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Accident avoidance or backseat driver?

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by Kuenn, Feb 13, 2017.

  1. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    The rhetorical question: Are your sure you want to do it like that?
    The statement: I wouldn't do it that way.
    Bold and insolent: You're doing that wrong!

    The Situation
    Still bouncing this one around in my head and it's quite the quandary. Was invited to join a trip last week where I knew only 1 out of 10 in the group (may seem unimportant but I believe it has bearing). Well into the trip we were doing some stemming (butt and feet), fairly wide canyon-like passage (borderline sketchy, for short legs) - a 25-30' penalty.

    The guy in front (who was also the designated trip leader) was struggling. First indication, he was failing to fully commit himself - butt too high - using the toe of his boots - very little or no bend in knees. I was toying with saying something when... he fell! It was a hard, ricocheting fall. Fortunately he was able to catch/wedge himself about 18 feet down.

    Adrenaline pumping, he quickly claimed to be okay, nothing felt out of place. (I'm sure he felt it good the next day, though.)

    So, what should I have done? I'm confident, had instruction been offered far enough in advance, it would have prevented the fall.

    On pickup trips, does it make a difference how well you know the individual? Should it?

    Say something when bad technique is first observed? (Backseat driver label)

    By speaking out (and especially if the accident still occurs) am I now somehow culpable? (We're talking seconds/half-seconds here.)


    Those with guiding experience, what are you instructed to do in similar circumstances?
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  2. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Not allow yourself to get into that situation, though I have done so once on a guided trip, where it could have been serious. I made a mistake.

    But that starts with being 100% responsible for the full trip, which was not your status, and therefore not helpful.

    (Incidentally, a small point of nomenclature. Chimneying is when you have your back and butt on one side, and your feet on the other. Stemming is when you have one foot on each side. Although either term can be and is used as a general term for climbing a wide crack off the deck.)

    Tom
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  3. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    I think you can offer a suggestion politely, then, take it from there how they respond.

    Tough row to hoe...

    "Could I make a suggestion...looks like you're stuggling a bit...here's something you could try..."
  4. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    What if you stem in a chimney?

    http://www.zionadventures.com/ZBlog/canyoneering/stemming-an-essential-canyoneering-technique/

    I guess you didn't explain the nomenclature for the above?

    Ha ha.
  5. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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  6. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    This, though it is easier said than done.
  7. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Agree.

    Having experienced, and witnessed, the results of offering suggestions (even when given civilly) the responses ranged from being ignored to cussed. Which honestly doesn't bother me... if you do this stuff long enough you'll be the recipient on a few occasions too. Sometimes deserved, sometimes not.

    What bothered me more in this instance was the thought that offering a pointer could make me culpable. Shameful, but true.
  8. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Its a balancing act, for sure.

    Many climbers resent what's referred to as "unsolicited beta spray". Figuring out something is part of the fun for some folks. So, that, balanced against when you see something that's just plain unsafe. Unfinished knot. A biner unclipped that shouldn't be. Or...someone who's not moving well and looks shaky.

    Tough call. I've heard more than once, "let's get out of here before we have to help with the rescue".

    I've watched a couple of people fall and get hurt (broken bones). Sometimes we all learn the hard way.

    I try to offer a helpful pointer, or, ask if they'd like a helpful pointer. Just depends on how receptive they are. Wouldn't want to distract someone who's in the heat of battle, either.

    Funny...was watching a pretty well known climber who was trying to onsite a bit of a test piece route (Crack of Doom at the City of Rocks). There's a fixed pin on the route that's clippable from the ground with a stick clip. That info was offered by the climber's girlfriend, who, angrily responded that he didn't need "a f'ing stick clip". He made the moves...had he not, he'd risked injury for sure. Good entertainment!

    Guess I'd feel better making even a mild attempt than watching a train wreck.
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  9. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Yeah, I often call the dog by the cat's name...he still comes though. It was much simpler back in the day when any scrambling vertically was called chimneying and horizontally was called traversing.

    Two points here:
    "Not allow yourself to get into that situation" - Not sure how you do that without being very exclusive. I enjoy new company and all the side benefits that come with that. Sure there are negatives, but by and large they are out weighed by the pluses.

    "being 100% responsible for the full trip" - Don't want that either. Younger folks need the opportunity to lead out and experience the "fun" of leadership. On this trip there were at least two (possibly more) of us that were "better skilled/qualified" than the trip leader - but I'm not always in favor of that being the anointing process for said designee (depends a lot on difficulty/risk/et al factors). YMMV
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2017
  10. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Guiding and being a capable person on a private trip have two very different duties of care. (Thus I do not think this applies to this situation).

    In a guiding situation, I choose the canyon, one I am very, very familiar with, to fit the clients. Make choices in the canyon depending on how the clients are doing. It is considered important to challenge the clients (out of their comfort zone, usually pretty easy to achieve) without actually putting them at risk. Guides also benefit from being an authority figure, such that when you tell clients to do something, they do it. Clients are almost always new company.

    T
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  11. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    On my personal trips, trips other than with the 'A' Team, those with the least experience are encouraged to do most of the work. Make decisions. Make choices. Experience the consequences of those choices except when they put themselves or others in danger (or risk getting the rope stuck, etc.). So, YES, let the 'younger folks' have the opportunity to lead out and experience the fun of leadership. But I am ALWAYS 100% responsible for the full trip (because I choose to hold that responsibility. And because I'm the Emperor).

    :moses:
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  12. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Ah, as it should be!
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2017
  13. DanielleM

    DanielleM

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  14. DanielleM

    DanielleM

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  15. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Reminds me of my trip through Sandthrax at FreezeFest. I think there were 10 of us, only one of whom I had canyoneered with before. Several people had done the canyon before, but they were all unknowns to me. Luckily, the group turned out to be exceptionally talented. A broken leg early on when someone came in a little hot down an elevator. Later on, one person struggled a bit, but came through without a fall. One of the experienced members of the party put himself next to that person and offered quite a few helpful suggestions that perhaps made the difference.

    Private group or not, known to you or not, if you're in there with them you're ethically obligated to assist with the rescue so I think helping however you can is good for both you and them. You can do lots of little subtle things to make things a little safer - Helping with captures, fireman belays, demonstrating technique, checking knots and rigging, occasional suggestion made in a courteous way etc.
    zul and Kuenn like this.
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