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Turkey Rocks, CO: Belay error causes near-death accident
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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Oct 10, 2011
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after...
Copperhead wrote:
This argument is entertaining, but pointless. One guy insisting something will happen if a wire breaks and another razzing him because there isn't much weight on the wire to think that it would have broken. We need the OP to chime in again and tell JLP what kind of soap opera his relationship with A is or something to liven it up.


Heh. Agreed.

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


This is the comment that was under dispute. Whether you agree or not, I believe that it is important for every climber to understand the basic forces that come into play while belaying. If climber A had known the forces required for the ATC guide to work properly, this accident never would have happened.

With that being said, I just ran an experiment which I encourage all of the naysayers to try at home. Put a rope through your ATC guide and clip it with a locker as per usual, use your pinkie to hold the device from the keeper wire at eye level, now pull the rope through the device using your free hand (do it fast!). The conclusion I reached by conducting this experiment was:

A) I have an incredibly strong pinkie finger, or
B) The forces put on the keeper wire were not even close to what you think.

Edit: I am also taking into account this comment from the fallen climber:

"I never felt any force at all in the rope I was tied into."

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Oct 10, 2011
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after...
Dusty wrote:
This is the comment that was under dispute. Whether you agree or not, I believe that it is important for every climber to understand the basic forces that come into play while belaying. If climber A had known the forces required for the ATC guide to work properly, this accident never would have happened. With that being said, I just ran an experiment which I encourage all of the naysayers to try at home. Put a rope through your ATC guide and clip it with a locker as per usual, use your pinkie to hold the device from the keeper wire at eye level, now pull the rope through the device using your free hand (do it fast!). The conclusion I reached by conducting this experiment was: A) I have an incredibly strong pinkie finger, or B) The forces put on the keeper wire were not even close to what you think. Edit: I am also taking into account this comment from the fallen climber: "I never felt any force at all in the rope I was tied into."


Jesus. Again, and again, and now... yes, yet again, I state by saying the wire held the weight, I MEANT that the wire did not break when he fell, it HELD, for had it BROKEN, the device would have rotated into it's correct usage position and the fall would have been arrested and we would not find ourselves in this twilight zone of repetition on a subject that has already been put to bed essentially. I really am trying to figure out what is so hard to discern about my train of thought and how one sentence fragment could be prayed upon for literary accuracy almost to the point of other posters begging to have it stopped and for someone else to chime in and ease the pain. CLEARLY if you have EVER used an ATC Guide in auto-lock mode to belay up a second, you could easily sift through my incorrect physics to arrive at my intended meaning. Instead, you STILL choose to argue semantics pouncing upon the chance to point your finger and pronounce someone incorrect. I tell you what, if it matters that much to you, you can have it. I hereby proclaim you correct and beg forgiveness for my incorrect wording. I'm a slob that probably doesn't send as hard as either one of you, and I should look to you for guidance. And this goes without saying, but since I can't climb at your level (I'm assuming) I couldn't possibly have anything viable to offer in any discussion. I now apologize for both my error, and for ever disagreeing with such weathered hardmen in the first place. Please pray for me on Sunday... that is if you're not sending your .14b project. Is that more what you were looking for?

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By kBobby
From Spokane, WA
Oct 10, 2011
Muttonface,

I am sorry. I am not trying to argue semantics. I misunderstood what you were trying to say. I think I understand now. You were simply saying that the wire did not break. I get it. You are right, the wire did not break.

My only point was that it is not surprising in the least that the wire did not break. It is a strong wire, and there was not very much force put on the wire. That is all. I was not trying to give you a hard time for imprecision, etc. I'm sorry that it got taken that way.

Cheers

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By wankel7
From Indiana
Oct 11, 2011
muttonface wrote:


Hey, thank you for posting the pictures. I think it will be helpful for people who have not used an ACT Guide in the manner that is being described!

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By Dusty
From Fort Collins
Oct 11, 2011
just teasin' the sharks...
I too am sorry, sometimes I have a hard time reading between the lines. I clearly misinterpreted what you were trying to say.

muttonface wrote:
The keeper wire had to have held body weight...


muttonface wrote:
...had the wire NOT held under the weight of the climber...


muttonface wrote:
...not his full body weight, but perhaps felt the equivalent because it was loaded quickly...


But seriously, now I'm just messing with you, don't take it personally. :)

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By Rocky_Mtn_High
From Arvada, CO
Oct 11, 2011
Lamb's Slide
muttonface wrote:
... yes, yet again, I state by saying the wire held the weight, I MEANT that the wire did not break when he fell, it HELD, for had it BROKEN, the device would have rotated into it's correct usage position and the fall would have been arrested and we would not find ourselves in this twilight zone of repetition on a subject that has already been put to bed essentially. I really am trying to figure out what is so hard to discern about my train of thought and how one sentence fragment could be prayed upon for literary accuracy almost to the point of other posters begging to have it stopped and for someone else to chime in and ease the pain. CLEARLY if you have EVER used an ATC Guide in auto-lock mode to belay up a second, you could easily sift through my incorrect physics to arrive at my intended meaning. ...


I hesitate to jump in here as well, but I think I see the source of the miscommunication. Muttonface you are correct that if the keeper wire were weighted sufficiently (e.g. during a fall or even simply by taking the climber's weight) and broke, then yes, the system would revert back to the proper autoblock configuration and would hold the fall. However, Bobby is simply trying to point out that in the scenario described, i.e. when the climber sat back to weight the rope, or even if he had fallen while actually climbing, the keeper wire would never have had a chance of breaking because it would never have taken the weight of the climber. The reason is that with the quickdraw pulling on the keeper wire and rotating the Guide away from a proper autoblocking orientation, the rope will simply slip through the Guide -- thus never weighting the anchor or the keeper wire -- unless the belayer happened to be hanging on for dear life to C's brake strand at the time and was strong enough to hold the weight of the climber.

Often when belaying two climbers off the anchor, the belayer is pulling in or checking for slack on one rope or the other. Assuming the ATC Guide autoblock is configured properly, the belayer doesn't have to be constantly hanging on to both brake strands to provide a safe belay. But in this case, with the Guide misconfigured and acting not as an autoblock but as a simple 180-degree redirect device, then if the belayer happened not to be holding hard on to C's brake strand as C tried to hang, the rope would simply start peeling through the Guide, and there would be no counter-force resistance to cause any weight on the Guide (other than rope friction and, negligibly, a few feet of rope weight).

I hope that helps...

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By kBobby
From Spokane, WA
Oct 11, 2011
r_m_high wrote:
I hesitate to jump in here as well, but I think I see the source of the miscommunication. Muttonface you are correct that if the keeper wire were weighted sufficiently (e.g. during a fall or even simply by taking the climber's weight) and broke, then yes, the system would revert back to the proper autoblock configuration and would hold the fall. However, Bobby is simply trying to point out that in the scenario described, i.e. when the climber sat back to weight the rope, or even if he had fallen while actually climbing, the keeper wire would never have had a chance of breaking because it would never have taken the weight of the climber. The reason is that with the quickdraw pulling on the keeper wire and rotating the Guide away from a proper autoblocking orientation, the rope will simply slip through the Guide -- thus never weighting the anchor or the keeper wire -- unless the belayer happened to be hanging on for dear life to C's brake strand at the time and was strong enough to hold the weight of the climber.

Yes. Thank you. That summarized it quite nicely.

r_m_high wrote:
I hope that helps...

Thanks.

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Oct 11, 2011
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after...
I understand very clearly both sides. I understand what I said was a paradox and a physical impossibility. However, most everyone else was able to derive my meaning easily, and with only one read. I went back and read the OP and figured out why I thought that the wire keeper may have sustained C's weight- if only for a split second:

"Climber A pulls hard DOWNWARDS on the brakehand end of the ropes. Then when I hang as well, she simply has not enough strength to keep us both up, since her 'brakehands' are desperately pulling down and AWAY..."

To me, this suggests that although the device loaded incorrectly would certainly fail to arrest a fall, the belayer at least attempted to hold the fall, even if she was only able to do so for a moment before letting go. This action would have put a measurable amount of force (exactly how much is of course a moot point for it is indetermineable) on the wire keeper- hence my comment that I was surprised that the wire didn't break. So, there you have it. I was a bit of a wordy prick in my rebuttals. I was just exasperated. If I pissed anyone off, I do sincerely apologize. I'm glad at least a few of you were entertained by my (and others') seemingly endless tirade(s).

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By Rocky_Mtn_High
From Arvada, CO
Oct 11, 2011
Lamb's Slide
muttonface wrote:
... I went back and read the OP and figured out why I thought that the wire keeper may have sustained C's weight- if only for a split second: "Climber A pulls hard DOWNWARDS on the brakehand end of the ropes. Then when I hang as well, she simply has not enough strength to keep us both up, since her 'brakehands' are desperately pulling down and AWAY..." To me, this suggests that although the device loaded incorrectly would certainly fail to arrest a fall, the belayer at least attempted to hold the fall, even if she was only able to do so for a moment before letting go. ...


Yes, my guess is that the belayer was likely putting some downward (braking) force on the brake strands, certainly enough to hold the weight of the second (climber B), who was cleaning some difficult pro and may have been weighting the rope, at least partially (who knows what cleaning stance she had at the time). As you say, the belayer may well have tried to hang on desperately to both strands when climber C tried to hang and started falling, but the outcome proves that she was unable to hold the weight of both climbers. It also proves that the keeper wire was strong enough to hold twice the force of the belayer's combined braking effort (due to the pulley effect) -- too bad, as the fall would have been arrested if it had broken, as you point out.

I suspect the keeper wire of an ATC Guide is generally plenty strong enough to hold the weight of a couple of climbers. In any case, the climbers were lucky that the fall did not result in worse injury or a fatality, and that both followers did not fall.

Best wishes to the OP for a quick recovery.

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By coppolillo
Oct 11, 2011
JPVallone wrote:
This thread needs to die, but it's just so entertaining!


+1

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By bevans
Oct 11, 2011
coppolillo wrote:
+1

+1...

or should that be +2? I can never figure that part out.

I was only skimming through almost all the above posts because my eyes kept glazing over and my head bouncing of the desk every time I tried to pay attention. And yet it has been oddly entertaining at the same time. Sort of like an offwidth.

That said...muttonface sounds pretty on target through it all.

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By Copperhead
Oct 11, 2011
r_m_high wrote:
Yes, my guess is that the belayer was likely putting some downward (braking) force on the brake strands, certainly enough to hold the weight of the second (climber B), who was cleaning some difficult pro and may have been weighting the rope, at least partially (who knows what cleaning stance she had at the time). As you say, the belayer may well have tried to hang on desperately to both strands when climber C tried to hang and started falling, but the outcome proves that she was unable to hold the weight of both climbers. It also proves that the keeper wire was strong enough to hold twice the force of the belayer's combined braking effort (due to the pulley effect) -- too bad, as the fall would have been arrested if it had broken, as you point out. I suspect the keeper wire of an ATC Guide is generally plenty strong enough to hold the weight of a couple of climbers. In any case, the climbers were lucky that the fall did not result in worse injury or a fatality, and that both followers did not fall. Best wishes to the OP for a quick recovery.


I'll bet that wire is good for well upwards of 300lbs. Climber A, with one hand on the brake strand pulling down (think tricep extension) is probably good for 40 lbs tops. 40lbs + 40lbs/.06 (friction through carabiner) == 106 lbs.

Now if she had pulled up, the device would have applied way more friction and maybe the wire would have broken. No chance with her pulling down, unless A is the she-Hulk.

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By bearbreeder
Oct 11, 2011
the fall should have been caught ... period

while there may have been slack in the system, and the climber would have fallen slack + stretch ... with a brake hand on and the guide hooked up properly there should have been no effing way the climber fall much beyond that

the climber should NEVER have to call for a take in order to get a catch ... this holds true for lead or seconding ... if you have to you are NOT on belay ... as others have noted you cant do that on quite a few pitches because of wind/poor conditions/no LOS

it is the belayers job to pay attention, hook up the belay in the proper way and catch the climb when he falls ... if the climber is to deck or otherwise get hurt, it should be because its the climbers fault (runnouts, no pro, leg behind rope, other bad decisions)

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By Rocky_Mtn_High
From Arvada, CO
Oct 11, 2011
Lamb's Slide
The bottom line is that the belayer did not configure the ATC Guide properly, such that the autoblock mode was compromised. After five pages, I think we've beaten this horse enough...

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By DeadManBarelyWalking
Oct 11, 2011
Peter Pitocchi wrote:
Did climber A have ropeburns?


Climber A had gloves, but they looked more like 'gardening gloves' (cotton?) than climbing gloves (fake leather). These were covered with rubber on the palm side and there is now a 17ft long black rubber streak on my rope. The rope burned through her gloves and into her pinkie and ringfinger.

JLP wrote:
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,...


My only one intention of posting this accident report is that I hope someone out there should learn something. I learned a lot during this accident and I hope to share that with others. I might add more of my more subtle learning experience later in this thread (my broken butt doesn't allow me to sit and type for too long ;).

Johny Q wrote:
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?

Marc H wrote:
Any chance you wanna name Climber A as a public service announcement?


I can't see how naming names will help anyone. Do you really think giving out a name on a website that is read by less than 1% of the US climbing community really will save someones life?

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.


Not much slack. As I mention in the OP: I climbed slowly to avoid more than a foot of slack in my rope.

Mia KCarver wrote: "W(here)TF is Climber A? Lurking, I reckon?
Love to hear your side of the story."

I'm not sure this will add a whole lot to the story. As I wrote in the OP: "Two weeks after the acident, climber A demonstrated the following setup." Climber A has 'come clean' to me and that's what's counts. Both of us learned from this 'experience' and by posting this here, I wanted to share our learning with others.

FrankPS wrote:
It would be nice to have a civil discussion with Climber A, ...


That's what I've had and that's what I reported in the OP.

Kevin Craig wrote:
I'd much rather climb with a 5.8 leader who understands the principles behind safety and rescue systems than a 5.12 leader who just memorized the steps.

I have lived by this 'philosophy' since I started climbing (besides, I can't follow 5.12 anyway...). But in this one particular instance, I didn't pay enough attention. On a side note: The worst I've ever seen is a 3-page, 12-paragraph description someone put together for his 'team' of climbers describing how to 'clean' a sport anchor and rap down safely.

Tim McCabe wrote:
Climber B is the beginner in this group I am wondering why she gets stuck doing all of the cleaning.


For the main puropse of practicing and becoming a little less 'beginner'. I follow and clean the pieces she wasn't stubborn enough to get out.

wankel7 wrote:
It is amazing how grossly negligent she was...it is almost criminal. I hope you didn't pay a cent for your medical costs and she picked up the tab.


Not yet. On the other hand, I haven't paid her for her crushed waterbottle either, that I so clumsily landed on.

wankel7 wrote:
Dude, climber C broke his tail bone...you know that takes over a year to heal is will probably always hurt?

HOLY SH!T. This ain't part of my plan. This gives a whole new meaning to pain in the butt ...

Copperhead wrote:
We need the OP to chime in again and tell JLP what kind of soap opera his relationship with A is or something to liven it up.


Sorry to disappont you; I just added more boring facts. I'll try better next time

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By wankel7
From Indiana
Oct 12, 2011
You are so mellow about the whole thing...I love it :)

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By Buff Johnson
Oct 12, 2011
smiley face
The belayer probably feels about a thousand times worse than the actual injuries. If you look at it from their standpoint, the typical belay device is clipped to the harness belay loop with the keeper wire all the time so it stays in a good position. The keeper wire worked better than anticipated as 3 or so pages of discourse go through; whether who is more correct about the damned wire and pulley effect and friction and how much a belayer could have held, I really don't care in this case; once you lose rope control, it's over.

The orientation of the autoblock is different and does throw the belayer's minds-eye off. I don't know why nobody picked up on that when climbing in Eldo, mentored this correctly, or confirmed hands-on practice along with the instructions of the device, but certainly a miss.

Lesson learned in using the autoblock config correctly and which really didn't have anything to do with having 2 seconding climbers on-belay, or using a quickdraw though I agree lockers are a better safety application for this.

The end result is really not as bad as it could have been. Probably should have gone to the ER faster though (like going there the day of the accident) just to make sure a head bleed wasn't going on, which the headaches can also be a symptom.

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By Pepe
From Raleigh, North Carolina
Oct 12, 2011
wankel7 wrote:
You are so mellow about the whole thing...I love it :)

Ditto. The way you've handled this is impressive; it seems there's more for many of us to learn here than proper belay configurations. Thanks for sharing and climb on (just don't land on your butt ;)

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By JPVallone
Oct 12, 2011
Die thread Die!!!!!!!!!!

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By JPVallone
Oct 12, 2011
David Sahalie wrote:
is someone making you read this? are you strapped down and have your eyes propped open like you are in 'A Clockwork Orange'? .


Yes

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By PDMartzen
From Fresno, CA
Oct 12, 2011
Thanks for a very clearly written accident report with good analysis of what went wrong. You gave a good narrative to describe the overall situation and seem to have covered all the relevant factors.

Reading many of the comments on this forum and others, demonstrate how easy it is to focus on the irrelevant factors and to sling blame in unhelpful ways.

I do have questions about the belayers thought process when rigging the ATC, if she can still remember at this point. I am wondering if she added the extra quickdraw support as a backup to the nonlocking carabiner holding the atc, or perhaps because it made the set up more similar to how it would look on one's harness.

You imply that the belayer added the carabiner to the wire loop as a back up to the first quickdraw holding the ATC. A lot of commentors have expressed their outrage that the ATC was supported by a non-locking carabiner. I am wondering if the belayer had that same concern, making her want to add another support to the system.

You note that she did use a locker to hold the ropes in the ATC which makes a certain sense to me. If you have one locker you have to decide where you will use it: to hold the ATC or to hold the ropes. In normal use the locker holds the ropes. The ropes move around and the carabiner can easily shift positions making a locker important. The carabiner supporting the ATC is not going to shift since it is being pulled in one direction constantly.

Clipping a carabiner through the wire is also standard when the device is hanging on the harness, so I could understand a certain desire to have something clipped into the wire.

I assume that climber A is beating herself up pretty bad about this, but her thoughts might be educational. Most commentators seem to think she is an idiot, but maybe they just think they are above making simple mistakes.

Besides warning people about the correct set up of the ATC in guide mode, are there any changes in your own actions that you are thinking about? Yelling "take" or "tension" when wanting to rest? Demonstrating belay set ups with partners before you leave the ground? (not that I can recall ever doing this!)

Thanks again for sharing and for writing such a clear accident report.

Paul

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By JoeP
From Littleton, CO
Oct 12, 2011
PDMartzen wrote:
Clipping a carabiner through the wire is also standard when the device is hanging on the harness, so I could understand a certain desire to have something clipped into the wire.


Something is clipped through the wire - the biner holding the rope(s), just as when belaying from your harness.

If the belayer had looked at the directions that came with the guide, she would have seen that there is a picture clearly showing not to connect the keeper loop to the anchor. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but it's quite simple - people need to know how and understand why gear works, otherwise accidents like this will happen.

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By fat cow
From St. Paul, MN
Oct 12, 2011
perfect seam
and that it clearly says in the instructions when you buy an ATC Guide that the keeper wire is not load bearing

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By Rocky_Mtn_High
From Arvada, CO
Oct 12, 2011
Lamb's Slide
PDMartzen wrote:
... are there any changes in your own actions that you are thinking about? ... Paul

When I am belaying off the anchor in autoblock mode, I'm in the habit of doing a pull test before I put my partner on belay, but I don't routinely do pull tests when seconding. I don't know about the OP, but the lesson I take away from this is that if I am following and don't know and trust my belayer 100%, I will do a "weight the rope" test as soon as my belayer tells me I'm on belay.

FLAG


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