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Turkey Rocks, CO: Belay error causes near-death accident
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By Dusty
From Fort Collins
Oct 10, 2011
just teasin' the sharks...

What makes you think the keeper wire held body weight? It sounds to me like it never had to...


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By J1.
From Boulder, Colorado
Oct 10, 2011
Towliee

Sweet WTF who in the hell would connect their ATC Guide to the anchor with a quick draw???????

+1
Seems like the belayer needs a little more practice in using an ATC in guide mode..
Simple visual inspection of the set up should have raised some red flags..
+ if you are truly proficient in the use of an ATC guide ( and understand its function) you would never set it up in the manner described..
A bad mistake that thankfully didnt cost anyone there lives..
Heal up bud!


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By Marc H
From Lafayette, CO
Oct 10, 2011
The Cathedral Spires in RMNP, left to right: Stiletto, Sharkstooth, Forbidden Tower, Petit Grepon, The Saber, The Foil, The Moon & The Jackknife.

It blows my mind that anyone would put any responsibility for this accident on Climber C. It was 100% the fault of Climber A. If you know how to use your belay device properly, it is not at all difficult or dangerous to belay a second and third simultaneously. Climber C has no responsibility to tell his belayer that he intends to hang on the rope. The purpose of a belay is to arrest a climber's fall--regardless of the circumstances of said fall.

Last fall I was climbing a sport route in CCC. My belayer couldn't see me. I clipped a bolt, tried to make a move and then fell. My belayer started to catch my fall, but then thought that I was trying to make a clip, so he fed out a bunch of slack. At this point I was leaning back on the rope, so I flipped upside down and whizzed by a pillar head first; it nearly brained me. I bumped back up the rope ~25 ft (the last bolt was at my knees when I fell) and traded out the 'draw for a leaver 'biner and lowered off cuz I had suddenly lost all confidence in my belayer. When I got down, he told me that I was partially at fault for not telling him that I was cruxing and I might fall. I called bullshit; the purpose of a belay is to stop a climber's fall. Period.


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By Johny Q
Oct 10, 2011
My profile

Who is the third climber? By protecting his name you are allowing for the possibility that he will drop someone again. Noobs multi pitch leading in a party of three? What a crap shoot, I can't think of a more dangerous or uncomfortable situation.

Does this finally prove that ATC's are safer than Gri-Gri's???


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By wankel7
From Indiana
Oct 10, 2011

Johny Q wrote:
Does this finally prove that ATC's are safer than Gri-Gri's???



Ok, before I take the bait...is that sarcasm?


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By Scott Krankkala
Oct 10, 2011
Climbing Trail Creek

To give the belayer some benefit of the doubt my assumption is that the device was rigged in this manner as she found it was easier to take up slack (I mean all that friction makes things sooooo hard). The problem is that while she likely may know a little bit about how the device works, but has no idea about how dangerous the orientation she rigged was. Unless she was counting on the wire loop breaking when the ropes were tensioned, this is a very dangerous shortcut.


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By JSH
Administrator
Oct 10, 2011
JSH @ home <br /> <br />photo courtesy of Gabe Ostriker

JLP wrote:
Perhaps A would have known C was climbing, for starters. Did you read the OP?


Uh, yes, especially the parts where the belayer called "you're on" and the frequent pulls of tension that meant A was checking whether C was climbing. And that simul-following was the plan. Why would C expect not to be on?

It's A's job to catch ANY falls of a climber on belay, regardless of position, warning or action.

The keeper cord kept the inverted device in the pulley (release) position throughout the fall; if it had blown, the device would have rotated down to an autoblock configuration and stopped the fall.


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By Jake Jones
From The Eastern Flatlands
Oct 10, 2011
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

Dusty wrote:
What makes you think the keeper wire held body weight? It sounds to me like it never had to...


The keeper wire had to have held body weight in order for the ATC Guide to stay in the inverted position which prevented the blocking action of rope on rope. Had the keeper wire broken, gravity and the Climber C's weight would have immediately yanked the device into the position it should have been in the first place; suspended only by the large biner ring at the rear/top of the device. If this had occurred, the device would have blocked via rope on rope friction as it is intended to.


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By JLP
From The Internet
Oct 10, 2011

Scott Krankkala wrote:
To give the belayer some benefit of the doubt my assumption is that the device was rigged in this manner as she found it was easier to take up slack (I mean all that friction makes things sooooo hard). The problem is that while she likely may know a little bit about how the device works, but has no idea about how dangerous the orientation she rigged was. Unless she was counting on the wire loop breaking when the ropes were tensioned, this is a very dangerous shortcut.

I, too, think it's safe to assume A was reasonably competent and didn't intend to drop C.

The fact that C seems to value vindication more than his relationship/partnership with A, as shown by throwing her under the bus here at MP.com, says more to me than technical details about how the device was rigged.


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By Copperhead
Oct 10, 2011

JLP wrote:
I, too, think it's safe to assume A was reasonably competent and didn't intend to drop C. The fact that C seems to value vindication more than his relationship/partnership with A, as shown by throwing her under the bus here at MP.com, says more to me than technical details about how the device was rigged.


Like, how could he possible be mad at A after she dropped him, injuring him badly?


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By Jake Jones
From The Eastern Flatlands
Oct 10, 2011
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

Marc H wrote:
It blows my mind that anyone would put any responsibility for this accident on Climber C. It was 100% the fault of Climber A. If you know how to use your belay device properly, it is not at all difficult or dangerous to belay a second and third simultaneously. Climber C has no responsibility to tell his belayer that he intends to hang on the rope. The purpose of a belay is to arrest a climber's fall--regardless of the circumstances of said fall. Last fall I was climbing a sport route in CCC. My belayer couldn't see me. I clipped a bolt, tried to make a move and then fell. My belayer started to catch my fall, but then thought that I was trying to make a clip, so he fed out a bunch of slack. At this point I was leaning back on the rope, so I flipped upside down and whizzed by a pillar head first; it nearly brained me. I bumped back up the rope ~25 ft (the last bolt was at my knees when I fell) and traded out the 'draw for a leaver 'biner and lowered off cuz I had suddenly lost all confidence in my belayer. When I got down, he told me that I was partially at fault for not telling him that I was cruxing and I might fall. I called bullshit; the purpose of a belay is to stop a climber's fall. Period.


I agree. However (now it sounds like a precursor to not agreeing), I don't know about you, but before I put my life in someone's hands, I'm going to make damn sure they know what they're doing. If I've never climbed with someone before, or if someone's never belayed me and they can't answer a few of my questions, then I'm not entrusting my life to them. Sure, it might seem like a ridiculous suggestion to ask someone to set up a mock rig at the bottom of a route; until you consider this very scenario. I'm not just blowing wind out of my ass either. I've asked someone how they would give a soft catch, I've also asked them to pay and take rope (simulating a missed clip) in rapid succession. I threw three pieces of pro, a cordelette, an ATC guide, and two locking biners at my wife and told her to build me an anchor and rig a top belay whilst standing at the bottom of a route. If you're not willing to have that awkward moment (we all know it, when you're climbing with someone new and you're testing them to ensure they're safe and you're not sure if they're going to think you're a know-it-all dick, and they're not sure if you are or not, or just trying to be safe) then you must at least be willing to share part of the blame when the person drops you. Yes, absolutely, 100% no doubt it is the belayer's responsibility no matter what to keep the climber from decking. It is the climber's responsibility to make sure that the belayer is capable of that before they ever touch rock.


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By Rocky_Mtn_High
From Arvada, CO
Oct 10, 2011
Lamb's Slide

JLP wrote:
I, too, think it's safe to assume A was reasonably competent and didn't intend to drop C. The fact that C seems to value vindication more than his relationship/partnership with A, as shown by throwing her under the bus here at MP.com, says more to me than technical details about how the device was rigged.


JLP, of course A did not intend to drop C, but she made a near-fatal error in rigging the ATC Guide for auto-block mode off an anchor. That is simply not "reasonably competent". I, for one, don't want to follow a leader who is reasonably competent; I want her to be 100% competent.

And I don't think the OP was throwing A under a bus; if he were, he would have named names. Instead, he shared a harrowing experience from which we all can learn. In fact, the technical details are important, and if they are not well-understood, they can lead to serious accidents such as this.


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By kBobby
From Spokane, WA
Oct 10, 2011

muttonface wrote:
The keeper wire had to have held body weight in order for the ATC Guide to stay in the inverted position which prevented the blocking action of rope on rope. Had the keeper wire broken, gravity and the Climber C's weight would have immediately yanked the device into the position it should have been in the first place; suspended only by the large biner ring at the rear/top of the device. If this had occurred, the device would have blocked via rope on rope friction as it is intended to.


Sorry, muttonface, but you clearly do not understand the basic physics here. If the climber (C) fell, then his weight was not being supported by anything.

Of course there will be some friction in the system from the rope sliding through the device, so I'm sure the climber did not fall at 1g. Probably--and this is only an estimate--more like 0.9g. Which means that the wire would have held 10% of body weight. 20lb.?

Anyway, I agree with JohnL. I am happy to hear that everyone is still alive, and that lessons have hopefully been learned from this sad experience.


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By Jake Jones
From The Eastern Flatlands
Oct 10, 2011
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

JLP wrote:
I, too, think it's safe to assume A was reasonably competent and didn't intend to drop C. The fact that C seems to value vindication more than his relationship/partnership with A, as shown by throwing her under the bus here at MP.com, says more to me than technical details about how the device was rigged.


I don't think it's safe at all to assume A was reasonably competent. In fact, C did that very thing... assuming A was competent; and he decked. I also don't think that C is seeking vindication: vindication for what? Being dropped? If C was seeking vindication for anything it should be for not making sure his belayer knew what she was doing. Kinda falls in the checking knots, doubled back buckles, rope and gear category. C threw A under the bus? I don't think that's accurate either. Nobody climb with the mysterious "Climber A" whoever that may be. Those little minor technical details like rigging an ATC Guide for auto blocking mode in a top belay station are fairly important. I'd rather have someone think I'm a dick than put myself through a horrible injury and have someone feel guilt that might last the rest of their days.


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By Jake Jones
From The Eastern Flatlands
Oct 10, 2011
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

The Bobby wrote:
Sorry, muttonface, but you clearly do not understand the basic physics here. If the climber (C) fell, then his weight was not being supported by anything. Of course there will be some friction in the system from the rope sliding through the device, so I'm sure the climber did not fall at 1g. Probably--and this is only an estimate--more like 0.9g. Which means that the wire would have held 10% of body weight. 20lb.? Anyway, I agree with JohnL. I am happy to hear that everyone is still alive, and that lessons have hopefully been learned from this sad experience.


Maybe I'm mistaken, but the way I read it, it sounded like there was a little slack in the system on climber C's rope. When C chose to let go and hang on the rope, instead of being blocked (had the device been rigged properly), he fell. Picture top-roping someone from the bottom of a route, leaving some slack in the system, and then holding the rope not in the opposite direction (the brake position) but parallel to the climber's side (as if you were about to pull slack through the device. Now, the climber lets go of the wall and falls. Holding the rope in that position, you're not going to be able to hold that fall. That is precisely what happened in this case; except from the top, not the bottom. Now, had the wire NOT held under the weight of the climber, the device would have rotated (after the wire broke) and it would have reacted like it should have had it been rigged properly. I don't know how I'm wrong, and I usually don't split hairs over mundane details but you just came off as pompous and I felt the urge to reply. You're right. Muttonface don't know physics. But Muttonface know rigging. Muttonface know rigging very well.


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By Jake Jones
From The Eastern Flatlands
Oct 10, 2011
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

David Sahalie wrote:


Hahaha. Man, someone in the other thread posted a link to this one; hence the reason I got involved in these shenanigans in the first place.


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By Rick Blair
From Denver
Oct 10, 2011
This is a novel auto blocking belay device.  I think it works quite well, depending on rope thickness and sheath quality, it belays very smooth.  Great to lower with.  You gotta love over engineering.  $3 at a gear swap!

rob rebel wrote:
Pull test!!!!! Whenever I set up my guide in autolock mode I do a pull test to confirm I have the setup in the correct direction.

+1 This is the main lesson. Test your rig! How hard is that? Grateful that B is alive. Mistakes will happen but dropping someone from a top rope is as close to unforgivable as it gets.


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By Mia KCarver
From Butte, MT
Oct 10, 2011

Climber B is on MP.
Climber C is on MP.

W(here)TF is Climber A? Lurking, I reckon?

Love to hear your side of the story. Not to crucify you (the internet is a mean place, it's not you), but to learn from a mistake that didn't send anyone out of the canyon in a body bag. You aren't responsible to owning all the blame in this incident, but yeah, more than a little from what I've read.

It'd be good to hear it. We all make mistakes. Accident reports analyzed with the stories from all sides offers a more objective assessment of the situation. You made mistakes. A good climber, hell person, admits to their faults and helps to explain what happened and what was learned. I'd NEVER climb with someone that made a huge mistake like you did. Well... unless you had the humility and courage to tell your side of the story. Character like that? Damn right. I'd climb with you.


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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Oct 10, 2011

Mia KCarver wrote:
Climber B is on MP. Climber C is on MP. W(here)TF is Climber A? Lurking, I reckon? Love to hear your side of the story. Not to crucify you (the internet is a mean place, it's not you), but to learn from a mistake that didn't send anyone out of the canyon in a body bag.


It would be nice to have a civil discussion with Climber A, but he or she would be crucified, insulted and other not-so-nice verbs. MP is a rough crowd!


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By Dusty
From Fort Collins
Oct 10, 2011
just teasin' the sharks...

muttonface wrote:
Maybe I'm mistaken, but the way I read it, it sounded like there was a little slack in the system on climber C's rope. When C chose to let go and hang on the rope, instead of being blocked (had the device been rigged properly), he fell. Picture top-roping someone from the bottom of a route, leaving some slack in the system, and then holding the rope not in the opposite direction (the brake position) but parallel to the climber's side (as if you were about to pull slack through the device. Now, the climber lets go of the wall and falls. Holding the rope in that position, you're not going to be able to hold that fall. That is precisely what happened in this case; except from the top, not the bottom. Now, had the wire NOT held under the weight of the climber, the device would have rotated (after the wire broke) and it would have reacted like it should have had it been rigged properly. I don't know how I'm wrong, and I usually don't split hairs over mundane details but you just came off as pompous and I felt the urge to reply. You're right. Muttonface don't know physics. But Muttonface know rigging. Muttonface know rigging very well.


It seems as though Muttonface does not know rigging as well as he thinks he does.


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By JPVallone
Oct 10, 2011

Buff Johnson wrote:
Joe -- I think if you click on that "BAD" photo from Steve, it matches up pretty well to the OP description. I have no idea if this rigging decision was just incompetence or trying to pre-rig and reinvent a wheel the wasn't broken to begin with. It's something that shouldn't have happened if the rig was done within instruction and specs of the device no matter what either seconding climber did. Once they're on, a 30' deck shouldn't have occurred.


Yep, I caught those photos after my post, Pretty much what I pictured in my head, except I didn't imagine the anchor was a cabinet or door handle thingy. I would question those flat head wood screws, and maybe consider some real bolts to support the hanger in the picture before attaching my belay quickdraw to the anchor. ;-)


And is Buff your new stage name? I kind of like that.


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By kBobby
From Spokane, WA
Oct 10, 2011

muttonface wrote:
Maybe I'm mistaken, but the way I read it, it sounded like there was a little slack in the system on climber C's rope. When C chose to let go and hang on the rope, instead of being blocked (had the device been rigged properly), he fell. Picture top-roping someone from the bottom of a route, leaving some slack in the system, and then holding the rope not in the opposite direction (the brake position) but parallel to the climber's side (as if you were about to pull slack through the device. Now, the climber lets go of the wall and falls. Holding the rope in that position, you're not going to be able to hold that fall. That is precisely what happened in this case; except from the top, not the bottom. Now, had the wire NOT held under the weight of the climber, the device would have rotated (after the wire broke) and it would have reacted like it should have had it been rigged properly. I don't know how I'm wrong, and I usually don't split hairs over mundane details but you just came off as pompous and I felt the urge to reply. You're right. Muttonface don't know physics. But Muttonface know rigging. Muttonface know rigging very well.

Muttonface, if I sounded pompous, I apologize. I was merely disagreeing with you.

I am actually pretty open to discussion.

You are saying two things:
(1) The climber fell; i.e., his weight was not being supported; and
(2) The keeper wire was supporting the climber's weight.

These cannot both be true. At the risk of sounding pompous again: this is basic physics--I would not expect you to need any formal training in physics (or rigging?) to understand this.


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By Jake Jones
From The Eastern Flatlands
Oct 10, 2011
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

The Bobby wrote:
Muttonface, if I sounded pompous, I apologize. I was merely disagreeing with you. I am actually pretty open to discussion. You are saying two things: (1) The climber fell; i.e., his weight was not being supported; and (2) The keeper wire was supporting the climber's weight. These cannot both be true. At the risk of sounding pompous again: this is basic physics--I would not expect you to need any formal training in physics (or rigging?) to understand this.


Haha... ok Bobby. Fair enough. Taken absolutely literally, you're right, both cannot occur simultaneously as the laws of physics would not allow it. However, that's not exactly what I said. What I said was

muttonface wrote:
The keeper wire had to have held body weight in order for the ATC Guide to stay in the inverted position which prevented the blocking action of rope on rope. Had the keeper wire broken, gravity and the Climber C's weight would have immediately yanked the device into the position it should have been in the first place; suspended only by the large biner ring at the rear/top of the device. If this had occurred, the device would have blocked via rope on rope friction as it is intended to.


When I say the keeper wire "held" body weight, that means it didn't break. I thought that much was implied. If it was not, well... anywho. Of course it couldn't have "supported" his body weight. The rope was running freely (minus friction of course; gotta respect the physics) through the belay device because the biner on the end of the QD had the device inverted. What a paradox that the wire didn't actually support his body weight, yet held without breaking. Please use this picture as a visual aid.




The wrong way to set up an ATC Guide for auto-block mode on a top belay
The wrong way to set up an ATC Guide for auto-block mode on a top belay



Now, had the wire broken under his body weight (which obviously was not his full body weight, but perhaps felt the equivalent because it was loaded quickly when Climber C let go of the wall), the result would have been this (I simulated the wire breaking by unclipping it from my draw, as I did not want to take a pair of wire cutters to my ATC Guide):



Auto-block mode.  I even pull-tested it.
Auto-block mode. I even pull-tested it.




The result would have been, as you see in the picture, the device rotating into the correct auto-block mode, which would have indeed arrested the fall (provided that the gear placements on the anchor were solid and redundant... which I doubt seriously). Even so, would have slowed Climber C down... I think. I mean... I'm no physicist.

So, as you can see, we were both correct. Figuratively, I was right because the wire "held" and didn't snap. Literally, you were correct because the wire didn't "support" his weight. Don't you like win/wins?


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By Jake Jones
From The Eastern Flatlands
Oct 10, 2011
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

Dusty wrote:
It seems as though Muttonface does not know rigging as well as he thinks he does.



Actually, I'm pretty confident on this one. Please refer to the pictures above, making sure to scrutinize the text that I wrote and tell me where I'm wrong. If I am indeed wrong, I will readily take any verbal flogging that you would issue. However, if I'm right, stick to the slackline; yer gonna die.


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By kBobby
From Spokane, WA
Oct 10, 2011

muttonface wrote:
Actually, I'm pretty confident on this one. Please refer to the pictures above, making sure to scrutinize the text that I wrote and tell me where I'm wrong.

Nobody is disputing your interpretation of the setup. Dusty and I both agree the belay was set up as you describe.

However, what you fail to understand is that the keeper wire "supports" only the friction in the system, NOT the climber's weight. Not even for an instant.

I have tried to show you where your understanding of the mechanics in question are incorrect, but you are not interested in that:

muttonface wrote:
stick to the slackline; yer gonna die.


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