Man dies rapping in Zion


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Jon Beck

Trad climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 20, 2012 - 07:51pm PT

Man was rapping a falls in a canyon called subway

the last bivy
Sep 20, 2012 - 09:38pm PT
Unconfirmed reports suggest the man was using an autoblock that got stuck in his rappel device and became inverted while trying to get it unstuck.

this was posted on the ACA website discussion

we had some discussion here about autoblocks a while back

condolences to the family and especially this man's wife who was at the scene.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Sep 20, 2012 - 10:37pm PT

Man, 74, dies after hanging by foot overnight in Zion NP canyon
Tragedy Ľ Companion hiked for help, but rangers arrived too late.
By bob mims and Michael McFall
| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Sep 20 2012 08:25 am ē Updated 1 minute ago
Yoshio Hosobuchi, a retired neurosurgeon from Novato, Calif., spent the past few years traveling with his wife as they crossed items off his bucket list. Last year, he hiked Kilimanjaro, and Wednesday the couple aimed to check off one more: the Subway Slot Canyon in Zion National Park.

But their daylong adventure ended in unimaginable tragedy. Hosobuchi, 74, lost consciousness and died after hanging upside-down overnight in a waterfall, unable to free a foot that became stuck as he rappelled down the canyon wall. The accident occurred Tuesday night, and Hosobuchi had passed away by the time park rangers arrived Wednesday morning.

"He was unable to pull himself up to reach his foot. ÖThis was an extremely tragic, awful way for him to die," Zion spokeswoman Aly Baltrus said Thursday, adding that the exact cause of death awaited an autopsy by the Utah State Medical Examinerís Office.

When Hosobuchi and his 61-year-old wife reached the waterfall, with the canyon floor about 15 feet below them, Hosobuchi rappelled from an anchor in the waterfall instead of crossing it and rappelling from an anchor on the other side, Baltrus said. His repelling device jammed, possibly because of a knot, and he wound up upside down, his hands about five feet above the ground.

His wife, who had earlier managed to climb down to the canyon floor, tried to help him, but couldnít. And they were the last ones in the canyon, having been passed by several groups throughout the day.

Hosobuchiís wife tried in vain to locate help Tuesday night, but apparently became disoriented about halfway through the nine-mile route in the remote, rugged area.

"The partner was caught by darkness and was unfamiliar with the exit route, and could not make it out of the canyon until Wednesday morning," Baltrus explained.

A canyoneer from a group that had passed the couple earlier in the day had called park dispatchers at 9 p.m. to tell them that at their current pace, Hosobuchi and his wife would probably have to spend the night in the canyon. Based on that, rangers began looking for the overdue couple on Wednesday morning and ran into Hosobuchiís wife on the trail about 11:45 a.m. as she was hiking out.

The parkís search and rescue team found the victim about an hour later.

Baltrus said the couple were relatively new to canyoneering, and had not been to the Subway area. Their only experience was an introductory course and completing a trip through Keyhole Canyon, elsewhere in the park.

According to Baltrus, they hadnít mastered route finding and may not have had the skills needed to get out of trouble while rappelling. Rappelling in a watercourse is even more difficult and may have contributed to Hosobuchiís death, Baltrus said in a news release about the accident issued Thursday.

Hosobuchiís death was the first reported in the Subway area in recent memory, park officials said, though rangers have completed four successful rescues in the slot canyon so far this year.

Zion National Park Superintendent Jock Whitworth issued a statement in sympathy ó and warning.

"The Subway is deceiving. It is a very popular trail, but very difficult ó the nine-mile hike requires rappelling and ascending skills, extensive route finding experience, and swimming through several cold and deep pools," Whitworth said. "Unfortunately, its location inside the wilderness also means that rescues are not always possible or timely enough. Sound decision making and problem solving are critical."

The Subway, also known as the Left Fork of North Creek, carries a 2B III difficulty grade using the Canyon Rating System, being considered a semi-technical canyoneering challenge. Normally, for experienced canyoneers, it is considered a seven to nine-hour excursion and offers some of Zionís most iconic showcase scenery.

Visitors, having obtained a backcountry permit, can rappel into the slot canyon from above, or hike into it from below.
Matt Leonard

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Sep 21, 2012 - 10:54pm PT
We were on that route, same day. Arrived at the body just a little while after the first Ranger/SAR did. Pretty disturbing - we had to pass right over the body stepping over his anchor.

I got the initial assessment from SAR. He was on a newly-built rap - a variation from the standard route. It's quite possible he didn't know there was a much easier/standard rap 50 feet further. It's a tricky rappel for those less experienced - off a log at your feet (so anchors are ~12 inches below your best stance), right alongside a small waterfall (so slippery as well). His autoblock jammed into his device, and he presumably didn't know how to un=weight it. He decided to cut himself out of his harness (it was the last rap of the day, and only a 15'-20' drop). It looked like he cut out his waist, but then inverted, got caught on his leg loops, and couldn't escape. His partner was below as he was hanging upsidedown, swinging into the waterfall, but unable to help. She couldn't find the exit out of the canyon as nightfall was coming (it is a long and confusing exit)and contact help until the next morning.

It seems like simply knowing how to ascend (inline step, or rigging a prussik) would have prevented this, and been a much better option than cutting yourself out of your harness. Of course, it's hard to speculate until the official SAR report is out.

It was my first time canyoneering - and I was a bit shocked at how casual, and inexperienced a lot of folks were out there. And in turn, how many folks had done a 1-day "learn to rappel" course from local shops, been encouraged by how easy everyone made routes out to be, and jumped into canyons with rented ropes/harnesses. Sure, most times knowing the bare minimum (rigging a rappel device on a bolted anchor) might suffice. But here's a very sad, tragic example of when having more than 1-day of rappelling experience is really, really important.

We were following another group on the approach and actual started off-route, and did Russel's Gulch variation. It was am easy straightforward, 100' rappel with an intermediate anchor IF you knew what you were looking at. The couple ahead of us (and the next group behind us!) were all rappelling for the first time (After taking a 1-day course), and per the guidebook thought it was a 30' downclimb. They had nowhere near enough rope, didn't know how to ascend if they got to the end of their rope and not the ground (or intermediate anchor). I took the time to offer my rope, made sure everyone rigged properly and got down OK, but I can only imagine the trouble people get into out there.

Jon Beck

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 22, 2012 - 12:14am PT
Rapping kills way too many experienced people. Noobs getting into it is job security for SAR. A heart wrenching story to read, and a rescue should have been easy to do.

Ice climber
chingadero de chula vista
Sep 22, 2012 - 12:31am PT
Well this calls out for some snippy comments, but I'll hush my mouth.

A real shame.


Jim Henson's Basement
Sep 22, 2012 - 01:56am PT
Wow- what a bizarre accident. Very tragic. Condolences to friends and family.

I hate reading these things... especially when it was probably preventable. A few extremely basic self-rescue skills could have saved this man's life. These companies that are teaching quickie rappel classes really should add a little extra time to educate people how to unweight a rope should your shirt, hair or rap-backup get jammed in the device.

Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Sep 22, 2012 - 09:35am PT
Does anybody here actually use this autoblock thing? I would probably get it stuck in my belay device too.

Jim Henson's Basement
Sep 22, 2012 - 09:56am PT
@ Don: I use one all the time. I've read way too many accident reports and really hate rappelling, so I take precautions. Tied at the correct length - it actually cannot get jammed in the device BTW but that comes with experience.

Reports of a rap-backup causing a fatality are extremely rare. The number of times a backup could have prevented an accident are many. This accident was bizarre. The poor man simply didn't know what to do and made a bad decision about trying to get loose from his harness.

I can't imagine how helpless his wife felt.

Sep 22, 2012 - 11:24am PT
Was cause of death drowning because he was stuck in waterfall?

Or exposure to cold?
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Sep 22, 2012 - 12:04pm PT
It may have been even worse than that!

This is a sad tragic example of how a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
Gotta wonder about these basic skills classes.

Social climber
Sep 22, 2012 - 08:27pm PT
hey there say, jon...

this is very sad, :(

thanks for sharing so we can keep there families in mind,
at this awful time, :(

my condolences to the family and to his loved ones,:(
Anxious Melancholy

Mountain climber
Between the Depths of Despair & Heights of Folly
Sep 24, 2012 - 01:03am PT
My heart aches for the widow. First for being thrust so quickly and intimately into such a tragic event, and secondly for the hole in her life's landscape his departure must create.

How many times have we ourselves pushed our limits? How many times have we seen others do the same? How often, as more experienced individuals, have we attempted to share our lessons with the thought of helping others safely enjoy the more elusive beauties of nature? And how often have adventurous souls paid for their spirit of exploration with the ultimate blending of body and earth?

I've passed thru this place of departure several times, most recently the day after this event, and it now holds much more significance for me. More than a combining of my own and a partner's sharing of personal enjoyment of nature's abundant beauty, there is now an even greater awareness of its ability to reach out and encircle us with its everlasting embrace.

As I passed over this spot, I snapped the pictures below, never realizing their import. RIP brother.

Credit: Anxious Melancholy

Credit: Anxious Melancholy

Trad climber
Josh, CA
Sep 24, 2012 - 06:31am PT
One way to keep the autobloc from getting stuck in your device is to extend the belay device with a sling.

Problem solved.

Sorry to hear this.
raymond phule

Sep 24, 2012 - 06:48am PT
What is the advantage in using an outoblock ( I guess we are talking about a prussik) below the rappel device instead of using the prussik above the rappel device?

Trad climber
Sep 24, 2012 - 07:54am PT
"What is the advantage in using an outoblock ( I guess we are talking about a prussik) below the rappel device instead of using the prussik above the rappel device?"

Well, usually a "French Prusik". Below the rappel device means the Prusik has to do less work to grab because you already have the friction of the rappel device assisting.

Above the rappel device, the Prusik must do all the grabbing on it's own.

Try stopping yourself on rappel by gripping the rope with both hands above the rappel device vs. gripping the rope below the rappel device. (Don't really try this, but you see what I mean...)
raymond phule

Sep 24, 2012 - 07:59am PT
Yes, I understand that but a french prussik above the rappeling device also works well. To me it seems more natural and the risk for the prussik to interact with the rappeling device is less.
The user formerly known as stzzo

Sneaking up behind you
Sep 24, 2012 - 08:32am PT
What is the advantage in using an outoblock ( I guess we are talking about a prussik) below the rappel device instead of using the prussik above the rappel device?

Two that I know of:

 Much easier to release an autoblock than a prusik.
 Much easier to release a friction knot backup that is below the device on the brake than to release a friction knot backup that is a above the device on the rope.

If you've never done it: just for fun, put a prusik backup above the rap device and let it engage to catch you. Then do it with the backup below the device, and compare.
raymond phule

Sep 24, 2012 - 08:44am PT

Much easier to release an autoblock than a prusik.

But isn't an auto block a prusik?

If you've never done it: just for fun, put a prusik backup above the rap device and let it engage to catch you.

The reason that I asked is that I have used a french prusik above the rappeling device many times without any problems. It catch falls and is easy to release.

Jim Henson's Basement
Sep 24, 2012 - 09:13am PT
Beautiful post by Anxious up there.^^^ Thanks for the pics.

Drift for technical clarification:

@Raymond. There is a little confusion with the term "auto block" since it is both a specific type of backup knot and a generic term some people use to describe backing up a rappel (with any knot). When they compare releasability, they are comparing specific knots to one another. The autoblock knot is easier to release than a (standard) prusic knot.

Credit: justthemaid

Credit: justthemaid

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