Great Moments in Climbing: Dropping the rack! Who's done it?


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Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 28, 2007 - 09:11am PT
Of all the non-fatal mistakes you can make climbing, one of the most knuckle-headed is dropping the rack. I am chagrined to admit that it has happened to me on more than one occasion.

By far the worst example was on the FA of Electric Ladyland, an overhanging aid route on Washington Column. This climb was Richard Harrison’s idea and he had scoped out the line: a series of thin, slanting cracks for most of the way, except an obvious pitch where, even without binoculars, you could see it would need wide gear. So, Richard borrowed from the residents in Camp 4 a marvelous assortment of bongs, wide hexes and even tube chocks. We had multiples on the biggest bongs, big nuts, and assorted other jumbo gear, from 3” on up. Since it looked like there would be only one pitch of wide, the king-size rack was on a sling separate from the thin hardware and stowed safely in the haul bag.

A day and half into the climb, we got to the base of the wide crack and, sure enough, it was just as wide as we had estimated from the ground. We were eager to complete the pitch and reach the only ledge on the climb, one pitch up. There were three of us at the belay and we opened the haul bag to get the needed hardware.

Accounts differ among Richard, Gib and I as to what happened next, and who was responsible. But it is 30 years too late for recrimination, and all of the accounts agree on the essential fact that the sling, with all of the bongs, tubes and wide hexes, somehow eluded our collective grasp and fell, without touching the rock, all the way to the distant trees below.

I certainly wasn’t going to attempt to free climb that pitch without any protection and when I suggested the idea to the best off-width climber among us, Gib, he just laughed. So, I managed to jury-rig my way up the pitch stacking up to three items in a placement (nothing wider than 2.5”) until I ran out of gear. Then, deeply embarrassed, I placed a bolt beside the perfectly good crack, cleaned the stacked equipment below me and finished the pitch by the same process.

Richard on the ledge above the crack.

Come on out there, fess up. Who has fumbled the handoff?

Feb 28, 2007 - 09:47am PT
Fabulous tale, RA.

I did not take the honor, but was privelaged to observe in disbelief 18 cams on a sling sail hundreds of feet to the dirt. The fine gentleman responsible was just that: responsible (and a fine gentleman). I was like "just give me whatever cams you have and we'll work it out." But his rack had been stolen from his car some months prior. He was saving up for a new rack, but ended up spending the dough on mine. He replaced all my cams the next day. Happily, we put them to successful use a couple of weeks later on that same route.

Cheers to that homeboy!
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Feb 28, 2007 - 09:49am PT
On an attempted FA of the T-bird Mike Strassman dropped a rack of cams and biners that Mark Pey AMAZINGLY caught from his jugs a pitch below (major arm bruise).

Less than two hours later Strassman dropped the other rack, not so "lucky" it decked.

End of attempt.

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Feb 28, 2007 - 10:43am PT
Cold-fingered, I fumbled the handoff of a pack to my partner a couple pitches up the Black Dike. It zoomed off down the ice, then kept going at impressive speed for 1,000 feet down the frozen-over talus field below.

Amazingly, the ride was so smooth that we found the pack the next day, undamaged despite its wild ride.

Big Wall climber
Stoney Point
Feb 28, 2007 - 11:18am PT
Is the wide crack on the left? Or is the wide crack above the ledge. What is on the ledge, Raptor nest?


Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Feb 28, 2007 - 11:19am PT
I managed this noteworthy accomplishment in (I think) 1970 on the West Face of Sentinel (see picture of my partner John Stannard (jstan) in the thread on old-school photos).

I was leading the chimneys above the expanding flake pitch, and had to turn around several times in the process. Each time I turned around, the gear, which was on two or three slings, had to be shifted from one side to the other so as to be on the ``outside'' of the chimney. After one such turn too many, I noted a sudden sense of lightness. The thought that perhaps I had finally refined my sorry excuse for chimney technique was immediately cancelled by the melodious tolling of every bong we had bouncing merrily down the wall on their dedicated sling.

I don't know exactly what happened, but somehow during the change-overs the bong sling ended up just pinched between the others and not really hung on any body part. My grotesque imitations of chimneying then set it free.

The chimneys were basically unprotected anyway, so finishing the lead without the bongs wasn't any different than finishing it with the bongs. Stannard, who must have been flabbergasted at my incompetence, was kind enough to say nothing, although even in the Yosemite heat you could see the steam coming out of his ears.

As it turned out, good fortune was with us. The bong sling's bid for freedom ended two rope-lengths below when it magically hung up on a twig about the size of my thumb. We were able to tie our two ropes together, rappel to the bongs, retrieve them, and continue on our way.

Feb 28, 2007 - 11:30am PT
Actually I was just glad Richard got the chimney pitch. I wouldn't have had a clue as to what to do in it.
Dingus Milktoast

Feb 28, 2007 - 11:31am PT
Angus and I were climbing Braille Book a long time ago. I led the chimneyish pitch and set a belay, up comes Ang. He ropes in and I hand him the rack. He looped it over the top of a rock instead of clipping it to something. Then he proceeded to knock it off!

It went down inside the chimney, MY RACK! We heard it scream as it bounced down deep inside the crevice and stopped. F*#K!

Angus rapped down to where he could see it, stuck some 8 to 10 feet inside no-man's land. The grace that saved us from defeat on a 5 pitch 5.8 route was that he hadn't transferred the gear from the lower belay and my lead, so we have just enough to finish the route.

A week later we were back. Angus cut a long branch, 10, 12 feet long, and duct taped a big meat hook looking thing to it. We made a comical sight to the other climbers in the vicinity when we started up Braille Book with our giant home made cheater stick.

Fished my rack right out of that crack he did, then he wedged the meathook stick back in there as a joke.

It was gone a few years later next time we did the climb.


Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Feb 28, 2007 - 11:44am PT
That pic of RH laying in the bird's nest is an all-timer, Ricky.

Richard also had an even more ghastly rack drop on the Nose with the late, great Nick Escourt. Right up by the top, a sling came untied and most of their rack whistled into the void. They had like a #2 wired Stopper, a #8 Hex and a steel bong. Things got worse from there . . .


Gym climber
San Francisco, CA
Feb 28, 2007 - 12:10pm PT
john ..

i think you wrote about that story on "Close Calls" .. love that book! ..

Boulder climber
Sick Midget Land
Feb 28, 2007 - 12:17pm PT
I have fortunately never dropped the rack. However, when climbing in Josh with Charles, after he failed to lead the route and came down, I forgot the rack entirely. Upon arriving at the last bolt on the route (Good to the last drop) I look down to find I have no gear. As I start to move up another move Charles starts accusing me of showing off (already 20+ feet out) until I point out that the rack is sitting next to him. Just that day I had put a biner on my chalk bag so I used that to clip and then finished the route. I don't think I had ever before, or have ever since, had a biner on my chalk bag. Fate is sometimes quite forgiving.

Ice climber
Feb 28, 2007 - 12:51pm PT
On our way up the Sentinel slabs to do the second ascent of the Gobi Wall. I had a Joe Brown Extendable pack that was completely full of pins, nuts, clothing, etc that I was carrying. Don Lauria was my partner and we were psyched. At the top of the slabs, I passed the pack to Don, a sort of thrusting/thrown gesture and came up short of his outstretched arms. The pack with everything in it (except for two ropes), went flying down the slabs and we never found it. Rumour had it that Werner and some of the C4 guys went looking and found pieces sometime later.
THAT was an expensive mistake.


Big Wall climber
Stoney Point
Feb 28, 2007 - 01:30pm PT
So what kind of bird nest was destroyed? Seems like that could get one some jail time.

bob d'antonio

Trad climber
Taos, NM
Feb 28, 2007 - 01:54pm PT
Not the rack but a critical peice. Climbing in the Black Canyon I got off route about eight pitches up. Climb a few new pitches...down climbed one of most scary pitches I ever done...almost totally exhausted...I traverse to a off-width crack. With almost no gear and one number four friend. I ran it out about 20-25 feet on 5.10 climbing. Pulled the friend off the rack and then watch it fall 1200 feet to the ground. I wanted to cry. I slither down the crack...made it to good piece and started to back-clean/downclimb back to the belay.

My one and only forced bivy in the "Black".
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Feb 28, 2007 - 02:02pm PT
Even a forced bivy is better than retreat in the Black.

I only wish that I wasn't speaking from experience...
bob d'antonio

Trad climber
Taos, NM
Feb 28, 2007 - 02:11pm PT
Ron...I still had to do the "Walk of Shame". No water, one rope and we rapped back to the ground and the river. I drank two quarts in about 5 seconds. I looked for the friend...but didn't find it. was mid-week and no climbers looking down at us and laughing.

Social climber
the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
Feb 28, 2007 - 02:21pm PT
Posted earlier, in a different thread...

(Not a tale of dropping the rack, but something equally serious...)

Back in the Day, doing shorter aid routes in the Valley was seen as a legitimate thing to do. These were considered as necessary "practice" before one tackled the big walls, and some were valid routes in their own right. Before Peter Haan and I had done any walls, we spent one Spring Break in the Valley doing aid. I remember being quite proud (and thrashed!) after doing the Direct South Face of Rixon's Pinnacle as a legitimate aid route that week. Must have been back in 1968 or '69...

After Rixon's, Peter suggested that we go up to Sickle Ledge. Now, I was probably 16 or seventeen at the time, and the Nose had such a HUGE aura for me! But Peter said it was a good thing to do; four pitches of aid and then we'd rap off. OK. Sure.

We swung leads, slowly, and got to Sickle in the mid-afternoon. Time for the descent...

Problem was, we had only two cords. No problem, since there were sets of double-bolts every 120' or so. Oops... Big problem, since one of us managed to DROP one of the cords while setting-up the first rappel! (Great rope handling skills!) Oh, sh#t.

Fortunately, there was a fixed line left from Glen Denny's filming of their ascent of the Nose for the movie "El Capitan". Unfortunately, there was a fixed line left from Glen Denny's filming of their ascent of the Nose for "El Capitan"! That was it. One single 11mm kernmantle that probably had been on that wall for, what, four, five or six years? And that was our only way off! (I have a vivid memory of that cord being almost pure white—as if the sun had bleached every bit of color out of the mantle.)

Two or three hundred feet down these fixed ropes, we could feel these stiff, frayed and faded lines twist through our biner breaks. We could hear them creak and pop, and we could see the dust blow-out through the mantle every time they'd stiffly twist over the bends in the 'biners!

Now I probably weighed 120 lbs, total, with all my gear. But Peter...

By all rights, we should have died on that descent!

Ice climber
Feb 28, 2007 - 02:32pm PT
Hmmm....nothing epic on my part, but I DO have to thank John Long here because I have dropped entire biners full of chocks while fumbling on lead. I believe I read somewhere in one of his books that you shouldn't rack same-sized chocks together on one biner because if you do drop it, you're out an entire size-range. Good thing I had a mix of different sized nuts on the other biners, on at least a couple separate occasions...

Thanks John! Love your books.

Blava nie, ty kokot!
Feb 28, 2007 - 02:53pm PT
I was 16 and staying in Yosemite Valley. We (all the usual suspects of that time,1979) were hanging out in the lodge parking lot. Lynn and Yabo took off to do the Chouinard/Herbert on Sentinel rock. As I remember, Yabo dropped the rack from the 4th pitch during a gear change. Some words were exchanged while they watched the rack plummeting to the base. So, they rapped to the base, picked up the rack and jumped right back on the route and finished it. I recall them arriving at the lodge parking lot rather late that night.

Feb 28, 2007 - 03:00pm PT
Why would anyone want to drop their rack?

It's not a popular thing to do.

Maybe Yabo, when he was gear testing my biners by dropping all of them off mammoth terraces. The biners did not look to good after he returned them.

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Feb 28, 2007 - 10:22pm PT
Great story Rick.

I guess I gotta fess up to my story. I was climbing with Perry Beckham at Squamish - the Split Pillar. We'd gotten high and took a nap on top of the pillar. After the nap, first thing I did was attempt to grab some gear and dropped it. I'm thinking that it wasn't the whole rack, but a bunch of pieces, all of which were Perry's. I don't think Perry ever totally forgave me fot that.

Boulder climber
Mar 1, 2007 - 07:34pm PT
The only thing I dropped was Largo, he just didn't know it at the time.

right here, right now
Mar 1, 2007 - 11:01pm PT
Fun stories everybody.

I was somewhat surprised never to hear of anyone loosing a rack from falling out of a roof pitch or from just pitching upside down.

Never dropped the rack, but, yah, sitting comfortably numb, well fed and fat at Camp 5 on our first trip up The Nose, after numerous bongloads of some scraggy colombian, I confess I, ...I,, I "accidentally" knocked the bag of weed over the edge...

Ed was not happy about that.
Bad, bad, bad RoyBoy.

Trad climber
Boulder, CO
Mar 1, 2007 - 11:13pm PT
Best story I've heard was that of Josh Wharton and Kelly Cordes last year while climbing Great Trango. While on the third pitch of the 68 pitch route they dropped most of the rack. Rather than rapping down to get it, they kept going up. At the crux 11c pitch they had only two cams that fit so Josh would climb 30' or so, place a cam, climb another 30' place the other cam then lower off to back clean the lower cam. Repeat to the belay. In addition (or maybe that's subtraction) they had only a single JetBoil canister and no sleeping bags. They went 2 1/2 days without any water other than what they could suck off of icicles.

Now that's badass...

Blava nie, ty kokot!
Mar 1, 2007 - 11:31pm PT
I was doing Angels fright on Tahquitz ( 14 or 15 at the time) with a friend of mine. Mari, Mike and others were soloing it and passed us. As Mari climbed above us, she dropped a 35mm film container with some green in it, their summit pipe loads. As fate had it, this landed right at my feet, on the belay ledge 80' off the base. Mari Said to me " Oh shit! "Old Man" can you bring that up to me?" I said " OK, no problem" I tied in and climbed up to her and handed the precious bounty over to her. Have to admit, I felt quite proud to save the day of my mentors...

right here, right now
Mar 1, 2007 - 11:44pm PT
Old Man,
You're so much younger than that now...

Blava nie, ty kokot!
Mar 1, 2007 - 11:51pm PT
Roy, yes, it has just taken so damned long to realize it!
Jay Wood

Trad climber
Fairfax, CA
Mar 2, 2007 - 01:10am PT
Never dropped the rack, but I've had enough nuts escape their racking biner to almost add up to one.

On Nutcracker, came close to being hit by a set of nuts sailing down- ninja style- from far above. Right after that, I caught a cam falling from 1 pitch above. Is that what they mean when they talk about it 'raining nuts and cams'? (Wait- is that how it goes?)

Trad climber
Mar 10, 2008 - 08:36pm PT
Broke a buddies toe dropping a nut tool.

Not the same thing, at all. Lesson learned though. Wear shoes belaying, even if your lazy and think anywhere is the beach.

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
Mar 10, 2008 - 09:50pm PT
I feel fortunate to always have geared up on the waist loops. If the rack gets dropped, then I don't need it anymore cuz I'm going with it! Over the shoulder is really annoying personally, other than some chimneys- why do it?

Did drop my ATC once without even knowing it, and as Dirka reached out to adjust something it landed right in his hand 10 feet below.

right here, right now
Mar 10, 2008 - 10:07pm PT
I'm still pretty sure I've never dropped the rack; so that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

But, remember those bogus injection molded EB's?

Eriksson and I were doing something over on Suicide; might have been near Ishi, maybe some Yaniro/Leversee thing, and every time I pointed downward onto my toes those bulbous boots would knock my boot edge off the dimes and I'd fall, and after doing this several times I blew holes in all my fingertips.

So with my bloody fingertips I un-shouldered the rack and threw it off the wall and it sailed way down, …down into the forest.

Trad climber
Las Vegas
Mar 10, 2008 - 10:12pm PT
Only once:
Tom Callaghan and I were on The Prow on Cathedral ledge and we, I ? I'll say 'we' and make it was collective, dropped the cleaner rack from the previous pitch.
It had not even made it's first bump and Tom said firmly, yet calmly...
"Gravity check!"

I have never sailed one since.

Ah but come to think of it.
I did drop an EB down into the bergshrund'ish thing of snow at the base of the NWF of half Dome. It luckily caught up in a perfect heel and toe about 10' down the 60 or so foot drop. It was retrieved by my holding the ankles of my partner John Rutt. John snagged the shoe with a couple of slings, a nut pry and off we went.

Trad climber
Mar 10, 2008 - 10:17pm PT
Finally a thread on ST that makes me feel better: I"ve never dropped the rack. In fact, I've only once even dropped a piece of gear, and it was on an easy route in the grotto and I dropped it directly onto Mac's head. So now I feel pretty good about that incident. Or not.

I did once get fifty or sixty foot up on lead and realize that I'd thread the rope through my swami but had neglected to tie it. That was sort of exciting.
The Warbler

the edge of America
Mar 10, 2008 - 10:19pm PT
Never dropped the rack.

But one time I was atop Moby Dick with Bridwell and I think Largo, after we soloed the center route, and Bridwell handed me the end of the rope one of us had trailed up there. He didn't say anything, and I wasn't looking at him. Next thing I knew it whipped outta my hand, as he had tossed it off to rappel, expecting me to stop it from all going away.

We were left ropeless, staring at each other on the ledge.

Fortunately, some guys climbed up there and rescued us.

Now that I think about it - that's the only time I've been rescued...

Big Wall climber
Fresno, CA
Mar 10, 2008 - 10:41pm PT
I feel good too! I dropped my second thing yesterday... A roll of tape that came rolling out of the top pouch on my pack when I opened it. It was one of those fumbily, almost save, fumbily, almost save moments. Then it went under a rock on the ledge, at my feet, where i could no longer see it and then over the edge.

The first piece I ever dropped was a locking `biner that almost hit Gabe McNeely in the head on Lurking Fear... I wasn't even aware it came off my sling or harness. A few minutes later he gave it back to, none the worse for wear. Hopefully I'm finished dropping things.

Maybe ptpp can tell us the story about how he dropped a whole f*#king haulbag on a route! I think he dropped a rack of pins on another! Talk about butterfingers!
Ricardo Carlos

Trad climber
Off center, CO.
Mar 10, 2008 - 11:45pm PT
Well not a rack and far from a first ascent.
But 79 on Regular on Half Dome. At a lunch Break around the 7th or 8th pitch My partner lighten our load dropping his sleeping bag and my bivi sweater and stocking cap.
On the bivi at the 11th pitch that was more sheltered than big sandy I asked XXXX if he wanted my down jacket or half bag. I figured we both could be uncomfortable rather than one having a really shitty night.
We topped off the next day to be met with lasses & brews.

The user formerly known as stzzo

Armchair climber
Sneaking up behind you
Mar 10, 2008 - 11:50pm PT
Nice stories! Fortunately for me, I've only dropped a few pieces at a time.

I have started up a route w/o the rack, though. That takes real brains...
Ricardo Carlos

Trad climber
Off center, CO.
Mar 11, 2008 - 12:03am PT
I remember buying pins cheap 79-80 when T.T.Ns partner took a really long fall on one of the last pitches of E.L .leading.. Seems the bandalero (SP if it is a word) style pin racks sewing blew showering the base with pins.
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Mar 11, 2008 - 01:01am PT
Hey, what about dropping your partner's shoes to the bottom of Teneya Canyon three thousand feet below? I've done that and I'm still among the unforgiven . . .
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Mar 11, 2008 - 01:01am PT
Hey, what about dropping your partner's shoes to the bottom of Teneya Canyon three thousand feet below? I've done that and I'm still among the unforgiven . . .

Trad climber
Mental Physics........
Mar 11, 2008 - 02:10am PT
I don't believe I've ever dropped a rack, but do recall a few interesting drops here and there.

There was the time that Jim Wilson (Rubidoux) and Aussie Nick Taylor were doing the Meatgrinder back in the day. Jim was leading the wide crack with style and Nick was daydreaming and drifting this way and that while continuously feeding out rope at the belay.

Suddenly (at two thirds height on the route)Jim fumbled his nut selection and dropped a number 10 hex. Almost exactly as the words "rock" blurted from Jim's mouth, the giant hex slammed Nick square on top of his head with a very audible CLANG!

Nick reeled over and appeared to almost pass out. Still clenching the below rope, he mumbled that he was "fine" and told Jim to just keep climbing. I know Jim felt pretty bad about that drop and luckily Nick got out with only a nasty bruise on the top of his head.

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Mar 11, 2008 - 03:01am PT
I've never dropped the rack, or any piece for that matter, but I've definitely been victim to the rain of cams, nuts, headlamps, and walkie talkies from above at Lover's Leap. Don't remember where, but I was probably sitting in line.. waiting for.. the Line.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Mar 11, 2008 - 03:08am PT
One of the first routes I did at Squamish was Sentry Box, in early 1973. It was then an aid climb, later Canada's first 5.12. I did it with Eric Weinstein. I was interminably slow, as usual. The last move was a mantle onto what looked like a fine ledge. To disencumber myself, I threw a set of aiders with much of such gear as was left attached up onto the ledge - making sure they were well back, and couldn't fall off or get in the way.

I then mantled onto the ledge. The ledge had a very fine jug running its entire length, about an arm's length back. It was a more or less giant detached flake, which had swallowed everything. Soon after, it started pouring rain, and we got soaked, before yet another death defying drive home in Eric's father's Valiant.

Then there's my bongs that are sitting somewhere behind the Split Pillar...

Q: What happens when there's an explosion in the Nissan factory?

A: It rains Datsun cogs!
Michael Hjorth

Trad climber
Copenhagen, Denmark
Mar 11, 2008 - 07:01am PT
History tells me that the sentence: ”We haven’t dropped anything sofar...” is one the most dangerous.

I few years ago we tried to do Muir Wall. But we were abonimably slow, and the morale was oozing out. We took a portaledge camp after 4-5 pitches, and a dawn discussion of what to do. Nothing was decided when I went for a morning walk around the hanging belay to secure a few photos of our possibly only camp on the route. Back for breakfast on the ledge, I noticed a red dot at the cliff base, that wasn’t there the day – or even just a few moments - before.
”Do you know what that is, Søren?” ”Nope!”
”Have you packed down my sleeping bag, Søren?” ”Nope!”

So when fooling around on the belay, it must silently have slided out of the ledge and landed smoothly on the ground.

We packed up and rappelled down, and I crossed my fingers that we would reach the ground before any climbers showed up. We didn’t. 20 meter from touchdown three climber came out of the forest. ”Is that your sleepingbag?” ”Hm, yes...” ”Oh, you dropped it from up there..?”

I thought of ways to explain, that we had decided to quit before we dropped it. There was no way. I just squeezed it into the haulbag and hurried off.


Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Mar 11, 2008 - 08:16am PT
What a KILLER thread! Oh, the humbling humanity of it all.

I like the Yabo dropping shyte stories....I have one of my own.
When Yabo and Lesher did their all night "speed" ascent (Thirty hours I think) of the Shield, Yabo borrowed a large quantity of gear from me including my awesome homemade pile pants.

So Yabo returns "my" gear. I had lent him pretty new stuff, and he hands me the most motley collection of bent pins "cleaner" biners and copperheads with shredded cables etc.. "Hey Yabo, this isn't my gear..." "Yeah, heh heh but it was very similar..heh heh.." "Hey Yabo, what about my pile pants?"
"Uhhh...they got dropped from chickenhead..heh..heh..I'll go look for 'em later..heh heh.." Never saw them again. heh heh..

When Lesher, Lepton and I were doing the 3rd ascent of Tribal Rite in 81 I believe, Rob fell and flipped upside down and BOTH racks started to take the big dive! He caught them both with his fingertips!! We had religiously clipped the racks to our harnesses every pitch and I don't know why he forgot that time.(There you go Tar)This was about two pitches above Boot Flake.

Royster and I were on Excalibur, and Keith was a whole pitch straight above me. I heard him yell F*#K! I foolishly looked up as he hadn't yelled rock or giant camalot whistling down at you at 100 miles an hour I saw it just in time to duck. The camalot skipped off my helmet and dug a quarter sized hole in the back of my shoulder. OUCH! There was a big gouge in the helmet too, the only time I've ever worn one on El Cap. Who knows....

Dropped a jug once from the Ear on Salathe and had to do the rest of the route with one jug and one prussik..

Safe climbing everyone!


Chalkless climber
the Gunks end of the country
Mar 11, 2008 - 08:39am PT
I once watched a #2 camalot jump off my partner's harness as she was following Horseman. I yelled "rock", and sure enough one of the team who had just finished the climb stepped out from under the roof directly under it. I guess it is like slowing down to look at a car crash. Lucky for her she wasn't really directly under it. Landed about 18 inches left of her.

Not far from there - Laurel - an ATC dropped down right in front of somebody sitting in one of those little folding chairs, and bounced over his head.

Another time we caught a driver's license. Missed the credit card though. We saw it go by. Don't know if landed cliff-side and walked off, or never made it all the way down.

I also know someone who was so excited after his first trad lead including rigging a bomber anchor, he walked off leaving his climbing shoes behind. :-) I just asked him if the shoes were his.

Never seen a whole rack go though. Dropped a couple individual stoppers until I changed the biner they were on to old school oval.

Delhi Dog

Trad climber
Good Question...
Mar 11, 2008 - 09:17am PT
" What a KILLER thread! Oh, the humbling humanity of it all. "

I guess this is what I had in mind when I posted the Stories of Failure...
Great stories folks and the memories, oh the memories!

Nice to know though when it seems at the time its the worst thing that could makes for a fine telling later:>)

Hard Rock

Trad climber
Mar 11, 2008 - 09:56am PT
"Never dropped the rack ..." But my story:

I was in charge of giving out the awards for our university climbing club. So, you have to have a dumb sh#t award. The winners one year (70's/80's) were in the tetons -got to the climb and found out they had forgot to bring the rack. Next year, the same 2 guys are at Lumpy Ridge - Sundance. They get to the bottom of the climb. One guys says to the other: we forgot the rope. The other guy said: "Oh not, not the Dumb Sh#t Award again"


Trad climber
Mar 11, 2008 - 12:02pm PT
"One of the first routes I did at Squamish was Sentry Box, in early 1973. It was then an aid climb, later Canada's first 5.12. I did it with Eric Weinstein."

Sentry Box! That was one of my first 5.12 leads. Don't remember seeing yr gear behind the flake or I would've bootied it for sure.That's a blast from the past. Didn't Weinstein do the ffa?

Trad climber
San Diego
Mar 11, 2008 - 12:52pm PT
Luckily I have never dropped the whole rack, but I DID drop a full set of nuts. Kostas and I were climbing at Tahquitz on (I think) The Blank. At one point I was doing this traverse to the left while on lead and placed a nut in the crack only to have my fumbling hand drop the biner with all of the nuts. Luckily the biner landed on a small ledge behind a flake and after setting up an anchor, Kostas was able to retrieve many of the loose nuts and the biner by using a sling and a nut tool to reach behind the flake.

After that point, I too moved to an old school oval biner and nothing of the sort has happened since.

Sport climber
Lexington, KY
Mar 11, 2008 - 01:00pm PT
Never dropped the rack, just the rope.

Fall 1994. I was lurking around the parking lot late in the morning on a rest day. I see Rick Piggot taped to the hilt stomping around the place, with a pissed off look on his face. Normally I would have avoided Rick while he was in a mood but I had not talked to him in few years. "What's up man? You look like you are ready to kill someone!", I said. "F*#king Germans stood me up!" he replied. I soon understood that he was to attempt N. Face Rostrum with the Alien finish with some German dude who was AWOL.
I was taking a rest day but I told Rick that I didn't mind to give him a catch on whatever he wanted. I wasn't keen to jug up the north face but some 1 pitch stuff would be OK. It would give my partner some good photo ops and Rick wouldn't waste the whole day.
We busted down to Separate and Rick hucked a couple quick laps for a warm up.
He then insisted that we go out to The Rostrum where we would go to the summit, rap the last pitch and he could have his on-sight go at The Alien. I didn't mind, short approach and again my partner could get a really nice photo opportunity.
The three of us made our way to the parking area and then hiked down to the rim. Rick and I soloed into the notch with rack and two ropes. One we would fix to down below the roof and on the second Rick would lead Alien. Rick started up the short pitch to the summit of The Rostrum. Once he was at the top I started soloing this short pitch. I look down to my right and at the sickening drop, down climbed in my sneakers to the notch and called for a belay. Rick grumbled but threw down the cord. I tied in and started up. As I looked down to the right and contemplated the huge fall I might have taken the second rope, draped across the top of my pack in a lap coil jumped and went all the way to the base of the formation.
As I pulled onto the summit Rick immediately noticed the lack of aforementioned cordage. "I dropped it, Rick", I said sheepishly. "You f*#king bonehead! Go back and get it!", he chastised. It was apparent that he didn't understand, the rope was at the base. Luckily it was my rope and not his. I'm sure that this saved me at the very least a good tongue lashing and at the most a beating.
I ended up lowering him off the summit for a couple of TR laps on the standard 5.12 route and then going back to the base the next day with my partner and retrieving the cord. It was only 35 yards from the start of the Regular, Thank God!
rick d

Social climber
tucson, az
Mar 11, 2008 - 01:04pm PT
11 friends in 1986 off the loose block belay of the Nose (above camp 6). I clipped around the daisy instead of into it as I leaned back and the block swiveled. We topped out thanks to Brad Ball's ability to get the HB's in friend holes.

climber a single wide......
Mar 11, 2008 - 02:06pm PT
Sh#t, This thread sucks.

First/ only time…

BITD wall newbies Swellly and Tarbrutha. Day two, am jugging up fixed lines above the Kor Roof, SFWC. No full body harness, just 2” swami. Wearing a pack w/ water, food, clothing, descent shoes. The pack is heavy and awkward, so I clip the pack through the “haul strap” and drop it 20’ to the rope’s end. Bad mistake. Good-bye pack, good-bye upward momentum, hello rap/ walk of shame.
Bubba Ho-Tep

Evergreen, CO
Mar 11, 2008 - 02:57pm PT
My "dropping the rack nightmare" happened back in 1976. An up and coming rock star (who shall remain nameless) and I headed up to the Naked Edge in Eldo. I drew the odd pitches and he drew the even. Obviously, this was the pre-cam era and we climbed in 2" swamis and each climber had a gear sling.

All went pretty smoothly and he floated the dreaded 4th pitch with the chimney moves. I followed with a little trouble, but managed to do it cleanly. Back then, there was a bit more fixed stuff on that pitch, so when I made the belay, I didn't have a lot of gear that I had cleaned. Somehow, in the changeover, the rock star managed to drop the sling with every piece on it that I had not cleaned from the last pitch. As I watched it disappear over the edge in slow motion, it dawned on me just how screwed we were. What lay ahead was a .11 move into an overhanging .10b hand crack and we had one piece that we knew might fit in the crack plus a hand full of biners and slings. Fortunately, there used to be a couple more fixed pieces on this pitch also, but they were down low.

At any rate, the rock star decided that since he dropped the rack, it was his duty to lead the last pitch - I have never been so overjoyed in my life! Off he leads, through the hard opening move and then he stops. Minutes turn into what seem like hours and pretty soon, he appears back at the belay, having reversed what many think is the crux of the route. It is apparent that there is no way he is leading the pitch.

After a short conversation in which we figure out that the only way out is up, I decide to take a look. Up through the tough crux move, then to the bottom of the crack which now looks like it goes on for multiples of it's true length. I reach up and get a couple of good jams and move my feet up, pretty much committing myself. At that point it comes to me exactly what I am doing and I get as gripped as I think I have ever been. Of course, any technique I had vanished and I started over jamming like crazy - scratching and clawing for all I was worth, basically turning .10 into .11. I finally thrutched my way into the wider part at the top and plopped down on the small exposed stance. At that time, there was a old fixed pin of dubious worth at the stance and I had no other gear to back it up with. After sufficient recovery time, I called down to start climbing. Fortunately, my partner climbed the crack like it was 5.6, continued on to the top and the adventure was over. It was kind of an anticlimactic finish to the day, but an experience I will never forget.

I went on to do many more climbs with the rock star and he went on to achieve rock climbing fame. Neither one of us ever dropped another piece of gear while climbing together! I haven't seen him in years now, but you can bet that if I do, the subject of that day will come up.

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Mar 11, 2008 - 03:31pm PT
KLK: Yes, Eric did the FFA of Sentry Box. He was quite determined to do it, and worked on it over two years before doing it in 1976. Although it was technically harder than anything else in Canada at the time, it had a short crux near the top. Eric took one or two big falls there onto small stoppers and such, once falling a move before the top and going 10+ metres.

I wonder how much old gear could be fished out from places like that, using a fishing line and hook?

Stoked OW climber
San Jose, CA
Mar 11, 2008 - 06:29pm PT
Never dropped a rack, but at different times I've let go of a camera, a watch, a cam on several occasions, and a couple of slings.

Every time I pass over a rack on a sling I'm super-anal, holding onto it until well after my partner has grabbed it.
Dr. Rock

Ice climber
Castle Rock
Jul 9, 2008 - 06:18am PT
Sorry to dredge up this thread, but I am heading for Patterson Bluffs and got started on a wild goose chase that led here, via Richard Leversee, who has done some multi pitch stuff up near Balch Camp.

Anyway, a friend of mine had a ranch off of Sanborn Road, and one drunken night, we thought it would be real cool to steal a Road Construction blinker, you know, the big yellow reflector type, oh wow, flashback, remember the smudge pot flaming roadside marker thingies, anyway, we want this blinker to be visible across the entire valley, so one guy is leading up the tree with an axe for pounding nails, and the guy 30 feet below him is heading up with the blinker.
I can see the progress, because it's after midnight, heck, everybody in Saratoga and Los Gatos can see the progress, blink, blink, up they go, this huge redwood is near the summit, so as they are making there way up the tree, I hear the lead guy yell,"Look Out!", then I hear this sickening thud, followed by a groan and Reflector Guy sailing down to the ground, bouncing off off tree branches, all the time clutching on to the reflector as to prevent damage.
I don't know if you have ever seen a guy bounce off of tree branches while clutching a blinker, but it's pretty entertaining.

The guy was alright. I think he was so drunk that he went back up and finished the job.

I think the next weekend we got drunk and cut down the huge Big Basin State Park sign with chain saws, boy , that could have been expensive, destroying Federal property, DUI, I mean, how did our cars get up there, right?

Holy Cow I hope this Butte fire doesn't hop across the N. Fork Feather, lookin serious up in Paradise...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 9, 2008 - 11:27am PT
I haven't done the deed myself but fumbling the handoff always brings to mind the celebrated Yabo Affair. Unbeknownst to Largo, Lynn and Yabo had a little thing going and Yabo was doing his best to win the day.

My one chance to climb with Lynn was lost in the passion. We were going to do the Moratorium until it was proclaimed that THEY were intent on the same. The madness peaked during a fast ascent of the Chouinard- Herbert on Sentinel where the, by then, completely over wrought Yabo dropped the rack from high up. Down raced our heroes to fetch the goods and back up in a flash to redemption. He always was an excitable young lad!

Trad climber
the south
Jul 9, 2008 - 11:53am PT
Hmm, does dropping the rope count?

I have a celebrated climbing friend (who shall remain nameless)who has done it twice. Once he and his partner were able to tie all their gear and slings together and retrieve their rope from a flake it had draped over, and once they were just stuck until someone came along.

That is why this particular pal (and a few others) prefers climbing on double ropes.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Oct 30, 2009 - 03:00pm PT
Bumbly Bump!

Trad climber
Hillsborough, NC
Oct 30, 2009 - 03:14pm PT
Myself, my main partner and a young kid were benighted on an easy 5 pitch route after spending too much time wandering around looking at the wall. On the last pitch, in the dark, I was standing alone at the belay when the rope came down to me... the whole and only rope. The kid had untied and tossed his end off after the other end was lowered to me... it was dark, he was 11, honest mistake. It was the most 'interesting' free solo of my life, 5.7ish. Can't say I enjoyed it much though... OK, I was skeered as hell a couple of times. We bivied at the top because the hike out was off trail and followed the edge for about a mile.
Does that count?
gonzo chemist

the Orange Curtain
Oct 30, 2009 - 05:58pm PT

A few years ago, a friend and I decided on a whim to go climb the Third Pillar of Mt. Dana after our original idea to do some climbing on Mt. Russell fell apart at the last minute. We arrived at the base of the route to find several parties above. Not wanting to risk getting stuck behind slower parties, or getting loose rock knocked down onto us, we decided to climb some variation pitches to the right of the original route. We had no topo, but figured it all looked pretty featured with plenty of options. On pitch three and my partner was leading up a fairly insecure set of twin flaring finger cracks, when I hear, "OH SH#T!" I look up just in time to get pelted with a hail-storm of stoppers. I managed to thrust my left hand way out at the last moment and snatch one nut mid-flight. I can't remember what exactly happened that all the nuts spontaneously seemed to fly off the carabiner, but it was a hell of a surprise. Ended up being a great day though...perfect weather and tons of fun.


Trad climber
So Cal urban sprawl Hell
Oct 30, 2009 - 06:28pm PT
A friend of mine while camping mid-way up Liberty ridge on Rainier accidentely dropped their pack containing all their gear, ice screws, ect. essentially they were stuck until another party happened their way. These guys ended up being helicoptered off the top due to frostbite.

Another time I was climbing Nutcracker, my friend was leading and he dropped his beaner with all our nuts on it. He freaked out and we ended up having to beg other parties to leave in their gear so we could finish the route.

what a bunch of nOObs....

"i used to care, but things have changed"
Oct 30, 2009 - 06:33pm PT
no, we always got to the ground with at least a hardware sling, but i've paddled after a tent with sleeping gear
that blew into the river while breakfast was on the stove. things got real awkward for a bit bulldogging it to the beach

Mountain climber
Monrovia, CA
Oct 30, 2009 - 06:44pm PT
So I'm up on a major FA in the Leavenworth area with a recently highlighted individual who shall remain nameless but not blameless.
We're hauling the pig and it hangs under a little lip. I give it a little extra herk and I'm suddenly weightless until I hit the end of my daisy. I look down in utter disbelief to see yon porcine entity flying through the air with the greatest of ease. That is until it met the slabs whereupon it exploded its entrails. Said entrails included my full rack of Pentax gear and a borrowed Bolex Super-8! There were definitely some furrowed brows when the autopsy revealed a shocking lapse of knot-tying dedication! We're all still friends, as long as that doesn't come up.
John Morton

Oct 30, 2009 - 09:12pm PT
It was I think 1964 on the N Buttress of Middle Cathedral with Steve Thompson. I had belayed Steve up to my stance. It was one of those little ledges typical of that face which may look level if you hold your head just right. Anyway I put the rack on the ledge for Steve, and then watched horrified as it dribbled off into the abyss. We were left with what Steve had cleaned: a little horizontal and a 2.5" bong, the largest and smallest items we had brought. And a few runners. We were 6-8 pitches up, but got down OK using horns, bushes etc.


Trad climber
Oct 30, 2009 - 09:37pm PT
I, knock on wood, haven't dropped anything to serious but have been around when it happened. Dropping gear happens all the time, dropping a rack, that would not be good. DrBS dropped the bag of iron and hooks on the upper Town Wall, no cam hooks for you, remember that Alisa? Its half the fun of climbing!
On the top of the 3rd pitch of Dark Shadows years ago. My friend Todd had his new video camera, and as Mark was pulling the water bottle out of the pack, the video camera came out also. I was almost to the top of the pitch when I heard the yell and looked and managed to duck just as the video camera grazed my head. It free fell all the way to the base and landed in the small pond and exploded into a thousand pieces. Every time I go back, I try to find another piece from that time.
This year at the base of Young Warriors at Beacon Rock, roping up. Heard a yell from up high, and from 3 pitches up came a I-phone and impacted right next to me and bounced off into the woods. They came rapping down to try and find it to salvage the card, and I pointed out the intense poison oak thicket it had gone into and they lost interest in going after it.

Trad climber
Oct 30, 2009 - 09:51pm PT
I dropped a 'biner a few weeks ago at Whitehorse, from the top all the way down 8 oitches of slab. It took forever to get down.

I haven't dropped a rack, but I've been the victim. Climbers above me at Thumb Butte had their tied gear sling come untied. I caught a .75 Camalot square on the top of my head dropped from about 70 feet above. I can't even begin to describe how much it hurt. My climbing partner later told me that "it sounded like it hit a rock."

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Oct 30, 2009 - 10:34pm PT
Malcom D. wrote: "Best story I've heard was that of Josh Wharton and Kelly Cordes last year while climbing Great Trango. While on the third pitch of the 68 pitch route they dropped most of the rack. Rather than rapping down to get it, they kept going up. At the crux 11c pitch they had only two cams that fit so Josh would climb 30' or so, place a cam, climb another 30' place the other cam then lower off to back clean the lower cam. Repeat to the belay. In addition (or maybe that's subtraction) they had only a single JetBoil canister and no sleeping bags. They went 2 1/2 days without any water other than what they could suck off of icicles.

Now that's badass..."

Jeebus, I'll say. Those guys are Gods. And this thread rocks.

While I'm at it - I think the majority of stuff that gets "dropped" actually just comes unclipped for a million reasons. I remember Bridwell, Kauk, Schmitz and I were on a new line on Watkins in blistering heat and from about the 2,000 foot level I saw our entire rack of small to medium Friends plunge down the wall. They were all brand new - just came out - and we almost cried, especialy when I was thrashing up a hateful flare a few pitches higher and could have used some pro.

But the Wharton and Cordes story is just all time.


Trad climber
new york, NY
Oct 30, 2009 - 10:56pm PT
While trying to get the right nut out Thin Slabs Direct (Gunks), I was shaking out the biner of nuts, and they all fell, except the one I needed.
I freaked.
I yelled "Holy Sh#t, I dropped all the biners except the one I ne... Oh, wait."
I placed the nut, clipped in, pulled up to the rest, and my partner tossed the rest of the nuts up like a spazzing octopus.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Oct 30, 2009 - 10:59pm PT
And then there are those climbers who don't take a rack in the first place...
corniss chopper

Mountain climber
san jose, ca
Oct 31, 2009 - 12:26am PT
Sitting at the top of Overhang Bypass (80's)
we were looking at the
July 4th traffic jam below us on the
road when an open pack toppled over and
my 35mm Nikon camera rolled out and kept
going right over the edge!

Trad climber
Oct 31, 2009 - 05:05am PT
Lightning storm and Blizzard on the NE Face of the Badile, it is really cold, no bivvy gear, I decide we should go down. Fiona drops her ATC before the first ab, I give her mine, ~15 abseils on a Karabiner break on iced up ropes, fun days.

Buzzard Point, TN
Oct 31, 2009 - 02:54pm PT
Not so much a dropped rack but dropping nonetheless.

We were on a crazy train Salathe trip, Austrians up front, 4 Koreans we played leapfrog with for 1/2 the wall, and us, Team "7ade".

The Austrians dropped a biner and hit Mr. Hiro in the noggin (his helmet was off). 3 pitches later, they drop a Gri-Gri and hit the same guy in the foot! What are the chances (can't be just 25%~~!) His shoes were off, too. He was seriously hurting...

Up higher a few pitches, Korean's keep asking what "sb" means. I keep trying to tell them "sling belay" from below, and they say "sleeping ledge"? "NO!" But our message was not clear, evidently. 3 am they are pinning out the headwall cracks, looking for "sleeping ledge" (Long).

My partner found a knife on Sous Le Toit. I should have confiscated it immediately. The haul line got cut 4 or 5 times from there to the top along with several slings and other assorted cord, but that's a different story altogether...


Oct 31, 2009 - 03:07pm PT
On me and a friends first el cap route around 1992, we had made it up about 5 pitches, and were passing the rack at a belay, when I saw my hammer and leash rocketing towards the dirt. It was a sweet Chouinard hammer from the 80's and it was heading for talus and hikers at the base. We screamed "rock" and it hit the slabs below South Seas and shot out into the woods. F$%#. Day 1, 1st El Cap Route, and we only had one hammer on the WOEML. After an almost clean ascent, we summitted 8 days later.

Buzzard Point, TN
Oct 31, 2009 - 03:19pm PT
How bizarre.

My partner found a hammer right in that area, about that time. We were wondering how the heck you drop a hammer... Did you guys come by and claim it? Seems like I remember someone walked up to us shortly thereafter and asked about partner, of scrupulous moral caliber, coughed it up.

Social climber
The Portal
Oct 31, 2009 - 03:43pm PT
Once while climbing in Australia I became pretty darn pumped, I was about half way up a very steep 90 foot pitch, this pump was worsening, grabbing gear was out lawed according my rules, and yo yoing was still considered legal, kind of, so I humbly asked my partner to lower me to the ground.

There I rested a bit then climbed back on the rock for another go, I cruised up to my high point, and climbed 15 feet beyond it, I reached for the rack so I could place a small stopper and did not find it, I groped around a bit more and thought to myself " man, this route is so dam steep I can't reach the rack because it's hanging behind my body" quite suddenly it dawned on me the rack is on the ground, with this realization my senses are quickened, my grip becomes tight.

Glancing down towards the ground I see the hand made spotted ocelot "FISH" gear sling with the gear attached to it, (to set the picture perfectly I will tell you I also wore a matching "FISH" harness) both of which I secretly believed helped me climb better because my friend Russ Walling had made them.

In a very soft, child like voice, I say out loud "I forgot the rack" there is no response from below. I say it again, this time with a bit more pitch, "I forgot the rack" there is an audible response, "WHAT???" ... silence.

I am faced with two choices, a 30 foot self inflicted plummet, or a 30 foot climb to the anchor and a certain ground fall. Too chicken to let go and jump I chose the latter.
I climb skillfully, carefully, upwards to a difficult but manageable section. The atmosphere and rock has melded into me, my two partners below vanish out of sight into a thickness, there is only movement, and rock, movement, rock, and the anchor!

I gather my wits, collect the fragmented self, set up the rappel, and descend towards the ground. Once there, nothing is said but much has been learned, today it went well, ... tomorrow?

Jo Whitford

'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Oct 31, 2009 - 03:59pm PT
I've never dropped my whole rack, but I did drop an entire pin rack!

We were about four pitches up on Sea of Dreams, and I had been organicizing gear in my ledge. I had set the entire piton subrack on my ledge without clipping it in - what a dildoe. Anyway, at some point I must have stepped up and off the ledge to unweight it, the wind blew the ledge up and sideways, and the pins fell four pitches to the ground.

Fortunately, we were still close to the ground. I shouted to a person walking beneath - someone from this forum, I think, he later told me, in a spitting sort of fashion, that he was the one who had saved me from my own incompetence. Anyway, we tied three ropes together, and buddy tied the pin rack on, and we hauled it back up and carried on.

If you're going to spend a lot of time on the wall, you will eventually drop stuff. I used to be a bit butterfingered, but after 400 nights on El cap, I am actually starting to get a bit better. For instance, this year I spent about 30 nights up there, and so far as I recall, did not drop a single item of any real significance. But I bootied several really nice cams along the base, and of course a few fixed pins and wires here and there, so perhaps my net worth as a climber actually went up this year.

Nothing but luck this year. Even writing it has probably doomed me to dropping something really important and expensive next season!
rotten johnny

Social climber
mammoth lakes, ca
Oct 31, 2009 - 04:28pm PT
not sure if this is urban legend or a tru story but dennis miller is on some el cap route and drops his rack (brown tube chock) into a cracker jack box and chucks it off the ledge where the box lands on top of a parties haul bag down below.....hopefully the party didn't go fishing for the hidden prize

Oct 31, 2009 - 04:31pm PT
426, we never tried to recover it. I think we headed straight for Bishop after getting back to the car.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Oct 31, 2009 - 05:28pm PT
So maybe we should nickname Pete as "Drop the Pitons Pete". :-)
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Oct 31, 2009 - 06:13pm PT
I prefer Pass The Pampers Pete, myself. The Sub-Subman!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Oct 31, 2009 - 10:02pm PT
At least I can still climb walls, Steve...

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Oct 31, 2009 - 10:24pm PT
I've never dropped any gear that I can remember, but I did manage to drop a big rock in the middle of Layton Kor's brand new perlon rope on the first pitch of the first climb I ever did with him! He and I and Larry Dalke were up on Red Garden Wall in Eldorado with my only previous experience being on the Flatirons. I had done maybe half a dozen climbs before and stood up on a big block that looked solid to me.

The only good thing was that the rope had been given to him by one of the local climbing shops since kermantle ropes were just coming on line and they wanted him to test it compared to the usual goldline. He and Larry were very interested to see what the inside of it looked like.

Fortunately Layton was a very forgiving person, especially toward naive young coeds, so we went up the next week and finished the climb and did many more.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 1, 2009 - 12:07am PT
Pete- Anyone can stand in slings and act heroic, but what have you really added to the game? I am far from done having fun on the Captain, by the way.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Nov 1, 2009 - 12:40am PT
I will happily carry loads, jumar, clean, haul and keep either (or both) of you company on a trip up the Captain, by any reasonable route. And even lead a few pitches, if that would help. Such wall and aid climbing skills as I have may be somewhat rusty, and techniques and equipment have advanced, but with a bit of help I can probably figure it out, and not drop the rack or anything klutzy.

I draw the line at foot rubs, though.

Trad climber
Canoga Bark! CA
Nov 1, 2009 - 01:18am PT
No drop, but another "forgot the rack" story on a 10-pitch 5.12a, David Bloom Rockstar:

Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Nov 1, 2009 - 01:34am PT
Hello Rick,

Just wanted to say Greg F and I repeated Electric Ladyland in the past, and that photo sharpened my recollection.

Thanks for a brilliant route. The roof finish made for one of the best exitements of Yosemite. Highly recomended.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 1, 2009 - 02:15pm PT
Jobee gal, you are STUD!!!

Trad climber
Los Angeles
Nov 1, 2009 - 04:49pm PT
I dropped the RP's, and my sleeping bag on the P.O. Wall, I didn't have a rainfly that worked and my bag got soaked, so when it cleared up I put my bag out on my ledge to dry out. Just a little of the end was hanging off the side. I turned away for a second before I could clip it in. The end of the bag was so water logged, it just slid off like a Slinky! When I turned around I felt like Curly of The Three Stooges..."Where'd it go"!
Needless to say I had a few cold nights! I did find it at the base after!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Nov 1, 2009 - 05:56pm PT

Glad you're not finished having fun on the Captain yet. It's my favourite campground.

FWIW, I have been told by scores of people [if not a hundred or more over the years] that I have taught them more about big wall climbing - by them reading my various "Dr. Piton how-to" posts - than they have learned in any book or magazine or anyplace else. There is not a week that goes by in Yosemite where somebody doesn't come by and thank me for something I've written that they used to help them in some way.

Even more importantly, people tell me that I have inspired them to climb big walls, especially solo. A lot of people have told me that the stuff they've learned from my writing has helped them reach the summit, and nothing pleases me more than to hear that.

And as for you aspiring Big Wall Theorists, who have yet to reach the summit of a big wall by legit means, don't give up - if a middle-aged overweight weiner-armed part-time wanker-climber like me can get to the top, then so can you.

Anders - you're on! Your first requirement will be to bring us a really nice bottle of cab or shiraz, and none o' that BC crap! We might have to go on a Field Trip to source it out ourselves in Napa or Sonoma first.

[Actually, I did enjoy one really fine bottle of BC wine this year, which came as a very pleasant surprise. It was a bottle of old vine zin, can't remember the winery, though]

Oh yeah, I dropped my sleeping bag once off of Aurora. I was not too concerned, because I had a bivi sack that I could sleep in. Except that the next night, I dropped that too! For the rest of the wall, I wrapped myself up in my rain fly - sheesh. Dropped a jug off of Excalibur, but had a spare on my 2:1. Dropped a shoe off of Never Never Land - that *really* sucked because I had to wear a borrowed free climbing shoe that was way too small, so tight I had to soak it with water every morning before I put it on. Dropped my raincoat off of NA Wall, but Ricardo recovered it for me. I've dropped one hammer, and one helmet + headlamp. I don't believe I have ever dropped a beer, but have spilled a couple. I really need Russ to come up with some clever idea for a beer holder on my ledge, but I'm not sure how.

Buzzard Point, TN
Nov 1, 2009 - 06:02pm PT
Heh, almost lends credence to Skinner's motto "aid climbing ain't climbing".

You ever hear from Jon Fox?
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Nov 1, 2009 - 06:07pm PT
I never claimed to be a climber! I am merely a big wall camper. The climbing is just a necessary encumbrance to reach the bitchin'est campsites. Besides, it's aid climbing, which is inherently cheating, anyway.

Nope, I have never have heard from Jon. No idea what became of him, unfortunately. Isn't there are "where's Jon Fox?" post on here somewhere we ought to bump?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 1, 2009 - 06:54pm PT
THAT explains everything...............

Social climber
Vancouver, Canada
Nov 1, 2009 - 10:15pm PT
I witnessed the entire haul bag fall down from Uncle Bens........lucky fer me I was on the ground.

Ghost ?

Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Nov 1, 2009 - 10:22pm PT
OK, I may need a little guidance with regard to wine selection, and logistical matters, and we'll have to talk about route selection. One that goes right to the tippy top, so we can wave at the gang on the bridge. I may be in Sonoma in February, and could look around for wine then.

ps We may need to discuss the sheep thing.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Nov 2, 2009 - 12:01am PT
I've been lucky here. . .
I've dropped a piece or two, but never the full rack!!!!!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 2, 2009 - 12:08am PT
It isn't about luck...usually! LOL

Anders- when was your last El cap route?

Trad climber
JackAssVille, Wyoming
Nov 2, 2009 - 12:40am PT
Man, I have bubbled some sh#t over the years. But never the whole rack, Ever! The worst I ever did I think, was cut the water loose by accident. But the next day it rained like a bad smell so it worked out! Thank God for that.

Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Nov 2, 2009 - 12:37pm PT
Steve raises a good point, which is that I've never gotten more than about a third of the way up El Cap. That was some time ago. I've done some reasonably large things elsewhere in the meantime, and would still like to finally get up the Captain. Hopefully improved knowledge, techniques and equipment would more or less balance out other factors. Pete is only a few years younger, and Ottawa Doug almost the same age. Maybe the three of us could team up...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 2, 2009 - 12:53pm PT
Anders- I wasn't trying to out you since I recall seeing shots of you on El Cap from BITD. Tom Frost is living proof that age is no barrier. If you are willing to bust your ass, wall climbing has never been easier. Pete is living proof of that.

Nov 2, 2009 - 01:26pm PT
I thought we were talking about dropping gear.

This chest beating session is kind of superf*#kinglame.

A long way from where I started
Nov 2, 2009 - 02:46pm PT
I witnessed the entire haul bag fall down from Uncle Bens........lucky fer me I was on the ground. Ghost ?

Dang. I was happy to stay out of this thread, cuz I've never dropped a rack. In thirty-five years of bumbling my way up things I've dropped a biner or stopper here and there, I think a cam one time, and one lens.

But Tami's outed me so I should fess up. In fact it's a good time, given the Bill Price thread that's running concurrent with this one. When Bill came up to Squamish in the late 70s he brought his friend Mike Boris (aka Big Wally). Daryl Hatton introduced them to me (which was an interesting event in its own right: see;. Bill was keen to do some hard free climbing and Wally said he wasn't interested in that and would I go up on one of the Squamish wall routes with him?

So we headed up Uncle Bens. Not a biggie, but we planned to spend one night on it. It starts with two pitches of moderate but very sparsely protected face climbing, and I found out that what Wally meant when he said he wasn't much interested in free climbing was actually "I don't free climb." He made it clear that there was no way he was leading anything that didn't involve aiders. So I got us up those two pitches, which I think he jugged rather than followed even though they were relatively low-angle and mostly 5.7/5.8.

He then quickly nailed across the traversing third pitch, tied in, and got ready to haul. Since the pitch was so short and the pig relatively light, we decided to retie it in the middle of the rope so I could guide it from behind as he hauled, instead of just cutting it loose and have it crashing into who-knows-what.

Great. I tied a new figure-8 in the middle or the rope, clipped it to the pig with a locking biner, and then started untying to old knot.

Whoops! instead of clipping the new knot to the bag, I'd somehow clipped it to the old knot, and as I got near the end of the untie the last turn of the knot ripped out and the bag zoomed off into space.

But I've never dropped a rack!

Nov 2, 2009 - 03:26pm PT
Superf*#kinglame is an understatement.

Trad climber
Birmingham, Alabama
Nov 2, 2009 - 03:51pm PT
My nuts dropped when I was about twelve. When its cold out I seem much younger. Don

Big Wall climber
Nov 2, 2009 - 04:03pm PT
I put the stopper in the crack and gave it a bit of a tug. Then I looked down to see that it was raining nuts all over the bottom of the route, The only one left on the biner was the one still in the crack.

I also took a big 40ft fall or so hitting ledges as I went and doing backwards somersaults off of those ledges. When I finally stopped my feet were hanging in the air and I felt happy to be alive. I climbed to my belay partner and he asked me if the ascenders he was holding were mine. I thought it was odd and then noticed that I had actually busted open my belay loop dumbing locking biners, a gri-gri and other items 200+ ft down the mountain. We finished the climb and after finally downc limbing back to our bags my gri-gri and several locking caribiners were sitting 5ft from my back pack I had left at the base...

Nov 3, 2009 - 03:46am PT
Great thread, so funny to read these stories. That said, Mal gives Josh and I a bit too much credit for our 2004 Great Trango bumbling – it wasn’t *that* bad. We only lost about a quarter of our cams in the rack incident on the second pitch – five cams, I think. I felt them hitting my leg mid-pitch and looked down to see that the right side of our double gear sling had come undone (which was Josh’s fault, I swear…), but I reached down and caught a handful, which seemed to make it not so bad. Indeed, the weather was good so we kept going. You can do things like that when climbing with someone as good as Josh, I figured.

I don’t remember the 30’ up and down thing – rather, on some cruxy leads Josh just ran it out. Day four, 7,000’ up the route, his block and he dead-ends on the ridge and launches out left onto the big-wall face, tensions into a corner that holds a thin streak of verglas and puts his half-sized ice tool in his left hand, straps an aluminum crampon to his left rock shoe, and works his way up the pitch – at 20k feet, tapping into thin ice with his left side and crimping 5.11 face holds with his right, running it out 40 feet to what became our bivy ledge. Unreal. Never seen anything like it, and it unlocked the route for us. The next morning, I took over and we hit the summit and rapped down the other side (to where we could hit a hanging glacier to down-climb) too soon, the wall blanking out and leading us into a descent that still gives me chills (another story, but one rappel anchor was an RP…).

True, though, that we brought only one fuel canister. Can’t explain our thinking there – guess we’d convinced ourselves we’d find water running down the rock everywhere and not need to melt for water. On the first night, it worked. On the second night we killed our canister melting snow. On the third and fourth nights, and days, we went thirsty.

We did bring sleeping bags – summer down bags, no shelter. Was reasonably comfy, actually, with only minor shivering as we got dehydrated. Funny thing was, when we attempted Shingu Charpa in ’06, as a result of not shivering too badly on GT we didn’t bring sleeping bags. Those three nights sucked.

In our traveling junk show on GT, we carried all our trash off with us but it seems we keep dropping other things. I remember at the 2nd or 3rd bivy Josh had one of those Petzl headlamps with the retractable elastic that’s like a slingshot, and indeed it acted exactly like a slingshot when it shot off his head and into space.

On day four I dropped my belay device. Somehow remembered how to use a carabiner brake for the raps.

Given our ineptness in planning and inability to keep hold of things, it’s amazing we pulled it off – then again, guess you can go pretty light after you’ve dropped what little you brought to begin with.

Sh#t, now I’m remembering the time I dropped my ice tool in ground fall runout zone in Hyalite Canyon back in the Sketchy Kelly days (as opposed to GT in ’04), but that’s another story…

'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Nov 3, 2009 - 09:05am PT
Oh geez, I almost forgot - I did drop a pig once. This is well documented elsewhere. Basically, I had two identical lockers in the system, the power point locker to which the pig was tethered, and the suspension point locker on the top of the pig. I was a bit flustered about something or other - I think it was this expanding anchor on Scorched Earth that had swallowed up my vintage #4 Friend - and confused the two lockers. I put the haul line into the suspension point locker instead of the pig locker - d'oh!

I remember undocking the pig, and as the docking tether FLEW through the carabiner, I wondered why it was going so fast! We had just enough food and water left in the pig I didn't drop, so suddenly our leisurely pitch-a-day big wall camping pace was shattered, and we started leading in blocks.

I remember people telling me later, "we looked up on the wall, and you were gone, so we figured you bailed. Then we looked up higher than we expected, and there you were - we couldn't believe it!"

We later retrieved the pig and all the gear, which had fallen into the trees near the Trip. There were huge Valley Giant cams lying all over the place, but nobody pinched anything. Neither did anyone tidy up for us.

Nov 3, 2009 - 09:24am PT
I sort of dropped a good amount of the rack once. A few winters ago, Tim Wagner and I made the long drive out to Yosemite to do the Widow's Tears since we had good info it was in. Typically, it was melted out by the time we got there. We decided to do Astroman as somewhat of a consolation since the weather was so dreamy. While I was following/grinding up the endurance corner Tim's makeshift gear sling,which was a long "rabbit runner" clipped to make a loop, came unclipped and a bunch of cams cut loose and went to the deck. At the ledge we assessed the remaining rack and I voted for bailing. Tim volunteered to lead us out of there with a very pinner rack indeed, pretty heroic.

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Nov 5, 2009 - 10:44pm PT
PTPP and I were on Scorched Earth, a very overhanging line just left of the Trip. The Poison Pill expando flake closed down on PTPP's #4 Friend during the night. I had set it with (I thought) plenty of space to spare the day before. But, the Pill was apparently ravenous because almost nobody goes up there to feed it cams. It was clamped down solid, and no manner of effort could retrieve it.

When the pig got loose, it fell 800 feet and hit the trees about 100 feet from the base. It made a strange noise all the way down, like the air being ripped apart.

Over the next two days, PTPP proved that he can climb quite rapidly up difficult terrain, if he wants to. His notoriously slow pace is by choice, and not because he lacks ability.

Nov 11, 2009 - 03:51pm PT
Minor but exciting event, Vern Clevenger, George Myers and TC are trying to climb "Banana Dreams" at the Cookie. (Done that one lately?) TC in the lead, kinda airy traverse, (for me) swing the rack out of the way... and I'm decorating the trees below!! Think it was and early Victor Marcus sling? Royo-boyo model -can't remember?

Price and I dropped the 6x6 wooden racks off Excaliber - weinie roast at the base apres topout? I might be making that up but it somehow rings a bell!

Great stories from all - thanks.


Trad climber
Los Angeles
Dec 30, 2009 - 04:39pm PT
Tool Bag Lost in Space: NASA with "Blue Danube"

Trad climber
Slartibartfasts Newest Fjiord
Dec 30, 2009 - 06:09pm PT
Decorum prohibits my naming names, but I know a couple of fellas that managed to drop the ROPES!!!!!!!!! Yes, things didn't look good, but they got out of their jam. EEEKKK! Story goes that about 5 or 6 pitches up on Whitesides a decent storm came up real sudden like. No probs, rig the rap and bail right? WRONG!!! Climber A drops not just one but BOTH ropes! By some miracle they get hung up like fifty feet below... By tying EVERYTHING together they managed recovery and the rest as they say is history.

Trad climber
The beckoning silence
Dec 30, 2009 - 07:46pm PT
I was once about to climb a short chimney on Fei Ngo Shan Peak (or Kowloon Peak) in Kong Kong (the one directly above the old Kai Tak Airport; Lion Rock is here, but on a different part). I started up the chimney and had my pack on. It wasn't all that tight, but tight enough that I climbed down to remove the pack and haul it. Back at the belay, I was taking off the rack when all my gear started cascading onto the belay... which is at the top of a mildly exposed third class ramp that eventually drops off to a small cliff. WTF??????

Fortunately, nothing slid into oblivion. On further examination, the buckle on my gear sling had worked itself loose! That was one buckle I hadn't thought of doubling back and it was always checked thereafter!


Dec 30, 2009 - 09:39pm PT
On an early free attempt of the Grack, I was carrying all of my chocks on the same biner. Pumped and attempting to get one in, I dropped the entire set! Too afraid to venture unprotected into the difficult terrain ahead, I had to retreat and the first free ascent was quickly robbed from me thereafter.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Dec 30, 2009 - 10:24pm PT
On the West Face of the Sentinel a buddy of mine clips in the biner rack to the anchor and then twists and takes it off his should and chest. The twist of the sling falls against the gate, the gate opens and all our biners fall to the ground. To this day, I never simply "drop" something onto an anchor, I lower it and feel that is it secure before I let it go.

Jan 4, 2010 - 12:54am PT
Not exactly a rack, but this brings something to mind.

I was on an ice climbing trip with a guy I had just met some years ago, who had spent the previous couple days enthusing about his new leashless tools, cutting edge stuff at the time. I, being weaker and more afraid, was skeptical of his comments like "The freedom of movement is wonderful. It's so liberating!"

Of course, as I belayed him up the first pitch, he fumbles a tool, which sails to the bottom and skitters far down the fan below.

"Ha, yes, I see those tools are so liberating! You liberated that bad boy all the way down into the creek!"

Hi Paul!
Janet Wilts

Trad climber
Jan 4, 2010 - 12:38pm PT
Well, not a rack...
but years ago when Largo, Mari and I were climbing (Mari and my first try at a wall) ...John was leading and when he finished the pitch and started hauling the bag, the haul bag got stuck....So John being a strong guy, decides he can just haul on the line and free it (a scissor like motion) (hmmmmm... wonder what that would do to a rope)....and from my belay perch, below him, I saw an object go hurdling past first I thought it was a person.... when we found out it was just the haul bag...who cares....(that was probably a ploy by John...make us think it's a person so that when we find out it was just all our food, water, gear....we wouldn't care so much...hahhahahaa)
Luckily it didn't matter so much, since John just went into hyper mode and got us off the climb that afternoon.....

such fun memories....


Trad climber
Fresno CA
Jan 4, 2010 - 01:47pm PT
For some reason, the South Face of the Column got me on two different occasions. In 1971, I was trying to flip the haul line, but caught it around my glasses, sending them back to Dinner Ledge. Those glasses were far more crucial to me than a mere rack, since I could not read the big "E" on an eye chart from ten feet without them. Then, in 1973, my partner dropped not only most of the rack, but also our daypack containing the cameras, topo, water, and lots of other useful stuff, from almost the same place (a sling belay above the Kor Roof). This time, they landed a thousand or so feet below on the ground. Amazingly, no one else was on the route either time.

On the rope dropping front, I have it on good authority (from a member of the first ascent party) that Steve's Folly on the Hogback was originally named "Steve Dropped the Stupid Rope."

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 14, 2010 - 11:59am PT
Bump...For Screamin' Chip! The loosest player at any poker table! LOL
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 4, 2010 - 02:13pm PT
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 13, 2010 - 12:23am PT

Trad climber
Bite my azz
Jun 13, 2010 - 12:57am PT
I was on the second tier of that big ol overhang at the top of the nose in the middle of the night, and when i stood up on one of those ancient bolts it pulled, resulting in a 15 foot back first, head-down fall. When i stopped the 50 lb rack i was toting flew off my shoulder and would have kept going, but something snagged long enough for me to secure it again.

Good thing, because my jumars were on the rack.

Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 13, 2010 - 01:12am PT
My buddy, Kim Dao dropped a rack somewhere below the Trip headwall. We managed just fine and luckily the rack hung up in a tree and didn't crater.


Social climber
Jun 13, 2010 - 01:50am PT
while leading a pitch on don juan, Crows head spires Utah I had two #4's dislodge themselves from my harness while squeezing up the overhanging crux. My partner Ben Yelled "Cams" and I was in disbeleife as they bounced down to the dirt. I still owe him a #4 and have to remember why to rack to the outside.

Trad climber
Jun 13, 2010 - 01:55am PT
I dropped a haulbag which contained the whole wall rack. Thankfully it was during the descent (east ledges). Luckily the haulbag survived and spilled the contents in a small radius. Phew. I guess the rack is ok?
Auto-X Fil

Mountain climber
Aug 27, 2010 - 11:03pm PT
Just three screws, but that was most of the rack. No idea how, they were just gone. My partner manned up and led the final pitch with one screw and one Spectre, fortunately to a tree belay. Pretty sure I still owe him.

Trad climber
Las Vegas
Aug 28, 2010 - 05:13am PT

Not me.... nope Nevah
(uh huh)
Once, never again. Early on, me and Callaghan...
The Prow on Cathedral Ledge BITD.

Ok so it wasn't the whole damn rack just what was cleaned from the previous pitch...
We still topped!

Ummm bump 4 "GRAVITY CHECK!!!"


Jim Henson's Basement
Aug 28, 2010 - 11:24am PT
Another bump for a great thread.

I don't have any daring stories of fumblage myself, but I have been the rescuer for a lad who dropped his rope rappelling and was stranded at the station. Fortunately only one pitch off the ground, so I just led up and we rapped down.

Oct 5, 2011 - 06:07am PT
Well I have not dropped the rack but one time jim brennan and LEFT the rack on the top of the flake whilst climbing the grand -what were we (not) thinking??
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Oct 5, 2011 - 08:04am PT
I guess I'll mention my experience along these lines.
When I made the tenth ascent of the Nose in June 1967,
in that horrid heat, I was moving up the dihedrals above
the Great Roof. We had only about two sips of water left and
a thousand feet to go, in temperatures around the high 90s.
If I went fast I would get too tired. To save energy, I put
all the big pitons, everything bigger than a regular angle,
on one sling and clipped it to the haul bag. I wouldn't have
to carry it while leading. We heard nothing, but when I
pulled up the bag, that sling was gone and everything, a zillion
carabiners and almost all our pitons, with it.
There was no SAR, no rescue possibility, so we didn't even
consider that, nor did I hesitate. I went upward, with what
I had. Above that triangular ledge (Camp 6?) is what I
think now is called the Changing Corners pitch. The crack
got wide here, and I basically free climbed it all the way
to the belay (not changing corners but staying in the hand-
crack to the left). There was an old Harding bolt at one
point, sticking about 2/3rds the way out of its hole, and
I was glad to clip that. I used it at one point to lower down
and clean an angle far below, to use above. Otherwise, I did
that crack free. I had done a lot of hand cracks, so I felt
confident. Bridwell later told me he thought that must have
been 5.11. I had no memory of anything being that hard, but
I was set on getting up. Fortunately above that, we needed no
wide gear. At the bottom, our big rack hung conveniently
from a tree limb in the forest below, saving us from having
to carry it all the way down. It's hard to imagine it could fall
so far, almost three thousand feet, and hardly a scratch
on it.

Trad climber
Green Mountains, Vermont
Oct 5, 2011 - 10:51am PT
Bump. Great thread.

Big Wall climber
Casper, WY
Oct 5, 2011 - 12:26pm PT
Haven't dropped a full rack. Dropped a #1 camalot on Devils tower last year.

The most memorable drops was on Mt Hooker in the Winds. We gained our first bivy site 4 pitches up. I was sitting on my portaledge digging out my sleeping bag when I turned to grab a biner so I could clip it off. As I turned I heard the sound of nylon sliding across itself. I turned back to see a purple parachute dropping to the ground. Fortunately we had enough rope, and daylight I was able to rap down and retrieve it. Although jugging 4 pitches really sucked. My partner of course is laughing at me the whole time.

After I get back into my ledge and clip off the damn bag I turn to get out my bivy sack. As I turn to grab a biner to clip it off.....Yep, back down to the ground to retrieve the $%^&ing bivy sack now.

Lessons learned, and fun stories to tell. I can say this though, I don't think I've ever slept better on a wall than I did that night.
Keith Leaman

Trad climber
Oct 5, 2011 - 01:04pm PT
Once I intentionally dropped all my gear and almost ruined a great day. Pretty sure it was '71 that I decided to solo a route on the East Buttress of Whitney. After finishing a full day of work at Alpenlite, in Claremont, I had a late night dinner with my girlfriend, packed my gear and headed across the Mojave. Despite some extended wrong turns in the desert, I finally got a late start up the trail at sunrise. Part way up the route (where the pic was taken) I chose a clean 2"-3" splitter line, slightly right of the buttress instead of the "Fresh Air" route.

To get to the variation, I had to traverse across an ever narrowing ledge, now several hundred feet up. My pack was pushing me away from the steepening wall above, so I decided to carefully lower/drop it to a larger ledge just a few feet below. At first the pack seemed to land solidly, but then ever-so-slowly it began to roll toward the edge. Out of desperation I yelled out "STOP!!" and, luckily, oddly enough it did.

After finishing the variation pitches (5.8?), in a way, I was later "given" a piece by the mountain near the summit where the blocky steps were covered with mounds of hard snow and ice. I did a hammer-less ascent, and soon became tired of scraping ice with my fingers to expose an inch or so of granite on the lips of the wet ledges. I kept thinking: "If only I had a small sharp stone" when suddenly I noticed a cylindrical piece of metal about 6" long protruding from the snow. I don't know what it was but it really helped with the last 100 feet
Keeler from Whitney solo 1971
Keeler from Whitney solo 1971


Trad climber
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Oct 5, 2011 - 01:06pm PT
Whew, not yet. I did drop a carabiner in the Black recently, but I had the exact same kind on my own rack and handed it over to my partner promptly at beer-thirty.

Big Wall climber
Nor Nev
Oct 5, 2011 - 02:07pm PT
Holy crap I can't imagine the look on your partners face when you drop the whole rack.


Trad climber
Oct 5, 2011 - 02:16pm PT
Bump for f*#kups.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Oct 6, 2011 - 01:18pm PT
When Bonatti soloed the North Face of the Matterhorn in winter,
he was up there in miserable conditions, extremely cold (he
once measure 20 below), and suddenly dropped his hammer. He watched
it sail into oblivion. Without the ability to place a piton, he
would have been in a very very serious situation. By some wonderful
stroke of good thinking, he had brought a spare. I'm not sure they
had the little string (cord), in those days, to tie a hammer to one.
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Topic Author's Reply - May 29, 2014 - 09:02am PT
Bump for "whoops"!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
May 29, 2014 - 11:12am PT
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