Death on El Cap (Freeblast) this morning?

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Curt

climber
Gold Canyon, AZ
Jun 4, 2018 - 10:32am PT
Is it certain there was a third climber with them?

Yes, Kevin Prince was with them.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/06/04/best-friends-and-master-climbers-fall-to-their-death-while-scaling-yosemites-el-capitan/?utm_term=.ab2db3b58699

The video is pretty worthless, but the text is useful.

Curt
tcal113

Sport climber
Spokane
Jun 4, 2018 - 10:37am PT
Absolutely nothing is certain at this point other than two good men are gone. That said, one unsubstantiated report indicated that a third climber, Kevin, was jugging up a separate line

Yes there was a climber named Kevin and he was apart of the party that fell. I know this because on of the widows posted about the names of all three climbers.
i'm gumby dammit

Sport climber
da ow
Jun 4, 2018 - 10:45am PT
Since the thread has gotten a bit long, here are the various eyewitness reports that are scattered throughout the first 8 pages.

(from Reddit)It was two experienced climbers in their late 30s early 40s. With family and kids. Their names have not been released publicly.

They were attempting to salathe in a day. Which would have been done easily. Witnessed by a party on the freeblast right next to them.

Attempting as a party of 3. It was a weird situation and still unclear what had happen.

from the widow

(The Dak)I believe that the reports of a haulbag coming off the wall are unfounded...I was with multiple YOSAR members and rangers this afternoon/evening who were on the scene and they said that no haulbag was found. I also spoke at length to climbers who had been just below Jason and Tim on the Freeblast and they said they didn't see a haulbag falling, just two people. Unfortunately it seems like a terrible fall accident...they were in the pitches above the Half Dollar, and man there are definitely a few blocks in that corner that are loose and ready to rip. Perhaps that is what happened while they were simul-climbing. There were also multiple reports that their rope had sheared/been cut. Their third partner is unhurt.

(axle)I was in the meadow to watch what I hoped would be a nose speed attempt, and at about 6:30am we saw a very fast party of 3 moving up freeblast. They quickly made their way above the half dollar and I would look over their way occasionally to check their progress. At around 8:10 or 8:15am, I heard multiple people yelling loudly in a back-and-forth manner from the heart ledges/mammoth terraces area, which drew my attention. I then saw what looked like a haul bag drop from that area, impact the wall, and start to accelerate downwards. Two other dark objects were falling with it, and there was a rope connecting them. In the moment I assumed it was a series of haul bags, because I could clearly hear what I thought was the sound of polyurethane or durathane coated fabric running against the granite. I wasn't clear on what exactly I saw and it wasn't until later that I learned of the loss of life.

(WilliamSkea)Me my partner Alastair were bivying that morning on the far-left side of mamoth terrace after aiding the first 10 pitches of Magic Mushroom the day before. We were preparing to lead above the far left of the terrace at the time of the incident.

We definitely didnt see anything fall from the party on the shield, and we defintely didnt drop anything ourselves. If we had, it wouldnt have gone down freeblast.

At the time of the incident we heard shouting from freeblast followed by bangs of something hitting the ground. We didnt see anything, but there was a party of two above the team that did. They helped the third member get up to mammoth by climbing as a train of three. They didnt tell us what happened besides saying ‘simulclimbing with no gear’. It was tragic, and everyone was in a degree of shock. One member was called Jared but we cant remember who everyone was. Hopefully they can clarify what happened.
JLP

Social climber
The internet
Jun 4, 2018 - 11:21am PT
It reads like Kevin was in the Half Dollar chimney. I had hoped to hear the answer to all this from him, but it doesn't sound like he saw anything.

There apparently was another party up there that took in Kevin. Has their account been shared somewhere?
AE

climber
Boulder, CO
Jun 4, 2018 - 11:29am PT
When the ideas of such luminaries as John Long, John Stannard, Rich Goldstone, Werner Braun combine to shine light on so many facets of the complexities and paradoxes of our activity, we can appreciate how every one of these sad accidents affects the community.
In the mid-'70's the original aid line of the Naked Edge was climbed free, by a couple brash kids who did not know the newly freed line went left. On lead, one of the kids clipped into the bleached shoestring tied through a fixed RURP, and when I pressed him, he actually said that he figured it might catch a short fall.
He did not, so it did not. This scenario distills much of the speed climbing paradigm.
Mental games have always played powerful roles in pushing standards, whether in pushing boundaries of difficulty, or within the extra dimensions of psychological protection that exists between the safe realm of sport climbing, and the clearly dangerous world of death runouts or free soloes. That ability to con oneself, by placing a one RP forty feet out, then continuing another forty beyond - where knowing the pro is worthless nevertheless, but making that gesture somehow gives you the unjustifiable confidence to proceed anyway - is what separates many rare, "elite" climbers from the rest.
As the apparent increase in serious incidents among the best players indicates, in the game of speed ascents, illusions of safety are just that - illusory.
The standard practices violate most safety rules as taught in beginning rock classes. The logic is simple, but the reasoning is not. Doubling anchors - slows you down. Simulclimbing is faster, but provides no margin for normal belays; potential falls are always mostly going to be long/ full remaining rope length. Intermediate protection is intentionally sparce and far apart, leaving no redundancy should any piece fail, and in between ledges intervene. Even the tricks of rope handling like triblocs violate not just the manufacturer's prohibitions, but the evidence from numerous tests showing how such uses fail. The facade of safety boils down more often to the sheer talent of the participants, and their ability to perform with illusory, placebo safety nets.
The biggest con in the speed game may be convincing oneself that there is something valuable in playing this game, beyond bragging rights within the elite crew.
A friend used to climb the First Flatiron from his home, and door-to-door had the time down to an hour and one minute. However, he always forced himself to sit for a minute on the summit, as a sort of spiritual homage to the place and experience; he never gave that minute up in exchange for the personal "hour record." And only a few may recognize who he was because word mostly did not get out.
Older climbers who have survived close calls likely have come to realize that life is made up of all kinds of greater and lesser games; to dwell on one that risks all cannot be healthy, and justifications ring hollow. Just because some effort can display supreme levels of fitness and discipline, does not mean it is not an addiction.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Oceanside
Jun 4, 2018 - 11:36am PT
Alex’s initial solos were very private, now everything is in headlines. Hopefully the personal motivation for doing cutting edge extreme sports is not swayed by sponsorship pressure to the point where extreme athletes do things that don’t feel right

Is the AAC now complicit in these races?

And I wonder how the Star Wars franchise feels about the AAC's use of their property. maybe they got permission?

I question their judgment in launching this email promotion this morning

nah000

climber
now/here
Jun 4, 2018 - 12:04pm PT
the ratio of actual facts to self-important conjecture/analysis/commentary is bone thin around these parts...

i get this is the internet and that’s what we do...

but come on.

based on the newspaper piece, the third dude was just tagging along for the ride and so to call this a “speed climbing” accident, assuming that reporting is true, is ridiculous...

point being: it’d be sweet if you folks with the locked and loaded opinions re speed climbing could at least let the bodies cool and hear out some actual facts before you begin to start shooting from the hip with your pre-conceived “analysis” [that has been sitting in your back brain waiting for an accident to fit the mold you’ve been looking for to justify said preconceived opinion...]

i’m always a little surprised, in situations like this, by the number of folks who call themselves “climbers” who somehow have either forgotten or never understood what the heart of “climbing” has always been about...

and will never stop being about.

[and that will be regardless (of the held esteem) of those in their armchairs spouting their opinions.]
Arch_Angel

Trad climber
Boulder, CO
Jun 4, 2018 - 12:11pm PT
We have had two recent young climber solo deaths on the first flatiron.

When I asked Alex if he and his advertising sponsors we're setting a dangerous example for young impressionable climbers, his responee to me was "That's how I make my money."

To my knowledge, sololists like Derek would solo for personal reasons and keep it out of the public eye.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Jun 4, 2018 - 12:13pm PT
Fact is, I'm long outta the hard core loop and have been for years, so my comments are only opinions from afar. This business will be settled by those doing the deed, which is how it's always been in everything but war, when a board of old farts can send off kids as cannon fodder, often under flimsy pretexts. I have no authority to tell anyone how to do anything - I never listened when I was young. I just went. That was the joy of it.

The only reason I ever chime in on this stuff is because maybe there's some protocols, not yet considered, that might limit the risks, if only a little. It's impossible to offer any more from the sidelines without trying to make something my business which is not. The sport belongs to the athletes.

But the real reason to write anything is that it's f*#king painful to watch the best in the fellowship keep getting maimed and occasionally killed. When you're older, the numbers stack up and it gets increasingly hard to stomach. If you're human, the losses haunt you. That's pretty much it.
clinker

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
Jun 4, 2018 - 12:47pm PT



xCon

Social climber
909

Jun 4, 2018 - 10:54am PT
I wouldn't mind a dozen new bolts
with permenant 12' slings on em
if it would take the X out of this endeavor

A quote today from another thread.

I met Tom Cochrane once, he bought me a beer in Moss Landing. During the conversation he related that what scared him the most on his early Nose solo attempt was the questionable quality of some of the anchors he made. By the time I was on it in 93, many of the anchors were bolted and the game had changed on the Nose to a more secure one.
The increasing security contributed to popularity and safety of the route and shorter(safer?) speed times. The speed climbing may not have been or ever will be considered safe. It does seems the speed times have eclipsed safety more so of late.
monolith

climber
state of being
Jun 4, 2018 - 01:17pm PT
They certainly could have been 'speed' climbing as a party of three.

The third was self-belaying on the more difficult half-dollar pitch on a fixed rope, while the other two were on the easy 5.7 ground above. They would need to wait at some point for the third to get to the fix point to free up the rope. The fixed rope was attached to one of the climbers gear loop, which would break free in a fall.

https://www.climbing.com/news/eye-witnesses-recount-tragic-accident-on-el-caps-freeblast/
Bushman

climber
The state of quantum flux
Jun 4, 2018 - 01:20pm PT
For the family and close friends of those who have perished, it is a loss that never fades, and though the pain may soften through time, it can be much harder to bear for some than for others.

My sincerest condolences go out for Tim and Jason, and to their families. For though I did not know them, if ever we’ve clutched a tired hand to stone with a fervent belief that we reach our desired summit, we have all been connected by our passion and drive to climb.

-TS
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jun 4, 2018 - 01:26pm PT
the ratio of actual facts to self-important conjecture/analysis/commentary is bone thin around these parts...

i get this is the internet and that’s what we do...

but come on.

based on the newspaper piece, the third dude was just tagging along for the ride and so to call this a “speed climbing” accident, assuming that reporting is true, is ridiculous...

point being: it’d be sweet if you folks with the locked and loaded opinions re speed climbing could at least let the bodies cool and hear out some actual facts before you begin to start shooting from the hip with your pre-conceived “analysis” [that has been sitting in your back brain waiting for an accident to fit the mold you’ve been looking for to justify said preconceived opinion...]

i’m always a little surprised, in situations like this, by the number of folks who call themselves “climbers” who somehow have either forgotten or never understood what the heart of “climbing” has always been about...

and will never stop being about.

[and that will be regardless (of the held esteem) of those in their armchairs spouting their opinions.]

It is particularly ironic to complain about people discussing things without full knowledge, while simultaneously professing to understand their motivations and character flaws. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

I'm not only not part of the hard core Largo has gracefully retired from with full honors, I was never part of it to begin with. But I have been climbing for a very long time, have periodically thought long and hard about the risks and rewards, and care deeply about the climbing community. That's why I'm commenting here and elsewhere.

My comments, whether on or off the mark, certainly don't stem from any sense of self-importance and are not even remotely preconceived. I don't know for sure how they came off, but I intended them as a personal reflection on something you'd have to be oblivious not to recognize as a troubling trend.

My remarks about speed climbing, particularly the parts that mentioned trying to hit particular benchmarks, were so obviously not about this particular incident that it is hard to imagine how their intended generality could be missed. That said, the party in question was doing the Salathe in a day and were using speed climbing techniques and attitudes to achieve their goals, so the mention of speed climbing is not only relevant, it is intrinsic.

The idea that climbers wouldn't or shouldn't discuss this on a forum dedicated to climbing is absurd. And I cannot imagine that the bereft and suffering families, were they to take notice of any of this at all in their grief, would object to a heightened sense of introspection in the climbing community as a byproduct of their inconsolable losses.

In that regard, the El Cap tragedy occurred to an extremely competent, extensively experienced party operating at a very high level but still well within the limits of their experience and ability, on ground that is very moderate for climbers at their level. It seems to me to be imperative for anyone who climbs and who believes they can achieve a desired level of safety to at the very least reflect on what the recent spate of incidents means for climbing in general and for their own climbing practices and choices in particular.
John Butler

Social climber
SLC, Utah
Jun 4, 2018 - 01:39pm PT
meanwhile Caldwell and Honnold 2:01:50

:-|
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Jun 4, 2018 - 01:40pm PT
John your above comment speaks from the heart to the heart.
Well said, my friend.
JLP

Social climber
The internet
Jun 4, 2018 - 01:42pm PT
Another possibility it does not seem a few of you here have considered is that the deceased were smarter, better educated, fitter and more experienced as climbers than you have ever been or ever will be - all while conducting themselves in a safer manner on the Big Stone than you may have managed for yourselves at the local crags.

Their reasons for whatever risks they took may have been deeply thought out and shared often with friends and family and to each other.

Those same people may read this thread and find the pontification by a past generation on the subject to be a complete joke.

I just have to say - NASA simulation?? Are you for-serious? How about 50-100+ ascents of El Cap itself - think that might learn a guy a few things about the game?
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jun 4, 2018 - 02:07pm PT
Another possibility it does not seem a few of you here have considered is that the deceased were smarter, better educated, fitter and more experienced as climbers than you have ever been or ever will be - all while conducting themselves in a safer manner on the Big Stone than you may have managed for yourselves at the local crags.

That's the reason for the conversation, not an argument against it, because in spite of all those things they died.

Their reasons for whatever risks they take may have been deeply thought out and shared often with friends and family and to each other.

That's one of a number of unknowable possibilities, but wasn't part of the discussion here.
limpingcrab

Trad climber
the middle of CA
Jun 4, 2018 - 02:15pm PT
Eye witness account

http://www.climbing.com/news/eye-witnesses-recount-tragic-accident-on-el-caps-freeblast/
Tamara Robbins

climber
not a climber, just related...
Jun 4, 2018 - 02:16pm PT
https://www.climbing.com/news/eye-witnesses-recount-tragic-accident-on-el-caps-freeblast/

Whoops - sorry to post on your tail there. I’ll remove mine once back at pc.
GDavis

Social climber
SOL CAL
Jun 4, 2018 - 02:22pm PT
Great posts John. It's a tough line to thread between having concern for your fellow climbers and hand wringing, many here can learn from your prose.
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