Thank you all for your good thoughts. Here is what happened to the best of what I can reconstruct. You will note that I am a stickler for what I “know” verses what I “believe” so that we limit misinformation.
I have climbed 15+ years, many years getting in more than 250 days per year, and must have over 500 days climbing at vantage. I know the area, know what I am doing, and know most of the moderate routes, even if I rarely know the names of the climbs. This spring I find myself fat and out of shape, and invited a few of my old high school students out climbing for the weekend. Some of these students have become great climbers, other have not climbed in the 7 years since our last time. I had a couple beginners head down to the sunshine wall, so I decided to hang a rope on “Justified Ancients of the Mu Mu” (5.8) for them to climb on.
My belayer is a great kid who had not climbed much in the preceding years. He belayed quite a few routes on Saturday and did a great job. Hand movements were consistent and correct, attention to detail was correct, focus was great. A notable fact is that my fat ass was weighing in at about 225, and he weighed in at about 170ish. Belayer was using an ATC device, and using it well.
I climbed up the pillar to the last bolt on the front face. My hands were tired from being so darn out of shape, so I stopped to hang twice and rest while the belay held me. On about the last bolt on the front face, I clipped in with a new runner recently purchased. The runner was sewed webbing about 6 inches long being used basically in the same way one would use a quickdraw.
To rest, I told my belayer that I am going to have to rest, so to “take” me. I reached over and grabbed my hand around the runner, then shifted my weight onto the runner, which immediately “zipped” out of my hand and disappeared. As I started falling, I had the sense to kick my feet out so that they would stay underneath me, figuring that I would just hit the wall down a ways when the next bolt caught. Somewhere in the half-way down range, I know that the rope came taunt for a moment, serving to slow my momentum yet throw me off balance. What was happening during the rest of the descent is merely a blur to me, but I do remember at least once being jerked at the harness.
Meanwhile, when I told him to “take,” my belayer (being much lighter than I am) leaned heavily back into the rope to hold my weight as I laid back into it. When the runner “broke,” I assume that he immediately fell backward just as I did. My belayer tumbled, fell, caught, and was “beaten up” during this event. After the event, he had cuts/scrapes/bruises showing that he had been in a fight. I have no doubt that in his tumble, slack entered the system while he was fighting for control. Belayer eventually caught the rope, and was pulled back up the wall by my momentum.
I don’t know how far I actually fell, but while laying there someone asked me and I looked up from the ground and estimated 40 feet. Where I first hit was on a rock ledge, flat on my back. Since most of my injuries were merely “hairline fractures” I have NO DOUBT that my momentum had been slowed SIGNIFICANTLY by the belayer. I have NO problem with the belayer doing the best he could, and give him huge credit for slowing my momentum at his own injury. He has my love and my appreciation for saving my life.
While laying there waiting for the chopper, I was awake and coherent (no head injuries whatsoever.) We looked up at the climb, there was still a biner hanging alone in the top hanger. The corresponding biner was hanging on the rope. People went and found the “runner” and numerous who have viewed it have told me that it is their opinion that the runner had been glued but never been sewed. When I get out of the hospital I will investigate further. My preliminary view is that “people make mistakes” and the manufacturer merely let this one runner out of the shop without getting sewed.
I am glad to be alive, glad to have NO permanent injuries, NO head injuries, and glad that it was not someone else who “discovered” that I had a defective piece of gear on my rack. Love to all of you.
The lesson to be learned: Even NEW gear can be defective.