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??Wolf's Head Accident - Aug. 18/19??
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By Tommy Layback
From Sheridan, WY
Aug 20, 2012
Tom on Cloud Peak, Bighorn Mtns, WY.  Blacktooth and Mount Woolsey in the background.
Summitted Pingora via NE face in Cirque of the Towers very late afternoon on Sat. Aug. 18 and noticed two parties on Wolf's Head - one somewhere before the Piton Traverse, another on the Piton Traverse. Both parties seemed to be pitching it all out and not simul-climbing. My partner and I commented that they would likely be descending in the dark - not necessarily a big deal if equipped with a torch and good beta/knowledge of the descent route as the weather was fantastic. The next morning a chopper appeared to be involving in a search and rescue effort on Wolf's Head - circling the ridge numerous times, haul line lowered, etc. I've tried to find news on this to no avail. Not trying to rubber neck, but interested in the outcome as a learning experience. Does anyone know anything about this incident?

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By Burt Lindquist
Administrator
From Madison, WI
Aug 20, 2012
Trying to stay warm up on Brownstone Wall Red Rocks, NV
Wow! I always thought that The Winds was the kind of place in the lower 48 that a climber could not hope for a helicopter type rescue.

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By Dirty Gri Gri, or is it GiGi?
From Vegas
Aug 20, 2012
Growing a winter coat in Red Rock Canyon- December 2013.
Yikes, hope they're okay. Wonder who called for rescue... We've climbed Wolf's Head, and as we climbed were concerned about an approaching storm, and descended in the dark, so I'm kinda curious to find out what happened. I don't recall having any cell reception while camping in the Cirque Of The Towers. Maybe friends or family summoned help when they didn't return when expected???

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By Cor
Aug 20, 2012
black nasty
it is wilderness, but if a person is in bad shape, they will come in.
(i have helped with a chopper rescue in the cirque before...)

hope everything is ok! we are just back from the winds, but have
other friends in right now.

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By RockyMtnTed
Aug 20, 2012
Tom Johannesmeyer wrote:
Not trying to rubber neck, but interested in the outcome as a learning experience. Does anyone know anything about this incident?


Bullshit. Learning experience? Typical response, you are just interested in what happened and nothing to be ashamed of. If you saw a car crash on the highway would you want details so that it could be a "learning experience"? that is quickly becoming the biggest cliche on climbing websites.

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By NC Rock Climber
From The Oven, AKA Phoenix
Aug 20, 2012
tanuki
RockyMtnTed wrote:
Bullshit. Learning experience? Typical response, you are just interested in what happened and nothing to be ashamed of. If you saw a car crash on the highway would you want details so that it could be a "learning experience"? that is quickly becoming the biggest cliche on climbing websites.



No. Your response is bullshit.

Accidents happen for reasons. People do things they should not have, and it leads to them getting hurt. By finding out what happened and WHY it happened, people can learn what not to do.

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By Jeff Chrisler
From Boulder, CO
Aug 20, 2012
RockyMtnTed wrote:
Bullshit. Learning experience? Typical response, you are just interested in what happened and nothing to be ashamed of. If you saw a car crash on the highway would you want details so that it could be a "learning experience"? that is quickly becoming the biggest cliche on climbing websites.


have you had a bad monday? of course there is morbid curiosity here... who cares?

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By Tommy Layback
From Sheridan, WY
Aug 20, 2012
Tom on Cloud Peak, Bighorn Mtns, WY.  Blacktooth and Mount Woolsey in the background.
RockyMtnTed,
Your contrarian response is entertaining - thanks for the laugh!!

But you should appreciate that I have a lot of experience in dangerous industries (underground mining, and oil & gas) and we have a safety culture that encourages us to analyze every accident as to gain experience and avoid future accidents - this is no bullshit and this approach to safety has resulted in a dramatic decrease in workplace fatalities/injuries within the industry. I carry this same mindset into climbing and it seems logical that this, too, could have the same effect if climbers routinely studied other's mistakes. And if it is cliche, it is b/c it is the best practice to do so.

And yes, I am curious about the root cause of any accident that occurs as a result of any activity that I routinely participate in (cars, lawn mowers, etc.).

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By Mark Lewis
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Aug 20, 2012
RockyMtnTed wrote:
Bullshit. Learning experience? Typical response, you are just interested in what happened and nothing to be ashamed of. If you saw a car crash on the highway would you want details so that it could be a "learning experience"? that is quickly becoming the biggest cliche on climbing websites.


More useless drivel, courtesy of Ted. It gets old Ted...

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By KevinCO
From Loveland, CO
Aug 20, 2012
Tom Johannesmeyer wrote:
But you should appreciate that I have a lot of experience in dangerous industries (underground mining, and oil & gas) and we have a safety culture that encourages us to analyze every accident as to gain experience and avoid future accidents - this is no bullshit and this approach to safety has resulted in a dramatic decrease in workplace fatalities/injuries within the industry. I carry this same mindset into climbing and it seems logical that this, too, could have the same effect if climbers routinely studied other's mistakes. And if it is cliche, it is b/c it is the best practice to do so. And yes, I am curious about the route cause of any accident that occurs as a result of any activity that I routinely participate in (cars, lawn mowers, etc.).


Exactly!

The best written instruction manual I have ever come across is the 'Accidents in North American Mountaineering'. Especially after reading a dozen or so to see what kind of common mistakes can occur.

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By Bikenut
Aug 21, 2012
Hello everyone. Since I was the one rescued maybe I can clear up the details. My partner and I were stuck behind a slow moving group. They were nice and I am not trying to dis them but they had stuck nuts, stuck ropes, tangled mess at the belay with 2 ropes, etc. the several hour delay put us on the summit at sunset. Another party of 3 and us 2 tried to bail as fast as possible in total darkness. They double rope rappeled to skip stations as did we. They got the ropes stuck and I freed it for them. I used a different knot and moved it down to avoid the same problem. It didn't work. So we were on a ledge with ropes stuck about 65 meters above us. I had prusiks but thought that might be an ordeal. After an hour of trying to free them I realized I could see the lights of Pinedale so I called SAR. We talked about options. I originally thought it is a popular route and a team descending after lunch could free our ropes. SAR thought that if nobody showed (we might have been off route or weather could turn) then our situation would be much worse. They offered a fly by assessment and the chopper cruised by at 8:30am. Due to our "high spirits" they offered to drop a bag with water and ropes. An hour later the pilot dropped a bag from a cable right it my hand. It was impressive to say the least. We continued down and met the SAR folks climbing up to meet us and make sure all was good. They were great guys and told us stories of people much worse off. I truly thank them for their service! I know I had other options personally but my top priority was to get my partner down safely so I went with the guaranteed option. So it is not really an exciting or dramatic story.

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By Greg D
From Here
Aug 21, 2012
Out of the blue.  Photo by Mike W. <br />
This post violated Rule #1. It has been removed by Mountain Project.

By jasoncm
Aug 21, 2012
I'm confused, why couldn't you ascend the rope and sort out why it was getting stuck? Have you practiced ascending a rope? What sort of knot did you use, the EDK/overhand? Did you make sure the knot was over the edge?

If there was nothing you could do to make the rope pull easier could you stop at the first rap station and see if you could pull from there.

How far was it to the ground? Would tying your ropes together and anchoring one end reach the ground? Someone could retrieve your ropes later.

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By mark felber
From Wheat Ridge, CO
Aug 21, 2012
If the party in front of you was as slow and inept as you say, the safe thing to do would have been to pass them. That way SAR would have fewer people to worry about.

I don't know which rappel route you were following, but the one I used (which I think is the standard rappel route) is completely doable with one 60 meter rope. I recall a fair bit of walking between rappels, so I'm not sure what you hoped to gain by making longer rappels. Rappelling with a single 60 meter rope means there's no knot to get stuck when pulling the rope (although rap lines can still get stuck). Lots of parties climb the East Ridge of Wolf's Head with a single 60 meter rope for just this reason.

I'm glad SAR was willing to help, but the truth is that sending a chopper entails a certain risk to the people in the chopper, and a fair bit of expense to the taxpayer. How would you feel if the chopper crashed bringing you your water?

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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Aug 21, 2012
Bikenut,

Thanks for telling your story. It was brave of you to do that, considering you will be reamed by the Monday-morning quarterbacks here!

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By NickinCO
From colorado
Aug 21, 2012
after the hard stuff, into cruiser hands.
JLP wrote:
You guys are disgraceful wimps. Your story and your casual attitude in the aftermath make my blood boil. A very similar rescue just happened on the Nose in Yosemite. They were charged the cost of the rescue. For all the expense and danger to rescuers, and given how every day in these areas parties deal with much worse as a simple matter of routine competence, they should have been thrown in jail for a few days as well.


+1

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By Jason Todd
From Ranchester, WY
Aug 21, 2012
Moss
Root causes:
1) Underestimating the severity of the route. Just because it is only a III 5.6 shouldn't give the inexperienced alpine climber an excuse to start late in the day, especially with other parties already on route.
2) Lack of skill set to ascend ropes is negligent in the alpine environment. Having prusiks and actually using them are two very different things.
3) Lack of common sense. The party ahead is sticking their doubles on a rappel set up for singles. The resulting stuck rope was very predictable.

You aren't ready for alpine climbing Bikenut. I'm glad the SAR folks completed the mission safely, and that you guys are ok, but please work on the basics before you put others in harms way.

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By Sarah Meiser
From Boulder, Colorado
Aug 21, 2012
Me hugging the summit block of Snowmass Mountain after a winter ascent, my 2nd attempt
Burt Lindquist wrote:
Wow! I always thought that The Winds was the kind of place in the lower 48 that a climber could not hope for a helicopter type rescue.


Thank God thats not true. A few years ago a boulder rolled over one of my partners above 13K, absolutely crushing her leg. If not for the SPOT/SAR she might not be alive today. They acted like bringing a chopper in to the Wilderness was a big deal and said they had to get special permission so I'm really surprised they'd fly in to help with stuck ropes!!! Let's save SAR for when we really NEED them please!

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By Cor
Aug 21, 2012
black nasty
Boo on you, or whoever just gives up...

can't even try to ascend a rope, and just call a rescue??

WTF, if people give up (mentally) that easily, they have
no business being in the backcountry climbing high routes.

People risk life to come in because of that.. disgrace!

And sorry to sound mean, but this rescue for nothing is a
bad up-and-coming trend i see taking place in climbing nowadays.

(no one is perfect, neither am i, just so you know i didn't forget...)

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By Julius Beres
From Boulder, CO
Aug 21, 2012
Rewritten
Bikenut wrote:
So we were on a ledge with ropes stuck about 65 meters above us. I had prusiks but thought that might be an ordeal.


OK, I'm confused. I am reading this story just before hopping in the car and heading to the Winds so I am curious. I've done Wolf's Head before and I did the standard raps.

A couple of questions:
1. None of the raps on the standard rap route required a 2 rope rappel. With the large amount of walking on the descent, I'm not sure where a 2 rope rappel would speed things up. Which part of the rap did the rope get stuck on? From MP, the description of the rap:
"1.) Find the slings on the West side of the summit, rap down 80ft to a ledge.
2.) Walk 10ft to the west to find another group of slings in a boulder alcove. Rap 70ft to a ledge.
3.) Walk to the south west along a climbers trail to locate the next set of slings on your right. Rap another 90ft to a ledge.
4.) Carefully scramble down the trail to the next set of slings. Rap another 95ft to a ledge.
5.) If my count is right, here you will walk along a trail for about 400yds to the south toward Overhanging tower. Do another 90ft rap to the saddle in between Wolfs head and Overhanging tower.
6.) Follow the cairns for a while still heading south. Eventually this takes you to a station that will allow you to rap into the gully formed by the saddle. It looks like it should be a double rope rap, but one 60m will be fine. After rapping scramble up the gully to the east bringing you back into the cirque lake basin. "

2. You wrote "we were on a ledge with ropes stuck about 65 meters." How were the ropes stuck 65 meters above you? That just doesn't make sense. Even if you are rapping the full rope length on a pair of 60m ropes, the highest the stuck point could be would be under 60m above. Did you have double 70s? Where were you rapping that you had a 65 meter drop??

3. "I had prusiks but thought that might be an ordeal." Why bring them? So, you got stuck on the descent after sunset and then waited until 8:30 am for SAR to drop a rope? Wasn't that more of an ordeal than just prusiking up the rope? I can understand if you felt responsible for your partner calling SAR just to let them know you are stuck in case it doesn't work out... but why not try to go up the ropes if you are there all night anyway? Was there some reason the rope couldn't be ascended safely? Was one end well off the ground and the knot stuck in a crack well below the anchor? (if so, how was it 65m above you?)

Edit to add:
4. If you had just freed the ropes for the slow moving party in front of you, couldn't you have asked to rap on their ropes? Were they totally out of ear shot by the time you realized your ropes were stuck?

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By Cor
Aug 21, 2012
black nasty
julius, there is a rap route route down the front also..

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By Julius Beres
From Boulder, CO
Aug 21, 2012
Rewritten
Cor wrote:
julius, there is a rap route route down the front also..


Thanks... good to know. We are planning on doing at least one route on Pingora, maybe more, but my partner has never done Wolf's Head, so we might run up that too towards the end of the trip if the weather is good... will do the standard one rope raps though.

As for the slow party... often, when I've gotten to the top at the same time as another party, we have agreed to share ropes.
Party 1 sets up rap one, and party 2 raps down first. While party 1 is rapping and pulling ropes, party 2 has already set up and rapped down the second rap. Of course, after that it doesn't really pay off since you are waiting for the top party to pull the ropes, but there is an added degree of safety with the two parties.
Did the party ahead not want to share ropes?

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By J1.
From Boulder, Colorado
Aug 21, 2012
Towliee
Pretty lame reason to call in a chopper! Sack up and ascend the rope..Also when I climbed the route 2 years ago I recall that some of those raps are short and easly down-climbable.. If your a competent alpinist that is!!

Also if the slow moving party in front of you was so nice why didnt you just ask to pass them??

I actually just returned from the Winds.. Climbed a route where at one point I was 30+ feet run out on 5.10 terrain 6 pitches up..Couldent downclimb out of my position, no visible pro above me unless you have offsets or trick pieces for protection.. ended up lowering off a 00-Camalot in a flaired crack!! SCARY..SHit, after hearing this story next time Im just going to call in that SAR chopper to drop me the gear I needed to send!! Right!

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By Tommy Layback
From Sheridan, WY
Aug 21, 2012
Tom on Cloud Peak, Bighorn Mtns, WY.  Blacktooth and Mount Woolsey in the background.
Bikenut,
Thanks for having the nerve to share your story. I'm sure in hindsight, the lessons to all are obvious...
1) alpine starts for alpine climbs
2) single rope raps on less vertical terrain (as is the case with the Wolf's Head raps) is the best insurance against stuck ropes
3) have knowledge, equipment, and practice in ascending ropes

Classic comment J1. - I like your thinking!!!

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By Bikenut
Aug 21, 2012
Thanks everyone! I am surely an unworthy climber buy I am an arrogant prick with super strong opinions about shit the world doesn't care about so some day I might be as goo as you! Now eff off.

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By Medic741
From Pittsford, New York
Aug 21, 2012
When I was a bum at Frey
Man. If you can't do it safely stay out of the mountains. that dangerous lack of knowledge is completely and utterly unacceptable.

Solutions(in addition to what was said before)
Climb with someone who knows what they are doing.
If ascending a rope with prussiks seems an ordeal why the **** are you climbing
Or do you just simply not know how to use them...

FLAG


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