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cascadesdj

Vantage accident 3/18/12

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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.

 

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Great report, it should be easy to confirm no threads with a good exam of the runner.

 

Guess a great lesson here is to go through and inspect all parts of the system before each trip where they are used. Especially everything. Next accident will be something completely different.

 

I also no longer use or am belayed by anything other than a Cinch or GriGri while sport climbing, period. One never knows when whippers can go big.

 

I tend to do that inspection after a trip, as I clean, dry and/or organize my kit.

 

BTW--Great Avatar!!!

 

Edited by Coldfinger

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Glad to hear you're doing so well, HOR! That damned coulee almost killed me once, too. Whole freak'n column tipped over, with me on top of it. No helmet either - I still don't know how I got up, dusted off, and walked away from that one...
Are you sure this didn't happen to you online, but over time you've just convinced yourself it really happened? :wave:
Nope, it really happened... :shock:

 

Yeah, but did you finish the lead?

 

And, ummm..., wow. Incredible story.

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I don't want to list brand names/ stores/ branding until I have personally had a chance to inspect the stuff. Assuming that I am as convinced as everyone else, I will list the details. sorry

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Thanks for sharing. What's striking in your case is that you really did not do anything wrong. Who would suspect a new piece of gear would be flawed?

 

I'm very glad you're going to be OK, that you are willing to share your experience, that you were giving your time and energy to others, and that your perspective regarding your belayer is simultaneously blame-free and forgiving.

 

Many folks read accident analyses and then think to themselves: "That guy did X, Y, and Z wrong. I would NEVER make those mistakes." But people do make those same mistakes. All it takes is a single lapse of judgment, failure to pay attention at a critical moment, a simple but catastrophic oversight, or just plain bad luck.

 

Those of us, myself included, who mentally distance ourselves from those in accidents do so to convince ourselves we won't suffer the same fate ourselves. This is a dangerous mindset. We'd be better served to understand and accept that accidents, both human-caused and those beyond our control, can happen to anyone at any time. That doesn't mean we shouldn't climb. It only means we need to have our eyes and minds open and analyzing all the time in an effort to minimize the chance of human errors, and we must work hard to identify potential objective hazards and mitigate them or turn back when their combined severity and probability dictate.

 

Heal fast, HOR. We could use more of your kind.

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Glad to hear you're doing so well, HOR! That damned coulee almost killed me once, too. Whole freak'n column tipped over, with me on top of it. No helmet either - I still don't know how I got up, dusted off, and walked away from that one...
Are you sure this didn't happen to you online, but over time you've just convinced yourself it really happened? :wave:
Nope, it really happened... :shock:
Yeah, but did you finish the lead?
Ummm, no. There was no climb to lead anymore. It was lying in pieces at the bottom of the talus slope... :)

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HOR, thanks much for your frankness, and non judgmental account. I've much to learn from you.

 

May you heal fast and fully. Looking forward to having you out of the hospital, and helping to do whatever is needed to get you back on you feet.

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I've wondered about having more gear being made in China, if quality control will not continue to become an issue. And there has been a lot in the news about counterfit merchandise making it into the markets.

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HOR - thanks for great analysis. I wish you the very best in recovery. As someone who has been busted up a few times (climbing, motorcycles, etc...) I will say this: there will be times you will think you will never heal, and then one day you will realize wow I really made progress. Hang in there, you will heal up fine. Best of luck!

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I'm curious, who was the manufacturer of the sling?

 

I completely agree with your and Rad's point about personal responsibility. Every time we step off the ground, we're taking our lives into our own hands.

 

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glad high on rock's gonna be ok.

 

 

whenever i see someone belaying with an ATC, it kinda freaks me out. especially if there's a big weight difference.

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glad high on rock's gonna be ok.

 

 

whenever i see someone belaying with an ATC, it kinda freaks me out. especially if there's a big weight difference.

 

True story of my first lead belay.

 

After learning to belay in Wyoming on braided goldlines, bowlines, hip belays and tied off to a tree, I managed to convince my mom (think I was 13) to get me a lesson once back home.

 

The instructor (a great guy and good friend) wanted me to belay him on a 5.8 lead, and since I was about 100lbs and he was easily 170lbs I told him I wanted a belay anchor, as I had been taught in Wyo.

 

Well he said I'd be ok, but I refused, and tied myself into a log sitting in a cross legged position.

 

Turns out the 5.8 was wet, he fell, bent the rigid shaft of a Friend that did hold and ended up swinging upside down looking me right in the eyes, less than two feet off of the deck and about a foot in front of me. I was still sitting cross legged.

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glad high on rock's gonna be ok.

 

 

whenever i see someone belaying with an ATC, it kinda freaks me out. especially if there's a big weight difference.

 

Serious? I actually see quite a few people out there using ATC's or some version therein, myself included. I get freaked when belayers are lured into a false sense of infallibility, reading their kindles, texting, finishing the last bit of their PBR's while belaying with a cinch or gri gri.

 

It's the pilot, not the device, that determines safety.

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I wondered about the ATC comment as well. ATCs must be about the most popular style belay device used. If there was a problem with them I'd expect to hear more ATC related accidents.

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That comment only applies to the GriGri, Cinch is NOT held open to feed slack, rather one always has the brake hand on the rope.

 

There is a big diff between the manual belay, and also between the GriGri and Cinch.

 

If you're used to manual belay, Cinch is pretty natural.

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Hey High on Rock,

 

Wow....glad to learn that you're doing as good as you are, and it's cool that you have such a positive attitude!

 

I appreciate your account of what happened to you and your friends at Vantage, and I've no doubt it will challenge some climbers to think more about safety of themselves and others. I always look for methods on how to do things even more safe at home as well as at work. As a matter of fact, I'm going to re-read the Belay Section in my Freedom of the Hills book tonight.

 

Thank you, Bud! Mend up quick and here's sending you healthy. healing, good thoughts!

 

Serious? I actually see quite a few people out there using ATC's or some version therein, myself included. I get freaked when belayers are lured into a false sense of infallibility, reading their kindles, texting, finishing the last bit of their PBR's while belaying with a cinch or gri gri.

 

It's the pilot, not the device, that determines safety.

Heh... I pretty much thought the same thing, John.

 

 

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Yeah ok, drivers, I mean Pilots, err sorry, the belayers are the ONLY safety device not the ........

 

Nuisance_seatbelts_color_med.jpg

 

So why don't you want to use a LOCKING device????

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Man, you and belayer both took a real beating on this one - glad that you are on the mend. I'm a fly weight myself and have slammed the wall a few times.

Looks like JosephH called it - and all of the on-going analysis will help. And as for all of us; time to bone up on belay devices and technique. For the most part, the system works. Hope you can recover soon.

 

Pretty much really only two things to know here: a) some idea as to why the webbing / dogbone broke and b) was it his or was it fixed. Everything else about the incident would appear to speak for itself, however unfortunate. Could have been much, much worse; glad it wasn't.

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Oh yeah you're right, using seatbelts makes driving MORE dangerous, that's because once when I saw some stoopid driver with a seatbelt, so from now on I'll blame the seatbelt, won't buckle up again, soo sorry.......

 

And to set the record straight, the things HOR & partner DID do right saved his life.

Edited by Coldfinger

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I once T boned a driver that ran a red light she broke her pelvis, if she would have been belted in she would have probably died being the door was half way into the driver’s seat, I witnessed a roll over that the driver was were’n a seat belt he walked away so it goes both ways

I don’t believe in seatbelt or helmet laws it should be my right to choose, I would not ride a crotch rocket without a helmet or get on the freeway without a seat belt

 

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Your "right" to choose often turns into your insurance company or your probate attorney suing somebody, or your $200,000 in insured or unpaid medical expenses being passed on to the rest of us. So please don't tell me that choice burdens no one else.

 

Not belting says something about intelligence.

 

As for belaying, ATC's ARE rock solid, but there are other "choices" now.

 

BTW the pic was for a Darwin Award for a guy who advocated against seat belts, you can guess what happened.

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HOR. I am happy you are with us for more days.

 

you got out 250 days in a year? I am jealous!

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Serious? I actually see quite a few people out there using ATC's or some version therein, myself included. I get freaked when belayers are lured into a false sense of infallibility, reading their kindles, texting, finishing the last bit of their PBR's while belaying with a cinch or gri gri.

 

It's the pilot, not the device, that determines safety.

 

i can certainly understand your perspective. it was pretty similar to mine before i started using a grigri.

 

here's my take:

 

the grigri (or cinch, or fader, or eddy; used em all) is like an atc with a safety belt. still a pretty good idea to approach the use of one as one would an atc (keep your brake hand on, pay attention, etc) but if the belayer becomes disoriented/injured/distracted by yellow wasp/has a sudden spontaneous hand amputation, the leader isn't necessarily in danger of dying. it's a back up.

 

oh and it has made climbing so much more enjoyable! holy smokes, it's been what, probably close to 20 years since i've used an atc (except for occasional alpine), and i still remember straining away at the rope, having to hang on, making sure that hand was always tight etc etc while my buddy dogged his way up some index test piece.

 

anyway, that's my perspective. just glad everyone's all right.

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