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Captain...or Skully

Social climber
way, WAY out there....(OMG)
Jul 21, 2009 - 12:55am PT
Thanks for re-visiting that, Reilly.....sounds terrifying!!
Sheesh, the things we do, & live through, huh?

Trad climber
One Step Beyond!
Jul 21, 2009 - 12:58am PT
Said a fair bit there, Aye

Jul 21, 2009 - 01:00am PT
1984, we're 16. Nuff said. My friend and I climb Mt Pilchuck north of Everett, Wa. and come to the lookout at the top. Mostly we marvel at the incredible cliff below us fantasizing how great it would be to repel the sucker. Being experts, having repelled out of several trees in his yard, we figure we could do it with the right equipment.

We head down and that night we're rummaging through my dads garage where we find a spool of nylon anchor rope he uses for our boat. Says 300 feet on the spool so we figure that's almost enough. Rick pipes up that the telephone repair guys left a really long rope at his house when they were fixing the lines. We lay it out and figure that its gotta be around 150' or so, maybe more. Should be enough if we tie 'em together.

A Week or so later we head back up said mountain. We get to top, tie the two together with about 10 overhand knots - We've never heard of a figure-eight. We throw the rope over and watch it get hung up around halfway down. Hmmmm... wonder if its long enough. Gotta be. I take out my 10' piece of nylon rope I've successfully used as a swami in all those trees and harness up. Its only then that we start wondering about that knot tying the two ropes together. How we gonna get it through the biners we were using to repel. We come to the obvious conclusion that there must certainly be a ledge somewhere down there on that blank cliff face that we can stand on, unclip from the rope and then reclip below the knot. There must be.

The repel started out fairly well, just like all those 30' trees, but after around 50' or so I noticed that nylon rope stretches. A lot. About 250' down I come to where the rope is hung up and I throw it out and away, curious to see if it will reach the bottom. It didn't, but it did reach what looked to be the start of some steep talus so I figure no big deal. Did I mention we never even thought of tying a knot in the end?

Now the miraculous thing here is that there WAS a ledge and when I got there the knot was only about 10' below me and with the rope stretch it slid back up until it jammed into the biners. After much wrestling to unclip from the still tight rope I finally freed myself and watched the rope spring back up 20' or 30' feet. I cheerfully yelled up to Rick to come on down as I stood on a 12" ledge just big enough to hold two people. Down Rick came and the knot went down below me again. Rick arrived at the ledge and after the same struggle freed himself from the rope and then clipped into the lineman's (hemp?) rope. 60 seconds had passed so of course, being 16, we had forgot all about the rope stretch. He stepped off backward and proceeded to fall around 30' or so, back-peddling for all he was worth until the rope caught him. How he remembered to not let go of his brake hand I'll never know. He repelled off the end of the rope ended just as he reached the start of the talus and he was able to stop sliding after only 50' feet or so. Forewarned I did a much better job of anticipating the sudden drop and I only slid 30' or so in the talus.

I always was the better climber.

Trad climber
Jul 21, 2009 - 01:01am PT
Garden of the Gods. 1976. I was true n00b. My friend and I were doing some 5.7 climb and finished rapping off, leaving the rope through the fixed pins. This was BITD when we were hip belaying and rapping on 6 carabiner brakes.

So along comes Bryan Becker and his entrougue. He hustles his way on to the loose end of our rope to top rope a route next to the 5.7 I'd just finished. So one of his friends sees that I'm giving him a hip belay. Said friend then clips a stitch plate onto my swami and pulls the rope off my hips and threads the rope through the plate. Problem was it was not a swami, it was my chalk bag belt fastened with a simple overhand knott.

So I'm sitting in the dirt, watching Bryan climb, knowing that if he falls the chalk bag belt will rapidly disintgrate. As everyone had all eyes on Mr. Becker, I unclipped from the stitch plate and reinstated the hip belay.

Bryan reached the anchors and asked to be lowered. I wore the rope burn for years.
Hard Rock

Trad climber
Jul 21, 2009 - 10:02am PT
Tetons - mid 70's - South Buttress Right.

On the way down got our rope stuck. It was dark but August so we could bivy. This made it one quart of water for 24 hours but it wasn't to bad. Free the rope the next morning and continued down. Coming down to the last rap couldn't find a anchor. Used a good size boulder with a 20 degree slope on the top and a 1 inch sling. We both rap real slow and easy - got to the ground - flipped the rope and got the anchor back.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jul 21, 2009 - 12:06pm PT
This thread has a place for everyone. I suppose it could be narrowed if it were titled "Dumbest thing ever done while climbing." This might qualify for both:

I posted this story a few years ago:

I talked TM Herbert into following me over to DAFF dome to try a new line between Crescent Crack and West Crack. It must have been 1975 or '76. We both guided and would sneak in climbing when we could. I had lots of free time when I was in the Meadows, but TM was there with Jan and boys, so he had less time for non-work climbing.

I started at the base of Crescent Crack and traversed up and left out onto the steep face towards West Crack, skated around on loose micro-chips, dinked in a bolt for protection, and got to the straight in cracks, quite a ways off the ground. Except for the chip skating, the pitch was pretty good.

The next pitch had to pass an overhanging bulge. There looked to be cracks that would go, up and around to the left.

But, it was the Meadows, the summers were endless, so we bailed.

The next year, we decided to go back with Kauk. TM took my lead from the previous year and then belayed me up. We ended on the giant horizontal groove--not a ledge--but low enough angle so that you can sit or stand on the giant knobs. TM kept the belay, and Ron started up.

I un-roped and climbed round the corner to scope the next pitch. I returned and stood next to TM on one leg on a giant knob, chatting. I could banter with TM all day long. Trying to make each other laugh, telling tale tales, no pretense of importance. The weather was beautiful in that special Tuolumne way.

Also we knew that we were well prepared to belay Ron, and he could get us up the steep next pitch if anyone could. Hey, come on, what are friends for?

Mid sentence, the knob I was standing on broke off, and I was in the air, about 200 feet off the ground.

(Side note: Ron used to do this little mime where he would hold his hair straight up above his head as if he were falling and make a whistling wind sound. Captured the moment perfectly as I was shooting down.)

I lunged for the loop of TM's tie in. I was at full extension and my fingers barely got around the loop.

Just as my fingers grabbed the rope, TM's hand slammed around my wrist like some kind of a sprung trap.

I stopped abruptly, arm elongated, legs flapping in the breeze, whistling noise trailing off, hair settling back down on to my head.

TM had caught me with one hand.

Ron was mid-pitch. When he got the belay, we rapped off.

I never went back. Ron and TM did the climb later. They named it Black Bart.

A long way from where I started
Jul 21, 2009 - 02:01pm PT
Most of my real stupidity has been on (or flying off) my bicycle. But I've been around when some fairly dumb things happened on climbs, though. And most of them involve our pal Tami.

The best of them had to be when we made the first winter ascent of Yak Peak, about 100 km NE of Vancouver. I wanted to spend the day climbing ice. Tami hated ice climbing, but agreed to come anyway. Fortunately for her, we never did see the incredible ice lines that were supposedly waiting to be climbed in that area, and rather than waste the day we decided to climb Yak. The main southeast face overlooks the highway. Lots of rock routes on good granite, up to about 15 pitches.

Steep granite slabs partially covered in powder snow wasn't really on our list of things to do that day, so we headed up the left side of the face to the col as shown in the summer photo below.

It was a gorgeous sunny day in early February, colder than a witch's tit, but calm and beautiful. So we chugged up to the col where we were met by a screaming windstorm blasting in from the north. We put on fleece layers, windsuits, goggles, and scarves, and angled up and right, staying below the ridge whenever we could to avoid the wind, then angling over to the base of the headwall.

The headwall is mostly fourth-class in summer, but has a lot of short steep ice steps in winter. So we put on our crampons and got out the second tools. We debated roping up, but it was so incredibly cold and windy that we were unwilling to sit around and belay, and decided just to solo to the summit. Most of the little steps were just one or two moves and the ice seemed good, so we weren't too worried.

And then, about ten feet up a fifteen-foot ice runnel, Tami popped a crampon off her boot.

I had the rope, but was below her, so couldn't do anything other than offer to try to get a screw in then climb up and tie the rope onto her. But she decided she could sort things out on her own.

Looking back twenty years later it's pretty funny to picture her hanging there by one tool in a Force 8 gale while trying to re-attach her crampon (it was dangling from the ankle strap) with one hand, with her goggles constantly fogging, her scarf getting in the way of both breathing and seeing, all while looking at a 2,000-foot screamer if the tool popped. There was some serious cursing.

I offered to come up and deal with the crampon from below while she hung off two tools, but she just said "Nah, this f*#kin' thing comes off all the time. I'm used to it."

Since she posts here, y'all know that she must have managed to get the crampon back on and finish the climb, but at the time it seemed kind of serious.

Sport climber
topanga, ca
Jul 21, 2009 - 02:19pm PT
I still get sweaty palms from an experience I had on my first trip to Tuolumne in 88. We were doing 'On the Lamb' and I had not yet gotten it into my head that thunderstorms come in real quick in the pm.

I met my second for the first time earlier that day ('say you wanna do on the lamb - I can lead 5.11?'). We started the route and got a couple of pitches in and he began to freak out. The rain began to fall and he promptly left a bunch of my gear in the route and stood with me at one of the stances being all freaky. We were soaking and water was running down the face all around. Lightning and thnder started and the storm got really fierce and I began to get real cold - the weather and this guy are really killing my buzz.

I put a couple of wires in opposition in the horizontal crack and lower him off to a ledge system some ways below. At least now I'm just wet - My new partner is 120 feet below and out of immediate ear shot. Now its my turn. I fully weight the wires for the first time and about 10 feet below the stance and ... CHUNK ... they shift together. In that split second for real I thought I was a gonner. ... but they stopped and I covered that remaining hundred or so feet in no time at all.

I ran into the guy again later in the valley. He had found someone else of a similar disposition and was headed up Washington column armed with a 5 day supply of sardines. They has a sardine smelling epic.

In retrospect the wires in opposition were dumb - I should have sacrificed a bunch more gear, a friend even and perhaps I should have tried something a little more mellow with a total stranger, and better yet read the weather report that morning.

Jul 21, 2009 - 02:25pm PT
"Dumbest thing I've ever done while climbing?' Ummm, which time?

My wife & I were taking her father on a quick tour of JT, and swung by Real Hidden Valley for a walk and a climbing demo- we went out to Thin Wall, and it was real busy- several people/colleagues that I knew, and a couple of large groups. I ran up top, set up a TR on No Calculators Allowed, and ran back down. Distracted by discussions and my father-in-law's watchful eyes, I tied in and climbed. Upon topping out, a friend was there and as we chatted, pointed down and said, 'dude, you really ought to tie in properly'- I had only tied into my leg loops.

Though I felt pretty stooopid, I took it as a message from somewhere that maybe I'm becoming too complacent, and need to focus on the basics. It was an especially meaningful lesson as the person who I topped out in front of is a colleague I have great respect for...
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jul 21, 2009 - 05:52pm PT
Yeah, tell me about it. I would have been dead and really bummed.

I remember the feeling in my wrist. No uncertainty that my hand, at the least, was staying on the ledge. TM was really strong, and fast.

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Jul 21, 2009 - 07:29pm PT
Not only did I Hit myself in the leg trying to KILL a black fly, I did it a bunch of times. at least once for a moscito that was full of my fresh squeezed blood. Hit drill 3 times while turning repete for 6 cycles then swing hammer at NASTY insects, then hit drill again....... repete..

Trad climber
Calgary, Alberta
Jul 21, 2009 - 07:56pm PT
Climbed a route in Scotland called Zig Zag on Creag Meagaidh in winter back in 1986 or something. Not a serious route. We were a party of three and were following two slower climbers. Topped out in a blizzard at about 6:00pm. I had taken a rough compass bearing in the light for the walk along the ridge to a col called The Window. Unroped and had to swap sides with one of the guys as he took a more careful bearing. Took two paces forward and I went straight through a cornice. We failed to notice the edge cut back in at this point. Down I go at a hell of a pace on the upper snow slope, over a ~30ft crag, onto another snow slope and then decide I had better take action, and fast. Ice axe brake with as much power I could put over the head. Stopped with feet hanging over another crag. F**k how dumb can one be? Cursing myself all the names under the Sun and then some, I get my headlight out with spin drift trying to push me off. Turned on the head lamp which immediate diminishes to a pin of light sufficient to see arms length at the most and why not? Might as well make this really interesting. Shit! What now? Fortuately I had one of the two ropes. Traversed along the snow slope to a sort of corner full of small icicles. Slammed in an Warthog or was it a Snarg, I forget and rap/downclimb these icicles, over the next crag to the next snow slope. Dachsteins sliding as if the rope is coated in 5/30w oil. Tied off a clump of partially formed icicles and rap and down climb again. Same deal another couple of times to the point where my arms were screaming with down climbing overhanging crap ice. I then made a very cool, calm decision (well I thought so at the time. Actually it was make out of shear terror) that if this went on for another rope length I would jump off, canít be that far off the bottom and a long easy runout. I must have thought of Haston on the Cima Ovest after rapping in mist and eventually decide to rap off the ends of the rope. He was 10ft off the deck I believe, as the story goes! Just as I am about to jump off the weather clears somewhat to reveal I am indeed one snow slope away from the base. Saved! Well not really. Headlight now done. Weather closed in again as it can only do in Scotland and twice as bad. But wait, sh#t, the other two guys must think Iím dead! A hard, blind walk out in the pitch dark and cold thinking of the two other guys having to sit up there and mull over all night what to tell my family ďDumb sh#t walked through a cornice!Ē Yep thatís about right. Had a twelve foot high, precariously swaying deer fence to climb over as the last parting gift from that day.
Another eerie part to this story is that my usual partner would not go that day as he felt something was wrong. Yes indeed very wrong! The other two walked out safely the next day just in time for the pubs to open and so we all got pissed as newts to celebrate!
There is another hallowing part to this story which cites a number of other climbers involved in the so called search for our two guys. Later maybe.

Jul 21, 2009 - 08:03pm PT
^^^that is a fabulous story with a fabulous ending! cheers!

Trad climber
Jul 21, 2009 - 08:04pm PT
You mean, like, besides farting in front of my new girlfriend while busting a move on a strenuous, overhanging boulder? (We still got married...)

Trad climber
Jul 21, 2009 - 08:11pm PT
Oh yeah, and there was the time I was hand-drilling a bolt in a limestone face, when my hammer missed the drill and hit my ring finger instead - full bore. It broke off the end of that bone, and I passed out from the pain--twirling unconsciously for a time on the rope. Once I woke up, I drove home to tell my wife that I didn't feel so good. She drove me to the local hospital to have it X-rayed. Sure enough, it was busted clean off. Unfortunately, the only doc on duty was a pediatrician who couldn't seem to crawl out of his pediatric persona.

I sat in an exam room on a tiny little chair, looking around at wall paper that could only have been ordered from a pediatric exam room catalog. Lots of rainbows and cartoonish hippos, and the like. My wife was sitting on a tiny chair beside me while the doc explained to HER - not me - that, "The little man with the hammer is gonna visit Tom's finger tonight, and that's when you want to give him his pain killers..." I wanted to stand up and shout: "Dude, I'm like 30 years old! Talk to ME!" But then I thought, "If I do that, maybe I won't get a lollipop..." Score!!

Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
Jul 21, 2009 - 08:18pm PT
That would probably be running the rope through my soloist the wrong way, and not realizing it until I'd reached the anchor to set up the rap. I've possibly pulled the move twice. It would have been a lot less effort to have simply free soloed the route, as I hadn't tied back up knots.

Then there was the time I was bolting a new route and forgot the hammer. A fist sized size rock will do the trick, so long as you have a hilti to drill the holes. Then there was the time I plugged the hilti in the night before going out to bolt a new area, and not realizing I'd put it in the switched circuit. Turned the ligths, and charger out. This was discovered the next day after hiking back a good hour, and the drill quiting 1/2 way through the second bolt.

Off White

Tenino, WA
Jul 21, 2009 - 08:41pm PT
The first grade V I ever did was The Happy Hooker on Trono Blanco with BVB in 1978. Since I dropped one of my EB's in Watusi's driveway on the way out, Bob got all the harder free pitches and I got the one aid pitch - A3 small wires for my first ever aid lead. Took a large fall which rattled both our cages, and took forever finishing the pitch. From the top of the pitch there's a third class ramp we unroped for, and scooted up to the next pitch: a 5.8 ramp with no protection, diagonaling up over a jellyroll roof.

A little psyched out by the coming pitch, Bob takes a small bit of the rack and sets out. He finds he has nothing for the belay but the 1" tube gear sling I sewed on my mother's 1946 Sears Kenmore sewing machine, which he wraps around a small dead tree. Bear in mind we're now about 1200' off the canyon floor. On belay.

Since Bob left the rack behind, I wind up wearing the fish pack stuffed full with the bivy gear on my back, and a chouinard tear drop pack full of gear kangaroo style, climbing with one EB and one rotten burlap surfer shoe with my sock showing on the ball of the foot, following a pitch sure to drop me over the roof if I fell, which would then pull the belay and send us both for the big ride. I was a little bit cautious while climbing.

I join Bob successfully and put in a better belay. It's getting dark by this time at the end of day two, so Bob sprints up until he's out of rope. He sits on a slab ledge with a crack on the bottom, and shouts down that he got one #4 stopper in edgewise, and while he couldn't see it, it must be good since he couldn't get it out.

I follow the pitch, fortunately with only pack. In the gathering gloom I wound up on a slightly different line, with BVB off to my left and the rope hooked under a flake. I tugged the rope and discovered all my anxiety about the last pitch was misplaced: having failed to complete my figure 8 knot at the end of the 3rd class ramp, the rope came right out of my harness and I stood there on the precarious stance with half a knot in my left hand.

I quickly tied back in, down climbed a little, and got up to Bob's scant ledge where we waited for the moon to rise so we could do the last pitch, make the descent, and climb out the South Gully in the dark. Climbing amongst the deeply shadowed chasms between the huge boulders in the gully, we'd toss rocks into the pitch black depths to decide which way we should go. We had sleeping bags, we'd drunk from the scummy pools on top of the wall, but it seems like I had to be back in San Diego that night so I could leave on a trip the next day. Finally driving away in my old 4x4 truck with the defunct front driveshaft removed, I promptly made a wrong turn and sunk into the soft sand of a wash. Finally, this day was over.

I'd say that one trip contains the bulk of the stupidest things I've done while climbing.

Trad climber
Jul 21, 2009 - 08:55pm PT
Now THAT's a dumb day! ;-) But dumb days can make for the best stories!

Social climber
Truckee, CA
Jul 21, 2009 - 09:21pm PT
I've gotten away with some stupid things, but the last time I top-rope soloed and forgot to bring my brain along, I paid the price. While rapping down to the roof on the Hook (Donner), I utterly misjudged how much lateral potential energy I built up prior to the lip. In other words, I was going a lot further out from my anchor, not just down, which wouldn't be an issue except for the fact that the rope can run cleanly through the offwidth all the way back to the anchor. I got to the lip, tried to ease my way under, popped both feet, and in the process of slamming into the wall below, did this to my talus:

Surgery was a year ago yesterday.

Jul 21, 2009 - 09:48pm PT
in winter '77 eddie b and i spent 3 weeks in canon tajo, cragging between weather events so in order to view the big feature from all sides we decided to descend the gully on the south, and complete the survey on the last day after a bivy beneath it. before dawn we scooted in under a boulder due to rain, at daybreak the creek was rolling so we hastily crossed and stuffed our sacks on the correct side while it rose to an impassable level before our eyes.

the ascent of the north gully and back to camp was it's very own adventure. the houdini move of the day was high deluge bouldering avoided by threading a crooked tunnel pushing our packs ahead and birthing out onto a narrow ledge while pinning the pack off to the side. but we made it to camp. "critical" supplies were exhausted, snow abated but rain persisted, and henry barber was showing some slides that night in la jolla.

there is a section of the road which is one and the same with the wash and it cuts a bank about as tall as the tires. so i'd say entering a galloping sluice in a vw van was a "dubious" call and wouldn't have succeeded but that it was down stream and we could match rafting speed at high revs in first gear. the steam boiling out of the defroster forced me to drive with my head out the window to find the crucial exit point where slamming the sandy cutbank with enough uomph and at the proper angle in a one shot slam bam huckledy-buck...well that was all that saved us from careening downstream into a V notch affair that led to who knows where.

they say release of tension equals joy, and so it was in this case. as the heater tubes dried out, crud and debris danced like bingo balls in an aerial display above the defrosters. we didn't miss a meal and the show was painless. big whoop huh?
but it makes my point posted up thread that success obscures stupidity
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