John Long decks at gym?


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Dec 14, 2012 - 01:48am PT
When your number is up, no matter how many times one checks or how diligent one is to protect themselves .....

Your number is up .......
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 14, 2012 - 02:00am PT

Yes, well-known climbers sometimes make elementary mistakes, such as not tieing properly, or getting lowered off the end of the rope. Such as Scottish climber Dave MacLeod.

It turned out, the 6b+ slab was quite long and the rope I was using which wasnít mine was a little short. As I got lowered off, the rope ran out about 6-8 feet above the small ledge at the start of the route proper. Neither of us noticed in time and so I plummeted, clipping the ledge with my foot and somersaulting down the turfy scrambling ground below, eventually coming to a violent stop wrapped around a birch tree on the slope below.

As I was flying head over heels I was wondering what the hell was going on! Normally I always take a long rope to the crag so rope length issues donít arise and it hit me that the borrowed rope I was using mustíve been too short and the end had gone through the belay device. For a minute or two I thought I might have got away with it but very quickly my right foot started to get bigger and severely object to being weighted.

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Dec 14, 2012 - 09:27am PT
John is a storyteller and will tell this tale too, in his own time. There's a lot still ahead of him to say how it "ends."

As others have said, we've just about all made equally dumb mistakes, with luckier outcomes or not. I sure have. Best wishes to John!

Falls Church, VA
Dec 14, 2012 - 10:39am PT
(A) For the record I used the bowline for years,
(B) had it come undone twice and
(C) know three people personally who have suffered the fate of Largo.
By A, do you mean the simple/basic/"common" bowline,
without any extension for security? --so, not a double bowline, water bowline, b. _+ half-hitches or strangle knot ("half a grapevine/DFish"), or "Yosemite finish"

And re B, this was something you noticed --ACK!-- while on the sharp end, climbing? Did you then re-tie the same knot, or do something further/different?

For C, this point has been what was so unclear (and even the latest explanation sounds a little peculiar) : at this point, the general claim is that >>no knot was tied<<, and not that condition "A" obtained for Largo. So, are you saying that intended bowlines were somehow left undone (how?) or that maybe there was a case of a fig.8 eyeknot left undone (as with you)?

- - - - - - - -

For the gym climbing, I can see that adopting a procedure --i.e., actual physical movements-- of always beginning by the climber sitting back into the line so to both check that her knot is tied (and inspect on doing) AND that the belayer is set would be good to establish, though with so much line out, it might take some walking back away from the wall.

PSP also PP

Trad climber
Dec 15, 2012 - 12:35am PT
I was at city rock just about to start the crux of a 5.12 that I was probably going to fall on but the rope was dragging on a hold; so I start flipping the rope to get it away from the hold and the rope flys off my harness because I didn't finish the knot. Now I always pull on the knot before I start and pull on the knot before I lean back to be lowered.

Falls Church, VA
Dec 17, 2012 - 01:26am PT
Kudos to Healyje for hitting the nail on the head,
here :

Adam, that was a complete botch job. The accident had nothing whatsoever to do with the type of knot and you as the author take away all the wrong lessons. Further, you arrive at the same wrong conclusions from the fatal accident in England. Duane then pipes in with uninformed personal bias and all to what end? Not Outside's best effort.

Elsewhere, I also noted that, in the zeal to blame the knot, those authors skipped the chance to make the important lesson about taking precautions.

I also wish that someone in the UK would make a complaint about the coroner who came to the unfounded conclusion about the Rothman death. As an official report, that should be circumspect, not speculative.

The Warbler

the edge of America
Dec 17, 2012 - 01:51am PT
On a certain level, the "8" versus bowline knot is a metaphor for a fundamental aspect of climbing.

If you choose to use a bowline to tie in, you are putting yourself in a slightly riskier position in that failure to tie it correctly could be fatal. Failure to tie an 8 correctly could be fatal also, it's just less likely.

Kinda like leading a route rated R vs one rated PG.

The R rated route has its advantages and aesthetic appeal, but demands more focus, with a possibly a high price to be paid for the lack thereof.

Climbing in gyms promotes a different mindset - one more suited to leads rated PG. Music blasting, bathrooms nearby, snacks and chilled beverages, hot chicks lingering in skin tight clothing, padded floors, yoga classes, fitness machines and weights, holds everywhere, topropes galore, rock jocks strutting their stuff - in short, a perfect place for tying a figure 8, and having a girlie or three take a good long look at it to make sure it's done right before casting off.

Falls Church, VA
Dec 17, 2012 - 02:08am PT
The Bowline I used was a double with a follow through back up and then a finishing knot.

Let me understand this : by "double", is that the "2 rabbit holes" version often given the name and featured in the Outside article? (as opposed to two eyes, sometimes getting the name)
And the "follow through back up", hmmm, something akin the the "Yosemite finish"? (as opposed to what Healyje has advocated, making a 2nd eye through the harness from a dbl.bowline base, reeving the tail through the knot and tying off with a strangle knot to the main line)

And the finishing knot? --the simple overhand is often shown in instructions, but that doesn't garner much faith at security IMO!

With all that in still came untied twice. Mind you I climbed 200-300 days a year from age 14 to 38, so that's a lot of knot tying.

Thanks for the history.
But twice out of all this time is --yes, twice too much had you fallen-- enough to make one wonder Why...? And to think that over two dozen years of continual climbing it would seem one heckuva *test* of the tie-in, between those failures : who'd think "nah, still not sure about dis knot!" with all that?! (unless one had seen it loosening, more often, though staying tied)
That IS a lot of knot tying; and a lot of knot not-untying.

What sort of duration was on the untyings? --in a single pitch?

Now I rig for a living working close to the same amount of days. So, basically I've tied and used knots more than most people as I'm now 49.

And have no doubt seen difference >>per material<<.

The figure 8, just gets tighter and tighter when weighted, making it impossible to untie after a big load.
There might be ways to redress the over-tightening of a fig.8 --i.e., to use the fig.8 base and then finish it differently. (And, for that matter, there is a symmetric version of the "fig.9" which should give similar security without the over-tightening (though I've seen it jam in HMPE, but that material is of another world!). This an unfamiliar knot and a little more complicated; it has the shared benefit to the fig.8, though, of also being tiable in the bight (i.e., no ends).)

Seems to me the figure 8 is the best knot to tie in with period, that is just plan fact.
There's more than has met the eye re contenders, as just noted.

I feel that using the wrong knot for the wrong job is a quick way to have a problem.

Not to come off too argumentative, but your long history at least didn't come to a "quick" problem, as noted above! (And there will be those others who claim "never failed". But even infrequent untyings are rightly disturbing. Hmmmm ... .)


Gym climber
Pumpkin Rock
Dec 17, 2012 - 09:48am PT
What I'm reading here is if JL had a partner that day willing to stop him and check his harness and tie in he would be just fine given his partner knew what a bowline looks like finished or he asks JL to make sure his rope and harness were right?

Safety check your partner ever time no matter who they are or aren't.
Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
Dec 17, 2012 - 12:25pm PT
The figure 8, just gets tighter and tighter when weighted, making it impossible to untie after a big load.

there's a secret to loosening up a weighted figure-8. slip one of the outer loops. it's easy to do, no matter how tight the knot has gotten--just bend the loop, slip it by pivoting it, and then you'll be able to force the tail back out quite easily--and the knot is untied.

the best reason for tying a figure 8, i think, is that it has a built-in mental insurance you don't get with the bowline. the knot is easy to master, and there's a pleasing, familiar "balance" to it when it's done properly. this becomes a real safety habit over time, especially when you're tying in hundreds of times a year.

i knew this thread would devolve into a technical discussion like this.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Dec 17, 2012 - 12:28pm PT
A numer of knots will work if properly tied. The figure 8 is my choice....elegant, easy to tie and hard to get wrong.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Dec 17, 2012 - 01:50pm PT
Both times the my bowline came untied was on the North Overhang on Intersection. Go figure.

Must the the weird vibes there. The scene of countless, sun-going-down, can't hear your partner screaming (but the campground can) epics


Paul Martzen

Trad climber
Dec 17, 2012 - 02:16pm PT
I have become a big believer in having my partner check my harness and knots every single time. It takes only a moment and shows that we are paying attention to each other. Before I lower off, I glance at my knot to double check it.

Generally I prefer the figure 8 for tying in because it is easier to quickly see whether it is tied correctly or not. A bowline requires closer inspection to see whether it is correct and it is much easier to tie incorrectly. A bowline tied incorrectly can fail completely, while a figure 8 tied incorrectly just tends to be somewhat less secure.

That said, I use bowlines a lot and really like them. If I really need a secure knot, I use a bowline follow through. It cannot come undone and is still easy to untie after many falls. There are probably a number of variations of bowlines that are very secure, but they require a bit more experience to tie and people have enough trouble tying figure 8s.

Coz states that bowlines have failed on him a few times in his long career. I wonder if the knot itself was to blame, then the failure rate would be higher, but...from a practical view, I don't think it matters. If Coz with his experience, miss tied the knot a few times in 40 years, then that is just as big a problem as if the knot failed when correctly tied.

To be fair, we should try to compare real world failure rates across different tie in methods.

As climbers we usually have another person nearby who can double check our knots. We should appreciate that and take advantage of it.

edit: bowlines rubbing, catching against the rock?... yeah, I can see how that might create more problems for a normal bowline than for a figure 8.

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Dec 17, 2012 - 02:21pm PT
I have used bowlines for thirty eight years of climbing and never once had one 'come loose', ever.
Bad Climber

Dec 17, 2012 - 02:39pm PT
@Coz: So,just to be clear, you had a fisherman's finish/backup AND the bowline itself come untied? You have huge experience, and I have no reason to doubt you, but is that the combo you're talking about? When I used to use a (double) bowline, I always finished with the fisherman's. I can't imagine any scenario in which everything comes untied.

Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
Dec 17, 2012 - 03:08pm PT
professional riggers always have something extra to say about this stuff.

when i was on the SCMA board, a fellow board member, jim matthews, whom you might know, coz, since he worked for years rigging in hollywood and teaching stage management, got on our case about the clove hitch. the dear clove hitch, the quick, handy, fail-safe tie-in knot, no? not for jim's money. he'd seen it fail, he said, and we argued endlessly whether to be teaching this in our safety course.

ironically, i cornered largo about the matter one day at rockreation. he tied a couple of quick clove hitches to demonstrate how handy and fail-safe it was for a belay tie-in. "what's wrong with that?" he asked. i couldn't have agreed more.

but in guide training they fussed about dressing it properly. i also heard pro guides differ over whether the bowline ought to be backed up. i also discovered that my midwestern sailor way of tying a bowline--two opposing loops for a non-slip bow line for a boat--wasn't acceptable for a climber's loaded bowline. you live and learn.

Social climber
Los Angeles currently St. Antonin, France
Dec 17, 2012 - 03:18pm PT
I love the clove hitch ( can you tie it one handed? ), but in my guides training I was taught always load bearing strand against the spine and back it up wth an overhand on a bight.

Trad climber
fort garland, colo
Dec 17, 2012 - 06:19pm PT
Enough lnot talk.


Make sure you get a pair of MobiLeg crutches.. they are really good, no nerve damage, spring loaded etc..

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Dec 17, 2012 - 07:43pm PT

"Indulge in the kindness of others for a while and be good to yourself while you heal. :-)"

Thanks for that line. I'm learning that such indulging is the highest form of humanity - so long as it runs both ways. Life makes little sense without compassion to sustain it. When one of us goes down - it matters little who - we somehow revert to being divine supports for each other. That's been my experience in this hospital bed, and it has transformed my spirit.

As mentioned, all the orthopedic stuff is done. Now (tomorrow) they transplant a thin slice of muscle over the hole in my shin from where the bone came through. A tricky operation, but with a high success rate here at UCLA.

Hope to have good news soon about this whole fandango.

Love each other. There isn't anything else worthwhile.


Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Dec 17, 2012 - 08:01pm PT
"Love each other. There isn't anything else worthwhile."

Truth...heal well, John.
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