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Tell us your best (or worst) Gumby moment
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By Jason Shumaker
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Jul 3, 2007
Swell
All this talk about gumbies and geeks got me thinking about my early days of climbing (the exact number of years will be kept confidential!) and some of the bonehead moves I have pulled in the past. These events of questionable common sense were usually due to my delicate ego or stubborn pride.

One event in particular that comes to mind happened just after moving to Salt Lake while bouldering at Pete's rock (mistake number one). I was climbing on the west end of Pete's and decided to climb a little higher than usual up to a small ledge. There was only one other person around; a seemingly more experienced individual who was eyeing me intently between boulder problems.

After reaching my ledge, it occurred to me that I had no idea how to get down and found myself helplessly stuck (mistake number two). Instead of attempting to find a way down with questionable results or asking for help I pretended to hang out and act like I was admiring the sunset across the valley. My genius plan was to wait until the other guy left so I could swallow my pride in peace and without an audience.

After what felt like an eternity, my comrade went on his way and I humbly made my way to the ground safely after several failed attempts.

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By Nate Oakes
Jul 3, 2007
~2000' above Boulder.
My first lead climb, in Boulder Canyon. My buddy sent me up the route with the exact number of draws for the bolts only, and neglected to tell me to take up an anchor (or 2 extra draws). So I got to the top of the route with nothing to clip myself into the anchors. I yelled at him from above, and since there was a small ledge, he told me to untie and tie back in without an anchor. Unfortunately, I listened to him. Everything turned out fine, but it was a colossally stupid thing to do, being ~50' off the deck. Luckily, I've got other friends who are much more safety-conscious (or safety-conscious at all) and the experience didn't sour me on leading.

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By Jeff Fiedler
Jul 3, 2007
My second or third time climbing outside, I went top-roping at Great Falls outside of DC with a friend (not experienced) and friend of friend (allegedly experienced). This guy sets up two top rope anchors, but runs out of lockers for the second one, so uses a pulley he happens to have with him, instead of 2 biners on the climbing rope.

Sounds good to me. I've never set a top rope anchor before. Biners, pulley, what's the difference?

I get to the top of the climb (set with the pulley) and take. I weigh 200. My friend, belaying, weighs maybe 160.

It sure seems like he is letting me down fast, and I hit the ground kinda hard but not injured. I look around and my belayer has disappeared! Wait, there he is, at the top of climb. Also miraculously uninjured -- Somehow we managed to avoid hitting each other, and to his credit he didn't let go of the belay.

[Next weekend I took a top rope anchor course.]

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By andrew kulmatiski
From logan, ut
Jul 3, 2007
self portrait from on top of pingora
Jeff- thats priceless. I had a similar event on what i believe was my first roped climb. This was back around 1980, climbing on sling swamis. I must have weighed about 100lbs and my dad 150. Luckily he had the foresight to tie me down so i didn't shoot all the way to the top when he fell. I did shoot up about two or three feet with all of his weight cinching tighter and tighter around my waist. That swami was so tight i couldn't breathe or tell him to get back on the rock so he just hangdogged it until he saw my wheezing body dangling in the air.
Fast forward through over 20yrs of climbing to my greatest gumby moment. I was heading up in the dark for a winter ascent of the Grand Teton. I had climbed the Grand about 15 years previous (w/my dad) so i figured I knew the approach. Well, as the sun rose I noticed the lower saddle and the Grand didn't look anything like I remembered. In fact, it looked an awful lot like the middle teton, because of course, that is what it was. I ended up climbing the wrong mountain. So, gumby moments can come at any time in your career (or at least mine).

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By John Calder
From Spokane, WA
Jul 3, 2007
Me
I had done a few outdoor climbs with a friend and purchased my own harness and shoes. A friend who didn't climb invited me to go to a small island on Saranac lake for a large labor day party his family was having. I brought the harness and shoes. We found a grungy moss covered wall maybe 25' tall. I set a toprope using clothseline. I slipped on the moss a lttle over halfway up. I forget how my friend was "belaying" me but the thing stretched, then predictably snapped. I decked but the ground was steep and covered in moss. I just rolled a little ways down hill, laughed and resumed drinking.

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid. How I survived my early years is beyond me.

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By Jordan Ramey
From Calgary, Alberta
Jul 3, 2007
What was left of the rack when I topped out on the last pitch of Snake Dike on Half Dome.
I first became interested in the whole idea of rope work when I was 13 at summer camp. I did the ropes course and the rappelling wall so much that the instructors taught me how to do everything so I could set it all up while they hung out on the ground. They'd then check the anchors and make sure everything was savvy and everyone would go rappelling. This leads me into how I was first a rappeller (before I knew climbing existed as we don't have that many rocks in Oklahoma). So at the bright young age of fourteen, I'd skrimped and saved enough to buy a static line, harness, couple biners, eight, and webbing. On one of my grand adventure rappells down a super chossy 50' cliff over flint creek I dislodged a large rock that happened to be hiding a hornet nest. Needless to say, I descended the rope in record time and landed about 20' out from the wall in the middle of the creek in a mighty splash. Although the plunge down the rope and into the creek was mildy exciting, the bad part was a hornet stuck in my rapel glove that I then punched to death stading in the middle of this creek. My hand swelled up and my dad who had seen the whole event transpire thought it was mighty funny. Looking back I can't really blame him, it does seem sorta funny now.

A year later after becoming insanely bored with just going down, a friend and I decided to try going up. And thus we became climbers.

Since we figured most stuff out for ourselves, it was an interesting process and series of gumby moments that I'm surprised I survived, but hey I was only like 15 and it was all good fun.

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By will nesse
Jul 3, 2007
First off, great thread idea, Jason.

First year of climbing. Went on a college-sponsored spring break outing to Smith Rock. Having never been there before, or anywhere really, my partner and I decided to get on Chain Reaction (12c), the most photographed climb around at that time as I recall, and on the front cover of the Watts guide. My hardest tick at that time was around 11b or so. I recall that my partner and I were very loud about our intent to climb Chain. On the drive down we had pumped ourselves up for it, reckoning that the arete had some positive crimpers somewhere in that flat, chalk slapped face. I mean, really, 12c is pretty close to 12b, and I had once gotten on a 12a and thought is was possible to send, and 12a is pretty close to 11d, which is only a tad harder than 11b, or so our logic went...

Some of the lycra clad locals (reveals my age) were bemused but pretty gentle to us, suggesting some good 5.9s to warm up on, and some area classic 5.10s to tour. Not for us however. Chain Reaction was the only climb on our lists.

I'll spare you a detailed description of the flail session that ensued. Neighboring climbers got a kick out of it I'm sure. We went on that week to do some really great climbing like Zebra to Zion, Vomit Launch, et al., and had a great time there, and returned for many more years.

What did I learn? Don't be too prudent. You should always find your Chain Reaction and flail away.

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By James Garrett
Jul 3, 2007
Hollow Point in the middle of the photo. Route climbs right profile.
I have so many classic gumby moments I had a hard time deciding which one to tell about. This was a fine example of a young lad trying to impress a woman (his girlfriend).
A long time ago, she and I were in the Bernese Oberland and we had never climbed together. I had convinced her, nonetheless, that I was indeed a climber (and here was this Bernese girl who had grown up surrounded by mountain guides!) So, for our first climb, we trekked up the glacier to Petersgrat to a hut. Without a care in the world, we seemed oblivious to the crevasses and proper rope management despite jumping a number of precarious snow bridges. Somehow, we survived the journey to the hut and we had been entertained by the one or two helicopter rescues on the same glacier we were witness to on the way.
The next early morning, we started our climb up a pretty steep firn couloir to a rock band that guards the summit. Oh, did I neglect to inform you that between the two of us, we had one ice axe (80cm wood) and one pair of crampons...but we were wearing our Scottish style climbing knickers and high wool socks! No harnesses, no prussick slings, no helmets, and one tubular webbing swami tied around my waist all made even more credible because we had 4 carabiners, too.

As I was the courageous (read stupid!) leader, I took the ice axe and she took the crampons. I honestly to this day do not comprehend how we actually made it to the summit...which was a glorious, hot, windless alpine Swiss summit. We languished and sucked it all in. So far, so good....we had succeeded. Descending is no biggie, right?
The sun had done its work on the firn which was no longer firn and more like slush on a snow cone. We had two corkscrew type ice screws and one #5 hex. After descending a few hundred feet, I feared killing us on our very first mountain climbing date. At the very best, I thought, we would make it down, but she would never want to do anything in the mountains with me ever again. I began to shoulder belay, lower her, and then down climb to her to set up another session of the repetitive lower, downclimb, lower downclimb. For hours we did this. At one rock outcropping about midway (with still 400-500m to the Bergschrund), I again wedged in my trusty #5. About half way down the length of the standard 40m rope of the day, the hex pops and rather than send her hurling downhill, it somehow dislodges me from my insecure perch and being too embarrassed and scared to yell that I am falling....I simply whiz on right past her. Just before the rope would have gone tight and send us both together on our last ride into the abyss, thoughts about ice axe arrests and the pictures I had seen in books about it congealed and well, somehow I stopped "just in time". It was like a Hollywood movie scene we all laugh about not ever being imaginable or feasible.
We had some bruises and cuts and I had a fat lip for a time. I knew she thought I was a gumby. But in all the credit to her as a person, all she really said about it when we were drinking tea in Lauterbrunnen was "maybe we should buy another ice axe for next time, huh?"

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By Bill Olszewski
From Colorado Springs, CO
Jul 3, 2007
Rrrrrrrrrrrr
Great post Jason! Unfortunately, my Gumby moments are less than memorable - the usual fare of forgotten cordalettes and nut tools, maybe a QD short of a climb. But I remember one great Gumby moment perpetrated by my good friend, who taught me to climb.

Now, I learned to climb in the Garden of the Gods, in C-Springs. Mostly did all the free face and cracks, but occasionally ran up one of the bolt ladders. There was an old bolt ladder that obviously hadn't seen any love for a long time, and my friend was itching to climb it. The adjective "old" as it applies to the bolts did not dissuade him, neither did the nicely faded loops of webbing, hanging from the old bolts.

My friend was nearing the anchor, on one of the last few bolts, about 60' off the deck. As he steps up on his atrier, "rip" was the sound of the old webbing, no longer interested in being climbed. As the next piece down felt the weight of my falling friend, "rip." And so it went: rip, rip, rip, hold. Now, my friend was all of 120# dripping wet, and my other friend, on belay, weighed about 250. As that solitary piece of webbing decided to arrest my buddy's fall, the belayer (who had been lying on his back, watching the past-vertical ascent) was pulled up off the ground, landing on his feet about 10' closer to the wall.

So my friend was hanging there, upside-down, his (non-helmet wearing) noggin about 2' from eternity, and all he could say was, "That was cool, I want to do it again!"

Besides this one event, my friend was actually a really good and conscientious climber and teacher. Names have been withheld to protect the gumby-inflicted.

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By Powderhound
Oct 17, 2007
This is a good thread; fun to read and full of good info (often on what NOT to do). I'll add my "what not to do" to the mix: In 1981 I was a Junior in High School, and a relatively new climber. We decided to do Tingey's one spring weekday afternoon immediately after school.

Gumby got involved at the top of the first pitch, when between the two of us, while setting the rappel, we managed to let go of our respective ends of the rope at the same time... and subsequently watched is slide down to the bottom of the slab below us. A quick scan of the area proved that we weren't going to be getting any help from below. We figured the best option was to traverse to the gully to the East of the slab, and see if we could work our way down to the base again. Due to extremely slow movement, and a few back-up-and-try-again moments, we made it back to the bottom of the climb to retrieve the rope just a bit after sunset. I still feel very fortunate to have had it turn out to be a non-SAR event.

From the positive side, we gained from this experience in the following ways:

1. We learned it is possible to use this gully as an emergency descent, although it is seriously sketchy.
2. We learned that a basic knowledge of the area layout (and a bit of luck) is essential to compensate for a single Gumby moment.
3. I've been very meticulous about securing my rope prior to untying ever since... ;)

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By John Calder
From Spokane, WA
Oct 18, 2007
Me
Powderhound, was that on Tingey's Terror? I met Ralph Tingey in Ouray last winter and climbed with him off and on for a few days. I have some funny photos of him climbing with his helmet on backwards, which he didn't realize.

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By Powderhound
Oct 18, 2007
Yes, it was on the first pitch of Tingey's Terror... our intention was to do the first pitch and rap. Must have been kinda cool to hang with Mr. Tingey last year. He's got to be getting along in years, 'cause that particular Gumby moment happened 26 years ago. I just wish I could say I haven't had any 'moments' since then.

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By dcohn
Oct 18, 2007
I taught myself how to climb and that meant I started off leading. I always climbed with my friend who knew even less than me. The first couple times out, I didn't know how to set up a rappel. Thus I would lead, put some draws up top and lower down, my friend would follow, and then I would top rope and walk off the top. There were a few times when it seemed a little dangerous to be reaching down off the top... After doing this for a session or two, I climbed something that I couldn't walk off of. Fortunately, there was someone more experienced nearby to offer guidance. It all came together after that.

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By Allen Sanderson
From Oootah
Oct 30, 2007
Stairway To Heaven - all the way to the Pearly Gates <br />(i.e. 10 pitches to the tram station)
Not so much a gumby moment but none the less funny. While descending Rainier after a winter attempt my partner and I kept falling into crevases. Never very far as the were pretty closed. At one point I hear Brent yell as he goes in another. As I look up to see him fall through I do the same - break through into one myself. So there we are, both down in a different crevase - we both crawl out applogizing for not being able to help the other.

As for gumby moments - I have been doing to this silliness for almost 30 years and still having gumby moments. This summer I got all psyc up to do a new route that required some bolts. I got the drill but forgot my hammer, wrench, and most importantly the bolts.

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By Buff Johnson
Oct 31, 2007
smiley face
I was so amped to be leading in the Ice Park, I had a tough line I was staring down trying to figure all the rests & placements. I flaked the ropes, tied in, double checked myself & partner to me, got my screws & screamers all neatly organized, took to my tools got the leashes on.

I proceeded toward the ice like a mad-man and jammed my front point right into my other foot's toe-bail. I couldn't stop, I'm swingin my tools for balance.

And I plopped right into tasty-stream (yummy sulfur), head first & torso to follow -- feet still tied together.

I pushed myself back up; with soaked gloves and all, we chuckled, then I fired that f'n thing.

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By Tom Hanson
Oct 31, 2007
Climber Drawing
Back in '78 I had just topped out on Baxter's Pinnacle in The Tetons.
I had to pee really bad so I untied from the rope and quickly tied it off to a tiny tree with my belayer still down below, waiting to come up.
While I was relieving myself, the rope came undone and slipped over the edge and piled at my belayers feet, who was a pitch below.
Luckily, I spotted another party's rope feeding through the rap anchor and ran over to grab their rope just a second before the end popped over the edge. I yelled over the side, asking them if I could borrow their cord long enough to bring up my partner.
Boy,I just escaped a major epic that day!

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By Cultivating Mass
Nov 1, 2007
Leading on the only "fair means" rack.
Man, oh man, I don't even know which one to start with. Aside from such time-honored Gumby classics as dropping the rope, forgetting the climbing shoes and figuring that out after a 45 minute approach, staying off route enough to put a new entry into the guidebook, though no one would reccommend it, I perfected a couple of my own special gumby techniques:

When setting out for your first multi pitch gear routes, always make sure to pick the one that has a full pitch without any gear to start out with.

Cams are for the rich-a $50 set of discount internet Euro-nuts, 12 stiff quickdraws, and a 10.5 that was used to toss a guy off a bridge Osman-style for its first fall (long story) are all you need to tackle a five pitch climb with zero fixed gear.

Smoke copious bud at every single belay; it helps the leader forget how bad the last pitch was. Also doubles as painkiller when you're offwidthing up a splitter and your biggest piece of gear is a 3/4 inch nut, and it's in the belay, 80 feet below.

Use the oldest, vaguest guidebook in history. Make sure to be stoned from breakfast on so that you wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell of correctly microwaving a Hot Pocket, much less finding a meandering face route on a huge chuck of rock.

Go directly from climbing in a gym to multipitch routes in North Carolina.

Climbing at Stone Mountain sounds safe-they have BOLTS there!

It really all blurs together. Thank Dog I'm alive to enjoy the Bush Presidency and Mount Chiselton. Perhaps being spliffed out and lost in the rhodos, nowhere near the climbing really was where it was at....

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By KevinCO
From Loveland, CO
Nov 1, 2007
Being off route on Northcut-Carter on Hallets.
My partner and I hiked in to recon the route the week before, we studied the guide books and had copies of the route with us on the climb.
However on the second pitch my partner veered off route onto a very chalenging past verttcal section that we had to retreat from after I followed it.
Then, at the route finding crux, I followed another party assuming they were on route. It was a long, steep lead on beatifully sculpted rock that I will always remember, but it dead ended at overhangs. I set up rap anchors that I shared with the other party. The weather was moving in and our bid was over.
My partner moved out of state and the entire first pitch peeled off before I could finish the route. Northcut-Carter no longer exists.

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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Nov 1, 2007
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.
Lots of discussion topic overlap with a former thread, if you enjoy the reads:

mountainproject.com/v/general_...

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By Marc H
From Lafayette, CO
Nov 1, 2007
The Cathedral Spires in RMNP, left to right: Stiletto, Sharkstooth, Forbidden Tower, Petit Grepon, The Saber, The Foil, The Moon & The Jackknife.
One time, in Moab, I climbed an arch.

Apparently that was a gumby move.

I must be new to climbing or something..

--Marc

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By Marc H
From Lafayette, CO
Nov 1, 2007
The Cathedral Spires in RMNP, left to right: Stiletto, Sharkstooth, Forbidden Tower, Petit Grepon, The Saber, The Foil, The Moon & The Jackknife.
For real this time:
A friend (his name will remain anonymous, though I don't know if he still climbs) of mine and I decided to go TR a route in CT called 'Unconquerable Crack' after a long night of drinking. The first time we drove all the way to the crag, and then fell asleep in his truck and were kicked off the road by construction workers early the next morning (we never even made it up to the crag). ~~(gumby moment #1)

After our next long night of drinking, we were really going to follow through. After driving to the crag (mistake #2 I guess), and hiking up, I set up the TR on our desired climb. I knew that my partner was a climber at the time (we both worked at a climbing gym) but I didn't know that he was basically a boulderer (I know, there are valid arguments that he wasn't really a climber). Instead of walking around, my drunk-ass rappelled without incident. My partner clipped his rope through his ATC, scrambled over the 90 degree edge, unclipped his leash and then asked, "Are both of the ropes supposed to be through the ATC?" (Ultimate Gumby Move!!)

After confirming that he had indeed unclipped his leash I walked his drunk-ass through the necessary steps for a safe descent. We did both climb that night after that, but I think I was more scared about the incident than he was; he might not have even realized that he probably would have been killed had he attempted to rappel with one rope through his ATC. (It's a 100' fall into a pretty nasty landing area)

That was about 8-10 years.

--Marc

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By Bogardus
From Scottsdale, AZ
Nov 1, 2007
These stories are hysterical. Here's my 2 cents:

When I was sixteen, my friend and I borrowed a rope, 2 harnesses and three quickdraws and set out to do a route called "Suicide" at Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. After unknowingly soloing 100ft of easy fourth/fifth class, I set out with three draws on an eight bolt route. Eventully we both made it to the top. I set up the rap as my friend who owned the gear had shown me, and set off. Unfortunately, the rope was 50m, which left me at a bolt about 40ft off of the ledge we had soloed to. I clipped into the single bolt with a draw (shaking unontrollably), and let my friend rap down to me. He clipped into my draw with another draw. We pulled the rope (holding on real tight) and eventually THREADED THE ROPE THROUGH THE OLD HANGER. We each rapped off one side of the rope AT THE SAME TIME. We hit the ledge, downclimbed, and went home.

At the time it didn't seem too bad, but 16 years and a lot of climbing later, I can't believe how stupid the whole event was. Just thinking of all of our weight on the rope as it folded over that sharp old (probably 1/4") hanger makes me sick.


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By Jason Shumaker
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Nov 4, 2007
Swell
These are great! Keep em' coming! Mark Nelson, that was classic.

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By Vince Romney
Nov 13, 2007
Killer string... I recognize a few of those, so at least I'm not totally alone. One nice day started as I showed up for a multi-pitch outing, and digging through the pack, realized a harness was not to be part of the day. Not to be denied the day, I figured I could just loop a few slings "figure eight" style around my legs and then join the loops with two more slings, a couple lockers and I'd be golden. Harnessed-up, I then proceeded to take two successive leader falls on the first pitch. As a 2nd soprano, I continued the route to the top, 11 pitches later. Only then did I contemplate the successive rappels required to descend. I arrived at the base a 1st soprano.

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By mr. mango
Jan 17, 2013
north wash
When I was 14 my friend and I had the brilliant Idea to lead climb up a tree. A 70 foot tall pine tree to be exact. We didn't want to mess up our good rope, so we used about 30 feet of static line. He went first. he threw slings around tree branches and clipped them for protection. when he was about half way up I announced that he was out of rope. he put me on belay and we swung pitches to the top. the idea of multi-stage rappels had not occurred to us yet. We looped the rope over a tree branch and proceeded to rappel. I had tied a knot in the rope to avoid any accidents. I swung myself over to the tree and anchored in to a branch. My friend was close behind. we pulled the rope and set up a new rappel. I did not tie the knot in the end this time. I went first only to find that the end of our rope was about 8 feet off the ground. I slid off the end and hit the ground. My partner insisted that I tie a knot to prevent him from making the same mistake, so I did. Little did we realize that this was a big mistake. He rappelled down to the end of the rope and the knot stopped his motion. He quickly realized that he couldn't reach the tree to downclimb. He decided to test out a technique that he had read about in a climbing magazine. He attempted to walk the rope and reach a branch about four feet above him. He almost made it, but he slipped and grabed onto a thin twig for support. The twig broke and he fell face up towards the ground. the static line caught him and he jerked to a stop. He was in a great amount of pain. He started yelling for me to cut the rope but neither of us had a knife. I ran to his house to get a knife. When I came back he was still in the air. I threw him the knife and he cut the rope at the top of his belay device and fell to the ground. Yep there you have it.

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By Ben Brotelho
From Albany, NY
Jan 17, 2013
Epic free solo with a pack on
Set up to do a rappel (Madame G's at the Gunks, which is free-hanging for about 100 feet with a short downclimb at the end.) This is a quite popular area so there were two people waiting to rap after me, and as I get to the edge, I look down and realize that I had only clipped the ATC through the bottom of the two master points on the harness...not a fatal mistake, but I probably would have tipped upside-down if I hadn't fixed it.

I then clipped the device correctly, and rapped without incident, but I think I really scared the crap out of the two people watching me make this mistake. They looked like they were witnessing death in action!

Another mistake I made was neglecting to initiate a bowl-movement prior to climbing the Petit Grepon in RMNP last summer. The first two pitches were NOT fun at all because I had to shit the entire time...every move I made forced the doo doo further and further out. I finally reached an ideal spot: belay cave with snow in the back. I relieved myself, and the rest of the climb was fun, with the exception of the shitty piton belay.

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