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Apr 7, 2013 - 05:14pm PT

I have to admit, it happened to me 15 yrs ago. I was fortunately at the top of the second pitch of Country Club Crack. I landed just above the mantle for Athletes Feat. ~ 110 ft fall all air. Partner was tied directly to the belay anchor so he was also unhurt. Miscommunication

We went home. Don't think we ever tied in together but joked as friends at the boulders for years later.



Ice climber
Apr 7, 2013 - 05:26pm PT
My heart goes out to this guy's family. Whether it was an accident due to miscommunication, user error, or whatever, the fact is this guy is dead, and the world of his family will be rocked in a way that they cannot yet comprehend, nor can anyone else unless they have been personally affected by something like this...not a friend, but a family member/spouse. I get that it is important as hell to try to figure out what happened so the rest of us can take note and avoid the same fate. Nevertheless, be cognizant of the fact that his family may well be reading this thread, or will be soon. Does anyone know yet who it was? I can't seem to find out. It's a shitty deal....sending lots of love and positive vibes their way!

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills, CA
Apr 7, 2013 - 05:38pm PT
2. When lowering grab the other side of the rope, belay yourself until you make direct eye contact with your belayer. NEVER ASSUME U R ON BELAY... NEVER
Been my practice for years and its worked well for me.

My whole life I've watched people "miscommunicate".
Rapping/lowering seems like an area of more risk in our sport.

Condolences to the family of the deceased.

Apr 7, 2013 - 07:07pm PT
And turn yer effin cell phone of at the crag too. please

Social climber
north vancouver, B.C.
Apr 7, 2013 - 10:51pm PT
My two avoidable mistakes where I could of died happened while I was still relatively new to climbing. I had climbed an easy route and decided to put up a top rope on a harder climb adjacent to the first climb. The ledge for this harder climb was 20' lower on the cliff so I did not lower both sides of the rope to the ground, I left one strand short as I only needed 20' to get to the ledge.

Well I was talking to someone on the ground as i rapped and got distracted. I forgot for a second that I was stopping at the ledge and proceeded rap down the whole cliff. Luckily my friend saw what was going on and stopped me 10 ' from the end of the shorter strand with no knot! 50' directly below me was a sharp pointy boulder that I would of hit with my back. It surely would of finished me off. Thanks to my friend who was actually new to climbing I lived to tell about it. Nobody had told him about looking out for each other, he was just one of those people who seem to be on the ball naturally. I've never made that same mistake since.

Second mishap involved a overhanging 11a and my first Arcteryx harness with velcro. Got to the anchors and then noticed the buckle was not even once through. Removed the velcro immediately with my swiss army knife as soon as I got down.

I feel very lucky that it wasn't my time during these two incidents but others have not been so lucky.

Stay safe my friends and look out for your partners as a back-up so that ultimately old age will be
the author of our demise.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Apr 7, 2013 - 10:51pm PT
coz's advice is right on. (and he's a good roll model)

But I don't think that this kind of screw up was as common place before gyms and sport climbs.

Common sense seems to have been a casualty of making protecting yer ass too user friendly.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Apr 7, 2013 - 11:50pm PT
I'll wager that many of the climbers who think nothing of carrying on a meaningless conversation with someone on the ground are very happy that when they get on a commercial airliner they are legally protected from the pilots engaging in the same sort of banter while in the TO or landing phases of the flight. Jess sayin'...
Big Mike

Trad climber
Apr 8, 2013 - 04:34am PT
2. When lowering grab the other side of the rope, belay yourself until you make direct eye contact with your belayer. NEVER ASSUME U R ON BELAY... NEVER


Saved my ass once. Big time. I had been teaching a girlfriend how to climb for awhile and it was the end of a weekend where we had been climbing lots (with friends watching my back while she was on belay) and she had practiced lowering with other people.

She seemed to have it down pat, so when everyone took off the next day, i was comfortable enough to put up an easier route that she could top rope. I sent the route and when i put together the anchor i got her to take which she did and told her ready to lower.

She said she had me and it felt like it too with the brake side of the rope in my hand. Turns out she didn't have the brake down and when i loaded the belay and my 220 pound frame starts going really fast! I clutched at the brake side with my other hand and managed to lower myself without burning my hands even.

I was choked tho. "You almost killed me!!!" She told me the rope was burning her hands so she let go of it, and that she was physically unable to hold my weight (she was anchored) .

The next day i bought a gri gri and made her belay me with it until i was absolutely confident she had her atc figured out.

My other policy for this is working out a plan on the ground beforehand, and when i am setting up an anchor i don't say anything until "ready to lower".
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Apr 8, 2013 - 05:55am PT
Many are here by luck.

The Rev and I never had formal instruction.

We blindly bumbled and blundered and got it right.

But it took some doing, even after we'd been in the Valley as regulars.

All it took for me to be distracted one morning on Rixon's center was a damned cigarette. I had belayed Jeff off the ground, he was on aid.

He was figuring out the next placement. I went for a short stroll to get my pack of smokes. As I turned back to the anchor my ears got blistered!

It was worse than when I stepped on the fn rope or tried to seduce his sister! I felt like sh#t, lower than a gym climber.

And I have some to tell on him, too.

It's no wonder he keeps telling me it's a wonder we ever made twenty-five.

Always be faithful to the belay, never let communications be a problem, and always check each other's outfit. And any other safety you can incorporate into routine, GOOD, DO IT!

Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Apr 8, 2013 - 06:33am PT
I never had any problems except once, and I let a certain Claude talk me into not having an anchor. "I have done Stone Groove several times," he said.

About 60 feet up or so, with his last pro well below him, he peeled. He decked but just barely, as I was yanked into the wall. I caught his fall, just barely. He wasn't hurt. But if I had an anchor, he wouldn't have decked. I never ever let anybody talk me into not having an anchor after that.

Trad climber
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Apr 8, 2013 - 08:37am PT
After reading and rereading both threads going about this accident, I still don't have a clear picture of the accident.

Did the guy expect to be lowered or did he simply mess up his rappel? I get the impression it was the latter case.

Jim Henson's Basement
Apr 8, 2013 - 10:30am PT
Meh. I hate these stories about preventable accidents. Stay sharp everyone. Condolences to any friends or family members.

2. When lowering grab the other side of the rope, belay yourself until you make direct eye contact with your belayer. NEVER ASSUME U R ON BELAY... NEVER

That probably the best piece of advice I've never heard before. I'll start using it. I take it paranoia from years of clients trying to kill you has instilled some survival habits?

Thing a knot in the very end of the rope (generally a good habit), won't keep you from hitting the ground on a single pitch climb if your partner drops you. Seems like you'd have to tie an overhand-bight once someone gets a few feet off the ground if you really want to prevent ground-fall.

Big Mike

Trad climber
Apr 8, 2013 - 10:56am PT
Did the guy expect to be lowered or did he simply mess up his rappel? I get the impression it was the latter case.

Stich- i think you are right. From mp:

By jpike
1 day ago
I was climbing the route next to this guy at the time of the accident. It was at least a 60 ft fall. I was setting up to rap, heard a scream above, looked up and saw a body whiz by. When I got down he was unconscious and a few others were attending to him. The rope was on the ground with a figure 8 set to rap but it was not connected to him. His kids and grand kids were within 20 feet of where he hit. I'm so glad he didn't land on one of them. Also, I don't think it was communication error.

By jpike
1 day ago
The climber was not on belay. The figure 8 was not clipped to him. I'm pretty sure proper commands were exchanged. I'm baffled as to how he messed up. The figure 8 looked set up properly, other than not being clipped to him. He was not tied in at all.

By jpike
1 day ago
Just to make it crystal clear...he was not clipped to the rope in any fashion. The belay device and biner were attached to the rope but not him. Everything was on the ground.

By jpike
After reflecting on it and reading all your posts I have thought of a scenario that fits best with what I witnessed. I think he probably did not clip to the anchor at the top. It was a reasonably comfortable stance. They had their own gear attached to the fixed anchor for top roping. It is possible that he set the rappel up properly with their anchor, not the fixed cold shuts. He is still unattached to anything. He realizes that he must run the rope through the fixed cold shuts to clean his parties anchor. He unclips the rope from his gear planning to quickly attach it to the fixed shuts. He accidentally drops the rope with the f8 and biner which is now attached to nothing and slips trying to catch it. This is my best guess.

Thank you all for helping me process this tragedy. I know I will respect the seriousness of this incredible and fulfilling sport in a new and profound way after witnessing this. Climb smart and safe out there guys.

Trad climber
Mountain View, CA
Apr 8, 2013 - 12:46pm PT
I think it is important to mention that the "fixed cold shuts" mentioned by jpike in his first person account of the accident are actually Mussy Hooks. There was no reason to untie to thread the anchors.

Also, the stance at the anchor is OK, but I would not stand there without being clipped in.
dirt claud

Social climber
san diego,ca
Apr 8, 2013 - 01:27pm PT
I always clip in with my safety when I get to the top of a sport or trad pitch with anchor bolts, no matter what. Would rather take the time to clip and unclip even if belayer is "supposed" to have me on, than risk a mis-communication.

Condolences to friends and family, sorry for your loss.

Trad climber
San Juan Capistrano, CA
Apr 13, 2013 - 12:18pm PT
Trying to glean some wisdom from this. Could it be that his Figure Eight levered and unclipped from an unlocked biner at his clip in point? That would explain the detached but fully rigged eight.
As a parent, this is terrifying... always has been my personal 'worst case scenario'. Condolences to the family.

beyond the sun
Apr 13, 2013 - 01:46pm PT
Don't pretend to yourself it can't happen to you or for that matter you have never made a serious stupid error. Perhaps you were lucky and it didn't bite you that time. I have been lucky and I hate that fact.

You can project and pontificate all you want if it makes you feel better, but I am here to tell you that not once in 20 years have I ever, even once had anything even remotely like that happen / almost happen.

The person on the sharp end of my rope is not coming off belay until I am 100% sure, double checked by visual or extra inquiry that is what they intend. When it's me on the end, same drill. You STAY on belay until you have proof positive something else is requested. You don't leave the anchors under someone else's control until you have proof positive said control is ready.

You sound like someone who got caught drinking and driving trying to claim "everyone does it". No, they don't.

climber's near nevada...
Apr 13, 2013 - 02:14pm PT
My sincere condolences to the family and friends.


i'm gumby dammit

Sport climber
da ow
May 15, 2013 - 03:31am PT
Scary. Especially if one of the children WAS the belayer. Both mine (12 and 14) belay me but they know that 'off belay' is the only time to take me off belay. That only happens when I'm clipped to the bolts/chains, etc. and they respond with 'belay off'.
Maybe my newness to the sport is showing, but how do you clean gear and expect to be lowered? If you're being lowered that happens right when you top out ('Got me?', 'Yup'). Was he getting lowered using the bolts/chains? If someone was cleaning gear I would also assume they were going to rappel, since you're not supposed to lower from the bolts/chains. But I would still wait for the cue to take them off belay. Seems like following standard protocol would have prevented this. I guess if there are walk off options that could happen, but even then the 'belay off' still applies.
The user formerly known as stzzo

Sneaking up behind you
May 15, 2013 - 04:01am PT
If you're being lowered that happens right when you top out ('Got me?', 'Yup').


It's entirely possible to be lowered after cleaning an anchor.

If someone was cleaning gear I would also assume they were going to rappel, since you're not supposed to lower from the bolts/chains. But I would still wait for the cue to take them off belay.

The above statement is inconsistent. Don't assume they're going to rappel. Assume that they require your belay until they tell you otherwise.

This is where your reasoning is flawed: you're not supposed to lower from chains [therefore, the climber is going to rappel].

Don't assume that the climber:

 agrees with you that they're "not supposed to lower from bolts/chains".
 is willing & able to follow that protocol.

IOW, don't assume you can stop doing your job when it comes to other people's safety: use explicit and complete communication.

However, you can assume whatever you want when it only affects your safety. Your family might be upset with your choice, but in the end it's your life to end.
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