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Analysis: Death in Robbers Roost (2011 - No Man's Canyon)

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by ratagonia, Apr 12, 2019.

  1. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I think enough time has passed that this accident can be analyzed. But let us do it here, on a separate thread.

    Much about the accident is available here: http://canyoncollective.com/threads/a-death-in-robbers-roost-2011-no-mans-canyon.25728/

    Tom
  2. Craig

    Craig Feeling My Way

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    I watched a video of David Cicotello where he describes for an audience his relationship with his brother and details the events of the tragedy and how he survived long enough to be rescued.
    https://www.tennessean.com/videos/l...urvived-utah-slot-canyon-six-days/2779947002/

    In the video, he says Louis said, "It goes fast" ... "Oops, the rope is short". Then a few seconds later the rope "zipped" through the ring and all was gone.

    Maybe there is no way to ever know what mistake was made.

    Craig
  3. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    This is a good example of where there is likely no way to know exactly what happened. As in many accidents. I'm not looking to entertain speculation. But there are a few things that could be said.

    1. When unable to see the bottom of the rappel, setting the rope up by doubling it through the ring and hoping both ends reach is not a reliable method. Better to just anchor one end and drop the rope to the ground, then adjust the length for the second person. (Note: not a flowing-canyon method).

    2. Perhaps they trusted the beta to accurately tell them how long the rappel was. This is also not a reliable method.

    Tom
    darhawk likes this.
  4. hank moon

    hank moon kinetically bulbous

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  5. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    If I can't see the rope on the bottom, tie stopper knot, and for the first person down, if I have extra rope on the non load side, I like an ATS in jester mode using a carabiner for each strand (instead of one). This allows me to easily lower if rope isn't touching. I always back it up above the jester device so I do not have to untie for everyone down if using strand isolation to speed things up for each successive person, but it has never slipped on the ATS. This system has come in handy a several times.
    Last edited: May 22, 2020 at 8:03 PM
  6. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    There are quite a few reliable methods, this being one of them. Thanks for explaining this system.

    Tom
  7. townsend

    townsend

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    I read about this accident back then, and I just read the version of the story at the link Hank posted. Some thoughts:

    1) Carry at least a second 60 meter rope. Hasn't it been argued on this forum before that one should have 3X the length of rope of the longest rappel? That is why I say at least carry that second rope -- and have 2X. At least.
    2) Don't mark the middle of a rope with a piece of tape. Mark the middle of the rope with a marker. And the type of marker has been discussed before too (IIRC).
    3) Let's say that you are only going to take one rope. Whatever. Since a 60 meter rope just barely cuts it for the longest rappel, why not just carry a 300' rope for this canyon? No harm in having too long a rope, esp. if you are carrying only one rope.

    It is still bone-chilling to read that account again.
  8. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    This is all good advice. A word of caution about rope marks that I have not seen mentioned before. I mark my ropes with a Sharpie Rub a Dub Laundry marker. On my BW Canyon Pro rope, at a certain point I noticed the mark was no longer anywhere near the middle!!! I do not know why this occurred. My best guess is the sheath moved/slipped. This hasn't happened on my Canyon Fire or Canyon Extreme ropes (but I haven't used the Extreme as much). Just something to be on the lookout for, and you should check the middle point from time to time if you are relying on rope marks...Fortunately, the Sharpie Rub a Dub marker is not actually permanent and fades after a bit after some heavy use.
    Last edited: May 24, 2020 at 11:38 AM
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  9. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    I was asked by PM for pictures of the block I use in jester mode that does NOT require retying when using the isolated strands. Experts, please say if you have an issue with how I do this (e.g. if this method sucks, please just say so...it won't hurt my feelings). One slight issue might be if the block gets pulled too tight against the rapid link or the jester device, it can be difficult to remove the carabiner for lowering purposes. However, I have never had a problem removing the biner block...perhaps because it has not been pulled that tight due to the friction created within the Jester system? I have tried shock loading it free hanging from a tree with slack on the nonload side and was still able to remove the biner block with the system under load. It was tight but removeable.

    A.) Start with a normal biner block on either side of the rapid link using a dressed clove, constrictor, or triple clove. Here is a picture of a clove and constrictor:

    Clove.

    Constrictor.

    B.) Then rig the jester as you normally would:

    IMG_20200524_100725.

    C.) To lower, simply remove the biner block BEFORE removing the biner from the non-load side of the Jester device.

    D.) Notes: The biner block limits slippage, if it should occur, to just a few inches in one direction. I use two carabiners for the jester instead of one because two makes it is easier to remove the non load side for lowering. Also, there is a difference in friction between sides of the ATS for lowering purposes. If you were to use one carabiner, I suggest running the rope through the convex side with the biner on the concave side to create more friction. For a 165 pound person, this means I actually have to feed/push rope through the device to lower, so I have a ton of control (but still use a second if there is another person with me as a backup). As for disconnecting the biner on the bottom, I have always been able to rotate the ATS, even when under load- it has never been so pinched against the ground that I wasn't able to rotate the device to remove the biner.

    E.) You would not want to back up using a Figure 8 attached to the anchor, as in the picture below. The rope will likely slip through the jester device without being wrapped tightly around the rapid link and load the 8 or get cinched up tightly against the rapid link, which would defeat the purpose of the jester.

    Don't Do This.

    Edit: Another option that is simpler is to send the heaviest person down first while a second person is already locked into the nonload/nonweighted strand. The second person locked into the nonload side acts as a backup in case of slippage. If there is no slippage with the heaviest person, then you can conclude that the system is safe for lighter persons, and the second person can rap down on his/her strand. This is not as secure for the 2nd and successive persons as the above method, but it is better than no backup at all.
    Last edited: May 25, 2020 at 6:35 PM
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  10. townsend

    townsend

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    Thanks for the pictures. In this case, the pictures are worth several million words.
  11. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    Haha..
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