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an unexplained accident


Grant Kleeves · · Ridgway, CO · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 45
Russ Keane wrote: "tag end snags,"

Between the climber and the anchor?  Or between the belayer and the anchor.   Honestly I am trying here.

the loose (unweighted) end of the 8 on a bight, between 5' long which is admittedly pretty unlikely to get snagged, and 60' long, which is pretty likely to get snagged, gets stuck in a crack or wrapped around a feature to the point it would hold weight, in my experience the end of the rope snags pretty easily in a crack where the factory end is stiffer than the rest of the rope, not hard to get that stuck to a point it will hold body weight, and usually a tiny bounce will pop off the factory tag and let it slip...

Grant Kleeves · · Ridgway, CO · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 45
Señor Arroz wrote:

IMO there's a problem with this explanation: You're lowering someone. The rope is fully weighted. Rope is suddenly unweighted as they stop on a ledge or as rope tail gets snagged in a crack. Rope instantly stops pulling up through belay device without the person's weight pulling down.  So how does 30 feet of slack enter the equation, even if the descent was stopped by something? Watch your belay device next time the person you are lowering touches ground. The rope doesn't just keep going through it, as if by magic.

I LOVE the GriGri, BTW, and think this story would probably be worse if it'd been an ATC. But

think how much slack you have to throw someone who just lowered from the anchor when they touch the ground, from a 100' route you are giving them a solid 10' to get all of their weight on the ground from the second their feet touch, you don't think about it, and that's kinda my point, it slips through the device without you pulling it, you feed one armload but on a long route  quite a bit more ends up through your device, and that is a static load, not the dynamic load that would happen in the case of this accident...think of a TR fall onto a slack rope 25' up a 100' route, with average rope you are going to be uncomfortably close to the ground... I'm not saying errors were not made but in this case I think the main mistake was not realizing the climber was unweighting the rope.

Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Grant Kleeves wrote:

think how much slack you have to throw someone who just lowered from the anchor when they touch the ground, from a 100' route you are giving them a solid 10' to get all of their weight on the ground from the second their feet touch, you don't think about it, and that's kinda my point, it slips through the device without you pulling it, you feed one armload but on a long route  quite a bit more ends up through your device, and that is a static load, not the dynamic load that would happen in the case of this accident...think of a TR fall onto a slack rope 25' up a 100' route, with average rope you are going to be uncomfortably close to the ground... I'm not saying errors were not made but in this case I think the main mistake was not realizing the climber was unweighting the rope.

Hmmmm. My experience differs. When I'm belaying with a GriGri and someone touches down I have to DELIBERATELY give them slack to get a comfortable amount for them to move around. There's no way it would happen accidentally. But I don't think someone accidentally threw slack into a system with a climber 25 feet up, still. I think they lost control of their belay device. It happens with relative frequency. 

Robert Hall · · North Conway, NH · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 16,471

If, as the Thread's Originator stated, the rope was set as a Top Rope, and the climber tied in to it with a fig-8-on-a-bite, then the situation would be as shown in the photo. ["Set as a TR" implies to me that both ends are down on the ground; this is where I get the speculation that the climb is probably less than 100 ft if a 80m rope (262 ft) was used. If the tail end of the rope had been pulled UP to the climber before he/she tied in, then why use a Fig-8-on-a-bite + locking biner, why not just a fig-8-tie in?  ]

(double click to enlarge)

I (and I think Russ, too) don't see where a tail would be "caught" (only, perhaps a loop of that tail).

Also, it isn't clear from the original post whether the climber got to the ledge by climbing up climb#1, or hiking around to the ledge. But, it really doesn't make any difference to the fall.
Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

It dawned on my while thinking about this that some belayers lowering a climber with a GriGri often modulate the speed of lower by opening and closing the lever partially. I can see how someone lowering at 2/3 open Grigri might instinctively open it up MORE when their climber suddenly stops lowering (as in if a rope got snagged). And then, when it unsnagged, the device is wide open and prone to the rope suddenly yanking through.

I also had a situation recently where I was lowering with a Grigri and an odd loop from twist in the rope momentarily popped the rope free of my brake hand. My climber accelerated and, by pure reflex, my brake hand caught the rope again  before it could get going fast. But that could have ended badly. 

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,510
Señor Arroz wrote: It dawned on my while thinking about this that some belayers lowering a climber with a GriGri often modulate the speed of lower by opening and closing the lever partially. I can see how someone lowering at 2/3 open Grigri might instinctively open it up MORE when their climber suddenly stops lowering (as in if a rope got snagged). And then, when it unsnagged, the device is wide open and prone to the rope suddenly yanking through.

I also had a situation recently where I was lowering with a Grigri and an odd loop from twist in the rope momentarily popped the rope free of my brake hand. My climber accelerated and, by pure reflex, my brake hand caught the rope again  before it could get going fast. But that could have ended badly. 

I think you people need to start listening to me regarding the flaws of the Gri or you might be subject of the next "unexplained" accident.

Jon Hillis · · Valley of Sun · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 0
Señor Arroz wrote: It dawned on my while thinking about this that some belayers lowering a climber with a GriGri often modulate the speed of lower by opening and closing the lever partially. I can see how someone lowering at 2/3 open Grigri might instinctively open it up MORE when their climber suddenly stops lowering (as in if a rope got snagged). And then, when it unsnagged, the device is wide open and prone to the rope suddenly yanking through.

I also had a situation recently where I was lowering with a Grigri and an odd loop from twist in the rope momentarily popped the rope free of my brake hand. My climber accelerated and, by pure reflex, my brake hand caught the rope again  before it could get going fast. But that could have ended badly. 

It's no wonder I hate it when ppl use gri gri's to belay me. I read these stupid stories all the time. I'll stick to ATC belay, people don't seem to screw that up as often.

Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Jon Hillis wrote:

It's no wonder I hate it when ppl use gri gri's to belay me. I read these stupid stories all the time. I'll stick to ATC belay, people don't seem to screw that up as often.

I hate it when unreliable or careless people belay me. I don't care at all what device reliable and careful people use. Operator error can strike with anything. 

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,510
Señor Arroz wrote:

I hate it when unreliable or careless people belay me. I don't care at all what device reliable and careful people use. Operator error can strike with anything. 

Yes, and it strikes most often with the Gri. It was so bad that Petzl added a "panic" feature to the last Gri update!

Jon Hillis · · Valley of Sun · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 0
Señor Arroz wrote:

I hate it when unreliable or careless people belay me. I don't care at all what device reliable and careful people use. Operator error can strike with anything. 

So you are un reliable and careless? Good to know.

Marc H · · Longmont, CO · Joined May 2007 · Points: 255
Suburban Roadside wrote:
 .
 IS ANYONE MISSING THAT a LONG ROPE WAS IN USE ?
 The end of this rope was not on the ground, it was dangling, unsecured

(THIS ALLOWED FOR)  A VERY LONG "TRAILING-END" OF THE ROPE TO MAKE A TRIANGLE
RUNNING FROM STUCK SPOT ABOVE, BACK DOWN TO CLIMBER, AT THE POINT WHERE THIS TOOK WEIGHT, IT CAME LOOSE

THIS ROPE WAS RUNNING UP THROUGH GEAR, ON AN ADJACENT ROUTE, TO A GUNKS ANCHOR (AS MANY AS 3 ROUTES SHARE)

THEN THE 8 ON A BITE LOOP WAS TIED, A 'BIENER USED TO CLIP INTO THE BELAY LOOP OF THE LOWERING CLIMBER.

UN-LIKE A STRAIGHT UP & DOWN SLING-SHOT SYSTEM,WHERE THE WEIGHT OF THE CLIMBER IS A CONSTANT ON THE DEVICE & BELAYER...

 IN THIS CASE, THE ABILITY TO FEEL A LIGHT-WEIGHT CLIMBER WILL BE DRASTICALLY REDUCED

depending on the severity, A broken heel, (Calcaneus,w/ ankle compromise )is extremely painful &  can be a life-changing injury. 

Likewise getting dropped can cause  re-occurring trust/panic issues & PTSD .

Sssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Robert Hall · · North Conway, NH · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 16,471

Neils (original poster) e-mailed me that he wanted to post more info but had reached his "posting limit".

There may be more info coming on this.

Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Jon Hillis wrote:

So you are un reliable and careless? Good to know.

Who did I drop?

Robert Hall · · North Conway, NH · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 16,471

The following message is from Neils:  (I've taken the liberty to bold some points, and added some clarification in brackets "[ ] "R Hall)

"MP tells me I cannot post to this thread now - type limit - I think I don't have enough points or something so...here goes:
first off - your drawing is correct.  she and i were on a climb to the left i led and she followed when we got to the top we were going to rap on my rope.  the TR on the climb to the right was already there.  I started pulling up the non gear side of the rope for the tie in and prior to getting to the end one of my party said  - no need to pull it all up - just put her on a bight there.  so a fig 8 on a bight was tied and she was locked in there  -the long tail was whatever I had pulled up to that point - I am speculating 30 ft - I really don't know exactly.

 I spoke to the belayer today.  About 25 ft from the ground she [the climber] stopped at a ledge and the rope was unweighted at least to a degree.  She had noticed there was rope in a crack - it may have been the tail - I am not sure - it may or may not have been stuck.  I believe that is when after re-weighting the rope the fall took place.  I saw the rope run from above - I don't know how much rope really ran - it was sort of in slow motion as others have said it is in situations like this.  The belayer advised me tension DID come on the rope - she did come tight to a point so stretch was definitely a big part of this - it was not a free fall deck as I originally thought it was and what it looked like.  I think that also accounts for her less than what could have happened injuries.  I know a broken talus or calcanius is serious as well as PTSD - but from what could have been and what it looked like...it is much less severe.
 
It seems the long tail while very sloppy may, or may not be a red herring here.  It may be what she saw in a crack and distracted her but it may not have been stuck - I don't know.  It is possible she stopped at the ledge, unweighted the rope, and that is when the slack happened, somehow.  Even if it was 8 or 10 ft of slack I'd speculate on such a long rope falling free 10 ft then the rope catching you the stretch is going to be quite a bit and she hit.

as others have said in situations like this more details come to light over some time and that seems to be case here.  So what does the collective mind make of this now, knowing the rope DID come tight?  I suspect the rope saved her skinny butt or greatly reduced her injuries.  Also I am speculating on the 25 ft...it may have been 20...it may have been 30  - I am really not sure.  But the climb is definitely 100 ft tall.  A 60 m rope hangs from the anchor completely even to the ground."

[ also...the rope was definitely 80m (at least 262 ft) ]

Patrick C · · San Jose, CA · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 5

This was an interesting read, all the way thru. For every theory presented, someone shot it down in a later post. Gri-Gris, the tail getting stuck, inattentive belayer, rope lengths, anchor failure, the rope slipping over a horn or from around a flake, rope stretch, were all covered. And none of them is conclusive. Hmm.
An early post on rope stretch talked about 25-30' of it. Some ropes stretch 30%. If you have 100' going up from the belayer and 75' coming back down, that'll provide rope stretch of 30% of 175', which is a potential of 52.5'. The part on the ground on the other side of the belay device isn't in the equation.
Another post asked how the climber can be lowered (obviously under tension), then magically drop 20'. The belayer can't push rope up the rock, regardless of the belay device used. All the belayer can do is push 25' thru and let it coil around his/her feet waiting for the climber to step off the ledge and consume it in one fall.
Unless someone has a better theory, or adds another data point that fits the puzzle, I suggest a rodent, hiding in the cracks in the rocks, was messing with the rope. This rodent fooled both the belayer and the climber. (I know this is a serious conversation, someone could have really been hurt. But after 5 pages it's not at a conclusion, so I'm tossing in some humor.)

Suburban Roadside · · Abovetraffic on Hudson · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 2,089

All this speculation is a stupid way to determine the cause(s) To get to the bottom of what happened we need to know What, Where, When, Who, How

(1) What 2 climbs?  Birdland?(Bolted Anchors, but no ledge to stop on) Alphonse?(no bolted anchors, but a big ledge to stop on)

(2)Where did the extra rope go( dangling below? in a crack till above?, stuck?)

(3)When, At the end of the day when it gets to be a social hour at the base of the Near Trapps

(4)Who inserted themselves - took it upon themselves to recommend anything, to a 2-person climbing unit? why did that team take the advice without question?

(5) How does the Gri-Gri user's "mode of use" come into play? using lever&thumb or just lowering lever? a combination of "Gravity feed & feeding out slack or just allowing weight to pull rope thru?

neils · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 30
Suburban Roadside wrote: All this speculation is a stupid way to determine the cause(s) To get to the bottom of what happened we need to know What, Where, When, Who, How

(1) What 2 climbs?  Birdland?(Bolted Anchors, but no ledge to stop on) Alphonse?(no bolted anchors, but a big ledge to stop on)

(2)Where did the extra rope go( dangling below? in a crack till above?, stuck?)

(3)When, At the end of the day when it gets to be a social hour at the base of the Near Trapps

(4)Who inserted themselves - took it upon themselves to recommend anything, to a 2-person climbing unit? why did that team take the advice without question?

(5) How does the Gri-Gri user's "mode of use" come into play? using lever&thumb or just lowering lever? a combination of "Gravity feed & feeding out slack or just allowing weight to pull rope thru?

Loose goose and up yours. I led loose goose and my partner followed and cleaned.  My friend led up yours and set the TR.  The non gear side of the Up Yours TR was what the lower was on.  Large shared tree on a good ledge.  The extra rope, meaning the tail off he bight was just hanging down.  After the lower ensued I have no idea.  Towards the end of the day but we were the only group of 4 around at the time.  The insertion was the other half of our party - we were a group of 4 climbing in various style through the day - 2 multipitch teams of 2, top rope, etc.  I took advice from the team on the ground without question...because I felt they had more experience and it's just what I did.  I consider that my biggest mistake in this situation.  I can't answer the last question.

Bill Lawry · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,672

Neils,

Your report is a good one. Thank you.

JSH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 1,028

Up Yours wanders quite a bit at the start. Did an early piece pull, that perhaps you were not aware of, and introduce slack that way?

Suburban Roadside · · Abovetraffic on Hudson · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 2,089

OK, you are all to quick for me, It has been more than 10 yrs, since I traveled by that zone
 but the area is described in T Swains The Gunks Guide(3rd Ed. 1995) & 2 old Williams Guide books.(Black Cover 3rd ed. 1991)&(Gunks Select 1st Ed. 1996)
These descriptions add needed information.
I don't think anything walked or pulled....
More likely that Rope build up on less than vertical terrain & stretch/releasing over bulges was partially to blame, cause/at fault 
 

 The section of the Nears is more secluded, not prone to end of the day socializing... 
The actual terrain is described; Straight up to a slab past a bulge to a 'short Open book by a prominent crack"
 near the broken left facing corner system of "Up Yours".
So This then gives some clearer understanding of the likelihood that the extra tail built up in the crack & at the top of the slab.
  & a slab and ledges that, in the climbing description, one " zig-zags" up, but would descend directly over when lowering.

It has been torn apart, the blame shared liberally & spread around (& it may seem to some, that concern for the injured marginalized)
but that was to highlight, & to get to the important issue of the cause(s) which sound harsh, I apologize in advance:

 hubris / over-confidence / complacency

all  clearly understandable,  Regarding Taking the well-intentioned advice of someone who you felt was more experienced,

Applying a "short-cut" that seemed safe, but that created the dangerous dangling trailing end that combined with the long rope,                                                                                                        lowering over  varied & mixed terrain,"passing" a "broken" open book & prominent Crack,  returning to vertical passing a "bulge to  less than vertical(slab)
 all that were lowered over,
Were the  physical causes. Those interactions, together with a belay that did not provide a tight rope, led to near disaster.

I really think it is commendable that your willing to debrief in this way

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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