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How to not die while rappelling


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Anchor: Verify it's bomber, that any webbing, rap rings or anything that's part of the anchor is in good condition.

Rope: Fed through the anchor correctly, that ends either touch ground, or are even with knots in the end if free hanging.

Belay Device: Fed through correctly with biner securing the bight and a quick weight test.

Biner: Locked

Harness: Double backed and adjusted properly.



Rather than this slightly obtuse ARBBH system, I use a similar one with a simpler mnemonic:


A - anchor (make sure it looks solid, rope goes through properly)

B - buckle (make sure harness buckle is double-backed; not usually an issue rock climbing, but maybe when mountaineering, or if you took harness off to take a crap)

C - carabiner (locked)

D - device(s) (device properly rigged, both ends through; also, if using backup, backup properly rigged)

E - ends (make sure you know where rope ends are (bottom ends); make sure ends are tied together well (top ends)


Takes all of 10 seconds to check...A...B...C...D...E...good to go!

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Sir Donald:

There have been numerous questions regarding the fatality on Sir Donald

last month. Hopefully the following information will be useful in

preventing similar accidents from happening.


Time of Day: approximately 16:45

Weather: Clear, sunny, calm, very warm

# Climbers on the route: Approximately 20


Synopsis: A party of two climbers from Washington had reached the summit

of Sir Donald, via the NW Ridge and West Face Bi-Pass to the summit. One

of the climbers was beginning the fourth rappel. This is a steep rappel.

By staying to the north side of the ridge, one can rappel to easier ground,

and a short down climb to the next anchor. If one rappels off the south

side, it becomes overhanging, and difficult to get back onto the ridge

proper. The rope being used was an 8mm x 50m twin rope. Knots were not

tied in the ends. Prussiks were not being used. The rappel device was a

standard ATC.


The climber on rappel was on the south side of the ridge, which is

overhanging. She was not able to swing over to the ridge proper, and was

unable to stop her descent, due to the lack of friction provided by the ATC

on the 8mm rope. With no knots at the end of the ropes and no back-up

prussik, there was nothing to prevent her from sliding off the end of the

rappel rope. She fell approximately 300 meters.


Comments: Wardens have noted that it is becoming common practise to bring

as short and light a rope as possible for the objective. Small diameter

ropes are commonly used for serious mountaineering objectives, due to their

light weight and small bulk. Correspondingly, belay/rappel devices being

used are not necessarily designed for such small diameter ropes.


The Rogers Pass Centre has excellent information on the Sir Donald Rappel

route, including a description of the fourth rappel, with direction to stay

to the north side.


A 50 meter rope will suffice for this route, however rappels do not always

end exactly at the next rappel anchor. Some down climbing is required to

get between some stations.


Uto Peak: It is most common for climbers to descend the NW Ridge of Uto to

the Uto-Eagle Col. Recently, a few parties have descended a prominent and

inviting gully part way down the ridge, rather than going all the way to

the Col. This gully now has a small foot path created by climbers. This

gully ends in cliff bands and rotten rock. It is best to climb over the

small block on the ridge, and continue easily down to the Eagle Col. Here,

it is possible to descend the gully, which still steepens near the bottom,

or the rib coming of Eagle Peak (preferred).


Sylvia Forest

Mountain Guide




These observations and opinions are those of the person who submitted them. The ACMG and its members take no responsibility for errors, omissions, or lapses in continuity. Conditions differ greatly over time and space due to the variable nature of mountain weather and terrain. Application of this information provides no guarantee of increased safety. Do not use the Mountain Conditions Report as the sole factor in planning trips or making decisions in the field.

Please check out http://acmg.ca/mcr for more information.

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With my experiences on Sir Donald. My advice when decending the NW Ridge is to stay on the direct ridge as much as possible. One can get sucked into the multiple raps which I believe is not needed. Sticking to the ridge and down climbing is more efficient.

I tie knots in the end of my rope even if I can see the bottom. It's just a good habit.

Unfortunate for the accident to happen. frown.gif

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Let's not forget that long hair isn't the only think that can get stuck in your ATC. Watch out for untucked shirts or windshirts tied around the waist. I agree with matt, extend the device up alittle. Never have used this method, but always think I should when laying on the couch thinking about climbing. Thanks for the interesting topic, even experienced climbers need to remember their safety tips, less we get complacent.

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