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Accident in Hot Springs Canyon CA

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

  1. willie92708

    willie92708

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    First, my deepest condolences for Joy's friends and family

    I was in Eaton Canyon yesterday and was trying to explain what could happen if a figure 8 block did not have a carabiner or dog bone tie-off. At the first rappel, I decided to demonstrate it, since it's hard to explain in words. The anchor is a big tree with the webbing and Rapide suspended well off the ground, some 30 feet back from the drop. I rigged the stiff'ish 9mm canyon rope (not sure exact rope brand since it was not mine) though a large round-stock CMI figure 8 in the standard 2 wrap way, but with no tie-off. We loaded it right next to the tree (safe position, no way to fall down the drop) and it held bouncing weight with no slippage at all. Then we unloaded it, wiggled the rope around a bit, and the outer bight popped over the figure 8's small eye. Then we reloaded it and the bight pulled but caught before going through the large figure 8 eye, because the rope's stiffness. With a couple of bounces on the rope, the bight then pulled through the large eye, and the figure 8 block was then in lowering mode. Further weighting fed rope through as expected for lowering mode.
    Kevin, Rapterman and ratagonia like this.
  2. Rex Welshon

    Rex Welshon

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    Condolences to those close to Ms. Welling, including her partner.

    For some sober reflections on the need for and structural integrity of Figure 8 blocks, readers of this forum might find the Supertopo discussion of the Hot Springs Canyon incident illuminating. Go here: http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=3070900&tn=20 (Supertopo; Climber's Forum, "Rock Climber in California plunges 200 feet to her death" entry). Sprinkled among the climbers' insults of canyoneers and the canyoneers' insults of climbers are some reasoned analyses and thought-provoking contributions, some of them from the most skeptical about Figure 8 blocks. Worth the sifting, IMO.
    Sonny Lawrence likes this.
  3. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    ^^^Rough sledding. Fair warning. Have a thick skin!

    There's another thread too, as folks have tried to split off critiques of canyoneering techniques to protect the innocent.

    A quote from "rgold" made me laugh out loud (note that he's a very long time and experienced climber, as are a number on both threads):

    My sense is that canyoneers' devotion to leaving things as they are as much as possible is exponentially beyond climbers' never-ending inclination to modify their environment for their own convenience.

    That said, some of the methods canyoneers seem to have chosen to realize their entirely laudable goals seem glaringly suboptimal.
    ScottM, Rapterman, gajslk and 2 others like this.
  4. AW~

    AW~

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    There was only one guy on that thread who gets it..Sewellymon. I dont have a facebook account so his post was not as informative to me as he probably intended. The rest of it were the same utopians you'll find on this thread distancing themselves ASAP from her, and already have the Dunning-Kruger stamp on their desk. Resuming their trek of perfect play to utopia, following the outdoor tourism gurus, where there is no hunger, no death, and all the rest of the societal problems.
  5. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Didn't take long for Tom to get compared to Trump...ha ha.
  6. yetigonecrazy1

    yetigonecrazy1 yeti in the jungle

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    I'm surprised David Angel hasn't logged on and yelled at everyone for daring to have a discussion in such a time.
    Jason Linder likes this.
  7. AW~

    AW~

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    I would have said something, but this forum is a "safe place" now. But again, what do I know? I dont follow the REI alerts to what a canyoneer now is. Im thinking she was a proud daughter, a musician?, a civil engineer?, and a good friend to her friends and family. If she was political so be it, but as far as canyoneer, thats too confusing of a term to understand and was not a priority. I figure she knew what she was doing and was doing her best at it.

    Safe to say I have a bit of experience in being surprised by a deteriorating situation. Ive never had to pay the ultimate price for it, at the frustration of some. If someone does pay the ultimate price, I figure they can write the script as how they want to write it. And if it says she wasnt reckless, Id believe it in a heart beat. Keith didnt die 'loving what he was doing'. He loved his family first and foremost, but died during an activity that he took seriously. An activity that he believed made him a better person overall, as well as to his family. And yet these communities dont affirm what the family and her friends already knows.
  8. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    AW~ please correct me if I am wrong. I believe you are referring to the death of Keith Biederman in Heaps, 2006. I would not want readers of this thread to confuse the above comments with the accident involving Joy Welling.
    AW~ likes this.
  9. willie92708

    willie92708

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    Clearly any discussion will upset some people that knew Joy, and as such will be looked at as insensitive to the grief of family and friends. However, lessons learned now might save another canyoneer from the same fate, and I personally cannot stand around and let that happen when this discussion will change the way some people are using a figure 8 block. We already know a failure mode that is easy prevented; always tie off the figure 8 block!

    When Luca died, anything I posted greatly upset close friends and family. Unfortunately, I was not thoughtful enough during the first week with my extreme stress over the situation, to just not post anything of any kind to any web page, including my own personal Facebook. As such I was cast out of the local canyoneering community, and posts months later cemented this fate. However, I can look back and see that within small circles (most private messaging and first hand story telling) I did get the message out about why the specific method (crossing a large swift water river with rope connected to a seat harness) was dangerous and failed. I found out that some highly experienced canyoneers had used the same method with very scary results, and they realized after discussing the situation with me that they should not do it that way again. I even got canyoneering instructors to provide timely class instruction on swift water techniques to get the word out on the best practices. To me, it was worth it, because that timely information might save another from the same fate.

    Thus my hope is that this discussion will help us be safer canyoneers and will not be looked at as being insensitive to grieving.
  10. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    I think its common to split out "accident" topics and "memorial" topics in forums.

    Even so, folks will comb through both. Plain speak without regard to folks that are grieving will always be hard.

    What's also hard is the stifling of discussion in order that people can understand how to avoid mistakes and/or employ best practise.

    Cheers.
  11. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    It is a terrible thing to lose a companion in a canyon, on a mountain, or in a cave.
    Ratagonia is right, canyoneering (and all these sports) are 'stupid' pursuits, yet those of us who are addicted
    to adventure will return to these beautiful and dangerous places through loss and pain, again and again and again.
    Once a tragedy has occurred we would do anything to go back and fix it, but we cannot, so we (myself at least)
    fuss about the whys and hows to try to prevent future mistakes. It is, in a way, part of a healing process even for
    those who did not know Joy personally but still feel a sympathetic punch in the gut
    (ALL of us old-timers have been affected by a friend who is lost to the outdoors).
    My heart goes out to those who are suffering from this loss.
    Apologies for any offense given.
  12. Randi Poer

    Randi Poer Randi from the OC

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    This long post may get deleted - and it's likely not going to be a nice one for most, but I feel a need to speak my mind.

    Wow. Just wow. Tom Jones was right. The entire discourse which took place on FB should have taken place over on http://canyoncollective.com. I'll be posting my sentiments over there. Joy is dead because of an accident. An accident which occurred due to human error. Hers (for not knowing how to properly inspect a contingency anchor) and her partners (for rigging a deadly anchor). I understand compassion for the living, but what I don't understand is the canyoneering community’s aversion to the truth. Shoving the obvious under the rug and pretending that human error had nothing to do with her demise is counterproductive to what the community is supposed to be about. How will aversion to the truth save someone else's daughter, or son from Joy's fate?

    When I first heard the news of Joy’s accident, I didn’t want to believe it. You hear of an accident in our community and you rush to find out more information hoping and praying that it isn’t someone you know. I just had such a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and I literally burst into tears when I saw that post. I cried off and on for days. Every time I thought of her and her parents, siblings, other people who loved her and knew her - my heart hurt terribly.

    I didn’t know Joy well – she was a friend of my daughter’s, but I had done a couple of canyons with her in the past, the last one being Monkeyface right after Christmas last year. It was wet and freezing, and fun and I was surrounded by a bunch of enthusiastic young folks – 3 of Joy’s friends, Joy and Sarah. The trip is still fresh in my mind, and it seems crazy that I just saw her – smiling, laughing, sharing her warm spirit with the world, and three months later – gone. I don’t meet very many people who exude whatever radiance she exuded, and she was a rare and special kind of lovely. My sorrow runs deep. I can’t even begin to fathom the pain her parents feel.

    Along with the range of questions about how this happened, and who she was with, I was unable to escape the thought that this could have easily been my own daughter’s accident report I read that day. I thought of how terrible it was for the person who was with Joy when it happened. Which one of her friends was with her? There wasn’t much information in the original article – just that she’d had a fatal fall and was with one other person. He had a cell phone, called SAR and then sat there high above her body awaiting rescue.

    After reading the incident report written by the survivor, anger was now added to my sorrow. Anger that her partner made mistake after mistake rigging the rappel station where she fell. Then anger at the canyoneering community at large. It was beyond obvious, yet post after post on SoCal canyoneering’s FB page, including from well-respected and VERY experienced members of the group; members who KNEW human error was the cause, defending the "freak accident" theory - making various excuses as to why/how this happened on that particular anchor. Then the dialogue turned to rigging and such with a few posts thrown in about the actual mechanics of the accident and the loss of life. I watched in disbelief as the thread was steered away from the incident. It was like the whole of the canyoneering community was crawling under a rock, throwing a blanket over the victim and walking away.

    The long thread on face book which was instigated by the accident report has since been deleted by the admin. I may be partially responsible for that as my posts were full of anger, rife with questions, and demands for some semblance of responsibility, AND a recognition of the dangers associated with the way he had learned or taught himself to rig a figure 8 contingency. After I opened the can of worms, which I call truth, a few other posters had begun to crawl out from under that proverbial rock and to also express similar opinions on the matter. Much more eloquently than me I might add, and I'm sorry to have seen all those posts deleted.

    A young woman died last weekend, because she met up with and went canyoneering with someone who rigged a deadly anchor. Plain as day – that is what happened. He says she inspected the anchor and thought it looked OK, and that well may be the case, but having canyoneered with Joy in Dec. and a couple of years back, I never saw her inspect an anchor, or rig anything. If she knew what she was looking at when she inspected his non-contingency contingency, she wouldn’t have rappelled on it before making adjustments. She wouldn’t have rappelled on it without fixing it. She wouldn’t be dead right now.

    He says they were using that same anchor all throughout the canyon that day, and that he’s used it thousands of times before. That statement right there gives credence to the fact that Joy was unaware of the danger this rigging imposed. He also states that they took turns rigging that same anchor?! Did he show her how to rig an unsafe/faulty 8 contingency? It wasn’t an anchor anyone else would have used. IT WASN’T RIGGED CORRECTLY OR SAFELY AS IS OBVIOUS!

    As he defended his rigging choice, calling it nothing but a freak accident, never once saying he’d make adjustments in the future, I wanted to know who he’d been canyoneering with in the past. Who in our community has been canyoneering with him on that anchor and failed to point out the dangers of what he had become comfortable with? Who OK’d that in his mind?
    His answer to me was that he was safe, no one had ever questioned his skills, and if I wanted to prosecute him call the Sheriff’s office.
    More anger on my part! WTF?

    As an aside on taking responsibility; I once was driving at night down 395 in stop and go traffic. I became distracted by an incident off in a field involving a low flying helicopter and I crashed into the car in front of me. They stopped moving and I continued to drive, because my focus was elsewhere. The entire back of their car crumpled and the back windshield shattered, but thankfully stayed in place. Thank God for safety glass! To my horror, when I pulled over and walked to the car I saw two babies in car seats in the back seat. I could have killed them and I would have no excuse whatsoever which would allow me to circumvent my sense of responsibility. Not because I had witnesses, but because in my heart I would know that it was my doing. I could blame it on the helicopter instead of my driving. I could blame it on the car in front of me for stopping suddenly. I could blame it on many things, but ultimately it was my driving that caused the accident. I could (in my mind) shove some of the responsibility onto all of the other participants; “they stopped suddenly”, “the helicopter was right on the road”, “my vehicle brakes weren’t working correctly”, etc., But it would change nothing.

    I am ultimately responsible for my driving no matter who my passengers are or who my driving effects. If I had caused the death of those babies I would have had no choice but to shoulder the responsibility of my actions – accidental as they were.

    This man is defending his anchor as one that he’s used thousands of times with no incident. One he will continue to use as far as I can tell from his comments made publicly and privately to me. I don’t want silence to be the mantle I wear in discussing what went wrong that day. Joy was the world to her family and friends. A young woman is dead because she met up with, and went adventuring with a man who had been using a potentially deadly anchor regularly (an accident waiting to happen). It wasn’t a matter of if it would fail, it was a matter of when and who would be on rope at the time of failure. We as human beings make mistakes. We most often survive those mistakes and so do our friends. But sometimes people die because of something we did or didn’t do correctly and, in my mind, Joy is dead for this very reason.

    To add to my growing disbelief and anger is the fact that he made no attempt to get down to her to see if she were still alive and to possibly render aid. He instead watched from the top for movement, saw none, and continued to watch for minutes that he could have spent rigging the additional rope he had and making his way down to her as quickly as possible.
    No one knows (including me) how we would respond in a similar situation, but I conjecture that most of us believe that’s exactly what we’d do – get down to her as soon as possible. He described how he wrestled with the idea of “staying put or trying to render aid”, and then goes on to describe the minutes ticking by, and how she lay unmoving face down in a shallow pool. I sunk further into anger and disbelief as I agonized over the fact that there was a slim possibility she might have been unconscious and had a chance to survive had she not been face down in water.
    I’m certain that I would have been desperately clinging to small threads of hope as I rushed to get to her.

    I don’t know this to be true, but I speculate that Joy did not know her partner. He was not a friend in the true sense, but an acquaintance; a friend of a friend, or an internet connection. This was her first and last trip out with him.

    How many times do we connect with a like-minded stranger and go off into the wilderness with them not knowing their skill level?Just expecting them to know what they’re doing, or expecting that canyoneering isn’t that hard or that dangerous. We’ve all rappelled many times before and it’s pretty easy. I’ve gone out with strangers too many times to count (99% of the time in groups of 3 or more), and I’ve formed some wonderful bonds with people, some who have stood the test of time and have now been friends for decades. Others – I have chosen to never adventure with again.
    When you go canyoneering with only one other person, there are no other voices to promote the checks and balances needed for safety in this sport. And of course, there’s the issue of rescue – who stays with a victim while someone goes for help in the case of an accident? All of these salient points came up in the “deleted” thread and I’m just reiterating some of them here.

    I want this person to take responsibility and it doesn’t look like he’s going to. I want this person to realize that his anchor the way it was rigged should never be used in the future without the proper modifications to make it safe – but he’s defending it as safe 99.99% of the time and says no one has ever questioned his rigging before. People need to question everything they do, and adjust their methods as it becomes apparent that they're unsafe.

    And as a whole, I think the canyoneering community needs to be more honest and transparent. No one wanted to state the obvious (human error) so they either skirted around it, softened it into a weaselly non-issue, or outright lied about it.
    This person is a friend to many of you, or some of you. I understand that and I don’t care. Joy was all those things too and more.
    He will be forgiven, and his life will continue. Joy’s will not.

    Now that the “why” of Joy not being here has been determined, one of you friends need to drill it into that man’s head that he can NEVER use that method again thinking it’s safe. And I think it’s been drilled in already that it’s not very safe to go out with just one person, and that YOU need to be personally responsible for your own safety. Know what you’re doing so you know how to recognize a potentially deadly anchor and other potentially harmful or deadly situations.

    RIP Joy.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2018
  13. Craig

    Craig Feeling My Way

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    If you live long enough, you will experience much loss. I'm sorry for your loss. I didn't know Joy. But she was a grown women and responsible for herself. I can't blame her partner no matter how faulty his methods. But I agree with you that we must resist our human weakness that drives us toward blaming fate instead of our own faults and ignorance.

    Now is the time to rethink our methods and make sure we know why we do the things we do.
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  14. Randi Poer

    Randi Poer Randi from the OC

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    Agreed.

    Joy has been held accountable for her decisions that day.
    Casey? Not so much. He doesn't believe his rigging was faulty. He has used it THOUSANDS of times and as far as I can tell from his responses, he intends to change nothing.

    I do not think it means what you think it means
    Accountability is not to be confused with blame nor should it be used interchangeably with responsibility. Accountability is not something that can be given or assigned to a person. Instead it is something that you must take on yourself. It is the ability to claim your actions as your own and discuss your reasons behind them.
    Deagol likes this.
  15. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    Probably it is better to have incidents like this split into two different threads to try to preserve
    some respect for those affected while still serving to educate the community.
    A difficult balance to strike?
    VERY
    It IS critical that we all examine our methods, skills, and motives when accidents like this sound the collective alarm.
    Otherwise we are doomed to keep stepping off the edge without enough friction, march into the slots on rainy days, etc., etc., etc.
  16. AW~

    AW~

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    But what does "safer" mean? Its a suspicious term to me that means 'the promotion/priority of beta'...perhaps towards the goal of 'perfect play'/utopia.
    Its the increased commodization of the activity rather than relying on a perspective for safety.

    Using 'beta', whether it be a route description or techincals, can not get away from the fact that it is outdated as soon as it is printed.
    To say someone should have used 'better' beta makes no sense to me, when the reliance on beta is a questionable decision at best. There are pros and cons to whatever we do, and no single perfect play beta. And there will always be a disclaimer on it too.
    Kuenn and Sonny Lawrence like this.
  17. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    To me, "safer" means less reliance on beta and more reliance on dealing with reality.

    In terms of technical skills, it means less reliance on "doing it as taught" and more reliance on understanding why things are done the way they are.

    Tom
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  18. AW~

    AW~

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    So its a comparison of due diligence to others? Thats what I use, as a first reaction probably ,but I use an easy score to meet....although I think its above what is necessary to grab a Zion permit. So I think as long as someone reading that knows that what is really meant by a lot of these comments is 'Im safer than she was'. Not that she was unsafe ala gross negligence...or am I incorrect on that?
  19. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    They were using a method that works most of the time. The teachers I know teach a method that works all of the time. The difference is subtle, but significant.

    Gross Negligence is a technical term of law. I see no application for it here.

    Tom
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