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Quinn Brett NIAD - boot flake pro question


Original Post
Shepido · · CO · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 50

I have never been to Yosemite and I have pretty minimal trad experience, but I know some here have climbed the Nose and maybe can weigh in on my questions.

I recently listened to a sharp end podcast recording of Quinn Brett discussing her accident during a Nose In A Day (NIAD) attempt from this past fall. I am trying to understand first, what happened, and if this was more of a speed climbing/ running it out sort of accident, or just something inherent to this section of the Nose even for a party that is not attempting to speed climb the Nose.

Her account of the specifics starts at 14:10 into the podcast. It sounds like she was soloing the Boot Flake and not on belay, when she fell.  Looking at the photos she had clipped at least a few of the bolts on the bolt ladder between the Texas Flake and the Boot Flake. Looking at the topo, it would seem there were some more to clip, especially one right below the bottom of the Boot Flake, but perhaps they were skipped in the name of speed? 

Around 15:30 in she remarks that she didn't have any gear in and so it didn't matter (that she was not on belay) anyways because 'that is how you climb the pitch'.

Is this an accurate statement? - i.e. if freeing the boot flake, does one have to basically gun it from the the top of the bolt ladder to the top of the flake with no reliable pro? Reading others accounts I guess the boot flake is pretty hollow or loose sounding? 

If this is indeed the case it would seem like almost anyone freeing the boot flake would be subject to a similar type of fall as she took... which is probably un-survivable most of the time.  

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Shepido wrote:

I have never been to Yosemite and I have pretty minimal trad experience, but I know some here have climbed the Nose and maybe can weigh in on my questions.

I recently listened to a sharp end podcast recording of Quinn Brett discussing her accident during a Nose In A Day (NIAD) attempt from this past fall. I am trying to understand first, what happened, and if this was more of a speed climbing/ running it out sort of accident, or just something inherent to this section of the Nose even for a party that is not attempting to speed climb the Nose.

Her account of the specifics starts at 14:10 into the podcast. It sounds like she was soloing the Boot Flake and not on belay, when she fell.  Looking at the photos she had clipped at least a few of the bolts on the bolt ladder between the Texas Flake and the Boot Flake. Looking at the topo, it would seem there were some more to clip, especially one right below the bottom of the Boot Flake, but perhaps they were skipped in the name of speed? 

Around 15:30 in she remarks that she didn't have any gear in and so it didn't matter (that she was not on belay) anyways because 'that is how you climb the pitch'.

Is this an accurate statement? - i.e. if freeing the boot flake, does one have to basically gun it from the the top of the bolt ladder to the top of the flake with no reliable pro? Reading others accounts I guess the boot flake is pretty hollow or loose sounding? 

If this is indeed the case it would seem like almost anyone freeing the boot flake would be subject to a similar type of fall as she took... which is probably un-survivable most of the time.  

It was because of the compromises made for a speed ascent, mostly the running it out coupled with short fixing (the not on belay comments). After the bolt ladder, the right side of Boot is 10c hands and protects well. Hell, you can even aid the whole pitch. Yes, it does sound scary hollow and you do wonder what is holding it to the wall.

Alexander Blum · · Charlotte, NC · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 132

What she did was specifically a speed climbing tactic, she states that clearly in the interview. Not placing gear in the boot flake means that your partner doesn't have to climb the boot flake to clean gear, they can just go straight into the pendulum. 

The accident seems to have happened primarily bc she was crack jumaring with one cam instead of two, which was her normal practice.

Shepido · · CO · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 50
Marc801 C wrote:

It was because of the compromises made for a speed ascent, mostly the running it out coupled with short fixing (the not on belay comments). After the bolt ladder, the right side of Boot is 10c hands and protects well. Hell, you can even aid the whole pitch. Yes, it does sound scary hollow and you do wonder what is holding it to the wall.

Thanks!  I wonder how often people whip on that flake?

Alexander Blum · · Charlotte, NC · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 132

Whipping on good 10c hands is really rare in general

Shepido · · CO · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 50
Alexander Blum wrote:

Whipping on good 10c hands is really rare in general

That's probably true - I just wonder if that flake is a ticking time bomb, a big fall perhaps pulling it off the wall. 

Alexander Blum · · Charlotte, NC · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 132

It's absolutely a ticking time bomb. I think seasonal freeze-thaw probably has a larger chance of knocking it off than someone taking a whipper on it, but I would still be nervous for exactly the reason you state. If/when you get to Yosemite give that sucker a look from the meadow through binocs or a telescope. It looks like someone stuck it up there with some superglue.

kingfisher · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2017 · Points: 0
Alexander Blum wrote:

 Not placing gear in the boot flake means that your partner doesn't have to climb the boot flake to clean gear, they can just go straight into the pendulum. 

You can protect the Boot Flake on lead, thread the anchors for the pendulum, and back clean your gear on the way down before starting the pendulum. Your partner doesn't have to follow the pitch to clean gear. 

Alexander Blum · · Charlotte, NC · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 132

Fair enough, but still slower than not having any gear to back clean

Peter J · · Davis, CA · Joined Aug 2017 · Points: 105

It's concerning that you could make it through the whole episode without understanding this. If The Sharp End didn't adequately explain the situation then it is failing at doing the one thing it is designed to do: fully explain accidents so other people can understand and hopefully avoid them...

Xan Calonne · · Joshua Tree, Ca · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 35
kingfisher wrote:

You can protect the Boot Flake on lead, thread the anchors for the pendulum, and back clean your gear on the way down before starting the pendulum. Your partner doesn't have to follow the pitch to clean gear. 

You can, but the tactic they were using is different. The leader (Brett in this case) gets to the top of the Boot and fixes the rope. The follower swings across and continues upward. Once the rope is high enough, the leader then swings over from the top of the boot. So the leader never lowers down, and would not be able to clean gear on the lower.

reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125
kingfisher wrote:

You can protect the Boot Flake on lead, thread the anchors for the pendulum, and back clean your gear on the way down before starting the pendulum. Your partner doesn't have to follow the pitch to clean gear. 

Only one person (the follower) performs the pendulum on the speed ascent, who then becomes the leader and the climber on the top of the boot flake just jugs the rope.

There is no "on the way down" for either climber.

Xan Calonne · · Joshua Tree, Ca · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 35
Shepido · · CO · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 50
Peter Foster wrote:

It's concerning that you could make it through the whole episode without understanding this. If The Sharp End didn't adequately explain the situation then it is failing at doing the one thing it is designed to do: fully explain accidents so other people can understand and hopefully avoid them...

The whole accident discussion about what happened is more or less goes from 14:30 to 17:30 - so 3 minutes - the rest is stuff leading up to or aftermath. She doesn't explain things such as that she short fixed the anchor above the Texas Flake (I had to google short fixing btw) or how many of the bolts she did or didn't clip, etc. Her account likely makes sense to people familiar with the Nose route, speed climbing, or Yosemite big wall climbing in general. 

As for the fall itself I still have no idea what happened other than she was hand jammed and thoughts of Hayden Kennedy who had just died a few days prior flashed through her head, and had one of her cams that was on a daisy she either dropped or didn't before she was falling. I can't tell if a foot blew or what? I don't think she even knows exactly what happened. 

I listened to that 3 minute section probably 10 times. If you aren't very familiar with speed climbing or big wall climbing (I'm not) there isn't much information to pick up other than this is another case of 'I ran it out on something I thought was easy, took a huge fall, and hit a ledge.'  This does little to inform those of us not intimately familiar with these things as to the why... does that section not protect well, is this just because of speed climbing tactic, Could it protect well if bringing more gear, etc. 

I feel there is a lot left to be desired in terms of clarity and actual analysis of the accident. I felt the episode was never really clear on that and instead focused a lot on her personal and tragic situation since then, which is understandable, and serves it's own purpose. But I think if you got 20 climbers in a room - you would get varying levels of comprehension about what happened. I spent probably an hour looking at the topo, photos, even you tube videos of people climbing the texas flake to try and understand with certainty what happened. 

Aaron Formella · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 298

Looking at the photos she had clipped at least a few of the bolts on the bolt ladder between the Texas Flake and the Boot Flake. Looking at the topo, it would seem there were some more to clip, especially one right below the bottom of the Boot Flake, but perhaps they were skipped in the name of speed?

The bolt ladder ends when a thin crack becomes available and there is a short section of C2 (which can be done via a couple cam hook moves) before reaching the bottom of Boot Flake. Tom Evans second photo in the report you've linked shows it and his description indicates she clipped the last bolt of the bolt ladder.

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Xan Calonne wrote:

You can, but the tactic they were using is different. The leader (Brett in this case) gets to the top of the Boot and fixes the rope. The follower swings across and continues upward. Once the rope is high enough, the leader then swings over from the top of the boot. So the leader never lowers down, and would not be able to clean gear on the lower.

Thank you! This is one section of speed climbing the Nose I never fully understood. It also means the person who does the pendi gets to run-out a huge part of the pitch after the swing <shudder>.

Xan Calonne · · Joshua Tree, Ca · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 35
Marc801 C wrote:

Thank you! This is one section of speed climbing the Nose I never fully understood. It also means the person who does the pendi gets to run-out a huge part of the pitch after the swing .

Totally! and shudder is right. Also, because it probably should be said, unless you're gunning for a record, this particular tactic is probably unnecessarily high in consequence. For the vast majority of NIAD parties  the technique someone mentioned above of the leader threading through and cleaning on the way down and then swinging over is preferable, and the increased safety margin is definitely worth the extra time...

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,365
Shepido wrote:

The whole accident discussion about what happened is more or less goes from 14:30 to 17:30 - so 3 minutes - the rest is stuff leading up to or aftermath. She doesn't explain things such as that she short fixed the anchor above the Texas Flake (I had to google short fixing btw) or how many of the bolts she did or didn't clip, etc. Her account likely makes sense to people familiar with the Nose route, speed climbing, or Yosemite big wall climbing in general. 

As for the fall itself I still have no idea what happened other than she was hand jammed and thoughts of Hayden Kennedy who had just died a few days prior flashed through her head, and had one of her cams that was on a daisy she either dropped or didn't before she was falling. I can't tell if a foot blew or what? I don't think she even knows exactly what happened. 

I listened to that 3 minute section probably 10 times. If you aren't very familiar with speed climbing or big wall climbing (I'm not) there isn't much information to pick up other than this is another case of 'I ran it out on something I thought was easy, took a huge fall, and hit a ledge.'  This does little to inform those of us not intimately familiar with these things as to the why... does that section not protect well, is this just because of speed climbing tactic, Could it protect well if bringing more gear, etc. 

I feel there is a lot left to be desired in terms of clarity and actual analysis of the accident. I felt the episode was never really clear on that and instead focused a lot on her personal and tragic situation since then, which is understandable, and serves it's own purpose. But I think if you got 20 climbers in a room - you would get varying levels of comprehension about what happened. I spent probably an hour looking at the topo, photos, even you tube videos of people climbing the texas flake to try and understand with certainty what happened. 

Let me sum it up: Don't rush things that protect your life.

I heard the interview, seemed pretty clear, she was tied off to the anchor, had no gear between her and it and then fell, hit a ledge, rope never came tight.

Abdullah Mourad · · Elk Grove, CA · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 0

That interview was painful to listen to.

It felt wrong to have Quinn do a live interview (though obviously she agreed to it) in front of an audience with the accident so fresh and the trauma ongoing.

Though I do like the podcast and she has improved significantly since it started, I don't think Ashley should have been the person to do such an interview.

Parker Wrozek · · Denver, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 86
Abdullah Mourad wrote:

That interview was painful to listen to.

It felt wrong to have Quinn do a live interview (though obviously she agreed to it) in front of an audience with the accident so fresh and the trauma ongoing.

Though I do like the podcast and she has improved significantly since it started, I don't think Ashley should have been the person to do such an interview.

Completely agree. I have many of the podcasts still in my queue...I have to be pretty desperate to put it on. Especially when you have podcasts like Enormo, Outside, Firn Line, and even dirtbag diaries. 

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,365
Abdullah Mourad wrote:

That interview was painful to listen to.

It felt wrong to have Quinn do a live interview (though obviously she agreed to it) in front of an audience with the accident so fresh and the trauma ongoing.

Though I do like the podcast and she has improved significantly since it started, I don't think Ashley should have been the person to do such an interview.

? What was wrong with the interview? There was some crying but that's warranted, she almost fucking died! I thought it was timely and thoughtful.  I respected that she admitted she made a "big mistake".

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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