Nose death flake

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climber007

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 18, 2013 - 02:41pm PT
a heads up for folks who like to play on and around el cap.. and especially the nose..

I added to the route beta for the nose: http://www.supertopo.com/rock-climbing/beta/Yosemite-Valley-El-Capitan-The-Nose

regurgitated here:

Just did the NIAD (almost... 36 hours :-) this weekend and wanted to give a shout out about a death flake!!

After the king swing at the belay marked as p17 in the supertopo.. there is a large hollow suspended/wedged flake directly above the bolts..

my partner stepped on it inadvertently while setting off from the belay and it slid down several inches.. we thought it was gonna take us out right then and there... was pretty terrifying for the rest of that belay.. as there is no where to hide from it..

I did not have anything in our kit to mark it.. tried with my chalk but it didn't take well...

im not sure this one will ever be safe to trundle unless there is a coordinated effort with NPS as its location would send rock fall some of the busiest areas on El Cap..

so anywhoo... be warned.. and for gods sake avoid yarding on it or placing any gear under it.. especially if you are aiding and plan to weight the gear!!

Here are zoomed out and in pics of me taken by Tom Evans while I was belaying there..

zoomed in
zoomed in
Credit: tom evans
zoomed out
zoomed out
Credit: tom evans
ec

climber
ca
Jun 18, 2013 - 02:47pm PT
Thx.

Ironically, you coulda posted the same about Boot Flake!

 ec
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Jun 18, 2013 - 02:58pm PT
what DOES hold the boot to the wall? faith?
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Jun 18, 2013 - 03:03pm PT
Except the Boot flake didn't just shift a few inches down recently.

Hope the word gets spread quickly. Such a popular route with so many folks below. We don't need another loose rock incident this year.

For those who haven't read the beta post, The flake indicated shifted and scared the crap out of the op and his partner. Be careful to avoid bumping it! Let everyone know!

Tough year and hopefully this post saves lives.

Hey Cheyne! Another project for ya!

BTW Grats on the nose in a push!

climber007

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 18, 2013 - 03:17pm PT
thanks climbski2!

I was in the valley for the bad incidents this year and I really hope our climbing compatriots will all do what they can to help each other avoid similar fates!

in retrospect I should have added the text from the beta post to this thread to... I only started the thread after the beta post because of a question coming in on the beta post, and I did not want to clog it with back and forth posts..

so I will edit this post to also contain the text from the beta post...

McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
Jun 18, 2013 - 03:50pm PT
The Park Service should be informed and something should be done about it. To not do that and for nothing to be done is irresponsible all around. Times, they are a changing!

I don't see a big problem with a pre-emptive rescue. It's either that or climbers should get organized to do something about it. Get up there, clear the ground and let it go. To do nothing though is so f*#king stupid. Clearly though, this would need at least Park Super-Vision. That could be the name of the new Park entity for the task of trying to mitigate the killer flake problem. Call it the PSV.
Dr. Christ

Mountain climber
State of Mine
Jun 18, 2013 - 03:54pm PT
choss!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Jun 18, 2013 - 04:06pm PT
There is also a decent sized loose flake on the next pitch - traversing 5.7 you do right after a pendulum. It was just standing there as I down-climbed. Smaller, but way more unstable. Someone should put it in their haul bag and pack it out. Even though sucker is heavy.

Subject of this thread added excitement to my lead last time I was there. Avoided it. Cold be a disaster for a climber and cold easily kill whoever is belaying. Even though there are lots of flakes like that in the mountains, and climbers should know to avoid flakes like that, this one is on a super popular route and should probably be removed with assistance of NPS or something. Earlier events prove that it could easily kill people hiking/climbing popular base routes, or lower pitches on El Cap. :/
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
Jun 18, 2013 - 04:09pm PT
I look at Tom's pics all the time and it just looks nasty in places. I have only done the section from Camp 4 in the gray bands up the final Nose. I just remember the upper dihedral as being beautiful but I knocked a good set of blocks down from the Camp 4 area in 1972.

what DOES hold the boot to the wall? faith?
Based on what the Boot must weigh, there can't be much holding it on. The Boot is a long standing objective hazard - clearly classic - the mitigation committee should leave it alone.
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Jun 18, 2013 - 04:53pm PT
I always assumed that the boot flake is integral to the wall. ie underneath is actually a fair bit of continuous rock. I suspect that the edges have been extruded due to internal pressure. just my very uneducated guess however.

How much is continuous and how strong that makes it.. how quickly is it weakening?

Gads I hope some freeze cycle rips it off some winter.
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
Jun 18, 2013 - 04:59pm PT
There appears to be a lip of rock that is integral to it that connects to its back side and comes down below and forms it's springy pedestal. There has to be a lot of pressure on the pedestal but the flake also sets back into a shallow corner correct? . It would be interesting if somebody could take a scope up there to measure the pressure on the pedestal. It may be an explosive amount. It would shear like a mini-earthquake.
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Jun 18, 2013 - 05:00pm PT
Seems like the plan could be, get rangers permission to clear off that part of el cap for a day, in winter I guess, then people rap the nose and trundle everything loose, with a crowbar and a list of known hazards. And while they're at it, bring a some extra grande trash bags and clear out the tin cans and whatnot from the bivy ledges.
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
Jun 18, 2013 - 05:03pm PT
It would be sad if the Boot did not die a natural death. It could be studied more. Isn't that what governments do? It would be interesting to know more since it's such a landmark.

There is already the lower alternate route - the Jardine Traverse. Ray is always thinking ahead!
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
Jun 18, 2013 - 05:05pm PT
what DOES hold the boot to the wall? faith?


I wonder if all this cool geo-mapping of El Cap will shed some light onto the 'adhesive faith' which holds Boot Flake to the wall. It's amazing.


I'm curious as to which flake has the most 'adhesive faith', Boot or Texas Flake?


cool thread BTW,

edit: cool in as much as a PSA...forgot this wasn't the mapping thread. Bygones.
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Jun 18, 2013 - 05:10pm PT
Just so folks know this talk about the Boot flake is very offtopic.

Please spread the word about the loose flake on pitch 17 and perhaps the block on the next pitch that Vitaly mentioned. A good heads up to anyone going up cannot hurt. Lets not have anymore repeats of the tragedies earlier this season!


OT

heh I can't imaging anyone or any agency deliberately trying to remove the boot flake. As hazardous as it may seem it's just kinda rediculous to remove based on it's history of remaining attached with so many folks yarding on it regularly.

I wouldn't be surprised if that thing would still hold on if explosives were used. Then again I wouldn't be surprised if the next breath of wind or cam placement knocked her off.

Thems the breaks and that truly is what we chose to deal with as climbers.

Quite different from suggesting that a clearly loose and dangerous flake on a popular route should be removed during the next offseason as Cheyne recently did with the one on Freerider.
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
Jun 18, 2013 - 05:14pm PT
Agreed, the Boot is there to stay until it's gone. I hope it's caught on film though.
ec

climber
ca
Jun 18, 2013 - 06:43pm PT
I wonder if the database shows any increase of instances during long dry periods? The ooze and slime that seeps through the cracks may be what's holding those blocks in (watertention).

 ec
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
Jun 18, 2013 - 06:50pm PT
To the OP or anyone who is familiar: where is the fall line more or less? Would it come down on the Freeblast pitches, or farther east? If it fell plumb, would it land east or west of Pine Line?

Considering that it shifted under body weight or less, it seems there's a fair chance it'll go this season given how much traffic there is on the Nose.

Maybe the standup folks that sent the block in the Monster OW could ride again...
Dr. Christ

Mountain climber
State of Mine
Jun 18, 2013 - 06:54pm PT
Interesting hypothesis ec.

Although if there is more rock fall during dry periods (?), I would expect it is a result of higher temperature fluctuations in the dry rock compared to wet rocks.

Water is a huge heat sink and, if present, would keep the temperature of the flakes more constant. Of course if the water freezes there is a large increase in volume...


Wiggled out a 100 lb block the other day. Good times.


I sure would like to see the NPS step up and permit the trundle... for public safety of course... just make sure you get it on video!!!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 18, 2013 - 06:55pm PT
where is the fall line more or less?

I believe the fall line from there is to the right of Dolt Tower.
I could be wrong, though. Best to test first by "dropping a carrot".
(Old Paul Piana joke about the big boulder that came off the top of the Salathe' Wall).

A temporary measure would be to tie a sling around it and anchor it to the flake above it.
That way at least people will notice that it may be loose.
Even if someone organizes a careful trundle operation for it, it may be
stuck and not want to come down. So don't expect it to be easy....

P.S. The NPS does not maintain routes / safety of routes.
It's up to us climbers.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jun 18, 2013 - 06:56pm PT
I can tell you from personal experience that it will likely come right down
along the line of the first three aid pitches of the original Nose. I was
at the last hanging belay below Sickle when womeone knocked three blocks,
each of which was twice as big as the current perp, from about Camp 4 or
just below. I don't know for sure as they were already in flight when I
heard the weakly uttered "WHATEVAH!" God knows why I am still here, but he
ain't sayin' why. Some of the shrapnel did go down the Salathe side FWIW.
WBraun

climber
Jun 18, 2013 - 07:00pm PT
I can tell you from personal experience that it will likely come right down along the line of the first three aid pitches of the original Nose.

Nope .... it will be farther to the right.

I've witnessed blocks coming down from 1 pitch below Camp4 and they flew over dolt tower.

Clint has it correct ......
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jun 18, 2013 - 07:04pm PT
I knew I would be corrected cause I didn't really think about how much further
east the end of the King Swing is than Camp 4. My sense of direction has
been screwed up ever since those blocks whizzed by inches from my pea brain
and created a vacuum which sucked my brains out. ;-)
WBraun

climber
Jun 18, 2013 - 07:20pm PT
we drill bolt in them and chain them to the wall

That will work.

But what if the thing slides out from the vibration of drilling a bolt into it?

:-)
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Jun 18, 2013 - 07:24pm PT
Werner, time to "Spackle the Capn" Quick crete from the top down washed into all cracks crevices ledges and flakes. Walla shyt GLU-ED togedda and new cracks ta boot. The first RENEWABLE rock routes on the planet!
The Chief

climber
Climber from the Land Mongols under the Whites
Jun 18, 2013 - 07:39pm PT
Ironically, you coulda posted the same about Boot Flake!

I thought the same back in the late 70's first time I stepped foot on it. Along with dozens of other death flakes/blocks that are clicking time bombs all over that wall.

It is the nature of the beast. Take your chances these days. So many feet stepping on and hands pulling em. It is inevitable that one day soon, one of them bigass chucks of granite is coming down. Like a bowling ball from hell. That entire "Ditch" is one big piece of defoliating white and brown granite.

Amazing how so many forget these very recent events.

kev

climber
A pile of dirt.
Jun 18, 2013 - 08:09pm PT
nobodys forgetting

amazing how you can advocate simply throwing our hands up

Huh? Troll?
Dr. Christ

Mountain climber
State of Mine
Jun 18, 2013 - 08:14pm PT
Kev, everyone forgets... except the chaff.

Nobody understands... except the chaff.

Maybe chaff should camp out R of Dolt and report back after the block comes down. That is the only way any of us can really be sure it really happened.
rrider

climber
Mckinleyville, Ca
Jun 18, 2013 - 08:30pm PT
Nobody wants a climber to die from rockfall. (I am very fortunate to be alive in that way) But yes, there are so many people constantly passing over the same areas; trade routes are like ant trails for heavy, tool-wielding-type ants. Occasionally an ant takes a hit for the team. We are not ants, but unfortunately we can’t always prevail in our pursuits.

This situation in Yosemite regarding increasingly abundant knowledge of potential disasters and relatively unknown trigger-points, seems to me to symbolize conditions in the larger, current geophysical, biological, and social world. Interesting times we are living in.
climber007

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 18, 2013 - 08:59pm PT
im with clint on this one mostly.. based on standing there and looking down the plum line.. it will fall all about dolt tower... but will likely spread out a bit too in chunks and get both sides
johntp

Trad climber
socal
Jun 18, 2013 - 09:01pm PT
my partner stepped on it inadvertently while setting off from the belay and it slid down several inches.. we thought it was gonna take us out right then and there... was pretty terrifying for the rest of that belay.. as there is no where to hide from it..

That statement brings back a fright from Sahara Terror at Tahquitz in the early 80's which is strikingly similar to the OP. My friend was leading when I hear the sound of rock scraping against rock. It slid a few inches but fortunately for me the rock did not trundle. We yelled down for everyone to clear out below. After my friend established the belay, I batmanned around it. It was about the size of a door and 6" thick.

Unfortunately, the very next day a guy dropped it on the woman belaying him. It severed her arm completely and she bled to death at the belay. Could have been me.

It is a roll of the dice. We cannot garden all the objective hazards, but I wish I could go back in time and done something about that block.
Dr. Christ

Mountain climber
State of Mine
Jun 18, 2013 - 09:43pm PT
I'm happy to trundle anything that poses a threat. Why make erosion wait?
johntp

Trad climber
socal
Jun 18, 2013 - 09:51pm PT
Why make erosion wait?

Because there are people below.

edit: for long time after the event I searched my soul for what I could have done to prevent that young woman's death. Should have come back in the middle of the night on rappel and trundled it.
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
Jun 18, 2013 - 10:10pm PT
hey there say, climb007, and all... and oh my, johntp, what an awful situation, :O as to the gal... :(

it is so hard when being thankful, we turn and find that someone else, got hit, :(


well, heres hoping that folks that don't read here, can be let known, ???,
somehow, to avoid that section you spoke of... :O


this year had been to sad, as to rockfall, already... though it is part of climbing, as all folks know, it does not mean that 'we can't have a good grapevine of warning' to certain areas...

thanks for sharing with folks,
and here's hoping and praying that if it falls more, it can do it in a night-storm, sometime, when no one is around... :O
Dr. Christ

Mountain climber
State of Mine
Jun 18, 2013 - 10:36pm PT
Sorry johntp, didn't mean to suggest you made a poor choice. Just expressing my desire to transform potential energy into kinetic.
johntp

Trad climber
socal
Jun 18, 2013 - 11:11pm PT
No problem. I guess the question is how to address loose rock. To me I see it as an objective hazard to be dealt with. But the fact that this woman died a day after we did the route has always haunted me. I knew it was a serious hazard and did nothing.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Jun 18, 2013 - 11:16pm PT
But the fact that this woman died a day after we did the route has always haunted me. I knew it was a serious hazard and did nothing.

That's rough man, and a heavy burden you carry. Good that you told your story, imo.

DMT
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 19, 2013 - 01:33am PT
johntp,

I almost had the same thing happen to me.
There was a loose block/flake at the base of South by Southwest
(Lower Cathedral Spire), which was a natural spot to place the belay.
I saw it move when I tested the cams I had placed behind it,
so I moved my anchor further left.
We thought about trundling it, but were concerned that even in the late
afternoon, there might possibly be someone starting the route below.
We should have sent one person down on rappel to check that out,
then climb back up and trundle.
Instead we left it.

Some months later, 2 good climbers (James Selvidge and partner)
made their anchor there and the block came off.
They slid down a slab towards the edge, but somehow managed to stop.
If they hadn't saved themselves, I'd feel exactly like you did.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jun 19, 2013 - 11:53am PT
I am pretty sure that Boot Flake is completely detached, at least at the top. I assume that it is sitting on a hidden ledge or is attached near the base.

Hasn't anyone read the stories about how spooky it was to piton that thing before the age of clean climbing? The whole thing used to vibrate.

There is a chopped chicken bolt about halfway up it that is hard to see..I think.

I have heard who put it there, but Werner should state it. A very surprising name from long ago.

It will fall off when it is ready. The mass of the thing is enourmous, and the force a climber puts on it is small. How small, who knows.
ScottR

Trad climber
Davis, CA
Jun 19, 2013 - 01:18pm PT
Hey Guys,

Also went up the Nose this last weekend and saw some movement on this flake. My partner and I were at the belay above Eagle Ledge and were being passed by Chris Belvins' and his NIAD solo (great job Chris!!) when he stepped on the flake above us and we heard a loud crunch and saw the flake sink into the wall about half an inch.

If the flake could be removed safely I truly believe a serious injury could be avoided.

SR
ec

climber
ca
Jun 19, 2013 - 01:26pm PT
Who knows if cleaning the OP flake will set off a larger event? It's not really like a solo stone on a ledge that you could know for sure that it's the only thing headed to the deck.

 ec
ec

climber
ca
Jun 19, 2013 - 01:31pm PT
Is the huge flake still there high up on the WEML? Harding said he had to keep a 'TA' (Tight Asshole) and hope for the best and hooked across it. I did this in '81 and it seemed like it was ready to go then too.

 ec
climber007

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 19, 2013 - 01:34pm PT
- ScottR.. glad to hear your ok.. the reason I posted this thread was because I knew just how loose that thing is.. so its not surprising that it moved again...

that thing is coming down.. and soon.. its only a matter of how and when its triggered...

that said.. it will likely cause a larger event when it goes.. based on where it is...

no good solution I can really see... lets just pray it doesnt get any of our friends!!
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Jun 19, 2013 - 01:48pm PT
Just expressing my desire to transform potential energy into kinetic.

Wes, I like to think the Second Law of Thermodynamics is for our protection, so I do my best to increase entropy.

Seriously, though, I can think of several formerly frightening features that are gone now: Psyche Flake, the Undercling Pitch, the Gong Flake, the Rotten Log, the "killer Death Flake" after the Hog Trough on Overhang Bypass, and most of the El Cap Tree Direct route, to name a few. Regardless of where the plumb line lies, when (not if) this Nose death flake goes, it seems likely to me that it will take someone lower down with it unless we find a way to trundle it and evacuate the likely fall areas soon.

John
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Jun 19, 2013 - 02:02pm PT
That thing sounds serious.

Cheyne to the rescue?
Lambone

Big Wall climber
Ashland, Or
Jun 19, 2013 - 02:12pm PT
gunna be tough to launch that thing mid season...people and ropes all over the place...
jcory86

Big Wall climber
Grass Valley, CA
Jun 19, 2013 - 02:20pm PT
ScottR, myself and Jarad were on the nose a few days ago. I was on lead when Chris passed Scott and Jarad. They told me about the flake moving at the next belay. When I set out on the pitch I tapped it and it sounded absolutely horrible. I made the 5.7 moves around it I avoid using it but that thing is scary. Seems like its gonna go very soon. If you're jumping on the Nose be heads up at that belay? Maybe put in a set of anchors left of it?
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Jun 19, 2013 - 03:01pm PT
Right now the best thing is if someone like Cheyne could get up there and stabilize it until the offseason when it could be trundled safely.

Problem of course is devising a foolproof careful system to tie/bolt/net/duct-tape/chewing gum or whatever that thing down without risking dislodging it in the process.

Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Jun 19, 2013 - 03:18pm PT
Given where it is, even in the off season, simply trundling it doesn't sound like a good idea. It seems like bringing it down to at least the Stove Legs raps and letting it go from there would be good. Although, it you had it in control from there, lowering it down like a haul bag seems doable too.
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
Jun 19, 2013 - 03:21pm PT
I bet Burt Bronson would haul it up the route to safety. Could make for a fun boulder problem at the summit.
justthemaid

climber
Jim Henson's Basement
Jun 19, 2013 - 03:39pm PT
I wonder if there is a way to sling the top of the formation there so you can get a loop of rope under it to keep it from sliding down further for now. Might stabilize it long enough to bolt/chain it in place.
mpmoody

Mountain climber
Alamo
Jun 19, 2013 - 03:40pm PT
On a somewhat unrelated topic - my son took this pic of the massive 10/11/10 rockfall while he was on the nose route
El Cap Rockfall 10/11/2010
El Cap Rockfall 10/11/2010
Credit: mpmoody

ec

climber
ca
Jun 19, 2013 - 04:17pm PT
from the Sierra
from the Sierra
Credit: R. Swafford, ec collection
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
Jun 19, 2013 - 05:58pm PT
Those pics are the stuff of nightmares.
mucci

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
Jun 19, 2013 - 06:11pm PT
Best part about new climbs...

You get to choose which ones stay, and which ones go.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Jun 19, 2013 - 10:17pm PT
30 cargo canopy static line shove and let it waft lazily to earth. Sell on ebay.?..Instead of base JUMPING it would be base DUMPING..
little Z

Trad climber
un cafetal en Naranjo
Jun 19, 2013 - 10:23pm PT
That statement brings back a fright from Sahara Terror at Tahquitz in the early 80's which is strikingly similar to the OP.

Unfortunately, the very next day a guy dropped it on the woman belaying him. It severed her arm completely and she bled to death at the belay. Could have been me.

johntp...It was almost me and my gf (I posted this before somewhere)

"I was also terrorized the last time I climbed this route. That was back around 1984. My gf and I were climbing behind another couple. We shared a couple of belays and pleasant conversation. We stopped for a bite to eat at the little alcove at the belay before the regular crux pitch. The other team continued on. They had done the crux pitch and the guy was about half way up the next one (last or 2nd to last pitch) when I started out again. He screams "ROCK" and I hear the terrible scrapping of something that starts sliding then bouncing down. The deep rumble identifies it as something big. I look up and there is a huge crash and explosion of rock fragments and dust and I see the womanīs body flung out onto the face. Her rope comes taught and she is hanging upside down about 10 ft below the belay ledge. My gf canīt see anything and is in a panic, but as fate would have it, we are at the spot where the route takes a little jog to the right and so are not directly under the rock fall. The rest of the route below gets showered with debris. I climb up to the woman as fast as I can and reach her in about 5 minutes but she is clearly already dead - one hand amputated and a massive gash on her chest, no sign of a pulse, and as she was hanging upside down like that, looked like all her blood had drained out onto the rock. By this time her bf, who has untied from the rope and downclimbed to the belay (!), is yarding on the rope trying to haul her back up to the ledge. I move up to the belay, get us both anchored, and we bring her body up to the ledge. He tries to resuscitate her (that was grim) and then when he finally accepts her demise, falls to pieces. People on the ground, on the top, and my gf are all yelling to find out what has happened. I have to let them know that there is a fatality but no other injuries, although the bf is close to non-functional. I wait with him and try to help him get it together for what must be done until some other climbers, who have rescue experience, rap down to us. Then we decide that they will help get the bf out. I will bring my gf up and we will clear out. My gf is also not in very good shape, especially after she has to climb over the gore on the face, past the woman's body on the ledge, and around her grieving and sobbing bf - people who just minutes before we had seen happy and full of life and who were like ourselves enjoying a beautiful day on the rock. Not too long after that my gf dropped out of climbing. I did a lot of thinking, and the smell of pulverized granite can still transport me back to that moment in a flash, but the bad wasn't enough to cancel out the good, and so I continued to climb."


climber007

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 20, 2013 - 12:04pm PT
bump
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Jun 20, 2013 - 12:08pm PT
Dang LittleZ! And then came Woodfords!!! Dude, if i were you, id NEVER climb around other folks again!
ochotona

Social climber
The Portal, CA
Jun 25, 2013 - 09:24pm PT
Some really interesting questions, and if any of you are interested in adding a few things to your brain, the Park Geologist, Greg Stock, has been doing some really interesting research on rockfall lately -
http://www.nps.gov/yose/naturescience/upload/Quantitative-rock-fall-hazard-and-risk-assessment-for-Yosemite-Valley-April-2012.pdf

He's also put sensors behind flakes and it seems like they flex and fall commonly on hot, clear, summer afternoons as well because of temperature changes - I don't know if this one has been published yet.
johntp

Trad climber
socal
Jun 25, 2013 - 10:30pm PT
johntp...It was almost me and my gf (I posted this before somewhere)

"I was also terrorized the last time I climbed this route. That was back around 1984. My gf and I were climbing behind another couple. We shared a couple of belays and pleasant conversation. We stopped for a bite to eat at the little alcove at the belay before the regular crux pitch. The other team continued on. They had done the crux pitch and the guy was about half way up the next one (last or 2nd to last pitch) when I started out again. He screams "ROCK" and I hear the terrible scrapping of something that starts sliding then bouncing down. The deep rumble identifies it as something big. I look up and there is a huge crash and explosion of rock fragments and dust and I see the womanīs body flung out onto the face. Her rope comes taught and she is hanging upside down about 10 ft below the belay ledge. My gf canīt see anything and is in a panic, but as fate would have it, we are at the spot where the route takes a little jog to the right and so are not directly under the rock fall. The rest of the route below gets showered with debris. I climb up to the woman as fast as I can and reach her in about 5 minutes but she is clearly already dead - one hand amputated and a massive gash on her chest, no sign of a pulse, and as she was hanging upside down like that, looked like all her blood had drained out onto the rock. By this time her bf, who has untied from the rope and downclimbed to the belay (!), is yarding on the rope trying to haul her back up to the ledge. I move up to the belay, get us both anchored, and we bring her body up to the ledge. He tries to resuscitate her (that was grim) and then when he finally accepts her demise, falls to pieces. People on the ground, on the top, and my gf are all yelling to find out what has happened. I have to let them know that there is a fatality but no other injuries, although the bf is close to non-functional. I wait with him and try to help him get it together for what must be done until some other climbers, who have rescue experience, rap down to us. Then we decide that they will help get the bf out. I will bring my gf up and we will clear out. My gf is also not in very good shape, especially after she has to climb over the gore on the face, past the woman's body on the ledge, and around her grieving and sobbing bf - people who just minutes before we had seen happy and full of life and who were like ourselves enjoying a beautiful day on the rock. Not too long after that my gf dropped out of climbing. I did a lot of thinking, and the smell of pulverized granite can still transport me back to that moment in a flash, but the bad wasn't enough to cancel out the good, and so I continued to climb."

Thank you for the post. This is the first time I've seen a report from someone who was there. I was really surprised that more people were not taken out when that rock launched. I am so sorry that I did not do anything.
johntp

Trad climber
socal
Jun 25, 2013 - 11:21pm PT
Sahara Terror:

I know exactly how this went down. The belay is protected by the overhang. When I heard the shee going down above I could not help sticking my arm out above the overhang for balance and looking up to figure out what was going on. I'm sure she did the same thing.

Should have stayed under cover of the alcove.
spulver

climber
Jun 27, 2013 - 04:36pm PT
Any updates on the death flake? We're planning to be on the route next week.
MattF

Trad climber
Bend, Or
Jul 3, 2013 - 03:08pm PT
I was on the route 9 days ago, and the flake was still there, still looking precarious.

I peered underneath it for a while, and it looks like its kinda cammed into place by the bigger flake above it and a small (maybe 3" by 4") chock behind it. It looks like that chock is in there purely based on friction, and if it slips a little bit, the camming action that holds the death flake on will stop and it will go.

My partner led the king swing and then back-cleaned his way up to that belay. We were leading in blocks, so he took the next lead as well and I sat there under that thing for quite a while as I was belaying him.

Here's my advice on it

#1 - make super super sure the leader does not kick it or touch it as he goes by.

#2 - as the leader is leading that next pitch its up to the belayer to make sure ropes stay away from it. If a rope (lead or haul or tag) were to get behind it and then the leader were to suddenly pull up to clip, or take a whipper and have the rope come tight, that could be enough to dislodge it onto the belayer.

#3 - I rode our pig at this belay to get as far over to the left as possible so that if it did go, I wouldn't be directly under it and maybe it would go right by without hitting me or our bag. Not as comfy to sit on the bag like that leaning over to the left, but I think it was worth it.

#4 - follower has to be super super careful to not hit/kick the flake, or let a loop of rope lasso it while jugging.

#5 - don't haul to the hanging gear belay that supertopo recommends. Go up to the 3-bolt optional belay. If you have a 60m lead line the leader can pretty easily make it over there, and you only need a 50m haul line. Then when you haul, the bag will be heading out to the left. If you were to haul up to the supertopo hanging gear belay, you would be hauling right over the death flake... Plus who wants to do a hanging gear belay when there's a nice blocky ledge with 3 bolts on it?

We actually brought along a piece of webbing to try and sling it and see if we could maybe provide some additional support to it, but we ended up realizing that was harder than we thought, and our webbing wasn't long enough. Honestly we didn't spend very long trying, so maybe a party who was willing to spend more than 2 minutes could possibly sling it and provide a measure of additional safety.

Good luck!
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Jul 3, 2013 - 03:20pm PT
There is another option, just run the pitches together. I did that, not because I was brave but because my partner told me to. He had got the beta from someone that it was no big deal. After the swing you climb about 15 ft with no pro then you can put in gear for the rest of the crack.
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Jul 3, 2013 - 03:28pm PT
Little Z ..... pretty grim.

I always wondered about the details.

Sometimes we climbers pay a huge price for our fun.

Be safe

climber007

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 3, 2013 - 05:59pm PT
I am amazed that flake is still hanging on... after it moved on me, I got two more accounts of movement in the following few days... My guess is my chalk X on it gone..

Did you guys happen to put a tape or chalk X back on it?
MattF

Trad climber
Bend, Or
Feb 18, 2014 - 01:58pm PT
Anyone know if that thing is still there?
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