Recent Climber Death in JTree?

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BG

Trad climber
JTree & Idyllwild
Apr 19, 2014 - 02:24am PT
After talking to someone who was on the scence of the accident, I went over there today to take a look. The climb is called Dwarf Among Midgets (5.1). Based on where the rappeller fell, the mostly likely spot for the anchor was a crack that had both macrostructure and microstructure issues- a horizontal crack beneath a massive, detached block perched on an inclined slab. The crack is shallow and a bit flared, and would not be an easy spot to rig a reliable gear anchor. It's quite low and hard to get a good look into without getting down on your hands and knees.

I've set up this climb before as a TR but used a long extendo rope to other anchors 30-40 ft. back from the edge.

There is a set of fairly new bomber rappel/belay bolts with rings about 15 ft. right of where this anchor was rigged, so I'm assuming they were setting it up as a TR.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Apr 19, 2014 - 02:46am PT
Very, very unfortunate and so sad.
Condolences to the family and friends , and to the climbing partner that must live with this awful tragedy..
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Apr 19, 2014 - 09:36am PT
The crack is shallow and a bit flared, and would not be an easy spot to rig a reliable gear anchor.

If you can't "set" a piece of pro (yank real hard multiple times in direction of potential pull)it ain't gonna be good.

Dolomite

climber
Anchorage
Apr 19, 2014 - 11:15am PT
This is a post from the poor woman's blog:

http://www.hastac.org/blogs/wadewitz/2013/08/12/what-i-learned-worst-student-class

Draw your own conclusions.

She sounds like a wonderful person with lots to contribute to the world. Condolences to her loved ones.

Drift: I'll walk off every time over rapping. Even off Royal Arches. I self identify as a geezer.
GDavis

Social climber
SOL CAL
Apr 19, 2014 - 11:24am PT
Whether walking or rappelling, the dangers can still be present. I've long hated rapelling but understand that a down climb requires a cool head just like getting up sometimes - and can be part of the fun as well.

I don't think the discussion of JT anchors is relevant in this unfortunate incident, Joshua Tree is an area rich in history and style and the quirkiness, for better or for worse, is one of the many reasons people like me keep going back. New routes can get rap anchors, but established formations have established descents that are reasonable.

Place good, redundant anchors and if there is any lack of confidence in said gear support one of the many awesome guiding companies. Local climbers charge reasonable fees for absolutely priceless information, take them up on it.


Edit - I read her article about climbing above. The conclusion I drew was that she was driven, intelligent and one of the good ones. She sounds like someone that would've been here posting a TR on this site a few years down the road. A real loss for the climbing community.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Apr 19, 2014 - 11:25am PT
New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/19/business/media/adrianne-wadewitz-37-wikipedia-editor-dies-after-rock-climbing-fall.html?emc=edit_th_20140419&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=21133602&_r=0
jstan

climber
Apr 19, 2014 - 11:32am PT
A very topical and interesting blog. We need to think more on how to keep these things from happening. The loss is too great. This was terrible and entirely preventable.

A Chinese friend told me how upper class Chinese actively prevent their children from ever using their hands when very young; two or three years old. Too demeaning. He said, as a consequence these people are never able to use their hands effectively. So a kid who has nuts and bolts to play with very early, has a hammer and nails, climbs ladders and trees, even better works frequently and hard outdoors with a parent, has a huge advantage. Actually it would be well to give your two year old a book on quantum mechanics. What a kick upward that would be.
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
Apr 20, 2014 - 02:41pm PT
Downclimbing, route-finding, and anchor-placement are all very well, but no place has baffled me so much as J-Tree with the inexplicable tradition of bolted face climbs with no anchor. If you've got the drill on you, why not finish the job?

In no way am I advocating for bolting the top of every 5.1 gear climb. The incident here is horrible, but anyone who knows me knows that I respect the need for self-reliance and judgment in becoming a competent climber/outdoorsperson.

PS: I'm 45 years old and learned to climb in CT and NC, so save your back-to-the-gym rhetoric for the kids. I'm just kind of amazed by the JT ethic of putting up a bolted climb but making people carry a pile of gear and hike back 30 feet to some crusty crack to find a safe anchor.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Apr 20, 2014 - 02:46pm PT
J-Tree with the inexplicable tradition of bolted face climbs with no anchor. If you've got the drill on you, why not finish the job

Sounds like someone who's been inconvenienced.
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
Apr 20, 2014 - 02:50pm PT
The example set by this tradition has succeeded in motivating me to install bomber and well-placed anchors on my own routes.

Again, I'm not talking about climbs upon which one sets out with a rack of gear…what is more convenience-based than a bolted face? Don't tell me that following someone else's line of pre-placed protection is all about self-reliance, route-finding, judgment..etc. And then a totally different ethic prevails on top.

[We can take this to a new thread if this doesn't seem like the appropriate venue]
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Lassitude 33
Apr 20, 2014 - 04:40pm PT
J-Tree with the inexplicable tradition of bolted face climbs with no anchor. If you've got the drill on you, why not finish the job?

Again, I'm not talking about climbs upon which one sets out with a rack of gear…what is more convenience-based than a bolted face? Don't tell me that following someone else's line of pre-placed protection is all about self-reliance, route-finding, judgment..etc. And then a totally different ethic prevails on top.

Actually, the idea that a large number of fully bolted face climbs at Josh lack bolted anchors, is increasingly becoming myth. Over the last 20 years, more and more of these climbs have had fixed anchors added to the top. [In fact, even a number of trad crack climbs now sport bolted convenience anchors.]

And the crag where this unfortunate accident occurred, features almost entirely trad (gear protected) routes. That no bolted anchors are found atop these gear leads shouldn't be surprising at all [but, perhaps expectations are continuing to evolve].

But, more to the quoted assertions above:

There is nothing inexplicable about older bolted face climbs lacking fixed anchors. It does, however, require an understanding of the historical context in which many of these routes were established. The lack of understanding of that context can also lead to other interesting complaints.

Many of these routes were first established in the 1970s and 1980s. They were "Traditional" face climbs, not "Sport" climbs. Bolts were placed where needed and run outs on easier ground were common. Drilling bolts with a hand drill on the lead was (is) a pain. And despite what some would lead you to believe, most of these routes were not established by climbers leading well below their grade.

If an odd piece of pro could be placed and a bolt avoided, it usually was. If there was natural gear for an anchor on top, few if any, would bother to drill a couple of bolts. Having the anchor a ways back from the edge was hardly considered that "inconvenient." You could simply extend the rope from the anchor to the belayer.

Even when sport climbing began to take root, it was an activity almost exclusively the domain of climbers pushing the limits of difficulty. The idea of a 5.8, 5.9, or 5.10 sport route was not something that anyone thought was needed. The closely spaced bolts of a sport route were needed largely because working moves and repeated falls were expected.

Of course, that began to change as well. Today, even novice climbers on incredibly easy climbs (e.g., 5.6 or 5.7) expect to be able to push themselves in complete safety. And, easy and moderate sport routes are quite common today.

But, what of the easy and moderate face climbs established 30 or 40 years ago? First, novice climbers are often dismayed by the lack of comforting bolts every body length or two (or more) on these routes. And, though the original complaint was about a lack of bolted anchors, the disconnect between modern expectations and established reality is broader than this and growing wider.

People now regularly complain about run out climbing on easy bolted fare like Double Dip (5.6) on Echo Rock (established in 1973) -- despite guidebooks warning them that these older routes aren't sport climbs. In the case of Double Dip, that disconnect between expectations and reality is compounded by limited outdoor experience and an apparent lack of reading comprehension.



Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Apr 20, 2014 - 04:51pm PT
^^^^ Very good post.

I believe this discussion drift honors the life and death of this person.

Like Sherpa built fixed lines up Everest, the gym-like sport routes on public lands work to develop a "client" attitude in the "modern" climber where safety is expected or presumed rather than achieved through careful study and experience. "Everybody does this so it must be safe," is a deadly thought.
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
Apr 20, 2014 - 06:29pm PT
Thanks sketchy. From what I know of hand drilling, and the JT historical context, that makes some sense. And if an increasing number of (newer?) bolted face climbs now feature fixed anchors, it would appear that my sentiment is shared.

But when I climb 'Run For Your Life' one time and find a bolted anchor, and return a year or two later to find a mess of chopped holes, all I can think is 'these people need to get their story straight.'


Please note that in my comments neither the terms 'sport climb' nor 'inconvenient' appear. For me it's more of a logical consistency issue. And yes, a bit of convenience. I can't lie: I don't much miss the days of belaying off my harness, yelling back and forth to an unseen partner below, and grinding the rope over a grainy edge. It seems like homo scalensis has refined the single-pitch game to a more enjoyable place, and belaying from the ground off a top anchor is a big part of that. Not that I don't occasionally opt to belay up top in celebration of an expansive view, because that's one of the pleasures of climbing.
TYeary

Social climber
State of decay
Apr 20, 2014 - 06:57pm PT
the disconnect between modern expectations and established reality is broader than this and growing wider......
People now regularly complain about run out climbing on easy bolted fare like Double Dip (5.6) on Echo Rock (established in 1973) -- despite guidebooks warning them that these older routes aren't sport climbs. In the case of Double Dip, that disconnect between expectations and reality is compounded by limited outdoor experience and an apparently lack of reading comprehension.ere

Very well put Randy, and more than true.

For me it's more of a logical consistency issue.

It's only inconsistent in that folks are not aware of the history, traditions and values at work when the routes were established. They feel obliged to "improve" routes with anchors where none originally existed. Then the mess gets chopped and the process likely repeats itself n a few seasons or so. Here's where the " disconnect" Randy references, comes into play. For example, If you can't climb Double Cross without a bolt at the bottom, then wait till you can muster the requisite skills and sand. It's really just that simple.
TY
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
Apr 20, 2014 - 07:11pm PT
Nobody ever accused 'history, traditions and values' of logical consistency. I got it.



[edit. OK, that's unnecessarily snarky. All traditions adhere to their own internal logic.]
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Lassitude 33
Apr 20, 2014 - 07:39pm PT
I get it...a significant number of people want an easy chair, low stress, low commitment, easily top roped approach to single pitch climbing. But, does that mean every route needs to accommodate this -- for lack of a gender neutral term -- emasculation of climbing?

Climbing is often difficult, dangerous, scary and downright inconvenient. This was (and remains) a draw to the more adventurous. However, as climbing evolved into a mainstream sport, mainstream "values" and expectations have come to predominate. The clash of these ideals is a rich source of debate and redirection in modern climbing.

And, as unfortunate and avoidable accidents as this demonstrate, climbing remains a dangerous activity, no matter one's expectations or how innocuous the setting.
dave729

Trad climber
Western America
Apr 20, 2014 - 08:03pm PT
If only we could choose between avoidable accidents and unavoidable accidents...
Sometimes we do get to choose between easy approaches to hard climbs and hard approaches to easy climbs...


donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Apr 20, 2014 - 08:56pm PT
An accident by definition is unavoidable....it's already happened. Humans can learn from past accidents how to avoid future ones but, given human nature, mistakes will continue to be made.
Steven Amter

climber
Washington, DC
Apr 21, 2014 - 12:01am PT
The problem with learning to climb, and lead, in a gym is it teaches you nothing about placing gear, and how to judge how good it is. The only way to learn trad is by cleaning the gear of a competent leader and/or leading yourself. Unfortunately, this takes a lot of time, and for some presents a high psychological barrier. For those with more bravery than sense, it means putting yourself in danger because you don't know what you don't know.
jstan

climber
Apr 21, 2014 - 12:12am PT
Out of regard for legal liability gyms work hard to create an atmosphere of assured safety. Even in
gyms it is not assured and out of doors safety is most definitely not assured.

The atmosphere is the problem.

In the past we had belay testing to impress upon all the forces for which we need to be prepared.
Those gyms conducting belay tests for their customers do those customers great service.
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