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Staying alive: Part 1
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Mar 4, 2016
Although there are other articles that cover much of the same stuff, I tried to write this with more examples, evidence and links to videos etc. than others had used. If you work in outdoor education, and you think it useful, feel free forward it to students and others.

coldmountainkit.com/knowledge/...

All the best.
David Coley
From UK
Joined Oct 26, 2013
70 points
Mar 4, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Enjoying the exposure on pitch 5.
This is great stuff. Can't wait to see what else you got! Adam Fleming
From Boulder, CO
Joined Jun 22, 2015
309 points
Mar 4, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogsti...
Well done. rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Joined Feb 15, 2008
544 points
Mar 4, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Mush! Don't you understand North Pole talk? Mush!
Started reading while on my lunch break. Bookmarked to finish later. Very nicely done! Rich Murray
From Durham, NC
Joined Oct 23, 2014
90 points
Mar 4, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: guide book
Keep em coming thebmags
Joined Jun 5, 2013
156 points
Administrator
Mar 4, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Artist Tears P3
Good stuff. Well put together. Thanks. John McNamee
From Littleton, CO
Joined Jul 29, 2002
1,929 points
Mar 4, 2016
Agreed. Good stuff to read, think about, and form your own opinions and practices.

At the same time, I do not think it has the high moral ground that is sometimes implied in some cases. Many experienced climbers feel that when it comes to choosing between practices, it depends on the circumstances.
Bill Lawry
From New Mexico
Joined Apr 16, 2006
1,718 points
Mar 4, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: 1
David Coley wrote:
Although there are other articles that cover much of the same stuff, I tried to write this with more examples, evidence and links to videos etc. than others had used. If you work in outdoor education, and you think it useful, feel free forward it to students and others. coldmountainkit.com/knowledge/... All the best.



I'm always so inspired by your stuff or maybe intimidated, great treatment I really need to check the blogs I've book marked three of four times .....
Michael Schneider
Joined Apr 24, 2014
489 points
Mar 4, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: My buddy Andy and I making the best of the day aft...
This is a great resource and production quality is stellar. Thank you! Jeremy Bauman
From Lakewood, CO
Joined Feb 11, 2009
746 points
Administrator
Mar 4, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Psyched to be on the ice.
All of these are worth repeating. Excellent job weaving in the anecdotes. Maybe consider cross-posting to the beginner forum as well. Dan Flynn
From MA
Joined May 5, 2009
4,710 points
Administrator
Mar 5, 2016
Fantastic quality! 20 kN
From Hawaii
Joined Feb 2, 2009
1,219 points
Mar 5, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Seneca mist
Nicely done!
Thx for sharing.
McHull
From SCPA
Joined Aug 29, 2012
245 points
Mar 6, 2016
Hi,
Thanks for the positive response everyone. As the article has a serious purpose if you do have any routes (FaceBook etc.) through which to share its existence I'd be very grateful. I did post a link to it on supertopo, but the response was a little less kind (which is normal for that forum I guess).

Thank you.
David Coley
From UK
Joined Oct 26, 2013
70 points
Mar 6, 2016
Its pretty good and way better than constantly being bombarded with unsolicited advice by narcissistic know-it-alls on the forums. T Roper
From DC,VA,NM,UT,CT,MA
Joined Mar 31, 2006
1,053 points
Mar 6, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogsti...
I said "well done" in meant it, but I do feel that certain procedures are "oversold," and doing so actually blunts the point rather than making it sharper.

The third hand material is a case in point. The assertion, "a common cause of climbing fatalities is the lack of a backup while abseiling." Common cause? This seems to me to be questionable. First of all, most climbing fatalities are caused by falls, not by rappelling (see the ANAM graphic posted by Ten Pinson at mountainproject.com/v/very-int... .) Second of all---and perhaps we'll get chapter and verse from Bearbreeder's fantastic library of references---I don't know of any fatalities attributable to the lack of a rappel backup, although I do know of a fatality directly attributable to the presence of such a backup. Most of the rappel fatalities I've heard of involve going off the end of the rope while still under control, and it is well-understood that what is needed is a knot at the ends of the rap lines and that a third hand will not save you in this situation.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying the third hand material shouldn't be there, and I have no interest in restarting for the umpteenth time the debates on the value of such a backup, which David rightly points out isn't a backup at all unless it is properly executed and tested. I'm just saying that a write-up is less rather than more effective when it overstates the case.
rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Joined Feb 15, 2008
544 points
Mar 6, 2016
rgold wrote:
I said "well done" in meant it, but I do feel that certain procedures are "oversold," and doing so actually blunts the point rather than making it sharper. The third hand material is a case in point. The assertion, "a common cause of climbing fatalities is the lack of a backup while abseiling." Common cause? This seems to me to be questionable. First of all, most climbing fatalities are caused by falls, not by rappelling (see the ANAM graphic posted by Ten Pinson at mountainproject.com/v/very-int... .) Second of all---and perhaps we'll get chapter and verse from Bearbreeder's fantastic library of references---I don't know of any fatalities attributable to the lack of a rappel backup, although I do know of a fatality directly attributable to the presence of such a backup. Most of the rappel fatalities I've heard of involve going off the end of the rope while still under control, and it is well-understood that what is needed is a knot at the ends of the rap lines and that a third hand will not save you in this situation. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying the third hand material shouldn't be there, and I have no interest in restarting for the umpteenth time the debates on the value of such a backup, which David rightly points out isn't a backup at all unless it is properly executed and tested. I'm just saying that a write-up is less rather than more effective when it overstates the case.


Despite an exausting but successfull summit of Sir Donald via the classic NW ridge this day would prove to be one of the most difficult and sad days of Paulo's and my life. We even talked about mabye not even doing a TR at all but if the lessons told save 1 life it is worth it. Paulo and I saw a woman rap down a rope which did not reach the ground. We pointed it out thinking all right she will stop and we will somehow get out there and pull her in. Well running a normal ATC on a twin rope gave little friction and it became apparent she could not hold on. I was roped up for a rap on a pair of bolted rings about 15 feet away and with Paulo's help pendulumed out to get her to tie a knot in the rope below here. By the time I leg wrapped the rope to give myself the friction I needed to free my hands and tie the knot she was gone. I won't talk about what we saw after but know it's a moment in our lives that will forever be etched into our memeories. I greive for her family and feel so much guilt that we could not reach her in time.

forums.clubtread.com/27-britis...

theres plenty of others where a backup would have helped, even if it wasnt the sole factor in the accident

im just too lazy to dig up the reports right now
bearbreeder
Joined Mar 1, 2009
3,068 points
Mar 6, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogsti...
That's a really sad tragedy and a traumatic experience for her would-be rescuers. The poor woman had gotten so many things wrong, and there were so many ways she could have saved herself, that you can't really point to any one aspect as a cause of the accident. The accident fits in with episodes you suggest in which the backup might have helped but whose absence isn't exactly the cause of the fatality either.

Once again, I am not arguing against backups, just the idea that their absence is a common cause of climbing fatalities, or even of rappelling fatalities.
rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Joined Feb 15, 2008
544 points
Mar 6, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogsti...
Here's one of those accidents in which a backup would have saved a life, although various other appropriate strategies would also have worked.

J.O. joined him. J.O. started her rappel but, due to a rock flake above her, had difficulty in penduluming over to N.W. at the last anchor.

As she tried to swing over, she gradually slipped lower than the station and became tired and frustrated. She saw a ledge just above her, and released the control rope with her braking hand to pull herself up the main rope to the ledge. As she did so, her weight was transferred from her rappel device to her arms, and then she was hanging on the rope with her hands. J.O. panicked and froze on the rope. N.W. called to her to move her braking hand back to the control rope, but she did not respond. Finally, as she tired, she attempted to grab the control rope but missed, lost her grip, and slid off the end of the rappel rope, falling about ten vertical meters to a steep scree and boulder slope, where she tumbled another 50 to 100 meters.


From publications.americanalpineclu...

Here's another accident to a rank beginner. Unlike most of the other accidents I've heard about, something actually caused her to let go.

A West Jordan woman died after falling 120 feet while rappelling near Zion National Park.

Shelby Collette Christensen, 19, was hiking and rappelling with a group of five about 9:30 a.m. in Birch Hollow. Three others in the group had finished the rappel and were waiting at the bottom as Christensen began her descent over the ledge.

She apparently got her hand trapped between the rope and the rock ledge and let go, Kane County sheriff's deputies wrote in a news statement.

She fell 120 feet to the canyon floor, deputies wrote.


From archive.sltrib.com/story.php?r... .
rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Joined Feb 15, 2008
544 points
Mar 6, 2016
All good points rgold; I might have oversold that one, but there have been some accidents and near misses. In my defence I would say that the third hand is a backup, therefore the lack of it is not likely to be the cause of the accident, but rather if it had been there it might have made a difference.

Examples:

climbers loosing control and going off the end; rather than just rapping slowly off the end; or losing control and hitting the deck -


and


and caves.org/section/vertical/nh/...

Me stepping off having forgotten to clip the rap device to my belay loop - my third hand saved my life

The one I pointed to of the death on El Cap when the climber also possibly "forgot" the rap device.

The series of accidents reported here: theuiaa.org/upload_area/files/...
would not have happen if third hands had been used.

This accident where the rope came off the rap locker: outdoorjournal.in/news-2/climb...

This might have been solved if a third hand had been in place at the start rather than trying to tie one once near the end of the rope: friendsofyosar.org/rescues/mis...

A third hand would have stopped this: bogley.com/forum/showthread.ph...

The first of the two accidents reported here: theconspiracytimes.blogspot.co...

Todd Skinner's death I assume would not have occurred if a leg loop third hand had been in place.

I'm sure there are others. By the way, I just created this list from google by searching for "rapping accident" - i.e. not mentioning third hand. I think that although not tying knots in the end is a more common problem, as is anchor failure, the failure to use a third hand is a reasonably common contributory issue.

All the best.
David Coley
From UK
Joined Oct 26, 2013
70 points
Mar 6, 2016
Old lady H wrote:
My thinking has been that the backup is also my very last chance at not dying if I've loaded the ATC incorrectly (not clipped both ropes, or something) and somehow also fooled myself into thinking I was good to go. Yes? No?


Yes.
FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Joined Nov 19, 2009
284 points
Mar 6, 2016
no ...

the best way to guard against misthreading the device or rope is to aggressively test the setup BEFORE taking off he safety

theres absolutely no guarantee you tied the backup correctly as one of the vids on mistah cooleys page shows

thats really all here is to it

;)
bearbreeder
Joined Mar 1, 2009
3,068 points
Mar 6, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogsti...
For whatever it is worth, my protocol is

Test integrity of rappel set-up (and backup) while still tethered to rap anchor. This eliminates the possibility of threading and clipping errors, as well as what seems to me from observations to be autoblocks too loose to actually work.

Knots in the ropes if there is any chance of going off the ends.

Rap backup for first person down, fireman's belay for everyone else.
rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Joined Feb 15, 2008
544 points
Mar 6, 2016
Old lady H wrote:
I confess, I don't think I would particularly trust a fireman's belay, when I can so quickly and easily be sure I'm backed up, and can control my rappel myself.


You wouldn't trust a fireman's belay but you'd trust your partner to give you a regular belay? Does not compute.
FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Joined Nov 19, 2009
284 points
Mar 6, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogsti...
My reason for the fireman's belay has to do with the consequences for the party in having an unconscious climber hanging far up the rappel held by their third-hand backup. rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Joined Feb 15, 2008
544 points
Mar 6, 2016
Old lady H wrote:
And, if you get slack into a fireman's belay, you can end up on a zip line.


Just like when you're climbing, and you fall, and your belayer doesn't apply the brake? Yes, the same thing can happen on a fireman's belay. If you're concerned about your partner dropping you, dissolve the partnership!
FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Joined Nov 19, 2009
284 points
Mar 6, 2016
Old lady H wrote:
You're comfortable lowering dead weight with just a fireman's belay?? How does that work? I'm asking because it's you, and I am 800% confident you know how to do this. I have 0% confidence that I could, but I would be tying off and going for plan b pretty quick!


This is an advantage of the fireman's belay over the third-hand type of back-up - the belayer can control the rate of descent from the ground, including stopping the rappeller completely - that's the whole point. Try it sometime - next time you are giving your partner a fireman's from the ground, wait until they are close to you for easy communication, and just apply the brake, bring them to a stop, and then lower them the last few feet to the ground. It's good for us to know how our systems work beyond the theoretical.

Old lady H wrote:
The backup also lets me control my rate of descent, and without rope sliding through hands (yes, I use gloves). I can also stop, if I wish (leg wraps are extremely uncomfortable for me). And, if you get slack into a fireman's belay, you can end up on a zip line.


This is an advantage of the third-hand type back-up over the fireman's belay - the rappeller has control over stopping and starting even when communication between partners would be difficult. However, generally, only the first person down the rappel is likely to have reasons to stop and start - such as dealing with rope tangles, searching for the next rappel station, or building an anchor.

I'm not sure what you mean by ending up on a zip line, if you mean that if you fail to maintain your brake hand on rappel, AND your partner below fails to maintain the fireman's belay, then you will fall to the ground... then you are correct. If both partners fail to apply the brake at the same time, you will fall. But in my opinion, that's not a reason to avoid the fireman's belay, that's a reason to reevaluate both yours and your partner's skills.

FrankPS wrote:
Just like when you're climbing, and you fall, and your belayer doesn't apply the brake? Yes, the same thing can happen on a fireman's belay. If you're concerned about your partner dropping you, dissolve the partnership!


Agreed!
Em Cos
From Boulder, CO
Joined Apr 21, 2010
11 points


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