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


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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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