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Moore's wall groundfall
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By csproul
From Rancho Cordova, CA
Jun 11, 2013
Summit of Wolf's Head with Pingora in the background

I witnessed an accident at Moore's Wall, NC this weekend that provides a good lesson and luckily had an ok outcome. The climber was new to the area, but an obviously strong and competent climber. ie, this is not a noob accident; I think it is a good lesson for everyone, including those of us that have been climbing a long time. For those of you that know the area, I had watched him easily onsight Nuclear Crayon (10c R) and Quakerstate(10d/11a), and he went to climb Stab in the Dark (10d).

The climber had pulled the boulder problem off the ground (placing one piece of gear along the way) and climbed up under the low roof about 15-20 feet off the ground. There is a crack under the roof where you can place gear before traversing left around the arete before gaining the crux crack sequence. He placed a nut and a yellow Alien in this crack under the roof, both clipped to the same sling.

After attempting to get established around the arete and place some gear, he decided to retreat back to his gear and asked to "take". As soon as he weighted the gear, both pieces pulled and he fell to the ground, landing flat on his back from 15-20 feet up. It looked like a very hard fall and all three of us in the amphitheater ran to help out. Long story short, he had a small cut on his back, got the wind knocked out of him, maybe a sprained ankle, and a very sore tailbone-maybe bruised badly. But in the end, he decided he was ok and was able to walk out on his own just fine.

This horizontal crack starts out very uniform on the right. Near the left side, where you pull around the arete, the crack has a more narrow opening and slightly widens up deeper in the crack. I beleive this is where he had the gear, and had placed a cam that was too small for the crack. It was likely the right size for the opening, but too small once beyond the constriction. The cam inverted (breaking the trigger wires) and the 2nd piece (the nut) was also not sufficient to take the weight. The last piece was too low to do anything.

I think this is a good lesson for everyone to make sure to think about having two solid pieces between you and the ground (or whatever you might hit). I know the climber thought he did, but climbing with new people, new gear (the gear was not his) and in a new location might have contributed to this near-miss. It was obvious after watching him climb the previous two routes that he was a competent climber, and that this was not just some gumby getting in over his head. I'm glad this had an ok outcome and think it is a good reminder to all of us.


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By Erik W
From Bay Area, CA
Jun 11, 2013
North face of Ama Dablam - taken on approach to Kongma La.

Thanks for the share. The fact that two pieces on the same sling blew from a static "take" begs the questions:

a) did the guy know how to place gear correctly? (strong climber ≠ competency at placing gear)

b) did the gear shift as he traversed left around the arete?

Every one of these accident analyses provide lessons learned. I've definitely become way more conscious of my gear spacing/redundancy close to the deck/ledges as a direct result of reading so many accident analyses of seemingly good gear ripping. Having two blow (on the same sling) from a "take" is a bit odd though, so perhaps there's more to it.


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By BigRed11
Jun 11, 2013

Very lucky it was a take and he didn't whip onto those pieces... thanks for the lesson!


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By Benjamin Chapman
From Small Town, USA
Jun 11, 2013
old 1/4" bolt.

csproul......"Thank You," for posting this incident to keep us all on our toes and so we might learn from another's near miss. While I'm not familiar with the climb, from what you described the traverse left to the arÍte very likely contributed to some unforeseen forces that were not favorable to protection placed in the horizontal crack. The very accomplished climber Tony Yaniro often suggested placing two solid pieces of gear before a hard section to ensure that at least one piece holds a fall. It seems that the climber attempted this, but didn't anticipate the forces on his placements in the horizontal. Thanks, again.


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By John Keller
Jun 11, 2013

Yeah. Not one but two pieces blowing out on a static load (rather than an accelerated leader fall for which they were intended) is really bad. It indicates, perhaps, extremely poor understanding of gear placements. Simply because somebody is strong and climbing hard does not indicate that they are not a noob to trad. No matter how strong you are coming from the gym, you have a ton of safety stuff to learn coming outside to sport. And no matter how strong you are at sport, you likely have a ton of safety stuff to learn to move to trad. Many coming out of the gym at all levels don't seem to be aware of these two facts.


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By Christiney
From Wheat Ridge, CO
Jun 11, 2013
Horseman

^^^ ++1

Climbing ability does not equal a good knowledge of safety. In this case this guy was only affecting himself, but climbing ability of the partner is not as important as their knowledge and application of safety procedures.

I've seen people who insist they are safe and competent (who is going to say they are UNsafe?) and who are good climbers, but after more observation are actually not very safe. Don't take people's word for it, don't base it on their climbing ability either!

Some "just coming out the gym" are the most dangerous - they know "just" enough to be dangerous and overconfident, but not experienced enough where safety is second nature.

As for this guy, who knows... maybe it was a momentary lapse of judgement, poor rock quailty, or unfamiliarity with the type of rock and specific gear.


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By csproul
From Rancho Cordova, CA
Jun 11, 2013
Summit of Wolf's Head with Pingora in the background

I do not know first hand how experienced this person is at placing gear. What I can tell you after talking with that person much of the day is that they have a pretty impressive tick list which struck me as genuine. Climbing ability does not equal gear placing competence, but I can tell you for certain there are very few gym rats or strong sport-only climbers that could have confidently sent the two routes that he climbed before the incident. Most people just don't walk up poorly protected, 10+/11- trad climbs without significant milage to get them to that point. I also know first hand from having done this route many times that the gear on the left side of the crack is tricky. It does open up, and it is hard to get a good look at it because you are in an awkward position under the roof. People also tend to want to place gear as far left as possible (the worst place in the crack) in order to clear the arete, reduce rope drag and better protect the crux just after the traverse.

I think to write this off as "gear placing incompetence" is doing yourself a disservice. Rather than assuming that the climber was incompetent (which nobody here, myself included, in a good position to judge), my position is to treat this as a reminder. My personal view is that this was a momentary lapse in gear placement coupled with unfamiliarity with the route/climbing area, partner, and gear...all of which came together at exactly the worst moment. It's a lesson he'll never forget, and hopefully the same is true for me. I'd certainly climb with him in the future if the opportunity comes up.


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By nkane
Jun 11, 2013

Cracks that open up are difficult to protect - maybe even more difficult than flares. It can be difficult to see what's going on in there, and it's easy for cams to walk out of position. There's no universal solution - sometimes you can get a bomber nut in the constriction, and sometimes you have to sling things long and hope they don't wiggle out.

Seems like this guy did right to back up a questionable piece and the odds came out against him. Glad he was OK, mostly.


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By Matt N
From Santa Barbara, CA
Jun 11, 2013
OTL

Wonder if cam stops would have helped.


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By Christiney
From Wheat Ridge, CO
Jun 11, 2013
Horseman

Or maybe it's overconfidence, and not testing/pulling on the gear before moving on. Or maybe it walked. Sometimes you're not sure of a piece but then you just mentally suck it up and just move on rather than overthink it. This is probably a case where the line was thin and he erred on the wrong side.

In another thread, people were upset at me for using "bodyweight" as a measure of something holding. However, in this case, if he placed most of his bodyweight on it before letting go and relying in the gear only, he would have found it wouldn't hold his entire weight.

It does sound like this guy knows what he is doing. New trad climbers are hesitant, place tons of gear, and it's hard to train for crack climbing in most gyms. Yeah, I think this is a good reminder that despite our awesome tools of today compared to 50 years ago, climbing, esp trad climbing, is still dangerous!

Glad that guy is ok. On an unrelated note I hate when I get the wind knocked out of me and people ask me immediately "Are you ok?" because now I have to struggle to answer you too. And my immediate response is to nod or say I'm ok as to not inconvenience you before I have collected my bearings and decide maybe I'm not ok.


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By Healyje
Jun 11, 2013
girl40

Clearly a protection issue, but it also highlights the risks, protection and belay challenges of routes with low cruxs. Many climbers have been bitten by this over the years. Dealing with a situation like this 100ft off the deck has considerable margin for error, at 20ft it has none.


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By MJMobes
From The land of steady habits
Jun 11, 2013
modern man

Healyje wrote:
Clearly a protection issue, but it also highlights the risks, protection and belay challenges of routes with low cruxs. Many climbers have been bitten by this over the years. Dealing with a situation like this 100ft off the deck has considerable margin for error, at 20ft it has none.


my gym never sets cruxes near the ground even though its padded


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By Tim Fisher
Jun 11, 2013

Thanks for the post. I have done this climb hundreds of times. The crack you are talking about is difficult to get good pro in. It opens significantly in the back. It opens more on the left where you would naturally want the gear to be. I would place a pink tri cam or grey Alien in this spot. I think a yellow would be fairly obviously not great to the left side. A cam stop cam might have helped. The lip the hides the opening may have even failed. As you move left to try to gain the vertical crack the holds are less positive and pump you quickly. Glad the climber is probably OK.

I think the lesson is obvious. We all need to remember what can happen.

T Fisher


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By bradyk
Jul 7, 2013

It could be possible that if the two pieces of pro were not equalized, It could create a problem. If it were an American triangle of death, it would cause the pro to turn inward which could easily pull out a nut in a horizontal and then shock load the cam. I put a sliding X in a sling when I place two pieces of pro together. This is just speculation and thinking of other plausible reasons for the accident. Everyone knows its tough placing gear in a crack that flares or widens in the back. Hope the injured party recovers quickly.


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By rging
From Salt Lake City, Ut
Jul 9, 2013
CoR

csproul wrote:
...The cam inverted (breaking the trigger wires)...

Should this happen with such a small load being place on it?


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By csproul
From Rancho Cordova, CA
Jul 9, 2013
Summit of Wolf's Head with Pingora in the background

rging wrote:
Should this happen with such a small load being place on it?

Not sure what you are asking. Should a well-placed cam invert and break the trigger wires? No, of course not. Should a cam that is too small for the placement invert under body weight? Why not?


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By rging
From Salt Lake City, Ut
Jul 9, 2013
CoR

Cam placement
Cam placement


Seems to me a cam should not invert when body weight is applies no matter how badly placed. I dug around and found the Black Diamond instructions and it shows you can slot a cam which tells me that it should withstand the full rating without inverting. Maybe I am missing something here and of course there are a zillion factors but it looks like equipment failure.


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By csproul
From Rancho Cordova, CA
Jul 9, 2013
Summit of Wolf's Head with Pingora in the background

rging wrote:
Seems to me a cam should not invert when body weight is applies no matter how badly placed. I dug around and found the Black Diamond instructions and it shows you can slot a cam which tells me that it should withstand the full rating without inverting. Maybe I am missing something here and of course there are a zillion factors but it looks like equipment failure.

C4 are double axle cams. Aliens are not. Aliens also do not have cam stops. There is nothing to prevent an Alien from inverting in this situation. I also would not rely on cam stops to hold a significant force, especially with smaller cams.


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By Will S
From Joshua Tree
Jul 9, 2013

Only single axle cam stops I'd put any trust in holding and preventing an inversion are the ones milled into shape of the cam lobes themselves (rather than pin-type stops).


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By cdec
From SLC and Moab, ut
Jul 9, 2013

Milled stops can shear off as well. Double axle cams are the only ones that can be placed passively or "umbrella'd".


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By slim
Administrator
Jul 9, 2013
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.

Will S wrote:
Only single axle cam stops I'd put any trust in holding and preventing an inversion are the ones milled into shape of the cam lobes themselves (rather than pin-type stops).


and they should be fairly large (ie not the milled stops on a 00 or 0 TCU).


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By slim
Administrator
Jul 9, 2013
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.

cdec wrote:
Milled stops can shear off as well. Double axle cams are the only ones that can be placed passively or "umbrella'd".


again, depends on size of the milled stop, how it's placed, etc...

but in a nutshell, avoiding placing tipped out pieces is the way to go.


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By cdec
From SLC and Moab, ut
Jul 9, 2013

slim wrote:
again, depends on size of the milled stop, how it's placed, etc...


There are two different ideas being talked about here.
1. Placing a cam that is tipped out, hoping that the milled stops hold and that it doesn't invert.
If you are placing single axle cams and hoping they won't invert than yes bigger stops are better.

2 Purposely placing a cam passively or umbrella'd.
If you are purposely placing a cam passively (illustrated in the BD diagram) than it should be double axle. Even small double axle cams can be placed this way. However it is outside the manufacturers guidelines to place any single stem cam, of any size, passively.


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By Tom Mulholland
From #1 Cheese Producing State!
Jul 9, 2013
Whiskey-a-Go-Go

csproul wrote:
I also would not rely on cam stops to hold a significant force, especially with smaller cams.


I thought BD cams were rated to full strength even in that position. Is that not true?


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By Finn the Human
From The Land of Ooo
Jul 9, 2013
Mathematical!

Tom Mulholland wrote:
I thought BD cams were rated to full strength even in that position. Is that not true?

C4's don't rely on camp stops to prevent inverting. The double axle takes that job, and does a much better job of it (so much so that it's safe to place C4's as passive pro). It's not unheard of, on the other hand, for cam stops to completely shear off when loaded (ie: cam stops on single axle cams aren't load bearing).


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By Allen Corneau
From Houston, TX
Jul 9, 2013

cdec wrote:
Double axle cams are the only ones that can be placed passively or "umbrella'd".


Finn the Human wrote:
(ie: cam stops on single axle cams aren't load bearing).


Not true.

Wild Country Helium Friends are rated for 11-12kN in passive mode.
DMM 3CU's, 4CU's, and Demon cams are rated for 10kN in passive mode.

There may be others I don't remember, but you get my point.


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