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The Sharp End of Toproping


Original Post
Patrick Miller · · Indiana · Joined May 2017 · Points: 170

Wanted to share a near death experience with y'all I had this weekend. Climbing at a new wall in RRG.
   It started normal. We were on a very new route, like we are most weekends. It was about 50' tall 5 or 6 bolts. Maybe 5.9 or .10
 I start up no problems, little dirty but run to the anchors clip and lower. My partner Jason takes his turn on toprope with plans to clean the anchors.
  He gets to just below the first bolt maybe 10 ft off the ground at his feet.
 BLAMM the whole damn wall just came down!! That's what I think anyway!!
 Turns out it was only 4x8ft at it's biggest points and 6 to 8 inches thick. I'm guessing about 500  to 600 lbs
  I barely got out of the way with the block landing 2 inches from my foot.
 Jason on the other hand was drug upside down head first with his back cheese grating down the cliff.
 All in all just a little blood and shaken nerves. Very lucky to get to talk about it.
  I've been playing the what if game all day. Could have been much worse outcome.
 Let this be a lesson for new climber's. This ain't the gym. Outside can kill. Just cause your Toproping doesn't mean you can't die.
 My wife caught a few pics just before the block gave way. She was very shaken and crying. She saw me run and duck and thought I was hit. I thought so too.
 Be safe out there. Be ready to act fast. Gravity never fails and is waiting for you to!

spot block came from

jason riding the block
jason standing on half the other half at end of rope pile
tatts by Patrick scarification by Corbin sandstone
Dustin Stotser · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2014 · Points: 361
Patrick Miller wrote:...We were on a very new route...

This should not surprise you too much...
Patrick Miller · · Indiana · Joined May 2017 · Points: 170
Dustin Stotser wrote:
This should not surprise you too much...

No not much. Sounds like you think we deserved it. 

We climb new routes all the time. Kinda what you do when you put a
up a new route.
  Although I didn't put this one up. It's probably at least a year old.. said block was chalked up pretty good
Kelley Gilleran · · Sacramento, Ca · Joined Sep 2012 · Points: 2,674

Do you get snow? Freeze thaw cycles will change the position of loose blocks.
I always use a hammer to bang on loose blocks and feel vibration when developing. It can reveal sometimes if the block is just balanced there on the face.
Although sometimes you cant tell...

Cole T · · Cincinnati, OH · Joined May 2012 · Points: 316

Where was this?

Pnelson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 380
Dustin Stotser wrote:
This should not surprise you too much...

Uhhh, pulling off refrigerator sized blocks should always surprise you.


To the OP, glad you guys are ok!
John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,045

I can say this because I have a similar "build" to Jason....

Always pull down, never out.

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 745

Glad you are ok! That pic of him riding the block is insane!

My husband pulled off a block this size, though thinner, off of Mooch, at Bears Den, back in 2013. It was on lead, but fortunately he clipped a bolt above the block before pulling on it. 

Patrick Miller · · Indiana · Joined May 2017 · Points: 170
Cole T wrote: Where was this?

Miller Fork. New unnamed crag

Patrick Miller · · Indiana · Joined May 2017 · Points: 170
Lena chita wrote: Glad you are ok! That pic of him riding the block is insane!
My husband pulled off a block this size, though thinner, off of Mooch, at Bears Den, back in 2013. It was on lead, but fortunately he clipped a bolt above the block before pulling on it. 
Hate to think what would have happened on lead. Not sure belayer would have gotten out the way. I was lucky to be belaying a toprope. And was able to move . Not sure if I would have if he was leading. Scary


Patrick Miller · · Indiana · Joined May 2017 · Points: 170
John Barritt wrote: I can say this because I have a similar "build" to Jason....

Always pull down, never out.

This!!  I'm always telling him that. I'm about 150 he is 200+

DR · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2014 · Points: 675

As a fellow big man, I have learned that lesson and have also been surprised when I break holds unexpectedly.

MojoMonkey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 66
John Barritt wrote: I can say this because I have a similar "build" to Jason....

Always pull down, never out.
Regardless of your build that should be the plan with a block angling out from a ledge like that, (or to avoid it completely). Large rocks can sometimes be pivoted with surprisingly little effort.
Dustin Stotser · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2014 · Points: 361
Patrick Miller wrote:

No not much. Sounds like you think we deserved it. 

Please don't put words in my mouth.  


We climb new routes all the time. Kinda what you do when you put a
up a new route.
You said it was a new route, not new to you as you are now implying which changes the situation entirely.  Words matter.  It should be common knowledge for actual new routes to have some loose stuff hence the tone of my original reply.


  Although I didn't put this one up. It's probably at least a year old.. said block was chalked up pretty good

  Again, then don't call it " a very new route." A one year old, chalked up route is a different story, but as you stated caution is always in order.  I'm glad you guys are ok.


Seriously, though, finding loose rocks on a rock wall should not surprise anyone! (Even though riding it down may be surprising, Pnelson)
Patrick Miller · · Indiana · Joined May 2017 · Points: 170
MojoMonkey wrote: Regardless of your build that should be the plan with a block angling out from a ledge like that, (or to avoid it completely). Large rocks can sometimes be pivoted with surprisingly little effort.

The block was not at an angle. He pulled it that way. The pic is of the block moving with him. I  clipped while hanging on the block.  Then manteled up on it. Then stood on it to make the next clip. He was just to big for it.

Only, Locals · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 1,160

Are you guys trying to fat-shame this guy?  Not cool.

Patrick Miller · · Indiana · Joined May 2017 · Points: 170
in this pic you can see the block at top right. This view was from about 30 yards away and about 60ft up. Because we climb alot of new routes. We looked the route over good before starting up. We just didn't see it like that. But we are always prepared for this kind of stuff. It really didn't surprise me all that much. What surprised me was that I was able to get out of the way and still catch his fall
Cole T · · Cincinnati, OH · Joined May 2012 · Points: 316

That place is tick city...

Neil Rankin · · Winston-Salem, NC · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 156

Yeah the sandstone in Kentucky and Northern Tennessee is to be treated with a heavy hand by the first ascent party and a light touch by everyone else.  Can be tough to do ground up but I’ve stopped on hooks, drilled a temporary bolt to crow bar off a flake maybe half that size before.  Looks like it should have been removed by the FA party especially is they were going top down. Scary stuff. Glad you guys are ok!

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20
Patrick Miller wrote:

Miller Fork. New unnamed crag

I am little perplexed - where is this new unnamed crag in relation to other named crags at MFRP?

Forever Outside · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 235

Can we PLEEEEEEASE talk about Jason's tattoos?!?!  So many questions here!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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