Todd Skinners failed harness - update


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Trad climber
Joshua tree ca
Sep 20, 2012 - 08:25pm PT
Sorry for the loss of your friend Ron. As much sh#t as you have given me and my crew I just had to poke back a bit........cheers to a bad ass life and this type of accident never happening again!!!


Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
Sep 20, 2012 - 08:42pm PT
if the belay loop were less safe than going through the tie-in point, then why do most if not all manufactures specifically instruct users to use the belay loop for rapping?

the reason is that unless the belay loop is majorly jacked, it's clean, simple, safe, quick.

so maybe the moral isn't to have two, three belays loops, or to rap at the tie-in point, so much as not to have a jacked belay loop.

Sep 20, 2012 - 09:40pm PT
It probably will never happen to most of you people.

But guys like Skinner myself and various others didn't rely on checking our gear much.

We threw the stuff around and neglected it. Gear was just some annoying junk to deal with.

Most climbers love to fondle this garbage called gear and get all involved with it.

I hated dealing with that junk,

Thus if your stars were not aligned right sh!t happened.

RIP brother Todd .......
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Sep 20, 2012 - 09:58pm PT
Good point by Werner, complacency plays a role. I wish I was 1/10th the bad azz Todd was, and hardly worried about the little stuff and could focus solely on the moves. Sadly we lost an amazing climber to what seems in hindsight like a minor detail. I agree with Ron, why add anything to your chain that is not necessary. Just my preference.

There is a lot worse safety lapses happening than using a belay loop to rap. I climbed with a partner who was instructed to untie the rope at belays on multi-pitch climbs. I told her not to do that with me. Double checked her anchors and technique after I saw her do that.

Sep 20, 2012 - 10:25pm PT

About the ovals burned through.

When I was in Borneo the static lines were doing that thru mine from all the grit that got into the ropes.

Can happen in a few days really fast.

My figure 8 was burned half way thru in 3 days, burned all the teeth of my juggs and when I came back to the states people were freaking about it.

I told them stop worrying about this sh!t.

I loved looking at that figure 8 looking all burned thru.

I got so much sh!t from so many people about it I changed to a new one just to get them off my ass.

I put on the load test meter and broke it at 10 thousand lbs.

Ho man!

I miss that figure 8 .....

Mountain climber
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Sep 20, 2012 - 11:37pm PT
This is appreciated.
RIP Mr. Skinner.

Trad climber
Sh#t Hole, Brooklyn, NY
Sep 21, 2012 - 01:35am PT
Lot's of climbers run ghetto gear, I think it's fairly common.

I've never been one to really use the belay loop. I've generally just run a big ass locker around swami and leg loops that I rap and belay off of ... the control center feels a lot tighter and compact. Occasionally belaying from an anchor above I'll belay off the loop if my orientation/position feels a little awkward.

Ahh the trusty climbers' gear ghetto ... and all those fuzzed out ropes one has occasion to rely on over the years.

I'm lucky my XXyears old slings don't snap (20 yr old Tricams, 15 year old cam slings, et al).
(famous last words).


Trad climber
San Diego, CA
Sep 21, 2012 - 09:24am PT
Just curious, does anybody remember when the "belay loop" first came out, and what the logic behind it was, ie;, less clutter, freedom, safer? I too was taught with a locker around both swami and leg loops (of course the "five carabiner brake"), to NEVER rely on one point, if possible. I'll belay off the loop but when rappelling, it just ain't right.

mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Sep 21, 2012 - 09:54am PT
Rectorsquid, Dave,

Your words rang true.

But on a climb, there is no such thing as ever being "really safe."

You may say you feel really safe, and I will not care.

See the words chiseled in the ether at the bottom of every page of this website?

Our "hobby," as some unenlightinged inds call it at their own risk, is inherently dangerous. There are always risk. There is always hazards.

Sometimes you step on your rope. Sometimes you step on your dick. (Sorry, ladies.)


Trad climber
'cross the great divide
Sep 21, 2012 - 12:44pm PT
This doesn't change the basic principle that key components of the safety system should be backed up when reasonably and quickly possible.

When I rappel or clip in to an anchor with a poor stance, I back up the belay loop with a short sling, passed through the loop on the swami, and the leg loops (as mentioned up thread). I never girth-hitch the belay loop. If I wanted to back up the belays that I give with the same, it's easy.

Social climber
Los Angeles currently St. Antonin, France
Sep 21, 2012 - 01:16pm PT
I've always understood the purpose of the belay loop is too keep the belay biner from being crossloaded or tri aixially loaded. The biner is always the weak point (assuming the softwear is in good shape), and It's so easy to load the gate when you clip into the swami and leg loops.


Sep 21, 2012 - 02:03pm PT
Werner, Hankster,

I'm sure you know this but (IMO) the worn through carabiner is scary because of the sharp edge, not so much because the biner might break. Clearly that doesn't apply the same to a figure 8 since you don't fall on it like a biner. Here is a small test of whether it's a problem:
Rob Roy Ramey

Trad climber
Sep 21, 2012 - 03:59pm PT
Interesting, no mention of how rappelling with a self-belay would have saved him (e.g., using an ascender or prussik knot attached to the harness and NOT the belay loop). Rappelling with a self-belay has saved me more than once while rappelling under adverse conditions. Think of it very simple, no-cost life insurance.

As for belay loops, when I buy a new harness, I always cut off the belay loop and throw it away. To me, it is nothing but useless clutter.

Trad climber
80' from the Hankster
Sep 21, 2012 - 04:27pm PT
Thanks for posting this. Good points on not girth hitching to belay loop. I do this (with two) sometime when cleaning an anchor, and will no longer do so.

I've seen people add a piece of 9/16 webbing on the inside of the belay loop, but really don't see what the big deal is. If it's wearing out, buy a new one! Pretty simple. It's not like belay loops are breaking every day sending hoards of climbers to their deaths; more like a freak occurrence on a harness most of would have retired long ago.

Wish Todd had retired that harness, miss that guy.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Sep 21, 2012 - 04:41pm PT
Likely Todd's belay loop was not only worn but degraded by UV light from being exposed more than most people's. If you do up on some climbs where the slings have been in the sun for years, you can tear 1 inch tubular in half with your bare hands

Sad he's gone. Super bright wonderful guy in my experience.



Sep 21, 2012 - 05:51pm PT
It amazes me how many people still mis the point here. Todd died because he over used a piece of equipment that should of been retired long ago. It finally failed like everything else will. Harnesses, ropes and carabiners will all break if over used

The belay loop isn't the weakest link in the system, its the human brain that is.

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Sep 21, 2012 - 06:00pm PT
Whenever I belay, self or otherwise, I attach directly to the swami and leg loops.
The only reason I do not cut off the loop is to use it for body weight aid.

You are right about the failure being in the mind, but the first step to not thinking things through adequately is just to go by rote following cookbook formulas instead of always being analytical and suspicious.

Sep 21, 2012 - 06:29pm PT
The user formerly known as stzzo

Sneaking up behind you
Sep 21, 2012 - 07:02pm PT
Thanks for posting this. Good points on not girth hitching to belay loop. I do this (with two) sometime when cleaning an anchor, and will no longer do so.

My interpretation is that the girth hitch alone was not the problem. The problem was that the girth hitch fixed the belay loop position over an extended time, allowing wear from the other parts of the harness to accumulate in the same place.

Seems to me that occasionally girth hitching a sling or two and then removing them would not have the same effect, if the loop is otherwise rotating around and distributing the wear.

Trad climber
Oct 5, 2012 - 02:11pm PT
I don't pretend to know anything about the specifics of this accident, but I have read studies suggesting that sling to sling connections are weak. It appears, the thinner the sling, the worse the weakening effect of sling on sling connection. Doubt this was the actual cause in this case... seems more like it was just an old, ratty harness.

See this BD article for data behind the sling on sling anaysis:

I also back up my belay loop, kinda like a double belay loop big wall rig. Maybe overkill, but it would have saved Todd and others so I don't mind the slight extra weight. Just buy 2' of 11/16" nylon webbing and tie it around your belay loop with a water knot. Tape it in place if you want. Use a different color than the belay loop for easier identification (to make sure you never only clip the 11/16").

Condolences to the fallen and those that knew them. Hopefully talking about and analyzing such tragic events will save people in the future.
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