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Rope handling and rappelling accidents


Original Post
James Garrett · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2005 · Points: 4,751

Often it is just a matter of luck when it comes to climbing with objective hazards. “Accidents” more often preventable than not is another thing.

Our climbing community has lost yet another young (31 year old) high end climber. His rope was piled around his body and one strand was still in his ATC Guide device. Yes, I am sad, but I am actually more angry at the moment. I miss him and it is such a waste for all of us iwhen somebody gets the chop so early in life. He could have done anything in this life and been a success.

A number of things even if only one which was added to the mix might have changed the outcome and he might still be with us..

1. Before hanging back and start the rappel, the daisy chain should remain on the anchor until weight on the rappel rope has been tested. 

2. Use a Prussik for every rappel. Who cares if is “old school” ... a real bonafide life saver.

3. Tie knots into the rope ends, I can’t tell you how many don’t like to do this..... keep it with you to avoid a snag this is usually pretty minor problem in my experience anyway.

4. Double check everything especially if you are alone and don’t have a partner to look at each other’s system.

5. Only simul Rappel with gri gri devices and stay relatively close together.... it is a social activity, too, after all.

6. With a partner communicate clearly, alone, talk to yourself... you won’t be admitted as a schizophrenic and you may vary well prevent your own mistake. Talking to yourself is so heloful and less mistakes are made.

7. Wear a helmet. You probably wear one riding your bicycle. No excuses, just wear it even walking beneath other climbers (or goats;)).

Rappelling is not a safe activity, but we all do it. Make it double and triple checked. 

8. If the anchor is dubious, back it up with a piece.... small price to pay.

Be safe and have fun and live to climb another day.

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 480

Im sorry to hear about your friend. I almost killed my wife this way. She caught the mistake and didn’t even bat an eye as to what could’ve been. My wife said something about how great of a teacher I am. Reading this brings back how f-ing stupid I am.

 A guide taught me an interesting trick in case the second or third man down the rappel clips into one strand. This doesn’t protect the first guy but hopefully somebody checks his before he leaves. When the first gets off rappel tie the two strands into your belay loop using an overhand. I’ve seen it done by tying the two strands to a carabiner also then clipping the biner to your belay loop.

donaldm · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 0

Your first responsibility is to yourself - Knots at the ends of the strands, prussic, weight the setup before unclipping from the anchor. Your second responsibility is to your partner - eye your partners setup...its easy....

Group talk/chatter at belay stations and the base/top of climbs is lots of fun and adds much to the experience but it can also be a deadly distraction - I work to consciously tune myself out of it if I'm doing any sort if setup/adjustments. Now I don't feel bad at all simply not responding to others in these moments.

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 793
Bill Kirby wrote:

Im sorry to hear about your friend. I almost killed my wife this way. She caught the mistake and didn’t even bat an eye as to what could’ve been. My wife said something about how great of a teacher I am. Reading this brings back how f-ing stupid I am.

 A guide taught me an interesting trick in case the second or third man down the rappel clips into one strand. This doesn’t protect the first guy but hopefully somebody checks his before he leaves. When the first gets off rappel tie the two strands into your belay loop using an overhand. I’ve seen it done by tying the two strands to a carabiner also then clipping the biner to your belay loop.

Bill, would you also explain what this does, for noobs? Understanding helps memory, for many of us. Thanks!

OP, so sorry for your loss. A local climbing fatality occurred very early on in my climbing, and that has made me a much better climber.

Thanks for posting!

Best, Helen 

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 793
donaldm wrote:

Your first responsibility is to yourself - Knots at the ends of the strands, prussic, weight the setup before unclipping from the anchor. Your second responsibility is to your partner - eye your partners setup...its easy....

Group talk/chatter at belay stations and the base/top of climbs is lots of fun and adds much to the experience but it can also be a deadly distraction - I work to consciously tune myself out of it if I'm doing any sort if setup/adjustments. Now I don't feel bad at all simply not responding to others in these moments.

I had the opportunity to climb with someone with decades of experience this summer. His stern advice to me? "Never talk while tieing in". It's one of his few absolutes, and he's experienced enough to know how and when to break every "rule" there is.

Best, OLH

Jimmy Downhillinthesnow · · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 10
Old lady H wrote:

Bill, would you also explain what this does, for noobs? Understanding helps memory, for many of us. Thanks!

Hey Helen,

What Bill is describing essentially fixes the line to your harness. It's safe to descend a single strand of a fixed line.

I've also seen the single-strand rap accident. A prussik back-up or auto-block might or might not have enough friction to prevent it. The world's best fireman's belay from the bottom might as well, and a knot in the end might if you're doing more than one rap but only after a 100-foot free-fall The best strategy is probably solidly weighting your system while still tethered to the anchor every time you rap.

OP, wish your friend was still around to enjoy thanksgiving this year. 

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 793
Jimmy Downhillinthesnow wrote:

Hey Helen,

What Bill is describing essentially fixes the line to your harness. It's safe to descend a single strand of a fixed line.

I've also seen the single-strand rap accident. A prussik back-up or auto-block might or might not have enough friction to prevent it. The world's best fireman's belay from the bottom might as well, and a knot in the end might if you're doing more than one rap but only after a 100-foot free-fall The best strategy is probably solidly weighting your system while still tethered to the anchor every time you rap.

OP, wish your friend was still around to enjoy thanksgiving this year. 

Thanks for the added info! For myself, and many, understanding the "why" and how it works, of the thing really helps. 

I hadn't seen Bill's particular tip, and I guessed others hadn't either. 

 Best, OLH

alpinist 47 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 0

Safety is visual.....always speak up...eyes darting around checking and rechecking....

Before anyone leaves ( the moment you begin to rely on your gear ) we verbally 

Ask " harness doubled ( visual inspection ) knot good ?"

Climbing safety checks are taken very seriously and I like to see intense focus

Then have fun whilst always being in the moment

Being " in the moment " is one and of the many aspects of climbing I love

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Injuries and Accidents
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