Climbing Death in Yosemite above the Awahanee


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Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
May 9, 2010 - 04:57pm PT
Tragic. My condolences to family and friends and much appreciation to those who were on the scene.

Trad climber
San Diego CA
May 9, 2010 - 05:07pm PT
We used tie a 7mm to the old fat 11's and rap both lines. For tough pulls, put 7 thru anchor for easy pull. What's wrong with that system? We did it for years, were we just dumb lucky?


Trad climber
The Great North these days......
May 9, 2010 - 05:10pm PT
bee, I also used a 7mm and rapped both ropes for years. Always put the fat rope through the anchor. Always felt safe. Very sorry to hear about this accident. I have no idea how many times I rapped from the same spot.

Trad climber
May 9, 2010 - 05:24pm PT
Sorry to hear this. Best of thoughts to family, friends, and those who witnessed it.

Trad climber
OAK (nee NH)
May 9, 2010 - 05:26pm PT
via Petzl
via Petzl
Credit: slobmonster
From the Petzl catalog.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
May 9, 2010 - 05:30pm PT
thanks Slob, I was curious about how the backup worked.


Trad climber
May 9, 2010 - 05:32pm PT
Condolences to family and friends. Really sorry for your loss.

Trad climber
greater Boss Angeles area
May 9, 2010 - 05:40pm PT
Thanks, Slobmaster.

That looks sketchy not because it might fail, but it looks like it might get stuck on retrieval.

Social climber
May 9, 2010 - 06:02pm PT
This is truly tragic news. My condolences to the partner, friends, and family. From what I hear about Brian, he will be sorely missed.

I was off the day of the accident, and was not a part of the body recovery or investigation. However, I talked at length yesterday to the investigating ranger, and have a good understanding of what happened.

At today's climber coffee at Camp 4 we had a long discussion about the accident. With an accident like this we must take the time to learn what we can from the incident even though it is hard to talk about the loss of someone from our community. Everyone I talked to today at Camp 4 really feels for the friends and family of Brian.

As has been mentioned in this thread, Brian was using the "biner block" or, as Peter Haan called it, the "Reepschnur" method of single line rappelling. The link that Scared Silly provided has a good image of the basic idea of the system accept for the knot used to connect the lead line and tag line.

Here it is again:'biner_block

Edit: Slobmaster posted the petzl image, which is even better. Do they have a name for it?

Since the partner seems willing to give his on account of the accident, I won't go into the details. You guys already understand the basic nature of the accident. Like Brat said, Brian apparently always tied the backup 8 on a bite and clipped it to the single rappel line with a locking-biner, and this time he did not. Then, while Brian was rappelling, the knot pulled through the anchors. They were rappelling from the anchors on the ledge after the 3rd pitch of Serenity Crack.

FYI: The webbing and rap-rings were shock-loaded during the fall. They have been replaced.

I am also available for further questions. Call or email if you like.

Jesse McGahey
Climbing Ranger
Yosemite NP


El Portal
May 9, 2010 - 06:04pm PT
Jesse and whoever else was involved, thank you for replacing that anchor.

Social climber
May 9, 2010 - 06:16pm PT
It wasn't me, but I'll pass it on. Thank you Brat for being there for the partner. Send him my best wishes, and let him know that we are here to help in any way we can. If he wants me to post a report here for him, I can do that as well.

The rap rings were the larger-opening-diameter aluminum ones, this explains how the knot was able to pull through the rings. It is now a solid welded steel ring with an extra biner as a backup.


Trad climber
New Durham, NH
May 9, 2010 - 07:14pm PT
So sad to log on today and found that the climbing community has lost another brother. Condolences to his family, loved ones, and all those he touched.

Tattooed 1

Trad climber
Sebastopol, Ca
May 9, 2010 - 07:29pm PT
I am so very sorry for Brian's family and friends. It is really tragic and although I never rap on a single line I will be that much more careful from now on. Thanks again Werner for the work that you guys do. Rest in peace Brian.

Trad climber
Josh, CA
May 9, 2010 - 07:29pm PT
Thanks much Jesse for the explanation. I now understand what happened.

Also, sorry to the partners who were there.
Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
May 9, 2010 - 07:30pm PT
Condolences to family and friends.

May 9, 2010 - 08:25pm PT
weschrist --- "You pass the end of the 7mm before you reach the end of the 11mm............."

I rapped with 7mm for 20 years with the 7mm thru the anchor and always pulled the lead line. There's no slippage if you use a figure 8 correctly with an added friction biner. Those new fangled rappel gadgets might be a problem though and that's why I still use a figure 8 today.

Always be alert to potential problems and have for-thought before you do anything is the motto.

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 9, 2010 - 08:59pm PT
Running a 10.6 and 8.6 with trango jaws = significant slippage. same thing with BD XTP.

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
May 9, 2010 - 10:07pm PT
There's no slippage if you use a figure 8 correctly with an added friction biner

Hi Werner. Can you explain this for someone who does not use a figure 8? I thought when rapping with this device the rope gets stuffed through the big end and wrapped around the post, the carabiner in the small end to the harness has no effect on the friction. Where do you add the biner?

Just curious, sorry if it's a dumb question, I use an atc myself and I'm good and safe with it but I don't love it.

Regarding the rapping on a lead line and thin pull line, depending on the ropes the unequal rate at which they go through some devices can cause all kinds of twisting. I've never worried much about the slippage which can occur because I am not rapping to the very end of the ropes where a foot or two would matter and if I am they are knotted.

And thank you for all you do and have done over many years for The Park and the climbing community.

May 9, 2010 - 10:09pm PT
Someone on Summitpost posted a pix that made it even more clear to me than the Petzl pix...

Deepest sympathies to family & friends of Brian Ellis.


Cumberland Plateau
May 9, 2010 - 10:11pm PT
This link shows the knot block and biner block. The knot block has been the cause of one fatality and at least one near miss that I know of (victim received broken pelvis).
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