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Accident in Hot Springs Canyon CA

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by W.B., Mar 18, 2018.

  1. W.B.

    W.B.

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    https://www.ocregister.com/2018/03/...riverside-orange-county-border/#disqus_thread

    This likely occurred in Hot Springs Canyon downstream a couple of hours from Blue Jay Campground as it is the only drop I know of in the area of any significant size. This is a fairly remote area and when I was last in the area about 20 years ago there was no use trail for the last hour of approach to the large drop where the accident presumably occurred. The bolted anchor I assume they were using is on a rounded off rock outcropping at the brink of the drop. The rock here is slick and slippery and rounded off towards the drop.

    Be careful out there.
    hank moon likes this.
  2. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    The accident was with canyoneers in Salamander canyon. Once the involved party makes an official announcement, more details of the accident can be made available.
  3. W.B.

    W.B.

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    Apparently people are now calling Hot Springs Canyon Salamander Canyon.
  4. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    Ah, such problems we canyoneers cause ourselves with canyon naming. SAR has no love affair with our naming as well!! My preference is to use the name that shows up on standard maps. But who am I?? http://ropewiki.com/Salamander_Canyon
  5. DanielleM

    DanielleM

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    It is with great sorrow that I humbly offer this incident report:

    An accident resulting in fatality occurred on Saturday March 17, 2018 in Salamander Canyon (Hot Spring Canyon), Cleveland National Forest, in Southern California. Two experienced canyoneers, Joy Welling and Casey Petersen set out to run the canyon together. 3.5 hours and 2.5 miles into the canyon, they reached Tanriverdi falls. This is the information provided by Casey:

    “Using two, 200-foot ropes, we used Joy’s Imlay Canyon Fire rope, pulled about ten feet of a tail and used a figure 8 block.”

    Casey did not put a twist in the figure 8 block, nor did they secure the small hole of the 8 with a carabiner.

    “I slid the quick link away from the edge, pulled away from the webbing with all my weight against the figure 8 block and it was secure. Looking back at Joy, we both agreed and I threw the bag over. When Joy transitioned on Rappel, I watched and talked with her for the first 15-20 feet of her decent until I could not see her. I then walked away to grab my 200 ft rope to attach to the tail as a pull.”

    Casey explained his rope was near his pack which was 20 feet away from anchor. Note that the anchor is a large boulder knuckle of granite set on the edge of a 160 – foot waterfall. It is wrapped with two strands of 1 inch tubular webbing (not bolts).

    “She was on Rappel for at least a minute or 2. At which point, I heard a clink and looked over and saw the rest of her rope go over the edge and heard her hit. My guess was that while shifting on the face of the falls, the 8 may have been caught on part of the rock, somehow releasing the 8. I have used this block technique and never seen it fail. I yelled for her, no response. I looked over the edge and could not see her. I checked to see if I had service, although it was slight I was able to call 911 knowing I would not have any service at the bottom of the falls. I spoke with dispatch and was able to quickly describe my position in relative to the mountain range and my coordinates, then lost signal.”

    “I went back to the ledge where I was able to clip into the webbing and lean over as far as I could where I saw her lying in the pool face down, unresponsive, no movement. Every minute I kept looking at her and she never once moved.”

    At this point she had been in the very shallow pool at the bottom for over 5 minutes. Casey called back numerous times, connecting with both dispatch and pilots to relay his position. He knew too much time had passed. He was concerned about rappelling down, losing cell signal and being unable to signal to the rescue team. The 911 operator agreed he remain in place.

    “It was so hard to listen to the instructions of the fire department and not go down to try to help her.”

    A Sherriff helicopter arrived and hovered for a few minutes then left, so Casey called 911 again and was informed they were assessing the situation and were sending another helicopter, fire rescue, to assist with retrieving Joy. A second helicopter arrived, and rescue personal were able to move them both out of the canyon.

    ”During my interviewing process the rescue team retrieved the anchor webbing and rope Joy used. While they were loading it up, I asked to inspected the last 20ft where the block was put and saw no abnormalities. The figure 8 was never retrieved. Joy’s position relative to the length of rope was never documented; the distance of her fall could not be determined.”

    “A sincere thank you to everyone involved with the rescue. Joy had a positive impact on everyone she met and will be missed.”

    This incident is also still under investigation. Below is a photo that Casey's GoPro camera took of the anchor and block before it was used.
    29386726_10157098944397656_8984222201909608448_o.
  6. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    For years I have used a figure eight contingency block. I felt confident it was secure. But then Benjamin Pelletier made a video that clearly revealed potential problems with it releasing under load. Since then I have altered how I tie the device. If I have not connected the retrieval line, I often tie a figure eight on a bite on the end of the rappel rope. On big walls I may even clip the end of the rope into the anchor. Here is a great write-up from Benjamin: http://ropewiki.com/Figure_8_block. I found it useful to view the videos listed.


    In this accident, it is possible the tail of the rope slipped through the figure eight due to weighting/unweighting. Or perhaps it did get pushed up against the rock, allowing the relationship between the rapide and figure eight to change, releasing the rope.


    Hopefully we can all learn from this tragedy and modify our rigging practices.


    Joy will be missed in the canyoneering community. Such a loss.
    Rapterman and Kuenn like this.
  7. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    Casey reports that the rope was Imlay Canyon Fire in new-ist condition. The figure eight was a Fusion Aluminum Eight.

    Attached Files:

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  8. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Difficult to read. A very sad loss to process. My heart goes out to her partner and loved ones.
    AW~ and Rapterman like this.
  9. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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  10. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    I had not heard of Fusion gear before today. What would be interesting is to obtain the same figure eight and some slightly used Canyon Fire rope and see how it behaves compared to other rope and devices.

    My general impression is that a typical canyoneer becomes accustomed to building a system with a particular rope and device. It works well for him/her. over many iterations. But then bring in a different rope and/or device and that same system no longer functions quite so well. Did that happen in this accident? We will never know.

    In my backyard I have demonstrated this many times with different carabiners, rap devices, rope, cord, webbing, etc. One important lesson from backyard testing is the difference different equipment makes. It has taken a lot of trial and error to see those differences. I first started using this type of gear in 1970. I believe I still have a lot of learning ahead.
    Brian in SLC likes this.
  11. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    I've seen their stuff a fair bit, mostly at the OR show when it was here in SLC or at a gig in So. Cal. Knew one of the reps. Never had an issue with it. I think I've bought and placed a few of their bolt hangers (the "cabal" if I remember correctly).

    Ditto that!

    Probably not the time or place to critique, although folks are pickin' at it a bit...so...

    With only a few feet of tail, why rig continency? If contingency was needed, then, why not attach the second rope under the rapide and rap below the connection?

    I've seen and used a figure eight for contingency a few times. I like how quick it is and how smooth a lower is. As well, for slipping a rope in an area with sharp rock. But, isn't a bite of rope clipped to the anchor a standard finish for these type of blocks?

    So sorry to hear about this. Condolences to friends and family.
  12. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    [/QUOTE] Probably not the time or place to critique, although folks are pickin' at it a bit...so...

    With only a few feet of tail, why rig continency? If contingency was needed, then, why not attach the second rope under the rapide and rap below the connection?[/QUOTE]
    I can only assume what happened. They were accustomed to using a figure eight as a block. This was not a contingency anchor situation. So it was not needed here. But nevertheless, it is a block. A carabiner block or joining the two ropes together would form a more traditional block. They tested it. It held. But ultimately failed.

    One thing this points out is that testing a system by pulling on it is much different than hanging on it. I have similarly tested systems the same way many times. Lucky the systems I tested did not fail.

    Ever since I watched the video by Benjamin Pelletier demonstrating how rope can slip through a figure eight block, I secure the retrieval side somehow. There are lots of ways to do so. A catastrophy knot upstream of the figure eight is enough. More commonly in Europe I have seen mule knots and canyon quickdraws used. Americans have been using a figure eight contingency for many years now. However perhaps the statistical bell curve of possible outcomes is now catching up with us.
  13. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Yep, head down, in the thick of it. In the arena.

    A reminder to try to step out and think about the necessity of certain systems and/or rigging. When your in the heat of battle, so to speak, it can be tough.

    Sad day.
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  14. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    The particular figure 8 may not have been a factor, but Fusion (Chinese company) has LIED about their rated
    strengths and certifications in past years so I do not trust ANY of their equipment.
    I have noticed when rigging 8-blocks that some fig-8s with big fat round cross sections seem to be less secure than
    say, the black diamond 8.
    That said, there are several ways to rig the 8-block, some more secure than others.
    Desi and I always safety off the 8-block, and never leave an un-rigged tail if two ropes are required for a
    contingency.
    If we are just blocking (no contingency) then we use a carabiner block (but NOT with a Fusion biner!).
    Sonny Lawrence likes this.
  15. townsend

    townsend

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    I always get a sick feeling when reading these accident reports. So sorry to hear of this misfortune.

    Rigging for contingency using an "8" has a degree of complexity to it. Sure, as Brian said, it's easy to convert and have a smooth lower, and a necessary precaution when one does not know how long the rappel is.

    I'm just questioning using it every time, as if using it is the "safest" practice. So often we know how long the rappel is. I'd say in those many instances, leave it in the tool box. Keep it simple -- e.g. carabiner block with a constrictor knot, etc.
    Rapterman and Sonny Lawrence like this.
  16. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I'm usually on the don't-use-a-contingency-unless-there-is-a-good-reason page, and certainly I rarely use a contingency unless there is a compelling reason to do so (in Utah's A and B canyons). BUT. There are lots of ways to skin this cat, and I don't think "don't use X method" is a very smart take-away from this incident.

    What I see (as a take-away) from this is - "do a thorough job"... by which I mean, their rigging method was Okay, except for a few things that were not okay. At a minimum, put a twist in the Fig8 contingency block, and add a biner to the small hole to make it bigger. I also usually tie or clip the tail end of the rope (if not tied to another rope, and sometimes even then) to the anchor. What could it hurt?

    It helps that I am paranoid, and convinced that I will bite it on some stupid little rappel. Complacency is a major enemy. This is a stupid sport, and we need to be smarter than the canyon we pass through. Every drop, every day, every time.

    Tom
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2018
  17. Andrew J Farrow

    Andrew J Farrow

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    my " guide " to the issue is :

    when i look at a rigging problem - and get my " awesome plan " in my head .

    i just stop and ask my self - " why am i doing that " ?

    and actually answer [ sometimes out loud ] - that can bemuse people :p

    and when i has finished - the next question is :

    could i have done it better ? [ once you have done plan A - its only then that plan B actusally makes more sense ]


    and if happi with both answers - proceed

    and of course for Q2 - the key point is I - not some theoretical " someone " with different kit and abilities - what ever i "`want " to do - i has to actuallly achieve it - with the gear carried

    but that always - invites the option - step back - admit i cannot do a satisfactory solution - and let someone else lead [ dont ask what i do if they do a worse job than me :p ]
    Rapterman and ratagonia like this.
  18. Preston Gable

    Preston Gable

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    Completely agree, and I'm a paranoid pessimist. The problem solving of trying to make this stupid sport safe is one of the most enjoyable parts to me. I always rig contingency to build muscle memory form the habit, always putting a twist and securing the tail. Unless off the fiddle or sandtrap, but I also like to top rope belay the first person, especially on the fiddle or sandtrap.
    Sonny Lawrence likes this.
  19. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    It only adds a few seconds, but the risk/reward benefits are H-U-G-E!

    Quote worth RE-QUOTING!!

    The Emperor has spoken. We should all be so paranoid...and wise!
    Rapterman likes this.
  20. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    This was posted by Casey on Facebook.

    I would like to thank everyone for all of the support and concern for joy. It means a great deal to me to see everyone discuss what happened in a positive and productive Manor. It breaks my heart knowing that this accident cost someone a daughter, a girlfriend, a relative, or a friend. Joy was a bright and cheerful person and every Rappel was rigged the same way by either one of us that day and each anchor was thoroughly checked and inspected.
    For those of you asking why weren't other precautions taken? I regret to say because this technique had been the best easiest and most versatile method that I personally used thousands of times in many different situations with no issue before this sad day. I, along with many of you, am sad, hurt, upset, frustrated, and angry about this incident. In my experience, I would not get on Rappel without inspecting, and insuring that my set up was up to my own standards. Joy and I agreed that day on everything and if any part of that day could be changed I would. Again thank you all for your constructive inputs and ideals to make sure that this never happens again. It is hard to sit back and read these discussions without saying my peace. Joy will be greatly missed.
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