Tito Claudio Traversa Death and Helmets


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michael feldman

Mountain climber
millburn, nj
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 9, 2013 - 06:53pm PT
It is a very sad story, as is always the case when a child dies. However, it is also sad and a bit disturbing that so many articles (including the one I just read in Rock and Ice online) shows pictures of Tito climbing without a helmet. He died of a head injury from a big fall. Was he wearing a helmet? Now I have no clue if a helmet would have made a difference in such a fall, but that is not completely the point. Why do we continuously seem to glorify (through pictures in magazines) unsafe climbing habits? Perhaps this encourages others to climb in an unsafe manner - which is quite ironic given the number of articles in these same magazines about safe climbing techniques. I cannot imagine allowing my child to climb without a helmet. It seems this is an overlooked part of the tragedy.

For what it is worth, I am not saying this to place blame on his parents for his death (for all I know, he was wearing a helmet this time - though I have seen a ton of pictures of him climbing without one). Rather, it is to place blame on the magazines and publications that cover this stuff.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jul 9, 2013 - 07:10pm PT
The article in Climbing covers the issue of why climbers often don't wear helmets on steep sport climbs.

It's not the primary cause of the accident here....
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Jul 9, 2013 - 07:12pm PT
A good cause!


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jul 9, 2013 - 07:25pm PT
I have rarely worn a helmet.....just on alpine routes, and alpine rock climbs or multi-pitch in places like Yosemite where there are people above me. Never wear them when cragging either sport or trad.
Why is this?
Probably goes back to the early days when the Joe Brown helmet weighed a ton and was anything but comfortable.
Helmet technology has changed dramatically. BD has come out with the Vapor Helmet which weighs less than six ounces and is very comfortable.
Their idea was to produce a helmet that disappeared in the sense that you forgot that you had it on. The hope is that more people like me will wear such a helmet.
guess what.....
I'm going to the Overlook tomorrow.....the place where Danika Gilbert describes her incident in the current issue of Climbing.
And for the first time in my life I'll be wearing a helmet (the Vapor) for sport climbing.

Trad climber
Jul 9, 2013 - 07:35pm PT
As a guide I make clients wear helmets, though I personally don't like to. I am more likely to wear a helmet belaying than climbing... it's one of those things that goes back and forth.

Do you honestly think a helmet would have made a difference in Tito's fall?



Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Jul 9, 2013 - 07:35pm PT
I've never been much for wearing helmets. But as Jim says the technology has caught up. Lately, for reasons beyond my control, I've seen a lot of CT scans and MRI's of my head. I am not impressed by the thickness of my skull.

On the recommendation of a friend I bought a Petzl Meteor. It is very light and is not visible in my peripheral vision. I actually forget I have it on.

I'll be wearing this baby from now on, or until someone comes up with something even better.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Jul 9, 2013 - 07:54pm PT
It is cultural. When I started climbing nobody wanted to be seen lugging a brain bucket to the crags. Doesn't seen so bad anymore. I got my son one, more to avoid the "bad parent" label. Now that Donini is sporting one it is a no brainer!

It is funny, I am traveling in Maine and nearly everyone on motorcycles has no helmet. I used to ride helmetless in CA, now I view it as foolhardy. There is a difference between riding and climbing
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Jul 9, 2013 - 08:15pm PT
Helmets... HA!

I almost had my brains spilled from a rockfall accident in the Valley in 1979. Not sure if you can imagine what it feels like to have the worse headache imaginable, bleeding so profusely that you can't see, and thinking that you are going to die.

Ever since then I have religiously worn a helmet in all of my sporting endeavors. I was probably the only guy on El Cap in '79 wearing a helmet.

I have no sympathy for anyone who dies from a head injury while climbing without a helmet. Sorry, do you want to live or look cool?
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Jul 9, 2013 - 08:22pm PT
The father is despondent and looking for something positive to ease his pain, like crusading for helmets. A totally normal reaction even if its not really the issue. The father isn't a climber and from how he was quoted, doesn't seem to appreciate the danger. He's somewhat to blame for putting so much trust in what appeared to be a fun and safe activity for kids. But most non climber parents wouldn't know any more than him. A couple people got upset at me on the other thread for saying this, but I think one aspect is that in sport climbing, you fall and fall and you can fall all you want. It's perfectly safe. But it isn't, and people thinking that way are asking for trouble.

Anyone remember, about 6 months ago or so, there as a gym that set up a rappel and had some kind of event where scores of kids would learn how to rappel. One of the kids clipped in to a rubber band thing on the belay device, leaned back on it, and landed about 80 feet later. Doing a technical failure analysis of these incidents won't prove much. It's that the adults who are supposedly in charge aren't climbers.
Stevee B

Mountain climber
Oakland, CA
Jul 9, 2013 - 08:25pm PT
Petzl Sirocco is also outstanding, and 6 ounces.
rand0M aXiS

Trad climber
Beserkeley now living in Daygo
Jul 9, 2013 - 08:37pm PT
I find the most disturbing aspect of his death is the cause: Improper set-up of 8 quickdraws!!!


Trad climber
Talkeetna, Alaska
Jul 9, 2013 - 09:34pm PT

This is somewhat of a tangent to this topic, but...

Rock and Ice's current webpage is running an updated story on this tragedy. While entirely unrelated given that this incident involved an equipment issue, one thing that I do think is quite ironic is that right next to the story is the "Weekend Whipper" regular video feature which in this case shows some French sport climber catching "BIG AIR". In fact, after casually yarding up tons of slack and really taking his time to clip the anchors while chatting with the videographer, he rips off a fragile hold and, along with lots of rock debris, takes what appears to be at least a 50-60 footer, apparently coming pretty close to the ground. Not wearing a helmet. No mention of what happened to him or the people on the ground, but the implication is that "it's all good". Of course he walked away or they wouldn't show it.

In my opinion the "Weekend Whipper" thing is one of those features that is amusing...Until it isn't. I get the entertainment value intent, but that's just it, I'm not sure how psyched I can get about a regular feature that utilizes incidents that could easily have become tragedies save for a stroke of luck, as entertainment, at least not without some context, of which there is generally none included. Incidents that also could be classified as being borne of carelessness, ignorance, lack of skill, or lack of judgment. Worse, it borders on an attempt at motivational media since we're already encouraged to 'go for it' and push hard. This is on the educational level of "Ow! My balls!", "Jackass", or the Tom and Jerry show. Everyone walks away laughing.

Except I know too many people, or loved ones of departed people, who aren't laughing.

We rightfully celebrate and admire boldness in climbing but it's important to distinguish and emphasize and celebrate boldness that is driven by self-knowledge and awareness.

Me, I push to fall on sport routes, but the aging alpinist in me keeps even that in check; running it out isn't and never has been my style, and falling, while a part of the game that must be accepted, and even on "sport protected" routes, is not my goal and is not 'cool', and is to be taken seriously in every situation- trad, sport, alpine. This mindset has likely cost me a couple letter grades of bragging rights, but I'll trade that for not being fed through a straw and for having many more years of enjoying the outdoors and life with my wife and my friends.

To push your limits, always keep them within reach.
Be safe all.

rick d

ol pueblo, az
Jul 9, 2013 - 09:42pm PT
25m fall because a shiAtload of the "draws" were through the rubber keeper only.

First, don't sport climb.

Second, work under a mentor so your ass does not get nailed for being an idiot.

...off to desert to drink beer in a few weeks........

a helmet would not have saved this kid.
now if he were like a cat like the author he legs would just be buggered.

Trad climber
Jul 9, 2013 - 10:10pm PT
Another OT tangent.

Back in '76 or so when I started climbing my mom bought me a JB helmet. Never wore it because it wasn't cool.

Fast forward to '93 at Suicide; helmets still were not cool unless you consider a bandana a helmet. To make a long story short (I've told it before), a rock put a divot in my skull. Was out for a few minutes; thank god there was an EMT and ER doc climbing next to us. My sense of balance has sucked ever since.

Wish I would have been wearing a brain bucket that day.

Edit: 20 years later I can still smell and taste the stench of liquid iron from all the blood. Skull fractures bleed A LOT.

Trad climber
Millbrae, CA
Jul 9, 2013 - 10:19pm PT
If you can find a helmet that is light and comfortable, you will wear it and forget about it. Mine is so comfy that I have even gotten into my car at the end of the day and started driving with it on.

Jul 9, 2013 - 10:29pm PT

According to the grimper article the above link shows how to assemble the quickdraw correctly. Looks wrong in two ways to me (one is debatable).

selfish man

Gym climber
Austin, TX
Jul 9, 2013 - 10:57pm PT
all it takes is that Sharma or Ondra or whoever is crushing 5.19z these days appears in a couple of ads in Rock & Ice wearing a helmet and every kid will be wearing that very thing even in the gym. Which wouldn't be bad...

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jul 9, 2013 - 10:59pm PT
I didn't wear helmets for most of my 56 years of climbing, with the exception of alpine routes. They were just too heavy and hot for me, and of course no one wore them except people perceived, in some cases unfairly, to be gumbies. But as the technology produced lighter and lighter helmets, I started to wonder about the logic (or rather the absence of logic) in always wearing a helmet while biking but rarely when climbing. So I got the lightest thing I could at the time, I think it was the original Meteor.

I really didn't like it, especially in the hot and humid Eastern summers, and often "forgot" to put it on. But I also worried about the effects of even a minor head injury. I know that climbing helmets, especially the lightweight ones, provide only modest protection, but they are still better than nothing.

I'm a "brain worker," I have to be able to think about complicated things and concentrate for long periods, and I've heard too many stories, some first hand, about what happens after even relatively mild concussions. I'm not as worried about being killed as I am worried about not being able to do the things I love (and earn my salary for). So I decided to make an effort to wear my helmet, and have kept my eye out for even small weight and size reductions.

I'm wearing a BD Vapor now:

If I was doing alpine climbs I'd use the Petzl Sirocco, which seems much more durable and probably protects better as well. But the Vapor has better ventilation and sits closer to the head, both of which matter a lot to me. I still don't like plopping the thing on my head when it is hot and humid out, but I've more or less gotten used to it.

Social climber
Jul 9, 2013 - 11:10pm PT
You don't want to end up in Werner's brain bucket. Just walking around the base of the Gunks walls made me start wearing a helmet cragging. Helmets are a smart addition to a climber's kit.

Not that one would have helped in the Traversa tragedy.

Social climber
north vancouver, B.C.
Jul 9, 2013 - 11:32pm PT
After all this transpired I realized I had never looked carefully at my relatively new edelrid draws with the rubber keepers. You can't see the sling material because it's covered by the rubber completely. By pulling back on the rubber I could see the sling material and all were correctly set-up. If any good comes out of this it will be a new awareness of how easy it is to use gear incorrectly.

Such a sad story. RIP Tito.

And for the first time in my life I'll be wearing a helmet (the Vapor) for sport climbing.

Yes I have also climbed sans helmet except for the mountains because I could never find one that didn't shift around on my head. Every few years or so I would check the stores for new helmets to no avail then last year I finally found one that's so light and fits so well. It's the new light weight Edelrid helmet. With a couple of little kids and a wife who needs care it seemed the right thing to do.

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