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rappelling in double ropes without descender but only with machard; creazy fall of 30 meters


Original Post
Andrea 1961 · · Italy · Joined 14 days ago · Points: 5

Dear all first I excuse for English . I am italian and technical words are not usual to  me in English. My History of climbing is about 6 years during 80s in Dolomiti when I was young with classical routes in Pordoi (Spigolo Maria)  in Sella  (via della Rampa) max V degree UIAA. I was more able in skiing. I married and had a family and till last year I did not climb . I began to climb again last year : everything changed. It was a new fantastic discovery.I come to the point. When I was young I rappelled with descender eight directly in a carabiner in the harness. Now I started with mountain guides with a longe, a descender and without a machard because they were down to control my rappeling and possibly to stop a fall  if I was not able to control the rappel.For my enthusiasm I made a climb in Southern Pilastro Magnaghi (Grignetta- near Lecco Italy) route antidorn first 40 meters classified as degree 5b . I was not the leader and I succesfully arrived to the first anchor point. The leader was a strong but very young climber. We decided to stop there cause the wheater was changing (near 1800 meters altitude). The leader arrived down but prepared me with a descender and a machard for auto secure. For reason I do not explain the ropes did not march and I asked down what to do and he suggested to me to make free the rope from the decender and to go down only with machard (without any wrapping of the rope on my body). I trusted him and I  made a creazy fall with my hands in the rope trying to slow the fall and machard with a carabiner to my harness. I made near 30 meters at a creazy speed. My hands literally  burned and the fall was stopped by knot machard near 10 meters to the gorund. The rope of the machard was burned but not so burned to break itself. I had burns in deep of second degree and some scars are existent now four months after the accident. Do you know other cases like mine? I ascertained that a little rope (6 millimeters) saved me with the knot machard and burned but not so to break itself.I think this is an incredible proof of how materials are improved during the time. Any observation? I would like to know if anyone knows of accident similar to  mine where the person is still alive. Sorry for english and thanks for listening .

i shore · · London · Joined May 2018 · Points: 0

Your message is hard to understand in English.
However it seems your friend made a very bad decision. One should never descend in this way.
It would probably have been simplest and safest for your friend to lower you, especially since the rappel method you were familiar with did not work.
By "machard" I assume you mean an auto block or other sliding friction knot. The knot should grip when weighted but this knot would have been the sort that slides (releases) with hand pressure. Presumably you were stopping the knot from gripping when you clung desperately to the rope and it was only when you could no longer hold it tight due to burnt hands that it gripped and saved you. Possibly 6mm cord in the 1980s would also have saved you. It may have been lucky you were not using 5mm!
I hope your hands recover fully. Try not to let this stop you climbing, but always ask questions and don't do anything that seems stupid. In fact practise techniques in safe conditions first. A good climbing partner is essential!
Nowadays it is usual to use a back up method with a rappel device for safety, for example using an autoblock (machard?). However never try to use just the backup to rappel.

Andrea 1961 · · Italy · Joined 14 days ago · Points: 5

I excuse me for english but hopefully you have well understood and what you are thinking and depicting is just what happened . My curiosity is about to know if anyone knows of other person who can tell about a creazy fall as mine was (30 meters). I attach  photos of my hands in a first aid now there are little scars in my hands and they are able to do what they did before. Thanks for answers and best. I newly started to climb as I could with gloves before and now without gloves . I can show how hands are turned to be useful again.

Buck Rogers · · Germany · Joined Nov 2018 · Points: 5

Wow!  Crazy story.

I am so sorry that this happened to you.

Yes, the machard is what the French (and I guess Italians) call the Klemheist.

Hopefully this has not put you off of climbing again forever.

I will be climbing in the south Tyrol in June and look very much towards it!

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

I would suggest that you learn the basics, including rappelling, at a single-pitch crag (even though this happened at the top of the first pitch). Your friend should have NOT told you to remove your descender/rappel device from the rope.  However, it is your responsibility to know the basics and choose your partners more carefully. You are very lucky.

Edit: This incident highlights that just because someone is a strong climber, doesn't mean they are safe or knowledgeable. Find an experienced mentor to learn from.

Buck Rogers · · Germany · Joined Nov 2018 · Points: 5

What's very interesting is that this was reportedly a professional mountain guide.

But I have been told that the guides here in Europe expect you to know the basics and do not coddle to their clients.

I do not know first hand as I have never used a guide.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Buck Rogers wrote: What's very interesting is that this was reportedly a professional mountain guide.

But I have been told that the guides here in Europe expect you to know the basics and do not coddle to their clients.

I do not know first hand as I have never used a guide.

I don't think it's clear that she was climbing with a guide when this happened.

Buck Rogers · · Germany · Joined Nov 2018 · Points: 5
FrankPS wrote:

I don't think it's clear that she was climbing with a guide when this happened.

True.  It was not clear but I that is how I read what they had written.

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 526

Wow, Andrea, what a story.  You are lucky to have survived.  I strongly suspect you misunderstood the instructions, which would have been to remove the Machard knot and rappel with the device and no backup knot.

The Machard is one of several friction knots that can be used to back up a rappel.  The most typical one (in English) is the Prusik knot, and other popular ones are the Kleimheist and what English-speakers call an autoblock, the knot devised by Serge Machard in 1961.  None of them can be used in place of a rappel device; it is a near-miracle that once you started falling the knot eventually stopped you.  

I don't think you will hear of many accidents exactly like yours, because people just don't do what you thought you were told to do.  But these knots are used for ascending ropes, and in those cases they have been known to slip.  But when that has happened, I've never heard of the knots grabbing again lower down.

I do hope your hands eventually have a full recovery.

i shore · · London · Joined May 2018 · Points: 0

Apologies, I missed the fact that the leader had  descended  first and, as R Gold says, you may have misunderstood his instructions from down below to remove the machard (not the descendeur) and he could not see what you were doing.
 Guides sometimes arrange their clients plus descendeur on the rope at the rappel anchor, the guide rappels down first, the client then rappels and if they lose control the guide can pull hard on the rope at the bottom to arrest them. This avoids the client setting up the descendeur wrongly and they are made safe by the guide (a machard would just be something extra to go wrong). But in your case the descendeur could not even move down  the rope!
In hindsight it might have been safest for the leader to climb or prusik back up the rope so that he could supervise and then lower you.
I'm not a guide but if I had set up a rappel which ended in a safe position (the ground) I think I might initially either have protected the client using one rope while they rappeled on the other rope (I assume there were two ropes so they could be retrieved), or simply lowered them. 

Andrea 1961 · · Italy · Joined 14 days ago · Points: 5

Andrea is a male name in Italy.I am not a frequent climber (I am a tax professional) but I like a lot to climb and I have studied a lot hystory of climbing in the Alps and in Himalaya. For a strange destiny I have climbed with very expert mountain guides like a Messner partner of 8000 meters' climbings (when he was a young guide in Sella group Dolomiti) and with one  Cortina Scoiattolo (Cortina's association of climbers in Five  Towers -Cinque torri) . I have photo till with date of the year 1986.  I never had accidents in high mountain because I was always under supervision of expert people. However I had a long resting from climbing (for reason of marriage and wife  and son preference of sea holidays). Now that I am an experienced man (59 y.o.) I have newly enthusiasm for climbing and I knew a young sport climber. He is guide of sport climbing but not mountain guide. He is extremely strong in climbing but inexperienced (I know now) for high mountain. People be sure I well understood his suggestion to make free the rope from the descender and not form the  secure knot . More creazy than him I was to trust his suggestion because the responsability is mainly mine and I never did a rappel in that way.
My curiosity is to know if anyone is able to testify to know a story like mine where the narrator is stilla live. I can testify that a 6 mm rope with machard knot has burned but has not broken and so stopped my creazy fall for 30 meter at ten meters from the ground (I do not know if it was kevlar Ithink so but I am not sure).
Thanks to anyone who can add news about my story (anyone who did a fall like mine?)
This is the place of the accident -photo of first 40 meters of spigolo antidorn South Grigna -South Pilastro Magnaghi (near Lecco Italy) route 5b (french class)
my hands are now (5 months later) healed

ebmudder · · Bronx, NY · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 50
Andrea 1961 wrote: My curiosity is to know if anyone is able to testify to know a story like mine where the narrator is stilla live. I can testify that a 6 mm rope with machard knot has burned but has not broken and so stopped my creazy fall for 30 meter at ten meters from the ground (I do not know if it was kevlar Ithink so but I am not sure).
Thanks to anyone who can add news about my story (anyone who did a fall like mine?)

Ciao Andrea: It seems likely that letting go of the rope is what saved your life, as it allowed the machard to tighten and catch your fall. If you had been wearing a belay glove you might well have held onto the hitch, or the rope above the hitch (which would have just pushed the hitch down the rope without allowing it to grab the rope), and you likely would have decked. It is a testament to modern rope and cordage that you didn't just burn through the machard, but as you discovered rope is much stronger than skin!

I suffered a similar rope burn and it's important to keep treating the scars daily with an ointment or cream designed for scar tissue, as you will have discomfort and difficulty fully stretching your hand open once the scar tissue develops.

Buck Rio · · MN · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 0
ebmudder wrote:

I suffered a similar rope burn and it's important to keep treating the scars daily with an ointment or cream designed for scar tissue, as you will have discomfort and difficulty fully stretching your hand open once the scar tissue develops.

I had really good luck from a product that contained stem cells from the foreskins of babies that were circumcised. No joke. It works, my facial scars are barely noticeable now. I started using while the skin was still healing though, and it may be too late for you.


Skin Medica Scar recovery is another product that works well, but slightly irritates the skin.
Carlos Danger · · Boulder, CO · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 0
Andrea 1961 wrote: I excuse me for english but hopefully you have well understood and what you are thinking and depicting is just what happened . My curiosity is about to know if anyone knows of other person who can tell about a creazy fall as mine was (30 meters). I attach  photos of my hands in a first aid now there are little scars in my hands and they are able to do what they did before. Thanks for answers and best. I newly started to climb as I could with gloves before and now without gloves . I can show how hands are turned to be useful again.

Shit son you got fucked up!

ebmudder · · Bronx, NY · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 50
Buck Rio wrote:

I had really good luck from a product that contained stem cells from the foreskins of babies that were circumcised. No joke. It works, my facial scars are barely noticeable now. I started using while the skin was still healing though, and it may be too late for you.


Skin Medica Scar recovery is another product that works well, but slightly irritates the skin.

I was prescribed Celacyn, which I used for 3 months along with various ointments to keep the scars moist, but once the scars have developed the only option seems to be keeping them moist and gently stretching them. There are new treatments for breaking down the collagen and diminishing the scars, but depending on the their location you may never be able to restore full mobility.

Andrea 1961 · · Italy · Joined 14 days ago · Points: 5

Ciao to All you ..at first sight I can seem a deficient .... but please consider I had experience in climbing related to 1986 to 1992 (when I married and made a family- I stopped climbing).At that time I made climbing in Dolomites maximum V degree UIAA (4c french classification). I started again last year and now I am able to climb in sport 5c-6a while in high mountain safely 5b-5c. I made a lot of rappel without machard but in the day of the accident I trusted a young boy (very strong in sport climbing) suggestion and that was my fault due to new enthusiasm. The place is a so beautiful place (Southern Grigna - Southern Pilastro Magnaghi - spigolo Antidorn 5b French class) that I forgot prudence. Now  photos of my hands today.  I had treatment for 3 weeks 1 day on 2 in Hospital for serious burns. My scars have healed via secondary intention , and now I use (4 months after the accident ) cream with allontoin and pressure gloves. Mobility of my hands is near the same (not as the same ) as it was before the accident. As Ebmudder said I too Think that "It seems likely that letting go of the rope is what saved your life, as it allowed the machard to tighten and catch your fall." In a few months  I think I will have opportunity to tell my case to the President of Mountain Guides in Lombardy in order to understand if he  knows about similar cases.  As Ebmudder said what a lucky for high quality of new materials , the ropes were a little burn but they did not break. Thanks to everyone who let me understand about similar cases and thank you for solidariety. Now I am stronger than before but let me say that in the the first rappel after the accident I had some instants of hesitation. Best to All

itation 
   
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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