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.
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.
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.
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.