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Englestead Fatality

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by Mountaineer, Sep 4, 2017.

  1. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    Having experimented with this method (fireman's using a belay device) over the years, a few thoughts:
    • Managing slack/tension is inherently slower than with classic (i.e. no devices) technique. Time is of the essence. There is no faster way to remove slack and tension the rope than by simply using two hands on the rope.
    • It's an expert technique which non-experts tend to try to copy, ineffectively. A non-expert cannot properly focus on the rappeller, as attention is diverted to managing the belay device. Looks flashy, but is less effective than two hands on the rope.
    • Mobility is hampered by being attached to the rope, making the belayer more vulnerable to falling objects.
    • Falling over backwards can be risky: you might effectively tension the rope, or you might swing into the dirt/water with the falling guy landing on top of you a la Wile E. Coyote. Attempting to climb the rope is probably a better last ditch.
    Best to stick with classic technique: two hands on the rope, no devices. It's effective, KISS and easily teachable. There is no faster way to remove slack and tension the rope than by simply using two hands on the rope.
  2. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I agree with Hank. On long rappels, I often put the rope through my device, but really just so I always know where it is. The belay is provided by pulling on the rope with both hands.

    I think the difficulty of providing a bottom belay on a long rappel is over-stated. It is just a bottom belay. It requires attention. The canyoneering ropes most people are using have a low amount of stretch (circa 2%), and the only rope that counts is the rope below the rappeller. In 100 feet, that is 2 feet of stretch. There is usually more of that of slack.

    One thing I think worth noting is that the belay should not be provided from directly below, but from out of the rockfall zone. As the rappeller gets closer, the belayer needs to step forward to maintain an effective angle. And keep the slack to an appropriate minimum amount. Being further away also makes it easier to watch the rappeller. But as ALL bottom belays, it does require PAYING ATTENTION, and not doing other things, like taking pictures. Helps if each person belays the next person down. That way each person only needs to belay once, and can take pictures, fiddle with gear, grab a snack etc when they are off-duty.

    Tom
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  3. scottensign

    scottensign

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    We did Englestead Monday, before hearing this sad news. I used a VT prusik as autoblock above my rappel device, attached to a loop of my safety tether for the entry rappel. I like doing this as I can clip in the terminal loop of the safety tether to the anchor, then set the VT prusik autoblock below it on the same safety tether, load that to test it while the tether is still attached to the anchor, then clip into my critr. I see no downsides of using the VT prusik above the rappel device. It is completely natural, and easy to adjust which loop to clip into to give the right length for the left (nonbrake) hand. I use this set up on every long rappel, regardless of whether I go first or not.
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  4. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    Like Deagol, I have tested firemans on long drops on Englestead and the Heaps final drop
    on single line 8mm and it was very effective...
    HOWEVER, to Rick t's point, if the rappeller's friction is way too low you might need your WHOLE body weight pulling
    from the bottom to slow 'em down.
    Certainly it can be harder to react quickly if you are staring up from several hundred feet.
    I think Bo has a tale about this scenario.....
  5. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    The problem with the backup ABOVE the device is that in a loss of control incident, you would have to let go. It has been demonstrated that letting go is NOT the natural reaction - clinging ferociously is.

    I think this would be much much less of a problem using at Valdotain knot above than using a prusik above (which evidence shows does not overcome the panic grip).

    There is a bit of a nomenclature problem, as the VT prusik is the name of a knot, and ALSO the name of a piece of equipment. As is the term "Valdotain". I assume you are running a VT prusik (knot) using a VT prusik (device).

    Tom
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  6. Yellow Dart

    Yellow Dart It's only hubris if I fail.

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    Also, the massive amount of rope-twisting that happens on a 300' rap when doing it with a fig8, sqwurel, critr, etc; gotta be able to unwind it for the man at risk.

    To that point, this happened in Coral Hollow couple years back; guy on rope was using it as backup on only an 80' rap on brand-new canyonfire - melted the prussic to the rope 20' off the deck - had to pitch another line and rap down to cut him free.
    DSC01292.JPG
  7. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Is that Beal-Rope-Marker marked place on the rope? It makes the rope a bit stiffer and stickier where applied.

    T
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  9. Yellow Dart

    Yellow Dart It's only hubris if I fail.

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    It is, and had noticed that at the time as well. These days the marks are much shorter, as they can really, really gum you up - even single line.

    Has anyone seen a different way to mark rope that does not have these hiccups?
  10. scottensign

    scottensign

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    Nomenclature is indeed a bit confusing, thanks. I am using the valdotain tresse like this as the block:
    VT.
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  11. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    In an attempt to avoid the very thing Mark (OP: Mountaineer) suggested, moving my belay comments to this thread.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2017
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  12. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    from the victims brother:

    "He was using a ATC-XP. From what I could determine he was switching hands near the bottom. He was most likely trying to give his right hand a break. He did not have a secure hold with his left hand or he burned himself on his atc and let up his grip. His momentum started and he was unable to stop that momentum. Exact cause will be unknown however, I believe matching the right device to the rope is great advice Tom Jones. I think being able to adjust friction on a rappel is critical. It also helps with those where weight is a factor. There is a difference between 160 lbs and 210lbs using an atc."
    Jenny, Dave Melton, Rapterman and 3 others like this.
  13. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    RIP

    But for the grace of God, there go I. What works on 60 m double strand 10 mm climbing ropes just fine doesn't cut it on single strand 8 mm canyon ropes. The scariest rappel of my life was rappelling to the bird perch on dual Canyoneros with an ATC. Quit canyoneering with an ATC after that day.

    Second scariest rappel of my life was rapping off Royal Arches on dual 8 mm climbing ropes.

    There's little scarier than multi-stage rappels with inadequate friction. Too much friction sucks, but not enough is far worse.

    Climbers turned canyoneers- learn these skills!
    Jenny, Dave Melton, Rapterman and 3 others like this.
  14. BrentV

    BrentV

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    I just did Englestead at the Rendezvous. Had someone in my group doing his 7th canyon, so I was worried about him to begin with. I knew I should have waiting and watched him go before me, but I was too eager and went first. he was planning on using a VT for the first time ever so we made sure he knew what he was doing tying it, what I should have fully realized and said something about and actually kinda did wonder about before hand based on how he was setting up, is he planned to hang his pack and did so using the same chain he had his VT connected to!..... So all the pack weight was pulling on the VT as he descended......
    Of course he was moving extremely slow fighting the weighted VT down the entire rap, eventually it tightened up beyond his ability to slide it, he was laboring bad and his hands were cramping. After being stuck for 15 minutes he finally got the strength and mental clarity to disconnect his pack. His VT was badly melted from the intense friction. Goes to show tho.... Never go into a hard canyon or hard rap trying something new and make sure your progressing up levels at a comfortable rate. I sure wouldn't have done Englestead as my 7th canyon. And its an interesting note on the VT discussion.
  15. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    @BrentV I missed this Rondy, unfortunately (first one missed) - sounds like a good time. Thanks for the incident report. Attaching pack to VT is a new one on me - happy it turned out alright.

    I know in previous years the Rondy Official trips had designated leaders. Did this one? And do you know whether the fellow with the melted VT is on this forum?

    hank
  16. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Hope this is not being taught somewhere as the proper technique for tethering packs/loads.
  17. xenonrocket

    xenonrocket

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  18. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    A little more information about this tragedy.

    http://www.concordmonitor.com/He-cared-about-the-elderly-and-died-too-young-12503477

    I was asked yesterday by a close friend (who has joined me on a few canyoneering trips to UT) if I had heard about this accident. His wife is from New Hampshire and knows the deceased and his family. Bringing stories closer to home always tugs even more at one's heartstrings. Very sad, indeed.
    hank moon likes this.
  19. townsend

    townsend

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    Sad indeed. In this case, a properly-installed autobloc probably would have arrested his fall after he released his brake hand. I understand that setting up an autobloc can be complicated, often involving the complexity of extending the rappel device, etc,

    But hauling his body out of the canyon in a body bag is both difficult and disheartening. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to properly install an autobloc. And I do agree, that a fireman's belay properly executed could have prevented this death -- if he was inexperienced (contributing to his getting confused and releasing his brake hand accidentally), it would have been preferred for him NOT to be the first one down, when explains the absence of a fireman's belay (and an opportunity to selectively employ an autobloc).
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2017
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  20. hatchetation

    hatchetation

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    I've wondered about this myself... Any idea how the cordage came to be called a VT? Seems unique to canyoneering, though the same thing has happened in rock climbing with the equipment taking the name of the usage / knot most commonly tied with it. ("prusik" , "autoblock")

    For what it's worth, in arboriculture it's usually a "hitch cord" or "friction hitch cord" - probably because there's such a wide array of hitches in use. Feel free to borrow the terminology. ;)
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