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A little humbling...

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by hank moon, Jun 7, 2016.

  1. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

    Thanks to Kirk Belles (author) for permission to post this here ( originally posted on FB SoCal Canyoneering group).


    Hello, this is a little humbling. 10* years of canyons and I cut a rope last weekend in an easy canyon because I was too lazy to correct a potential problem. I got an ego boost in retrieving another stuck rope later in the same canyon, but was a little spooked in the process. Read on, and try not to judge too harshly.


    Monkeyface last Saturday saw two stuck ropes, one by me, the other by another in our group.

    I stuck mine at the top of the wet corridor with the chockstone bolt station inside it. I went down last and knew I had the rope on the riskier side, but thought I could flip it over from the bolts at the chockstone halfway. I found I could not. I then pulled most of my rope and somehow got the tip stuck above (not surprising). At that point there was no way to ascend it safely. So I cut it and lost about 20'-30'. I had been careless - I knew it was not on the best side and could see a risky pinch as I descended by, and chose not to remedy it immediately. I also chose not to ascend and fix it when I could not flip it into a better position. My bad.

    The other "stick" was at the platform just below the corridor, 3rd from the last. I was doing a roly-poly with the group, giving everyone a chance to set anchors and retrieve/pull. The LAPAR made 2 errors: (1) did not do a test pull with the second to last before descending (the rules of the day was every rap gets a test pull with second to last person) and (2) selected a path to minimize penduluming without bothering to consider the rope pull. LAPAR in this case had, unbeknownst to me, been rattled earlier having seen another in our group pendulum and crash into the wall. Understandably, LAPAR chose a route with an easier entry.

    However, what should have been a very easy rope pull from the bottom was completely impossible with the pull side extended, body ascender attached, and my full weight and thigh muscles applied. Didn't budge a fraction. So I ascended the 90' waterfall with a bum knee and ankle.

    By the time I got below the chockstone I experienced cramps in my legs and arms, had run out of energy quicker due to the cold water (no wetsuit, just rain jacket and pants) and was a bit fearful of the rope being cut: I knew it was jammed tight in the crack west of the chockstone, and as I got closer saw that the rocks jamming the rope were not smooth. Since the chockstone was above my head, it prevented a direct ascent up and over, and when I initially pulled the rope out from the crack (angling more horizontally) the rope and rocks creaked in the crack and reminded me of my 240 pounds and that tensioned lines are easily cut. I could not see the sharpness of the rocks back in the crack and worried that I might be sawing myself. After trying a few different things with ascenders and footloops, I sucked it up and climbed over using footholds on the wall, which I should have done from the beginning.

    At the top I found the rap rope buried in a rocky crack underneath a piece of wood the same diameter as the rope. The rope had pushed into the wood and past it to be buried 1/2" below the surface for a length of about 4-5" as well as jammed in the crack. No amount of flipping from below could have possibly freed it. I was a little cramped in arms and legs, pretty much depleted, and chilled and struck by bouts of uncontrolled shivering. I let the bottom know I was taking some time to rest and warmed up in the sun for about 5-10 minutes before moving the rap rope out of the crack, directing it over the chockstone, and heading back down.

    Lessons learned for myself:

    1) If there is a better way to lay the ropes at the top, do it before the pull, even if it requires ascending from the bottom first.
    2) Look for climbing possibilities immediately when ascending an overhang.
    3) Fatigue and chill inhibits good decisions. I was cramped and tired from ascending the wet 90' and habituated to no footing at all for 80' of a slippery wall as I arrived near the top. My thinking initially was muddled and I did not "see" the marginal but dry and workable surfaces right beside me at the chockstone.
    4) For any distance, ya can't beat a croll. I'd used a micro traxion with a carabiner redirect for the tail to go up, and it was slower and harder than needed.
    5) Waterfalls can chill you quickly, even with just a trickle.

    Overall, it was a success, but not a pretty success. I'd ascended each of components of this ascent before, and some of them combined, but not all together as a bonus package!

    - 90' vertical up
    - escape a large chockstone
    - use a traxion and biner redirect for the belly ascender
    - ascend a slippery waterfall
    - ascend while wet and cold
    - ascend with soft tissue injuries to knee and ankle

    Hope that tickles some of you to make better decisions in the future. It did that for me. :)

    *edited 15 years to 10 years. Don't know where 15 came from....
    Ram, Rapterman, ratagonia and 2 others like this.
  2. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

    Indeed, lots of lessons learned. Appreciate the candor and posting up your experiences.

    For me, I also learned from cold experience that a waterfall will kill you. Not only do your senses go numb, but your critical decision process as well. That is where mistakes most likely will happen.

    Also, I was in Water Canyon a week or so ago, and amazed at how poorly people rigged their pulls. Unnecessary grooving as I watched the rope mercilessly grind through on top of each other. Keep the ropes separate. Triple check. And almost always test your pull and fix the issues before you commit. I've come close once, but as yet never had a rope stuck. Knock on wood... I'm sure my time will come. However, will keep diligent on preventing grooves and sticks. Derives from one of our community canyoneer core values.

    Great write-up.
    Ram, ratagonia and Rapterman like this.
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