Tahquitz rescue 5-17-2013


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Trad climber
San Diego
May 24, 2013 - 05:10pm PT
Hi Jillian,

I'm so incredibly sorry for your loss. As climbers we always search for the cause of these events as the answers provide us with information that can save our lives. In this case, I'm not sure there's an easy answer to what happened. From what we've heard, it sounds as though Lucas may have fallen after taking himself off repel (i.e. slipped), been hit by a rock during or after rappel, or simply rapped off the ends of his rope by somehow passing the knot. Unfortunately, no one can know for sure what happened up there. All of us have lived through situations that should have killed us in the mountains, some much more serious than what killed Lucas. It's tragic what happened. As far as what Davis (I do not know him personally) communicated to Lucas, I don't think it had anything to do with what resulted.

His AMGA comment I would take as a light hearted warning not to be taken seriously. By rappelling first he tested the system and put his full trust in it. Clearly, he believed it a system that would safely get them to the ground, and for him it did. It's hard to understand (if not impossible) what happened.

Trad climber
So Cal
May 24, 2013 - 05:58pm PT
I have started to write so many times but just couldn't put the flood of emotion into words. Greg, we (speaking for my entire family) all consider ourselves blessed to call you and Lucas friends. I cant speak of him in the past tense because he lives on in all of us. I am so glad we crashed "sushi night" the week before your climbing trip and got to spend the evening with our sons and Lucas.

Kathy, so many times this past week I have questioned the wisdom of raising my kids climbing - but I wouldn't have it any other way. The opportunity to create lasting memories, cherishing the beauty and diversity of His creations with our our kids -- you can't put a price tag on that. May His spirit of peace and comfort surround you, your family, and all of Lucas's friends who are in need.

Greg, I'm looking forward to climbing with you and your mom again. Lets make it happen!


"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by.." ~Frost

SF bay area
May 24, 2013 - 06:07pm PT
I believe the AMGA remark was concerning the destination of the rappel, not the rappel itself. So little rope was left at the destination stance. There was no fixed anchor to clip into, or a safe, flat and wide, destination.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
May 27, 2013 - 12:28pm PT
Memorial Day Bump


Sportbikeville & Yucca brevifolia
May 27, 2013 - 01:30pm PT
Edit for pud: If it were me, I'd think of leaving the over-hand knots in the end as courtesy backups, so the other person would feel better about throwing a hand jam or getting established for a little downclimb with one hand, while the other hand is getting the belay device off. The idea is if you slip a little the knot would catch you rather than shooting off the end. Unless you slip right after removing the belay device, or after getting it off one of the strands of rope.

The problem with this practice is overhand knots may fail under body weight. By doing this you are therefore giving the second a false sense of security.
This practice should be eliminated unless substantial knots can be placed.

A prusik or other friction knot above the belay device is helpful in the instance where a rope barely reaches anchors or a safe stance.

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
May 27, 2013 - 04:55pm PT
I see your point pud. Friction knot above belay device seems like a better general strategy; also avoids the risk of forgetting knot in end and getting a rope stuck during a pull. Maybe one other point it helps with: on a tricky exit, if you need one hand on a jam or crimp, it's easier to slide off end of rope (on purpose) and pull down a friction knot with you, versus trying to untie a half hitch or unclipping belay device from rope above the half hitch it might be getting stuck in. One risk though is your hand has to stay on the friction knot to keep it from catching, and then it's hard to grab one end of the rope strand to prevent it from recoiling when the load is removed, and ending up out of reach above you. I'm not settled on what's the "right" way to handle it; I can see different approaches in different scenarios.

I was at Taquitz climbing for the first time yesterday. Cool place, but my mind was not in the right space for being on the sharp end with spicy protection. I ended up bailing right before the end of the first pitch of some 5.9, and I made a big production of it. Was thinking a lot about Greg and Lucas out having fun, in their element, and then the unexpected. I was definitely more aware of my mortality than usual, and I was more aware of the good things in my life that I have to lose.

Courtesy booty call: after passing the roof on P1 of Grandote, you can find a big hex, a small wired bliss cam, a double-length dyneema sling, and 2 bail biners. I won't have time to be down that way for a while... finders keepers.

Sportbikeville & Yucca brevifolia
May 27, 2013 - 09:11pm PT
was this anchor failure ? loose rocks, bad protection , bad knot/bolt/hanger etc,...
was this rapping error ? no knot, rapping on one rope instead of two...
was this user error ? Disconnecting personal slings from anchor before running the rope in to rap ring or loosing hand grip on rap device etc

The report is very succinct and I think GDavis did a tremendous job of presenting the facts under what must have been extreme duress.

What is clear:
The victim was attached to the rope the entire time.
He had seen his partner complete the rap.
He was an experienced climber.


Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
May 28, 2013 - 01:07pm PT
I have a question.... 60m rope or 70m ????


Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 28, 2013 - 02:21pm PT
60m I believe, as we'd climbed on it for hundreds of pitches and I don't remember ever talking about it being a seventy.

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
May 28, 2013 - 02:31pm PT
You don't know??? for sure?!!!!

Might make a bit of difference, when devising a plan to decend.

Just saying.

I spent all 3 days, when we were out climbing, thinking about this and how it went down.

We have all been in dicy rap situations before... ends not on the deck, downclimbing hard face, jumping etc.

I just wish to know... then it can't happen to me.

That is how I look at all mishaps, always have.

sad, tragic.


Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 28, 2013 - 02:39pm PT
You don't know??? for sure?!!!!

No, I don't. It wasn't my rope, and I have no reason whatsoever to believe that it was a 70 - but I don't speculate. We used that rope almost exclusively on longer routes, almost never rapping off them (tahquitz, the high sierra, tuolumne.... all walk-offs) and usually just belay at the usual belays.

I'm sure if we found ourselves in a situation where the conversation of "do we need a 70m" would come up, Lucas would say "oh well I don't have one." But I don't know 100% for sure. I know 95%. I know that is hard for some to understand, but I would prefer to be honest.

I spent all 3 days, when we were out climbing, thinking about this and how it went down.

I don't fully understand how it happened and I was 20 feet away. There might never be a reason.

I just wish to know... then it can't happen to me.

That is how I look at all mishaps, always have.

Be aware of loose rock nearby when rapping, and if there is some blocks that look funky that your partner might stand on/put his hand on/catch a pulled rope build and anchor and clip in before going off rap. That's what you can do.
Richard Conner

Mountain climber
Snohomish, WA
May 29, 2013 - 02:07pm PT
Hi Greg, Thank you for the transparent write-up. I am sorry for your loss. I have met you a few times with the North County Adventure group and have always found you to be a super nice guy in addition to an exceptional climber. I didn't know Lucas but have also lost too many friends in the mountains over the years. What a tragedy - hang in there.

May 29, 2013 - 02:45pm PT
Thank you for your write up. Sh#t happens.

My deepest condolences.

Having gone through a similar experience lately, I can say this:

- only do what feels right, in the moment. make plans, cancel plans, climb, don't climb...

be good to yourself. Seeing anyone, let alone a friend, die so quickly is a shock to the body mind and soul, isn't it!

My key has been to accept. Accept accept. How it went - accept that. How you responded - accept. How you feel right here on this breath... accept.

Not to go all star trek on you, but resistance truly is futile.

It does sound like you're doing well though. yay.


Trad climber
May 29, 2013 - 03:41pm PT
Said a prayer while strolling past the Vampire yesterday. RIP

May 29, 2013 - 04:23pm PT
I spent all 3 days, when we were out climbing, thinking about this and how it went down.

ive been thinking about it a bunch myself. my wife talked to greg and he graciously answered all her questions this past sunday. This incident continues to remind me why I HATE rapping... and Bad Traverse Ledge is just waiting to crumble down.

you rock greg. hope to run into you a bunch more times as I walk this earth.


Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 29, 2013 - 04:27pm PT
Thanks Phil, you rock too. Went to South Ridge a few days back with Jeremy, got a few problems I'd been thinking about. So beautiful up there, watching the sun set on the desert divide.
Lori Olthoff

Mountain climber
Jun 3, 2013 - 02:10am PT
Dear Greg,
Extending heartfelt condolences for the loss of your friend, Lucas.
I knew him briefly and somewhat superficially however, it was very apparent that he led his life thoughtfully and with much joy.
My deepest love and empathy to you and to Lucas's family.
Many Blessings and Big Hugs.
Lori Olthoff
Kironn Kid

Trad climber
Jun 3, 2013 - 02:53pm PT
So sorry to hear this. I lost my best friend in the same area of Tahquitz wall.

Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
moving thru
Jun 3, 2013 - 03:18pm PT
To Greg, Lucas's Family, loved ones and co-workers....Words still aren't working, but my heart is full of prayers and love. lynne

Trad climber
Abbottstown, PA
Jun 3, 2013 - 05:12pm PT
I feel your loss - once watched a friend blow a single pitch free solo in an abandoned quarry do a 120' last step .... we'd freed that climb (now destroyed due to McMansion expansion) 20 times - he wanted to FS it (climbed it without a mis-step at least a half dozen times) - figure fear overhanging finger jams 10' below the top) overcame skill ... but watching a friend go is never easy - like you I held him as he passed - then got to tell the cops, coroner and his parents what had happened.
Meditate, find that quiet place for yourself, invite your friend who passed in to mourn with you, you'll both find peace.
Life is fragile, but if not fully lived both fragile and futile - forget the fragility and embrace it, live it, love it and don't count on seeing 100 ....

Steve (better than 1/2 way to 100 but not expecting to see 70)
Messages 181 - 200 of total 209 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
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