Fatality on Snake Dike 11/8/15


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Stevee B

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 9, 2015 - 11:15pm PT
Does anyone know more? I just heard from a grief-stricken friend of the deceased but his details were foggy. It sounded like a 100' fall but by a follower in a group of three, with snow on route perhaps playing a role. Sincere condolences and comfort to friends and family, I am so sorry for your loss.
looks easy from here

Ben Lomond, CA
Nov 10, 2015 - 01:43am PT
Wow, that's terrible. I was hoping to make a push up there that day, but iffy weather forecasts and concerns of lingering snowmelt scared me off.
Delhi Dog

Good Question...
Nov 10, 2015 - 05:34am PT
Ah, two obits so close to each other...
so sad and sorry

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Nov 10, 2015 - 06:31am PT
Very sorry to read this.

My condolences to everyone involved.

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Nov 10, 2015 - 07:05am PT
Whatever the details, Angela was an amazing individual and I'm shocked that this happened. She was at my birthday challenge at the pinnacles and was such a positive, wonderful person to be around. Condolences to her friends and family. F*#k this is so sad.

Trad climber
Nov 10, 2015 - 07:57am PT
Dam#, sorry to hear this RIP.

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Nov 10, 2015 - 08:21am PT
Sad sad news...

Sincere Condolences to her Friends and Family.


Nov 10, 2015 - 08:30am PT
condolescences-- the last two weeks has seen too many accidents and deaths!

Am I reading this correctly-- the climber took a 100ft fall while following?


fist clamp
Nov 10, 2015 - 08:58am PT

Social climber
Nov 10, 2015 - 09:15am PT
Was this the group that posted on MP about not using the rope they had to leave due to the FF2? Sorry to hear she didn't make it.

Nov 10, 2015 - 09:17am PT
canyoncat-- the fatality in this thread is different from the fall-factor 2 incident the weekend before.
looks easy from here

Ben Lomond, CA
Nov 10, 2015 - 09:27am PT
Is the fatality related to this thread:

Nov 4 Snake Dike and Snowmelt Thread


No. I decided against going.

It's gave me a weird feeling to think about how close I was to being at the same place at about the same time as this accident.

Social climber
Nov 10, 2015 - 12:00pm PT
hey there say, all... and the family and loved ones...

very sad to hear this...

condolences and prayers, as you move onward, without your loved one... :(

karodrinker, you had that special time, thank you for sharing what
a wonderful gal she was... :(

Trad climber
Upland, CA
Nov 10, 2015 - 02:27pm PT
This is really awful.

If there is something to be learned from this, at some point it would be helpful to hear more details about what happened. If not here, a report from those involved to ACcidents in NA Mountaineering.

My sincere condolences to family and friends.

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Nov 10, 2015 - 02:35pm PT
Oh no! Another sad day for climbers. Peace to family and friends.

As I recall the first pitch is about 100'. Perhaps something went terribly wrong at the belay.
cat t.

Nov 10, 2015 - 02:50pm PT
From fuzzy fifth-hand info it seemed the accident happened on the descent, but I have no idea if that info was correct. Speculation probably isn't too productive without more details. [Edit: apparently not the case, see karodrinker's post on page 2]

Condolences to family and friends; this is terrible news. It's been a rough few weeks.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Nov 10, 2015 - 03:07pm PT
Awful news again. My condolences to all who knew her.


some eastside hovel
Nov 10, 2015 - 03:46pm PT
So sad. Condolences to friends and family.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Nov 10, 2015 - 04:12pm PT
I'm sorry for the family and friends of this person. Words will always pale in comparison to the presence or absence of a life.

I have no information about this tragedy or whether this is what happened, but awareness of the following scenario might save someone else from a tragedy.

On steep descents where the person leading effectively has a toprope, it's easy to get "in the zone" moving quickly into more and more sketchy down-climbing while placing little or no pro. The follower, who may be equal to or even slower/weaker/less experienced than the leader, is then in the position of down-soloing where the leader had the mental comfort of a top-rope. With pressure to get off quickly (tired/cold/thirsty/weather/etc), it's very easy to see how something like this could happen. Very treacherous possibility on the halfdome descent when cables down, especially with icy conditions.

Nov 10, 2015 - 04:18pm PT
So sorry to hear this

Boulder climber
Nov 10, 2015 - 04:19pm PT
Oh man I'm really sorry to hear that. My condolences to family and friends.

Be careful which neural pathways we carve in our brains people. There's more than one way to live an authentic life.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Trad climber
Will know soon
Nov 10, 2015 - 05:54pm PT
A life gone. Loved ones, family and friends grieve. Our love and prayers go out to each one of you. Some of us can identify with your loss and it's beyond hard, beyond difficult. It's the biggest challenge of a lifetime. We are keeping you all in our hearts. lynnie

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Nov 10, 2015 - 10:06pm PT
Just had a really difficult few hours with the climbers she was with. They told the whole story, unfortunately Angela simply didn't clip in to the 3rd pitch anchor properly, leaned back, and fell to her death. Really hard to process this, it's just so sad, such a simple mistake, a half second mistake, and it cost her everything.

The Good Places
Nov 10, 2015 - 10:08pm PT
Let the sharing of this knowledge dissipate your pain, KD, and that of the others. Thank you for sharing this deafeningly costly reminder.

Trad climber
Upland, CA
Nov 10, 2015 - 10:40pm PT
Thank you for the information, karo. I'm sure her partners must be in agony right now. They are in my prayers tonight. Rest in peace.

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Nov 11, 2015 - 06:21am PT
So sorry to hear this. What a sad day. Thank you for sharing details Karodrinker. That must have been difficult to hear first hand what happened with your friends. Stay diligent out there friends.


Trad climber
Nov 11, 2015 - 06:28am PT

Sad and painful. Loving thoughts for her family and friends.

Marc Venery
SC seagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, Moab, A sailboat, or some time zone
Nov 11, 2015 - 08:05am PT
What profound heartache.

mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Nov 11, 2015 - 09:05am PT
My most sincere condolence to Angela's friends and family.

4 Corners Area
Nov 11, 2015 - 10:01am PT
Oh no.

Does anyone have a link to a press release or anything? Last name?

Social climber
Nov 11, 2015 - 01:02pm PT
Rest in peace Angela. Rest in Peace.

Trad climber
New England
Nov 11, 2015 - 04:24pm PT
Ugh. Very sorry to hear about this.

I didn't know anyone involved, but sometimes things really hit home. So crazy that a life is gone because of one second of inattentiveness. We've all done it.

Be careful out there.

Trad climber
Nov 11, 2015 - 05:29pm PT
So sorry to hear this!

To share my own story, this almost happened to me once on Z-Tree in Tuolumne. We were setting up an emergency rappel from the second pitch because of a thunderstorm.

My climbing partner was full of verve and ego, but not particularly experienced. I was honestly a little worried that he might make a careless mistake in an attempt to impress me. So, as I set up the rappel, I also checked and double-checked his safety. Things were going well when I randomly glanced down and realized that I was not attached to the anchor. There I was, standing on my tiptoes on a steep slab, with no protection but the bitter end of the rope.

In my efforts to make sure that my partner was safe, I had forgotten all about myself. I gingerly clipped myself in, and calmly finished the business of setting up the rappel. We got down safely, and congratulated ourselves on a job well done.

But after I had a few hours to process, I was hit with a hard case of weak knees. I came close that day - closer than I ever have. I still think about it at almost every belay.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Nov 11, 2015 - 06:32pm PT
How tragic and sad. Be careful up there, it's DANGEROUS!

Check, double check, triple check. Always always always.

Condolences to Angela's friends and family.

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Nov 11, 2015 - 07:48pm PT
Larry Nelson

Social climber
Nov 11, 2015 - 08:14pm PT
Damn, such a lovely young lady.
Condolences to all family and friends.

One short moment, one large loss. So sad.

Nov 11, 2015 - 09:21pm PT
quote -
"We've all done it."

Indeed. More than once. I remember rapping from the Oasis on the Apron once. We had decided we'd do 2 parties of 2 so that we would have 2 ropes to rap off of. We didn't get an early start, and it's @ 2000 feet of climbing, a full fvalue day much like Snake Dike. As we got up to the Oasis we realized that there was not a single headlamp in the party and the sun was close to the horizon. BUT, if we rushed, we figured that we could get down right after dark. We were zinging so fast. Bam bam bam. Military precision. About the 5th or 6 of the 14 or whatever raps the 4 of us had to do, I jumped off and was totally unclipped. The guy next to me spotted it, grabbed my sh#t and clipped me in. Just a moment and my life would have ended. We were on the ground exactly 45 min by the watch after we started, just as twilight hit.

No words do I have for this young woman's passing, but I feel deeply for her family and friends and wish them well in this terrible time. We all live close to the line in this game, and but a moments hesitation there go I. Sorry to see it occur for one so young and full of life.

Best to all

Gym climber
Nov 11, 2015 - 09:34pm PT
A kid.


Trad climber
Nov 12, 2015 - 04:00am PT
Check yourself, check twice, check your partner and give your tie-in a good yank. Tie knots in the end of the rope and always carry a headlamp. These things have to become ingrained habits. Been on the brink myself a few times as have my partners. But for the grace of god.


Trad climber
No. Tahoe
Nov 12, 2015 - 07:09am PT
So very sad. What a beautiful young woman. I can't imagine the grief her family and friends are suffering.

state of being
Nov 12, 2015 - 08:47am PT
And don't take your second off belay till you've double checked they are secured to the anchor.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Nov 12, 2015 - 02:11pm PT
Looking at that picture of her and seeing the dates of her life remind me of my own daughters, although they are a bit older. As I said upthread, everyone who knew her has my sympathy.


Trad climber
Northern California
Nov 12, 2015 - 02:19pm PT
monolith, really good point We all need to watch out for each other out there.

Condolences to Angela's family, friends and extended tribe. Even though I did not know her, she was a part our climbers family and I mourn her passing.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Nov 12, 2015 - 03:35pm PT
So young. So sad. Blessings to all.


Trad climber
Nov 12, 2015 - 04:02pm PT
What Largo said.

Life can pass so quickly.

Peace and condolenlences to all.

Social climber
Nov 12, 2015 - 05:35pm PT
I was friends with her in high school, always sat with her at lunch. To find out that SHE died like this is unbelievable because she was literally the kindest person I have ever met in my life (I'm not just saying that, if you had asked me two weeks ago who the kindest person I've ever met is I would have thought of her), SO smart..just so wise and giving and compassionate and was the embodiment of what I wish everyone was. She fully appreciated life and was just.. amazing. The wisdom of an old soul and the child-like wonder of a youngster. Incredible. Her last profile picture on Facebook is of her rock climbing and the caption is: "To be reminded of our mortality; that which leaves the fluttering bird of your heart eager to get out of its cage. I am so grateful."..

Ice climber
Nov 12, 2015 - 07:34pm PT
So sorry to read this. I didn't know her or her friends, but I know their lives will much changed as a result. Life can change in an instant...embrace each moment, and remember to tell your friends and family that you love them...

Social climber
Nov 12, 2015 - 07:40pm PT
hey there say, dear sarahhh... thank you for sharing how sweet your friend was, and how dearly you remember her...

i did not know her, but, knowing what she loved, and enjoyed,
made her very dear to me, and to all of us...

thank you, and, my prayers for you, as you move on ahead in life, without
her, to share with... :(
Michael Ky

Social climber
Lethbridge, AB
Nov 12, 2015 - 08:58pm PT
Angela and I were TAs in a biology course at UO. I defended my PhD the same day as she defended her Honors thesis. My last email exchange with her was when we wished each other good luck.
We also both received UO Biology Teaching Award in 2013 (I got the grad award and she won the undergrad award). She aspired to be a doctor and we had a few really nice conversations about it because I am a former Navy Corpsman and she wondered if she should join the military to help pay for med school.
She was such a sweet and caring person. She always had a great smile on her face and was extremely smart. Even though we haven't spoke in almost two years, this hits pretty hard.
My condolences to everyone who has ever met her.
Alpine Raven

Eugene, Oregon
Nov 13, 2015 - 04:53pm PT
Angela Uys (pronounced "Ace") was a student here at the University of Oregon. Very sad. She will be missed by many. I work at the UO but didn't know her. Many folks were fond of her. Be safe.


Trad climber
Bay Area
Nov 30, 2015 - 12:16pm PT
I'm so sorry to hear of Angela's death.
It's so very easy to take Snake Dike for granted.
........to take safety for granted
............to take life for granted.

I too have found myself unintentionally not clipped in. I'm sure we all have.

Check, and double check. And if the conditions are sketchy: cold, windy, dark, tired, triple check and as far as possible check your partners.

Karo, speaking with her teammates must have been difficult. I know you gave them some comfort.

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Dec 1, 2015 - 01:32pm PT
A damn sad deal, and a reminder to always remind or teach your proteges or partners that double checking things is always more than just a good idea.
k trout

Social climber
Golden, Colorado
Dec 12, 2015 - 05:06am PT
Was this death was the result of incompetent leadership? Hard to tell. The belayer should not have taken the victim off belay until she had clipped into the anchor twice. Leaning back on one sling is not safe either, but a lot of my rope-guns will disagree.

Not the place for a critique? I climb with an innocent, blonde, 22 year old, psychology student. If something ever happens to her, then I will be the one to blame!

So, how to protect her from the self proclaimed "experts" who have already left her unclipped at belays in Eldo. I came up with a provocative list of dangerous behaviors that indicate it's time for the Partner Finder on Mountain Project:

Your new friend wants you to...

...climb faster. The most likely cause of the Snake Dike accident and many others.

...simul-rappel. Never! Just had a friend get dropped and broken by an unrepentant friend who still insists this is safe.

...simul-climb. An advanced technique and even then only for emergencies.

...rappel clean a pitch. I often hear leaders call up to novices dangling off anchors for the first time: "never let go with your anchor hand!" Make your more experienced friend go up and clean the anchor!

...thread mussy hooks and rappel. If your leader doesn't just clip the hooks and lower off, then that is a problem partner.

...guide-belay. Is your new friend a real guide who knows the ins and outs of this very complicated technique? Or is your caretaker just a lazy belayer in a rush to impress, not taking the time to sort things out? Also, guide style belayers never keep the rope tight enough for their followers.

In a way, the whole sport is partly at fault. The bold-type techniques listed above are being taught by certified guides, espoused by the climbing media, and practiced by 90% of the guys I see at the cliffs.


Trad climber
Dec 12, 2015 - 09:59am PT
K trout, FYI, some of your suppositions are bullsh#t and inaccurate. Really easy to be a armchair analyst and mountaineer, and place blame.

Trad climber
Josh, CA
Dec 12, 2015 - 10:05am PT

Agreed. K Trout, don't dispense "knowledge" you clearly don't have.
k trout

Trad climber
Golden, Colorado
Dec 12, 2015 - 10:30am PT
So prove your point! What really happened?

some eastside hovel
Dec 12, 2015 - 10:42am PT
Not to mention your re-editing. What happened to your initial part about trying to impress the opposite sex?? This just isn't the place for this.

Dec 12, 2015 - 10:50am PT
how are novices supposed to judge

You're a n00b so you have no experience with climbing fatalities.

You have no experience with what people go thru with such a terrible event.

Stop blaming them .....

Dec 12, 2015 - 11:17am PT
Yep, egotistical judgmental bulls h i t disguised as wanting to "learn from the accident"


Disclose away just not on what is pretty much a memorial thread

state of being
Dec 12, 2015 - 11:34am PT
It can take months for all the details to come out. Same thing happened after Woody's accident. No one in the know wanted to disclose all the details due to the human error involved.

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Dec 12, 2015 - 11:40am PT
K trout, you know nothing about the event, your analysis is not required. She made a mistake clipping in to an anchor, and died. It's that simple.

Dec 12, 2015 - 12:01pm PT
Those of you dissing on Ken Trout are woefully ignorant of climbing history. Oh yeah I forgot nothing exists outside of your Californicators club. Pffffft! Werner your comment puts you in the ignorant turd column. Ken is a seasoned veteran and his comments are sincere and have value. I suggest you all take a deep breath and reassess your sense of self importance.

Ken it's good to see you on this forum. Much respect sir. Don't let the Nittwitfest get you down.


Dec 12, 2015 - 12:06pm PT
He's a n00b just like you ......

Dec 12, 2015 - 12:07pm PT
He could start his own thread to analyze the incident. Instantly you roll in with the childish name-calling. I don't care either way other than as a general sign of respect to the fallen.


Dec 12, 2015 - 12:13pm PT
Read what overwatch said .... he's a pro .....

Dec 12, 2015 - 12:22pm PT
Thank you, sir, I TRY to emulate the consummate professionals that I have had the good fortune to associate with in my life.

Dec 12, 2015 - 12:31pm PT
First off , My sincere condolences to the family and friends effected by this terrible loss.

Secondly, Ken was not being disrespectful but got disrespectfully jumped all over simply for presenting valid comments. Comments that others posters were already making.
If we can't learn from avoidable tragedies then we will be doomed to repeat and rue them.

I don't disagree that a seperate thread would have been more sensitive but this is where the discussion was taking place. And what would have been an appropriate thread title?

Edited for overwatch's comment below. I reread the entire thread and am also unaware of any backediting. Ken knows tragedy and I doubt he wanted to offend but he has a keen analytical mind and seen enough of the laxness of modern climbers to be concerned. Unless his original posts contained something really inflamatory he did not deserve the dissing.

Dec 12, 2015 - 12:35pm PT
I see your point there but Mr. Trout kind of blasted in with a semi-scathing post that could have been worded better. Then whatever back editing took place I don't know about that.

With Tradhog on the RIP, although I believe in fly on.

Social climber
So Cal
Dec 12, 2015 - 12:47pm PT
It can take months for all the details to come out. Same thing happened after Woody's accident. No one in the know wanted to disclose all the details due to the human error involved.

Not quite that simple.

The witnesses/participants/ next of kin are all dealing with a stinky plate full in the aftermath.

In these situations next of kin deserve to hear the details first hand, face to face not third hand, from the intardnet rumor mill or media speculation. That can take a while. They may not be ready immediately to deal with it or be reachable.

Everyone else should cool their jets till that happens. The details come out in good time.

With Woody's death that process took about three weeks. It wasn't months, just felt that way.

state of being
Dec 12, 2015 - 12:58pm PT
And your "copyrighted" disclosure of what happened was so poorly written it took several people( primarily Clint ) to actually put together a coherent report.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 12, 2015 - 12:59pm PT
it is best to take this speculation to some other thread with a more general discussion...

such discussions on this sort of thread tend to become accusatory and overly judgemental... and since the thread is specific to the unfortunate team involved in the accident, judgements could be viewed as personal.

I agree with TGT that we could leave this thread alone and let the investigation take its time to come to some conclusion in this specific case. We could discuss the many legitimate issues such a accident might raise in some other thread divorced from the specifics of this particular accident (specifics that no one posting has access to at this time).


Dec 12, 2015 - 01:04pm PT
Ken - we find that separting a condolences thread with a technical evaluation of an accident is never a bad thing. May I suggest you start a new thread on ways to get the chop? Leave this one as folks adding simple condolences and thoughts of the deceased without acrimony so that when family and friends check in they do not become even more traumatized. I tossed out a near miss I had within sight of the snake dike route, but tried to make it non judgemental.

Think about it.

Trad climber
Chatsworth, CA
Dec 12, 2015 - 01:41pm PT
My deepest condolences to her family and friends.



some eastside hovel
Dec 12, 2015 - 03:15pm PT
Yes, condolences to all involved and affected. Very sad indeed.

k trout

Trad climber
Golden, Colorado
Dec 12, 2015 - 04:01pm PT
I'm about done with my back editing! Sorry to be so slow. I tried to make it a little nicer, but this for the novices who have to make hard decisions about who to trust - not the El Cap in a day guys who freely admit they take huge risks.

Thank you for all your comments - you don't have to be nice to me! If the family of the victim asks me, then I will happily remove the post and put it elsewhere.

Oakland, CA
Dec 2, 2016 - 12:31pm PT
Jesse interviewed on Angela's death. What a terrible tragedy.


The closest I came to dying was a mistake in anchoring myself as well. After reaching a bolted belay with a small slabby stance, I thought I tied my lead line in to a locker clipped to my powerpoint. Usually I clove to the powerpoint, then back up to one of the bolts with an 8. At this belay I didn't do the backup, and instead tied the 8 straight to the locker only.

About 60 seconds later, I realized I'd tied in to a locker that was clipped into nothing more than the keeper loop on my ATC Guide, which was hanging in guide belay mode. To this day I'm still not sure whether I leaned back in those 60 seconds. That sickening moment of seeing what I'd f*#ked up plays through my head some nights before I fall asleep. I try to keep the fear fresh. It's so easy to f*#k up. Some pay the ultimate price, some get to walk away.

RIP Angela.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 2, 2016 - 01:24pm PT
From the Jesse interview page:
Around sunset on November 7, 2015, Angela Uys (26) was at an anchor partway up Snake Dike on Half Dome, preparing to rappel. Her tether system was not effectively clipped to the anchor, and when she weighted the system it failed. She fell approximately 500 feet to her death. In this episode, Ashley speaks with Yosemite climbing ranger Jesse McGahey, who responded to and investigated this tragedy, and the two discuss what went wrong and how similar accidents might be prevented. You can read Jesse's full report from Accidents in North American Climbing here:

From Accidents in North American Climbing:
Snake Dike Tragedy: Inadequate Anchor Tether, Inexperience
California, Yosemite Valley, Half Dome

Accident Reports
Author: Jesse McGahey
Accident Year: 2015
Publication Year: 2016
Around sunset on November 7, Angela Uys (26) was at an anchor on Snake Dike (III 5.7), preparing to rappel. Her tether system was not effectively clipped to the anchor, and when she weighted the system it failed. She fell approximately 500 feet to her death.

At 9 that morning, Angela, Mason Kropp, and Samantha (Sam) Perry started up the Mist Trail toward Snake Dike. They were behind schedule because Angela had not arrived at their campsite in Yosemite Valley until 3 a.m., due to commitments in San Francisco. When they reached the base of the route, around 11:30 a.m., another party of three was climbing the first pitch.

At 1 p.m., after waiting 1.5 hours for the other party to clear, Mason began to lead the first pitch. Sam led the second, and Mason led the third. They were climb- ing with a single 70m rope, with Mason and Sam on opposite ends. Angela was attached to the middle of the rope with a figure 8 on a bight, clipped to a locking carabiner on her harness’ belay loop.

For her anchoring system, Angela had girth-hitched a Metolius Personal Anchor System (PAS) to her belay loop. She had extended the free end of the PAS by girth-hitching to it one end of a 44-inch Metolius Rabbit Runner (a runner with a sewn loop on each end). She clipped the free end of the runner to the anchors with a locking carabiner and clipped the rope to the anchor as her backup. She reasoned that this extended configuration would allow her to stay well below the anchor, thus providing more space for the leader and belayer.

The sun was setting behind Glacier Point as Mason finished leading the third pitch. At that point they decided to rappel, given the late hour, the slow party ahead of them, and the possibility of a difficult, icy descent. None of them had climbed Snake Dike or descended Half Dome before.

After reaching the third-pitch anchors, Mason decided they should rappel from an alternate anchor 20 feet below and to climber’s right of his location. The alternate anchor had rappel rings and was closer to the next anchor they would use on their retreat. Mason asked Angela to climb to the alternate anchor, clip in, and then unclip from the rope so that he could belay Sam up to join her.

Mason remembers looking down and seeing that Angela had not clipped a loop of the PAS into the anchor using a locking carabiner, as he had expected. As he recalls, she placed a locker on the anchor, but from his position it appeared she had threaded the end of the sling/PAS through the locker and closed the loop by clipping it back to her harness. It did not look like she had captured one of the sewn loops of the PAS on the anchor locker. As Sam climbed toward Angela’s position, they heard her scream and watched as she tumbled down the rock face. They yelled for the party just above them to call 911.

Mason and Sam rappelled as fast as they could. On the way down they saw that a locker was still attached to one bolt of the anchor Angela was using. There was nothing else left at the anchor. In his haste to get to the ground, Mason rappelled off the end of the rope on his last rappel. He fell about 10 feet and twisted his ankle. He found Angela below and climber’s right of the base of the climb. He checked for a pulse, but she was clearly dead.


Mason and Sam each had five to seven years of trad-climbing experience, but Angela had limited outdoor experience, with only a few trad leads, and she was still learning the techniques involved.

After her fall Angela’s PAS/runner system was still girth-hitched to her harness. The free end of the runner was loose with no carabiner clipped to it. Two locking carabiners were clipped to her belay loop. One, unlocked, had probably been used to clip into the midpoint of the lead rope. The other was clipped through the two loops of her PAS closest to her harness. The gate was open and the locking sleeve was screwed into the locked position, which prevented the gate from closing.

At the anchor from which she fell, Angela attempted to clip into only one bolt with a single anchoring system before detaching herself from the rope. A fundamental principle of anchoring is redundancy. In this instance, having a separate sling independently clipped between her harness and a bolt would likely have prevented her death. Angela had clipped in to the second- and third-pitch anchor with her rope and the PAS/sling combo, providing redundancy. Perhaps because of haste, fatigue, or lack of training, she did not choose to create a backup at this anchor. Angela was new to multi-pitch climbing, and the team’s plan left her alone for the transition from being clipped to the rope to being attached to the anchor. Her faulty anchoring system may have been caught if one of the other climbers had been at the same anchor.

Other factors may have contributed to the accident, including lack of sleep and distraction. Mason and Sam said Angela had taken many photos with her iPhone during the climb. She had the phone in her hand, presumably to take a photo, at the time she fell.

With the available evidence, we can only speculate about the exact mechanism for Angela’s anchoring system failure. But the factors above increased the possibility of a critical incident. During the first week of climbing we learn about redundant anchor systems, and we must continue to use them. Regardless of experience level, watch what your partner is doing. If you see something that doesn’t look right, speak up! (Source: Ranger Jesse McGahey.)

My analysis:
When you have 2 experienced climbers and 1 new/inexperienced, the new climber "goes in the middle", so the older ones can check their anchoring.
In this accident, she was sent down/across first, and nobody was on hand to check her anchor.
jeff constine

Trad climber
Ao Namao
Dec 2, 2016 - 03:04pm PT
Team Leaders Fault. So sad.

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
Dec 2, 2016 - 04:24pm PT
Tragic. Still wondering if sending the least experienced person to a different anchor to untie was a good decision.

Dec 2, 2016 - 06:37pm PT
It wasn't the team leader's fault. It was an accident. No one is at fault.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 2, 2016 - 06:53pm PT
There are often multiple contributory factors (aka causes) in an accident.
So I wouldn't assign 100% to a single factor.

However, I think it's often still useful to think about decisions made, and if there were alternative choices that would have reduced risk.
If there is one choice which made a very big difference, it could be called the primary cause.

Big Wall climber
Dec 3, 2016 - 10:47am PT
I see folks doing this PAS thing often. Just last week in Red Rocks, my girlfriend was doing the single PAS to anchor in and with no secondary tie in. When I pointed this out to her she replied "I'm OK with it", to which I said " I'm not taking you off belay until you're tied in with your rope into the 2nd bolt".

Later that same day, same route, a guy arrives at the belay station I was at, clips in with his PAS once, and calls down to his belayer that he's off belay. I quickly set him straight.

Redundant anchors and redundant points of attachment to the anchors are a must.

As a group we should be vigilant about checking our partners setup. I see no harm in giving a little scrutiny to each other's safety system.

Trad climber
Dec 3, 2016 - 12:41pm PT
No need to place blame or find fault. Instead, we can derive some lessons that might make future climbs a bit safer. Such as:

- Use redundant tie-ins at any anchor point
- Test them (at least by weighting them) before unclipping from the rope
- Assume that any significant shortage of sleep is an additional risk factor, calling for extra care

Trad climber
Dec 3, 2016 - 12:53pm PT
My heart breaks for the family and friends of this lovely young person.
I know the grieving will last forever in some degree. I stopped climbing before many of the gadgets folks use nowadays. I always thought the simplest approach was the easiest and safest. Knots I can inspect, carabiner breaks
I know how to use,a simple belay plate, if I untie from the rope, tie in and back it up before
I untie. Check my partners setup and have him check mine. It was a system I used over and over and over.
No disrespect but gravity never takes a break, when I was off the deck, neither did I.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Dec 3, 2016 - 02:00pm PT
Deepest sympathies to family and friends.

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
Dec 3, 2016 - 05:42pm PT
Redundant anchors and redundant points of attachment to the anchors are a must.

Levy sums it up nicely.

My best to Angela's loved ones.
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
Dec 4, 2016 - 07:28am PT
What a sad story and profound loss.

As a total aside and for what it's worth tying in at the 35 m mid point when a party of three has a single rope on a run out route can be asking for trouble. I've done plenty of routes with parties of three on a single rope particularly on alpine routes. We typically tie the middle climber close to the end of the rope above the last climber allowing the lead climber to reach the belay before any follower starts climbing. It's been decades since I've done SD, perhaps with a 70 meter rope the lead climber does reach the belay in a mere 30 + meters???

Anyway something to keep in mind, my sincerest condolences to family and friends.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Dec 4, 2016 - 11:01am PT
A sad and terrible tragedy, but also a flawed analysis in that redundancy is a red herring.

Climbers connect to anchors with a single strand of the climbing rope---so much for redundancy as an operative principle. If potentially large belaying loads are not in the offing, there is nothing the matter with a PAS, sling, or other tether attachment, which is all most climbers ever use on rappels.

Of course, you do have to use your tether correctly and make sure all the locking carabiners are properly done up. It appears that a gate held open by the locking screw allowed the merely threaded tether to release completely. Complicating the tether by adding a second sling clipped to the tether with a locker makes the system more complex and sounds to me like a bad idea from the outset. While on the climb, long tie-ins could always have been managed with the rope.

Many climbers test their rappel device set up by weighting it while still tethered in. The climber in this scenario could have tested her anchor set-up by weighting it while still tied in to and belayed by the climbing rope.

Like many things in climbing, small details matter and the consequences of not attending to them can be catastrophic. Sometimes the solution might be some kind of doubling up of the system, but I think very few climbers are going to carry and employ double tethers for anchoring when unroped, and no technical account that I know of recommends this in rappelling situations. The analysis that recommends this as a solution is simply not going to be followed by the majority of climbers.

One of the more experienced climbers appeared to have noticed that something was peculiar about the victim's anchor set-up. Had he said, "you might not be attached to your anchor---don't weight it and check your system please!" all would probably have been well. From the armchair, this failure to warn looks like a lapse that contributed to the tragedy, but no one who was not on the scene can tell whether such an intervention could have happened.

Condolences to the party and family, who no doubt are still grieving this terrible loss.

Cumberland Plateau
Dec 4, 2016 - 01:28pm PT
The redundancy argument is somewhat like "if you can't tie a knot tie a lot".
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
Dec 4, 2016 - 03:18pm PT
Thanks, rgold. My thoughts, too. If you're tied in, you're tied in--PAS or not. Sadly, this woman wasn't.

High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Dec 4, 2016 - 05:10pm PT
"Many climbers test their rappel device set up by weighting it while still tethered in."

I am one. Without fail. Every single time.

Regarding redundancy I employ it in several areas of my climbing system, I'd hate to have to climb without it.

Dec 4, 2016 - 08:44pm PT
I agree with rgold-- the problem wasn't redundancy in anchoring, it was about not testing the anchor prior to going off rappel.

Aside from that, there are a lot of details about the event that... leave me a bit bewildered.

The Good Places
Dec 4, 2016 - 10:11pm PT
test their rappel set up by weighting it while still tethered in

this is worth your while.

Gym climber
Dec 21, 2016 - 10:53am PT
I was just notified of this through the SuperTopo monthly email...

My heart lept with hurt readying about this. I wish to convey my condolences to the friends and family of Sarah.

As a father of 2 girls I cannot fathom what this loss must be like to the parents. I think I would have a heart attack and die myself.

To the folks on the team I cannot imagine the sight and sound of seeing your teammate fall to their injury/death. I'm sure it will haunt dreams for years to come. I hope that you are able to find peace through family, friends, church, nature, etc.
the Fet

Dec 21, 2016 - 12:58pm PT
As mentioned multiple factors led to this accident no need to place blame.

The primary factor was not double checking the tie in to the anchor before weighting.

I agree that two tie ins to the anchor is not always needed. To me redundancy at the anchor means being connected to at least two bolts or pieces of pro. A bolt could have been over torqued during installation and be ready to shear off. So I think you need to be connected to both bolts. Usually I'll use sling(s) to create a master point and clip into that with the rope or a sling girthed to leg and waist loops.

You should connect to a mid point of the rope with two biners reversed and opposed. A fall on a cross loaded single biner can approach its rated strength. Plus even locking singles can come undone.

And I don't like the idea of lowering a climber to to anchor and leaving them there without the rope. If the wind picked and and you couldn't get the rope there or if another member of the party got hurt you would leave that person stranded there.

Social climber
Mountain View/Boulder
Dec 21, 2016 - 11:37pm PT
I agree with rgold on this one. Redundancy is used to potentially prevent an accident if there is some sort of failure in the system. By failure I mean a bolt breaking or a carabiner breaking or a sling breaking. Something has to 'break.'

It appears in this accident that nothing broke. The climber did not clip their tether into the anchor correctly.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Dec 22, 2016 - 07:41am PT
Unfortunately a post mortem of any accident will show that "by defintion" something went wrong....equipment failure or human error. It is helpful to publicize these events to help educate the public but, accidents will continue to happen.

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Dec 22, 2016 - 08:26am PT
rgold: ...small details matter...

Kind of sums up most accidents - it isn't necessarily the big and obvious things, but rather the small and subtle details that can be easily missed, overlooked and / or escape notice. The redundancy that really counts lies in checking all the details more than once.

Boulder climber
Dec 22, 2016 - 09:24am PT
Exactly donini.

Our survivor biased retrospective thinking, especially when applied to our own beliefs/behaviors, just leads us to believe that accidents can't happen to us, because so far we've done everything right.

Even when we talk about the dumbest thing we ever did climbing, we tell it (and hear it) as if we're action heroes, bat-manning up the rope, excercising our prodigious strength and self-diagnosed "insane strength of mind" to reach the summit. We don't really see it as dumb, and others don't see it as dumb - we see it more as an un-"imasculated" version of ourselves, while railing against society "imasculating" us.

But it's usually not the cause that we identified that's the issue, but the cause of the cause of the cause. And that's tough for us to compute.

Social climber
An Oil Field
Dec 22, 2016 - 10:26am PT
I read about her, and it sounds like she was an amazingly good person. All fatalities are tragedies, but a young and kind person would have gone on to do much good in the world, and now that has vanished.

The loss of a young person is always bitter, and the more experienced should take note. These types of accidents happen to the best climbers as well. Through history we have seen many good climbers die like this, from the simple things.

I wish that this young woman would have lived to be old. She was a terrific person, and now that young life is gone. Somehow, I did live to be old, and did do good things with my life. She was better than me, so the tragedy is the years of her life that she and the rest of us will never see happen. The good things that would have affected many people. The family that she never got to create nor the good things that would have affected many.

SC seagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, Moab, A sailboat, or some time zone
Dec 22, 2016 - 10:32am PT
^^^^^. You've said what so many of us feel.

Tears flowing rather liberally on your comments.
It just hurts.

Al Fylak

Trad climber
Rochester Hills, MI
Dec 22, 2016 - 01:11pm PT
Unfortunately there will always be accidents in climbing. I am always saddened to hear of deaths, but not surprised. If it was totally safe most of us would not bother to do it. I am not judging but clipping into an anchor is a very basic skill. We should keep it simple. Girth hitch a sling to your harness and clip into the power point with a locking biner. That should be good enough. The PAS is an interesting modification to the basic girth hitched sling. Sometimes the added complexity confuses people. Watch your buddies as best you can, but that is not sure proof either. I and most of you have made plenty of mistakes over the years that have been near fatal. The leader can not catch all errors .. no one was at fault. Rest is peace young lady.

Trad climber
Dec 23, 2016 - 05:30pm PT
I met Angela a few times in Lake Tahoe. What a wonderful radiant woman she was.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 23, 2016 - 07:23pm PT
Climbing is somewhat unique in that one thing can be the deciding factor. In most aviation
accidents it is usually a series or combination of smaller errors that reach a point of no return.
In this case I see a similar series of judgement errors that lead to the final error.
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
Dec 23, 2016 - 08:36pm PT
Beautifully said, BASE104. That gets to the heart of it. We've all made some mistakes that could have been disastrous. Let's all do our best to avoid them.

ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
Dec 23, 2016 - 10:20pm PT
no need to place blame

Trad climber
Dec 23, 2016 - 10:32pm PT
this is a tregedy. i agree with clint's comment there are a multitude of factors that create an accident. I also apprecate the accident report. at least there is a tiny positive kernel that can be shared from another terrible fatality.

redundancy is good- coming from someone who has single clipped many bolt anchors and rapped from non-redundant anchors- often carefully - for lack of good alternatives.

i once leaned back on a solid two bolt anchor (3/8 button heads) where one bolt simply slid right out of the bolt hole and disengaged entirely. that was pretty sickening. we didnt pull too hard on the second one since we still had to belay from it. we went back and replaced them the following week thanks to the ASCA. we were cash poor at the time. my point being redundancy is good even when we are accustomed to trusting bolts rated to 5kips. they are not always good.

ive made some mistakes too over the years- primarily as a novice climber where i made hasty anchor attachments- i got lucky and noticed them before i died. i have also noticed other experienced climbers make similar mistakes and have luckily caught them too. be careful people- we all make mistakes. plan for them. assume that you will too- in the dark, thirsty, in a state, off route, in a rush, in the rain, headlamp bateries low, and improvising for lack of gear.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
Dec 24, 2016 - 07:26am PT
Thankful for 95% humanity over 5% idiocy in the objective responses of the community. We have all been a moment away from such a mistake.

Boulder, CO
Jan 19, 2017 - 10:57am PT
The point with enforcing a habit of redundancy is that it changes the equation, from the chance of making one mistake, which even the most seasoned climbers have experienced, to the likelihood of having two different mistakes at the same point, at the same time. If circumstances force you to pare down to a solitary rap anchor, etc. at least you can be pretty sure you're going to inspect the crap out of it before committing your life to it.
Visual complexity, i.e. the new, "safer" belay loop link daisys, certainly could increase the risk of mis-clipping while dealing with anchors, especially in a hasty retreat, oncoming darkness, weather, etc.
Experience can make us lazy, but also set in ways which mostly work safely, most of the time. The least little change in our program might reveal an unexpected weakness, another reason for being redundant whenever possible.
The climbing rope may be a single link - and stories of cut ropes are out there, leading to many who now use twin/double ropes for leading - but it ordinarily is a redundant backup to the climbers actually not falling on it. Rappelling, by its total dependence on the rope, harness, rappel device, and anchor system, is a series of potential weak links with not much room for redundancy. Beginners used to routinely be belayed while rappelling; keeping this inexperienced woman on belay until definitively reanchored at the other station might have been a possibility, but tedious, slower, and not obviously necessary until after her fall.
I recall the Yosemite standard speed anchor in the 70's being clove hitches into two plain ovals in the typical two bolts, then clipping the trailing rope with one more oval into the section of rope between the other bolts. This may have been the Death anchor on "Anchors Away." Live and learn.

Jan 19, 2017 - 11:34am PT
The nut on the one bolt his fixed line was attached to loosened and came off which caused the failure on Anchors Away.

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Jan 19, 2017 - 12:13pm PT
"Live and Learn" can be a very near thing…

I led the first pitch of Devil's Delight at Tahquitz. I knew when I started that a woman was belaying a leader on P2, but knowing she was at good bolts on a bit of a ledge I went up anyway, we were just doing P1 and rapping.

I don't recall clipping the anchor or how I set it up, just that I did it out of habit and showed the young woman, still belaying, what was mine and what she should unclip when the time came.

The Sarge came up second, so now we are three at the belay. The next thing I hear is "Climbing" from the young woman. Now we are two. I organized the rope to toss, leaned out to see where it should drop, and began falling outward. I'm sure many of us here have had that experience where everything slows down to a crawl as you realize the unthinkable is happening. Two ends of the rope were threaded through the anchor, and running into the lapped coil I held in my right hand. I turned and grabbed for that doubled cord.

I'll never forget looking at that pair of ropes, slack and separated by a couple of inches. Still in slow motion, I collected them in my left hand and held on for dear life as they snapped tight. By then I was leaning out over the fall by about 30 degrees. Somewhere in the middle of this I had dropped the coil and got both hands on the rope. The Sarge, one of the most composed people I have ever known, was a little "saucer-eyed" as pulled back to the security of the belay and stood there panting.

So I was unclipped. I'll never know if the young woman unclipped me. I do know that I moving fast and did'nt double check anything, a nearly fatal mistake. And of course when I knew she was leaving the ledge I nearly paid with my life by not taking another look at the set-up.
For the most part I think assigning blame in an accident on a public forum is uncool. We can all draw our own conclusion; "They should have sent her in the middle," "She should have been belayed," whatever…
But I cannot think, among the few really close calls I've had, one which was not largely my fault. Maybe she unclipped me, I'll never know, but It was I who did not take that extra moment to double check the set-up when she left. So when the mistake is our own we should own up to it, put it on a list of things we'll never do again. My errors on Devil's Delight that day would have only taken my life, in many cases it can be someone else's, or several others, who lose theirs.

I hope that now, after more than a year has gone by, family and friends have somehow come to peace with the event of that terrible day. To paraphrase Leonard Nimoy shortly before his death, beauty can be, but not preserved, except in memory.

Boulder climber
Jan 19, 2017 - 01:13pm PT
We have one brain. It's the source of all of our mistakes. There's no redundancy to it.

Sure we can add different brains with different perspectives and maybe improve functioning (e.g. in this case avoiding a bad climbing accident). But mostly we don't - we hang with brains kind of like ours - stoners, bold leaders, independent action heros, Trump supporters, whatever.

Yes create redundant systems with the hope that your brain won't make a second mistake exactly like the mistake your brain just made. Heck, maybe that will work for your brain.

But IMHO, the best we can do is the best we can do, and sometimes that means we fall.
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