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Bad Rope Burn Belaying with Gri-Gri
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By Phil Persson
From Denver, Colorado
Mar 15, 2009
summit of Brenta Spire after climbing SE Shoulder variation, Bugaboos August 2010
I was belaying my partner on the 4th pitch of "The Finger Of Fate" on the Titan this past weekend in Utah, when he took a pretty serious lead fall after a piece blew out of a pin scar, and I suffered some pretty bad rope burns on my left hand after not removing it from the rope quickly enough. Luckily my partner was fine, but we bailed off the route after that as he was naturally a bit shaken up, and my hand was pretty messed up at that point.

I know this is certainly not the first time this has happened with a GriGri, and being new at belaying using this device [I had only used a GriGri a handful of times in the past], it was more human error on my part more than anything that caused the accident. The burns are limited to my left [guide] hand and aren't that bad overall, though I do have some pretty good-sized open blisters that seem to be slow to close up and heal over.... I've been told its best to leave open burn wounds exposed to the air to help them heal, but then again i've also
been told its better to have a light bandage and some neosporin or other antibacterial cream on the wound. Anyone else with similar experiences with rope burns have any advice?
Best regards,
Phil.

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By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From Bend, OR
Mar 15, 2009
Racked and loaded... name that splitter behind me? Hint, its on Supercrack Buttress
Oh man, sorry to hear about this. I'm sure a doctor will chime in with the best advice for caring for your wounds.

So the GriGri failed to lock up? Was your partner in the process of clipping? Just curious...

Heal up!

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By Phil Persson
From Denver, Colorado
Mar 15, 2009
summit of Brenta Spire after climbing SE Shoulder variation, Bugaboos August 2010
Hey Guys,
Thanks for the advice, yeah my partner was in the proccess of clipping his first piece off the hanging belay at the start of the 4th pitch and had both feet in the aiders clipped to the piece... It blew out suddenly and I was in the proccess of getting into the belay seat at the time [it was a pretty awkward belay between the 2 of us, full aid climbing regalia, and a haulbag]. I panicked and clamped my left hand down on the rope when I should have let go, causing it to not lock up, and as my partner accelerated down finally my hand was burned enough I couldn't hold on any longer and let go. The fact the it did finally lock up definitely saved his life as the end of the rope was unknotted [I had just been jugging on that line.]

Very stupid mistake on my part to not know what I was doing and assume a grigri would be best for such a route, due to the long leads on some of the tougher pitches. We then decided to bail off the raps on the north side of the Titan at the base on the Finger that cut off about a mile of the hike back to the car; good idea in theory but beware if you are planning on using these after climbing "the finger", the slings are pretty manky and the first rap is pretty overhung as well..... BAD idea in the dark hah.... long story short made it back safe and sound to the campsite last night with a lesson learned!

Burns are getting better and hopefully going to scab over soon, but as with burns like this i've had in the past, like you said they take forever to heal and keep festering for a while which sucks; what can ya do...
Cheers,
Phil.

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By Tim C
From Lakewood, CO
Mar 15, 2009
Grahh! There be a human in my Throne!
So I was the one who took the fall.
Weak sauce!
I was starting into the 4th pitch. Had one piece in, about 3 ft above the belay anchors, and was high stepping to reach another spot. When I was pulling on the piece to keep myself into the wall it blew. I think, because of how I was pulling on the piece, that I launched backwards and went plummeting straight down, head first. When the piece blew I just thought, damn well here is a minor 6 ft fall. Then I noticed that I was flying very fast and far past the belay. Thats when I started thinking: OH Crap, he must be belaying the wrong rope or something. And I just kept flying towards the ground. I thought to my self: Fuck, so this is how I die. Then after falling head first for about 100ft the rope finally catches me and I am at the anchors for the 1st pitch. From the backflip launch I didn't hit the wall any and was unscathed.
Well I obviously was completely done mentally, going from, knowing your going to die, to being alive and not hurt. So we bailed the hell off that route.
I learned a huge lesson and didn't die in the process. I'm going to be way more cautious with the backups I use and the people I climb with now.

I'd say the moral of the story is, If you don't know how to use the device that is going to be the one link to life for your partner freaking say so.

This happened less then 24 hours ago, Saturday evening the 14th, so I'm still a bit shell shocked.

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By Evan1984
Mar 15, 2009
Hey, sorry to hear about the baby epic and injuries. Rope burns are awful.

If the burns are on a place you can get a bandage to stick, try to find an occlusive bandage. These are dressings with a layer of healing "jelly" that you place over a very clean(make sure to scrub with dial because otherwise you're trapping germs) wound and leave on until it falls of by itself. The jelly has anitbiotics and skin condtions that will keep the area moist and healthy, so it regrows very quickly. I got a rope burn on my calf and it only took 12-14 days to close up without a scab.

I don't know if the bandages are perscription of not because I got it from a doctor friend.

Grigris are great tools, but, in some ways, more dangerous than standard tubes. It sounds like yours was an issue of guide hand gripping a rope with slack in it, rather than the gri not fully locking, so I don''t necesarily think the device was a contributing factor other than your unfamiliarity with it causing you to make the error of gripping the climber end.

Anyway, I hope you've got a speedy recovery ahead.
Evan

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By Tim C
From Lakewood, CO
Mar 15, 2009
Grahh! There be a human in my Throne!
Also, It wasn't the devices fault at all. He was keeping the part, that pulls up to cam the rope, from moving with his hand. When he finally let go of the device it activated and saved me.

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By Rob Kepley
From Westminster,CO
Mar 15, 2009
Yosemite Valley..
Holy cow! You were 3 feet above the belay and fell 100??? That's insane! Good thing you were high up on the route.

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By Tim C
From Lakewood, CO
Mar 15, 2009
Grahh! There be a human in my Throne!
Hey I'm not trying to bash him, he is a good guy. I'm just saying I almost died and how it happened.
I just stating the facts and trying to make a point along the lines of not using a device if your not familiar with how it works. I feel that this is a pretty important point to get across.

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By denise 911
From fort collins, co
Mar 15, 2009
Rx Burn
as far as the burn goes... I have found the cheap samples of burn cream help tremendously (usually found in the cheesy first aid kit in your car or at work) - keep it covered and moist with the burn cream for at least the first couple days, then alternate letting it be exposed and covering it up with cream again. This helps it heal without developing the scab.
Biggest thing is to keep it CLEAN - clean it before you apply the cream and if there is chance you'll be exposed to anything atleast cover it up.
I would caution against neosporin/antibiotic gels - especially at first.

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By Phil Lauffen
From The Bubble
Mar 15, 2009
RMNP skiing. Photo by Nodin de Saillan
I had a pretty terrible road rash from a longboarding accident that covered most of my left shin. It took a few months for the scab to go away. I applied hydrogen peroxide and neosporin. Also, get some "new skin", either spray on or the water based patches. they worked very well. Lastly, if you don't want a nasty scar I recommend getting some vitamin e lotion. I ended up cutting open liquid capsule vitamin e pills and spreading that over the wound. It worked well and now the wound that covered at least a 1/2 ft^2 of skin is barely noticeable.

thought I'd post a picture of it about 2 months after my fall.
mountainproject.com/v/phil_lau...

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By Kevin Stricker
From Evergreen, CO
Mar 15, 2009
Phil,
Your hand is going to suck for a while, keep it moist and with fresh bandages until the deep red wounds are smaller and the skin has started closing in. Then I would start taking the bandage off at night to let it dry a bit. Don't give up on the grigri, the mistake you made happens to the best of us, and I doubt you will make it again.

Tim,
Remember that we are ultimately responsible for our own asses. You screwed up and blew the first piece off an anchor, basically the worst thing you can do in any climbing situation. Consider that if you had NOT gone for the ride you would have taken an inverted factor 2 fall...and possibly not fared so well...People break things when they take those kind of falls. Also I am guessing it was your Grigri? Maybe your decision to use it as well?

Anyways guys the good thing is that fate was kind to you both, you both learned some lessons and are better climbers for it. The Fischers are the real deal.....respect the mud!

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By Rick Blair
From Denver
Mar 15, 2009
This is a novel auto blocking belay device.  I think it works quite well, depending on rope thickness and sheath quality, it belays very smooth.  Great to lower with.  You gotta love over engineering.  $3 at a gear swap!
Is this like "I just got a rack for Christmas" or am I just being cynical? If this is on the level, I am glad everyone walked away.

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By Gregger Man
Mar 15, 2009
gg
Hydrogen peroxide is great at killing off everything at the wound site on the first day, but to use it later may be counterproductive. It's such a strong oxidizer that it can scrape the surface clean of both bacteria and fragile new skin cells, prolonging the healing process.

[note: I am not a doctor and I don't play one on TV]

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By Mike Larson
From Los Angeles, CA
Mar 15, 2009
Weeping Wall Central Pillar
Tim Crennen wrote:
I'm going to be way more cautious with the backups I use and the people I climb with now. I'd say the moral of the story is, If you don't know how to use the device that is going to be the one link to life for your partner freaking say so.



Harsh. I'm not sure if its good form to call out a guy on a public forum like this, particularly when the guy admitted his mistake. Granted, his mistake would have cost your ass, but then who climbs on a rope not tied off to anything several pitches off the ground. A little more seasoning might be in order. Just thank your stars that neither of you were seriously injured or killed due to the mistakes both of you made.

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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Mar 15, 2009
Stabby
Honey works real well on burns. Bacteria cannot grow in it and it has vitamin e.
Tim - you are now starting your 2nd life. Make the most of it.

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By Kevin Craig
Mar 15, 2009
KC on Fields (medium).  Photo (c) Doug Shepherd
Like Evan said, what you're looking for is sold right now as Band-Aid "Active-flex" dressings. They're a bit hard to find, you may need to check Soopers, Safeway, Walgreens, Albertson's and others to find them. They also make special versions for fingers and toes. Try to keep it on until it basically falls off; it'll get loose when you shower but will reattach if you're careful and let it dry off a bit. They are really amazing and significantly reduce the healing time of any cut/burn/scrape/etc. Reduces the pain to a remarkable extent as well - almost artificial skin. "Compeed" is the name of the stuff that they're made of but not sold under that name in the U.S. Worst case, Band-Aid blister block pads are made of the same stuff, just a bit thicker.

Also as Evan said, you want to make sure the wound is *very* clean before you put these on. And, as others have said, after the initial cleaning you want to keep *everything* out of the wound, peroxide, neosporin, polysporin, everything. All that stuff will impede the healing process (or so we were taught in WFR).

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By Leo Paik
Administrator
From Westminster, Colorado
Mar 15, 2009
Hey, I'd say you'd best off not put hydrogen peroxide on much after the initial injury. It can retard healing. The old school thought was to use silver sulfadene. It's expensive. It is now felt to slow healing. These days, wounds of 2nd degree burns (blisters but you still can feel) are thought best to use antibiotic ointment. Not only to retard bacterial growth but also to keep the skin moist with the petroleum base. 2nd degree burns vary in depth and length to healing. Note, often with deep 2nd degree burns you can lose flexibility in the tissue as the healing involves fibroblasts (non-stretchy). So, try to keep th are moving and stretched somewhat. Note, once burned, the tissue is significantly more prone to thermal injuries (either cold or warm) until fully healed (up to 1 year).

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By J. Thompson
From denver, co
Mar 15, 2009
Trundling a death block. Photo by Dan Gambino.
Greg German wrote:
Hydrogen peroxide is great at killing off everything at the wound site on the first day, but to use it later may be counterproductive. It's such a strong oxidizer that it can scrape the surface clean of both bacteria and fragile new skin cells, prolonging the healing process. [note: I am not a doctor and I don't play one on TV]



This is very good advice. Hydrogen Peroxide is not good for wounds...especially burns. Hospitals don't use it any more because it actually slows the healing process.
Watch it very closely, burns get infected easily and the infections spread quickly. If the redness around the wound start's to spread, especially if that extended redness is hot to the touch go see your doctor immediatly. It could be very serious.

Keep it clean using mild soap.

Tim....I know what you meant. Don't let the intertards bug you.
Sorry this happened, sounds like you both learned some things.

josh

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By Casey Bernal
From Arvada, CO
Mar 15, 2009
What happened to the "brake hand"?

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By Phil Persson
From Denver, Colorado
Mar 15, 2009
summit of Brenta Spire after climbing SE Shoulder variation, Bugaboos August 2010
Thanks a ton for the suggestions everyone. Good stuff to know. Think I should be healed up fine in few weeks. Brake hand is fine. Honestly still trying to digest exactly what happened, the old clique of "it all happened so quick" definitely apply here. The Fishers are indeed the real deal and it was a humbling experience to respect chossy rock and my experience. Been climbing for some time and consider myself a very safe climber, just f***** up I guess, such is life, luckily we are both fine and it was a learning experience. Naturally I feel pretty damn stupid and embarrassed for making such a "newbie" error, but it was just a combination of circumstances. Will try some of the stuff you guys recommended and hopefully will be out pullin again soon.
Best Regards,
Phil.

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By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From Bend, OR
Mar 16, 2009
Racked and loaded... name that splitter behind me? Hint, its on Supercrack Buttress
A useful video put out by Petzl... the "new method" was new to me! I never thought about reaching across with the thumb from my brake hand to hold the cam down.


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By slim
Administrator
Mar 16, 2009
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.
so i guess my questions are,

who's gri-gri was it (ie, did tim demand that you use his grigri to belay you, or did you just get one recently and were trying it out for the first time)?

what was your brake hand doing?

i know several people who have had accidents with the grigri not locking up, and in each case it would have been preventable if the user had treated it like a real belay device and not a miracle-of-science.

i'm going to have to side with tim on this one, although he did blow the first piece off the belay. phil, if you are climbing in the fischers, then you need to have your shit together and be more prepared. lapses in paying attention, ie squirming around in your belay seat, are no excuse for dropping somebody that far. you both got off pretty lucky. really lucky actually. don't mean to bash on you, but rather give you a good scolding. hope your hand comes back together pretty quickly.

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By Buff Johnson
Mar 16, 2009
smiley face
If you fully inhibit the cam, you won't be able to catch a leader fall by having a good brake grip as you would a regular tube device. So where the brake hand was, or should have been, the same result would have happened but to both hands.

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By Gregger Man
Mar 16, 2009
gg
I've taken a liking to the Trango Cinch for that reason. I don't think you could accidentally keep the cam from locking off since you push it open to feed instead of holding it shut. In the gym a couple of weeks ago I looked down as I fed the last arm load of rope to my partner for him to clip the anchor at the top of an overhanging route and he fell without warning. Even though I was holding the cam open with my brake hand thumb as I paid out slack, the thing slammed shut and launched me.

On the other hand, I have been dropped by a Gri-Gri in a belay mistake nearly identical to the one described in the OP. (Albeit a much shorter fall.)

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By Malcolm Daly
From Boulder, CO
Mar 16, 2009
Greg,
I'm glad you caught the fall but eventually you're going to drop your climber belaying with a Cinch that way. There is no need to hold the cam open to feed rope. Check out the video instructions we posted up last year. It may take a few minutes of practice to get the hang of it but it's really the only way to feed slack that can't be defeated.

trango.com/videos.php

Climb safe,
mal

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By Gregger Man
Mar 16, 2009
gg
Mal,
I've seen that and given that method a try, but my thumb isn't sticky/sweaty enough to keep the cam open by simply pinching at the fulcrum. I keep three fingers on the rope with the device basically balanced on my index finger like I'm holding a wine glass, and I use my thumb to nudge the edge of the plastic lever to feed slack.
I've also cultivated a habit of keeping the device locked off while I'm not actively feeding slack by putting a small amount of tension between the device and a two finger-grip of my feeling hand - works for the sake of avoiding cross-loading as well.
It is your design, though. Do you think that nudging the bar instead is equivalent to clamping a Gri-Gri shut with an entire palm? It seems to me that the slightest tug on the rope makes the thumb pop off the bar...

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