biners...


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By Rob Davis
From Brooklyn, NY
May 6, 2013

Greg Barnes wrote:
Another friend climbed with a well known member of a major European climbing safety board - and that guy would clip any crux bolt with two opposite and opposed biners...


rope side or bolt side or both? I haven't heard about a locked biner breaking yet, so couldn't he just use a locking biner?


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By Glass Tupperware
From that stuff out East
May 6, 2013
Summitting Independence Monument

I hadn't realized issues with trad draws were so common. I had one cross-load at Seneca a month ago, but never really considered it a concern before that (www.mountainproject.com/v/seneca-injury-and-bailed-gear/1080>>> ). I came out of it with a broken wrist and a concussion, so maybe I'll keep trad draw failure in mind now.


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By Sirius
From Oakland, CA
May 6, 2013
Moving through the crux lock - now that's micro beta for you, that is.

The question about the static line is a really good one, any chance of that? I think everyone would really like that to be the answer, because the alternative is kind of terrifying!

Nah, if the fall had been on a static line the body trauma to the belayer - who caught the fall on his waist - would have been catastrophic.

I think the best question to mull over here is not about the biners, but the belay device, as others have posted. Seems likely that the leader would have gone the whole rope length to the tie-in if it not the auto-lock.

IMHO the Gri trumps the ATC when belaying leads on a wall in a million ways.


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By Kaleem Khwaja
From Emeryville, California
May 6, 2013

Sirius wrote:
The question about the static line is a really good one, any chance of that?


I think we'd all sleep a little better if we could blame this fall on the rope being a static line, but unfortunately there's no way it was. A 60' factor 2 on a static line would cut you in half, or at least break your pelvis into 100 pieces. You wouldn't walk away from it.


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By Caprinae monkey
May 6, 2013

Sirius wrote:
The question about the static line is a really good one, any chance of that? I think everyone would really like that to be the answer, because the alternative is kind of terrifying! Nah, if the fall had been on a static line the body trauma to the belayer - who caught the fall on his waist - would have been catastrophic. I think the best question to mull over here is not about the biners, but the belay device, as others have posted. Seems likely that the leader would have gone the whole rope length to the tie-in if it not the auto-lock. IMHO the Gri trumps the ATC when belaying leads on a wall in a million ways.


I agree... so how do I get people "more experienced" than me to belay w/ a Gri-Gri? Sometimes I don't feel like questioning their methods if they've used an ATC for forever.


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By Adam Burch
From San Dieger
May 6, 2013
Mexico, Mang

Unless I'm crazy, this doesn't qualify as a factor 2. If he had no gear between him and the anchor when he fell, that would be a factor 2


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