Most fear for your partner


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Big Wall climber
Pagosa Springs CO
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 15, 2005 - 08:14am PT
When was the most fear you have ever had for your partner?

Werner's question about worst anchors reminded me of a story when I was super fearful for him when we climbed the Pacific Ocean Wall together.

When Werner and I climbed the PO, we worked out a spectacular system of rope tugs for communication. We didn't really plan it, or discuss it much, we just seemed to always know what the other was thinking. In fact, even though our verbal communication was limited by Werner's hearing, it was one of the smoothest walls in terms of communication I have ever done to this day.

But there was one moment, way up high, where I was climbing up an A3 pitch and came to a corner about 4 feet high. Werner was directly below me about 40-50 feet, though the rock slightly overhung so I could see his shoulders but not his face. I nailed a pin into the corner: big mistake. Though it had been nailed before, the corner was really a block on a sloping ledge, and the whole thing released from the wall and seemed ready to go, balancing precariously on the sloping ledge. It weighed over a 1000 pounds, and Werner was directly in the fall line. I yelled and yelled, but he didn't hear me. I kind of remember feeling pretty sketched out on a hook or something so didn't want to shake the rope (and thus me!) too much. And I had to still get over this loose block. It took a long time, but somehow I was able to gingerly free climb off the hook onto the sloping ledge that the block was barely resting on, and engineer a sling over the block so it didn't fall. It was intense fear, not for me, but for Werner. I continued and finished the pitch which then went out of sight from Werner (and the loose block), and, still worried that the block was going to cause catastophe, wished there was someway I could have told him about it.

I can't remember if Werner sent the block on the clean, but I do remember him coming up as if nothing had happened, and merrily leading off on the next pitch.
can't say

Social climber
Pasadena CA
Feb 15, 2005 - 09:42am PT
The time I felt the greatest fear for my partner (and me) was when we were on Electric Ladyland. We were about a pitch or so below Eagle Nest Ledge in the big corner. Gary Slate was leading directly above us when all of a sudden he starts freaking out and yelling at us to be heads up. He had put a cam in the crack, right behind a loose block whose fracture was so clean and and smooth Gary didn't notice it was a detached block directly above the belay. When he had weighted the cam, the cam slipped down the crack and he thought the block was coming down on us. If it had blown that block would have taken both of out I think. Well after he calms down and sees it's not going, he looks around and sees a bolt someone had placed out to the left. He hadn't seen it when he was jugging his cam up the crack.

That block stayed there until a few years ago when E had the same thing happen to him, but he was able to trundle it I believe. Anyway I was kinda gripped for myself and my partner.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Feb 15, 2005 - 10:34am PT
Hey John, nice to have you aboard. I will reply to this when I have some time, but a quick off-topic question:

"Do you know where to get A5 Birdbeaks these days?"



Trad climber
Otto, NC
Feb 15, 2005 - 11:06am PT
My dog Ollie has somehow developed a sense for when we are adventure climbing--FA's, loose stuff etc.- and has adopted the defensive tactic of sitting up between the belayer's legs, facing away from the cliff. I think he imagines that in this way, he is protected from rockfall by the big burly belayer, and from anything else, because he can't see it and thus it's not really a threat. So I don't have to worry about him, either, I suppose.

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Feb 15, 2005 - 11:51am PT
My partner leading P3 of the Weeping Wall, with hubcap sized ice chunks raining down from above.

Here's an exercpt from his TR:

I made the stupid mistake of looking up when all seemed fine and got hit by a tiny piece of ice right below my right eye. It was a very small chunk, but after it has fallen all that way, it stings a lot when it hits. As I saw when we got back to the truck, it also made a small gash that left a short trickle of blood down my face. Not long after that, the amount of ice raining down increased significantly. I was looking down trying to keep the ropes organized and even though I was up against the wall, I got a blow to the back of my head by a baseball sized piece of ice. It was so well centered on my spine, and hurt so much, I actually checked to make sure I could move all my limbs. If it had been any bigger, it might have snapped my neck.

Cardiff by the sea
Feb 15, 2005 - 12:00pm PT
The most fear I have ever had for my partner was the first time we ever visited Lee Vining canyon for some ice climbing, (around 1979 or 80')We had experienced some ice before but nothing as big as Lee Vining at the time. My Partner Rick Lovelace lead the First pitch. Being the bold climber he is he climbs out about 40 feet to put in his first piece of pro. Things are good for Rick at this point. He then continues leading out another 40 feet or so reaching a steep buldge in the ice. The pump factor now starts to set in. He is 40' out and looking at a ground fall. Turning the buldge I sense the desperation in Rick's climbing. As he turns the buldge, both his feet skate then one of his tools cuts loose. I thought for sure the guy was going to the deck. Rick pulled it together, got on top of the buldge and set a belay. Sacred the sheet out of me.

Thanks for joining us John. Great story with Werner.

Tommy T

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Feb 15, 2005 - 12:49pm PT
I was in Nepal attempting Ama was late after a full day of fixing ropes on the ridge, and my two partners were in another tent when there was a serious stove malfunction.

I was outside taking a piss, enjoying the moonlight...and Bob and Fabrizio are in the tent brewing up hot water. They have two stoves going in the vestibule of the tent...and one soon runs out of gas. So Bob goes to try to change the gas cylinder.

I'm watching this through the sillouet of the tent fabric and can see Bob trying to screw on the new gas can. But it's not going on right and somehow Bob misthreads it, and gas starts hissing out, spraying everywhere inside the tent. A comotion and lots of swearing errupt from the tent.

Fabrizio says, "Bob, what is that...what the fck is going on."
Bob- "Oh, sht, oh bloody hell, oh fcking bloody hell!" (Bob is English)
Fab- "Jeezus christ get rid of it, throw it out."
Bob- "Oh, Bloody hell fck me!"
Stove- sssssssssssssssss

yep, well all that happens in a span of about 5 seconds and then the inevitable happens. The other stove which is burning ignites the leaking gas and the entire tent EXPLODES in an orange wwhhhuuummmppp.

I am watching this happen from about 10 feet away. What I see is amazing. A flame ball engulfs the entire inside of the tent so I can see the two people as black sillouets surrounded by orange flames.

Fabrizio is futzing with the zipper at the opposite door of the tent trying desperately to get out. But within a slit second half of the tent is gone, the nylon has burned and shriveled like shrink wrap.

Bob finally thinks to throw the still leaking stove which is now acting like a small flame thrower, it goes bounding down the mountain spiting flames.

By that time he explosion has ended almost as quick as it happened and what is left is a half melted expedition tent still in flames.

Bob and Fabrizo are sitting there scrambling trying to save their sleeping bags and boots. I finally round up a water bottle and come to the rescue...only a bit too late, I am able to empty the bottel into Fabrizio's shoe, and feel like a hero.

Once we realize no one is terribly burnt...laughter errupts, I have never laughed so 18k, I almost killed myself with a heart attack. Our shepa comes running down through the snow bare foot in his underwear with a bewildered look on his face. He asks how much that tent cost, and no one is able to tell him that it's probly worth more $ then he will make in the next 5 years.

For a second there, right when the explosion happened, I have never been so worried about a partner. I thought we'd be carrying them down with 3rd degree burns for sure. Turned out to just be one of the funniest/craziest things I have ever seen in the mountains, and Bob just lost his eyebrows.

Feb 15, 2005 - 01:42pm PT
It was probably the smoothest wall (P.O.) Iíve ever done. Most of them were that way anyways. Everything ticked and meshed like a well oiled machine. John is one of the best big wall climbers Iíve seen back in the day. With his easy going nature and that wonderful smile that he always carries on his face, you know your going to have a great time.

Hummmm?, John I donít remember any big ass loose block on the P.O. The only one that I remember was on Son of Heart with Shipley. Probably was 10 feet high and as I cleaned Waltís pin I knew I was going for the diagonal ride, I grabbed for something to slow the pendulum and it was some monster unbeknown to me or Walt. It instantly came off with me flying sideways luckily out of its way. Waltís eyes buggered out of his head and I was in terror that somebody below was going to die. As fate had its way, the outcome became known that no one was below at the time.

Trad climber
Feb 15, 2005 - 05:45pm PT
Watching my partner fall on the way down from a long day in the backcountry. We were crossing a slab above a big drop - one slip and then down towards the edge, bouncing, flipping, gear flying into the air. I was certain I was about to witness a terrible ending when all the sudden, right before going off the edge, he stopped. I was shook up a long time over that.

Speaking of blocks, I had a partner tip off a huge block on a wall in CO, like over 20' long by 6' wide. He was walking up the thing as I went around it, bitching him out because it was precariously perched. He told me how fulla sh#t I was because it was so heavy, his weight was meaningless, when all the sudden it started sliding over the edge. Went 1,500', the biggest trundle I've seen. Watching him run up the thing would have been funny if it weren't for the sound - which made it pretty scary.

Social climber
The West
Feb 15, 2005 - 07:18pm PT
Hands down, belaying Shipley on an early attempt on a route on Mt Broderick that he was tenativly calling "Lightning bolt crack," It'a a real route now, I think he bolted it with Dave Schultz and it's ~12a lieback/undercling. (My yo guide at hand is not current enough for this info).

He scared me so much that I had to look away. He took over the lead after my feeble attempt and ran out what I'd hoped would turn out to be a seven inch horizontal ow flake but what in reality was a black lichen nightmare undercling under an expando flake. We had homemade 7-8" camming units that didn't work very well. (the creator of these later committed suicide in part to atone for his shortcomings-true) . Walt's feet would skate off . I couldn't watch, then he'd run it out another thirty feet and place another lame cam and go for it again. I KNEW that any other climber of similar ability would die, soon.
I suspected that Walt's innate Waltness would save him, but would not have bet on it! At the end ( no more big cams and another giant runout behind him) Walt yelled, "I can't hold on any more!" at that moment an appropriate sized auxilliary side crack appeared, in which he placed a 3.5 friend and weighted the rope.
I have written about this one before in greater detail and it's on the web, somewhere..

But, if like Rhodo-router, we are going to include Dog stories ... then I would say any of the seven or eight times my partner Alobar (Russ may remember him) surprised a rattlesnake in Arizona; snake would coil, Al would sniff, snake would strike, Al was always able to pull his head back just enough, then he'd sniff again, and the serpent would strike again, this would continue til I'd pull Al away.

Actually, after about the fifth time this happened I was less scared. Kinda like climbing with Walt.

Feb 15, 2005 - 07:23pm PT
Sh#t that was you, jaybro who belayed him? I originally tried this route twice before Walt and I knew It would be death by conventual methods.

Social climber
The West
Feb 15, 2005 - 07:26pm PT
Too funny, Werner, it is a truly amazing world, that we live in.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Feb 15, 2005 - 08:56pm PT
How about a SuperTopo related one... though I was the partner... Gary and Lara and I were in Tuolumne, Lara's first time as she is visiting the area for the summer from Arizona. We were taking her around and ended up at Pywiack Dome to do "Dike Route", 5.9R 6 pitches... So we're sitting at the base in the shade and Gary is reading from the OLD ST description: "Dike Route is all about balance, smearing and most importantly, keeping your head cool when facing a potential 150-foot fall. Be extermely confident on 5.9 slab climbing before you start up this climb... ...Then the fourth pitch captures your full attention with difficult friction moves 70 feet above the last bolt. Not a good place to fall." Only I don't remember this climb being so desperate, we had done it before... "well Hartouni", I thought, "you're getting too old to remember things, 'Climber's Alzheimer's' as Will used to say".

OK so up we went, it was run as usual, but hey, this is Tuolumne Meadows "suck it up, buttercup". We get to the fateful 4th pitch, my lead (Gary can count) so off I go, still puzzled over the description. Through the tough section. Gary recounts to me later he kept telling Lara to watch me through the crux, but she couldn't, she has her head in her hands waiting for me to go flying past. So over the bulge and through that beautiful golden polish, picking the pock marks and as I get most of the way to the belay bolts, f*#king run out like crazy, I look down and remember that there is an intermediate bolt off to the right after the crux in the logical little bowl. Greg missed it, and Gary psyched me out with bad beta... Lara was tramatized for life... and I'm run out 70 feet above the last f*#king bolts. Oh well, hike the last bit, carefully, to the belay. I don't know if that was Lara's most fear for her partner... but it was probably up there.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Feb 15, 2005 - 09:01pm PT
Lambone, I really broke up over your equipment failure story, too funny!

Trad climber
Feb 15, 2005 - 09:14pm PT
Dingus said:

"Made my as#@&%e pucker up like the end of a hotdog."

I coulda done without that visual, but I can relate to the rap sitch stress.

Big Wall climber
running springs, ca
Feb 18, 2005 - 12:17pm PT
there he was getting us back up on a ridge in the WInds and the rock was cccrrraapppyyyy, one slung horn that would have ripped and like 5.11a dry tooling on compacted mud choss and the grainy white crap, that lead us to the ridge again. ###$ ^&*%(^ ^%%^&*% ^&^C 6769 ^^&^&*6789 ^&*^ 6& 678 ^&* ^&89 ^7* 678. 67 6789 6789^^^&*(^ ^&*(^&*(%^^($&%*(^&*>&*^&*%^&*(*&^&< #$$#%*$^&.. Ahhh it was scarry ! once the bullets started ripping I figgured his light was extinguished so I sunk a black prophet into his heart and prayed he would die quickly. Damn sh#t went wrong!!!!!!!!! ()^*(^*(). *&())^%&)^&&*%^%^&$^&*%&*)^&^&()^&%^*) ^&*(%^(% %^^&)&%&*)( #%#!@#$@$^@#$%^)(*^), ^&*(%^*(%!!!!!!!!! last thing I saW was blood pouring from his anis as I tosse him into the crevase and cut the rope!!!!!!!&(%&*)% %^&* %^%&* ^&^ 6& ^&. THey never forgave me>.!!!!

Big Wall climber
running springs, ca
Feb 18, 2005 - 12:37pm PT
I fear Jedi will never learn to aid climb!!

Mountain climber
Central Texas
Feb 18, 2005 - 01:30pm PT
Climbing "Beowulf's Revenge" on Mt Russell. Should have known if the route name references tales of monsters and revenge to avoid it. Route description says "start in loose chimney, with climbing gradually becoming better." Understatement. Pulled off numerous fist sized pieces of feldspar on first pitch. Halfway up the third pitch the crack pinches down to nothing, but there is this horizontal crack. Put a hand in the crack to jam and a large flake the size of a car hood moves. My partner is about fiftey feet directly below the chimney/gully. Gingerly traverse left and up and now have to traverse back right and stand on loose flake to get back in the crack.
Thought for sure the whole thing was going to cut loose and take him out.
Bailed out right to better rock to summit.
Also should have taken note of first ascentionist Fred Beckey, Marie Grayson, Mark Fielding.
Fred Beckey & loose rock = caution.
Greg Barnes

Feb 18, 2005 - 02:37pm PT
Pitch 2 of a FA at Owens (the big corner to the right of El Dorado Roof & Towering Inferno), belayer on the right side of a ledge about 80' up, with a ramp on the left side of the ledge which promised to deflect any rockfall (that I didn't chuck outwards) straight into him. About 50' up the corner, just missed touching a huge (4' x 4') axe-head shaped flake that turned out to be perched on maybe 1" of it's foot wide base. Managed to get past it without touching it (and got a red alien down and right to keep the rope from touching it), got a temporary anchor in 30' higher. Barry came up second and with one finger launched the sucker, which free-fell onto the ramp and exploded into his former belay position. We cleaned the route up pretty well, but it still earns its name: 'Creaky Hollow Fracture Show.'

Funny thing is last summer I found a granite copy of the same flake perched in the same position (you wouldn't believe how little is keeping it on the wall), but this time way bigger - about 5' wide at the base, and 15' tall, and at the top of a 7-pitch climb (luckily quite a ways off to the side). Sure is tempting to go trundling...

Trad climber
Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 18, 2005 - 04:42pm PT
My "most scared for my partner" moment and "largest trundle" came on the same route: Earth Angel in Sedona.

The second pitch of Earth Angel is a long 5.7 chimney with crap rock in the back. I was seconding, touched the wrong block, and launched a TV sized block for the deck. It sounded like half the formation was coming down.

A few hours later on the fifth pitch, Jon is again leading. For those who have not enjoyed Earth Angel the fifth pitch climbs past a bolt and then a manky pin up to a belay. After clipping the pin Jon got way off route (due to bad/forgetful beta) and was at least 40ft out when he started to realize the error he had made. Faced with horrible slab moves or downclimbing what he thought was unreversable made this a quite the clenched up moment. After hanging on there for what seemed like forever Jon managed to downclimb and traverse back onto the route.

With all that said I highly recommend the route. It is an all day adventure and well worth the hike in.
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