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Fall in Fat Man's Misery

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by jsb4g, Jun 25, 2020.

  1. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    From the Kane County Sheriff's Office:

    On June 23, 2020, Kane County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch was notified of a fall that occurred in the early afternoon at “Fat Man’s Misery”, (a popular slot canyon just outside of Zion National Park that empties into the East Fork of the Virgin River in Kane County). On one of the last few rappels of the canyon, a 37 year old male attempted to descend. While leaning back and testing the tension of the anchor, the existing webbing snapped in half. The male individual fell approximately 20 feet and landed on slick rock below. His injuries resulted in traumatic conditions to his whole body. A member of the group was able to hike out high enough out of the canyon to get cell phone service to contact help.
    Kane County Sheriff's Office, (KCSO), and Kane County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, (KCSAR), responded to the East Zion area where they worked with Classical Medical helicopter and Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter crews in transporting personnel and gear to “Fat Man’s Misery”. Utah DPS helicopter utilized its hoist system in lifting and lowering KCSAR and medical personnel to the patient. Eventually the patient was safely extracted from the narrow canyon and transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center.

    Kane County Sheriff’s Office sends out a huge thank you to Classic Air Medical, Utah DPS Aviation, and our many KCSAR volunteers that take time out of their busy lives to help others.

    Pictures from Kane County Sheriff's Office Facebook page.

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    Last edited: Jun 25, 2020
  2. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    A couple of observations. I cannot figure out which rappel this was based on the information provided. It seems it was somewhere in the West Fork of Misery above the confluence for several reasons. First, the way the webbing is tied with a courtesy knot makes me think it was not the boulder used for the last rap. Second, one of the photos depicts a cairn anchor with remnants of the black webbing. The blue rope looks new and apparently was used to allow someone (another member of the group) to rap down and render aid. The down canyon edge beyond the cairn anchor looks sharp, but I don't know if that was the point of failure. EDIT: From a FB post from someone that was there, the rapid link was flat on the rock and not hanging over the edge prior to webbing failure.

    "While leaning back and testing the tension of the anchor, the existing webbing snapped in half." "Testing the tension" as in pulling on the anchor webbing toward the down canyon side? If so, that is a cautionary tale for sure.

    EDIT 2: One of the members in the group says he thought it was new webbing. But there does not appear to be a ton of clarity on that. Also, for the life of me, I do not recall rapping off a cairn anchor like that in West Fork Misery when I did it in October.

    My personal conclusion: 1.) Check the condition of webbing and pay particular attention to the webbing around sharp edges. Where there is fraying or abrasion damage or signs of UV damage, replace it. 2.) Use a meat anchor for backup on cairn anchors (though this would not have helped here if the meat was attached to the system above the point of failure).

    Anyone else have any more insight or info for discussion or any comments to help folks learn from the mistakes of others?
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2020
  3. Jeff Randall

    Jeff Randall

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    What's the deal on the Quicklink in the webbing photo? Maybe my eyes deceive me or maybe it was cut to remove the anchor?
  4. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    I noticed that too. I am trying to get more information about the incident from some folks locally. Perhaps someone will beat me to it and post here.
  5. Bill

    Bill ... Staff Member

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    It looks like the first (optional) rap to me but maybe I'm wrong. Its been a few years but we usually just bypass this one to save time.
    https://goo.gl/maps/SKz5pKTFXuhffv498
  6. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    Edited my original post to add a couple of things I learned.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2020
  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    The quicklink is not broken, it is just open. I suspect they opened it to get the rope out of it.

    (If you go to the Kane County SAR site and look at the posted photo, you can see that the RL is not broken.)

    Tom
  8. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    You are right. I can see the threads: they blend in because they are rusty. In the lengthy SAR FB thread, lots of discussion about the webbing having possibly been replaced recently. I guess it is possible to replace webbing, but leave the old rapid link.
  9. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Rapides last a long time in the Utah climate, usually. Surface rust - check. Sometimes freezing closed - check. Replace webbing, use the same ol' rapide - pretty much standard procedure.

    Tom
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  10. CRNPRES

    CRNPRES

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    I just looked back to see the date I did Fatman's as part of a group of 5. Ended up being April 27 (via what called the Lazy Man’s Bliss approach which includes two very capable 4x4s for the shuttle and a river hike up to rock canyon upon exiting).

    At first looking at the KSL article, I thought this anchor was the deadman that we built on our trip since we used black webbing. I could not remember any sharp edges that were a concern there. But the photo above confirmed it was not.

    I remember that the anchor looked fresh (a few groups had done it before us that spring that I know of) as well as some other black webbing in the canyon and that the drop was awkward over that edge to load the anchor. I remember lying on my belly/hip to get over the lip hand-lining it before loading it. We did inspect the webbing (i am pretty sure I was out front at this point and went first) and there was no sign of wear from the edge at that time. The fact that the geometry required you to stay low so you wouldn't potentially pull the rock out, I believe everyone in our group of 5 stayed low and slid over the edge hand lining until the anchor was loaded. It would have been possible to take a little drop onto the anchor but managed we did not see it a concern at that time.

    It would be interesting if a photo pops up showing if the break was on that edge (educated guess that it would be). Or a report from the party that the person fell on the webbing loading it and/or loaded it out of the line plum and slid it across the edge cutting it.

    It's a good reminder to inspect your anchor, webbing, and edge line. We did not see it a concern that could not be mitigated that day but maybe we just got lucky.
  11. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I think I have read all the available information, and here is a quick summary of what we know / perhaps can conjecture:

    Most of what we have is a report about the RESCUE, not about the accident. The SAR team shows some of the equipment retrieved from the scene. It is not an accident report. Also, the participants were climbers doing a canyon. They may or may not communicate more with various on-line canyoneering community sites. But I think we can make some good guesses as to what happened: A. they went and did (part of) Fat Man's Misery. B. They came to a rappel rigged with new-looking webbing. (MY conjecture is that they did not thoroughly inspect the webbing). C. One person rappeled down. D. The next person rigged up and applied weight to the anchor as a test, at which point the webbing broke and the person fell 20 feet to the ground, sustaining serious injuries. E. They called SAR and got pulled out of there.

    What more do you need to know?

    If you are unfamiliar with canyoneering, we rappel off many different things as anchors. In this case, the anchor did not break, so any discussion of the anchor is beside the point. The webbing broke. We don't really know why... the markings on the webbing suggest it is BW 1" Climb-Spec Tubular which is a 6000lb test webbing, premium stuff. The rigging is single strand, which is one of several ways to do it, and very "normal". The conjecture is that either the webbing was damaged before hand (falling rock, the prior parties had rapped with the webbing over a sharp edge, or ???) or the webbing was damaged by a sharp edge by the first rappeller. Given the stoutness of this webbing, the latter seems highly unlikely - that webbing is hard to cut with a fairly sharp knife. I am familiar with the canyon and do not recognize the location from the pictures provided. The canyon has many short rappels.

    Tom
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  12. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Yeah, 1" BW webbing is pretty burley stuff. Wierd.

    Looks pretty frayed.

    Note from the group person who said they used that anchor the day before...any response? My guess if Paul was along, he'd have thoughly checked that webbing. He's been in the game for awhile (understatement). They may not respond due to...access issues...I'm guessing. Or something else.

    Does make one wonder about a single strand of webbing versus a loop. Does give more margin to a cut issue. Hmm.
  13. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Based on Tom's recap of the reported information the victim was the second to go down. So...

    The picture of the severed webbing leads one to conclude there had to be pre-existing damage, i.e. webbing doesn't fray like that in a break without it (conjecture, but based on experience). Makes you wonder if the first person down slid sideways compromising it or just got lucky with timing.
    If webbing fails like that without visible evidence we're all doomed!

    Would be nice, if the webbing still exists, for someone to further analyze and report back.
  14. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    Appreciate the thoughts. +1 for more information regarding the webbing. I don't know these guys, but the climbers I go out with scream redundancy ad nauseum. The thought of a single strand of webbing terrifies them into checking it very carefully. I've only recently started climbing, but I've seen a very mixed bag of folk at the crag when it comes to safety- enough to know that generalizations about the entire community aren't something I want to make.
  15. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    This is why I don't rappel off webbing. :)

    Seriously though, one thing every climber knows is that rappelling is the most dangerous part of the whole adventure. Best to minimize how often you do it, especially off gear that didn't come down the canyon with you. Rappelling off meat, downclimbing, captures etc all seem very dangerous until you get used to them, but in many ways can actually be safer than rappelling off an anchor.

    One additional point that canyoneers can learn from climbers though, is that most climbers don't rappel off single anchors like canyoneers routinely do. The R in EARNEST stands for redundancy, and as much as we like to "clean up" anchors with multiple pieces of webbing on them, if this anchor had two pieces of webbing on it that accident would not have happened. It's harder to cut two strands than one on a sharp rock.

    I know of an injury a few years ago when the webbing broke on the 7th of 10 canyoneers.
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2020
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  16. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    Well said.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2020
  17. GoClimbARock

    GoClimbARock

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    Pretty sure (not 100% though) that this cairn anchor is one I constructed last spring. It's in the optional narrows section before what used to be the fatman's squeeze. This section is commonly bypassed on the LDC side on ledges. There is also an option to rap off a tree on a ledge high on the RDC side at this drop. The cairn in the watercourse is extremely solid. It's constructed from a gift-wrapped boulder (and several other large rocks) in a pothole with excellent geometry. When constructed, the anchor extended to the lip of the drop to prevent rope scarring and included a courtesy. It appears that the webbing has been replaced at least once since then as the webbing pictured is not the same as I used initially. I ran Fatman's again in early March of this year but don't recall if webbing pictured is what was in place then. The anchor point is low and the transition onto rappel a bit awkward, it's best negotiated by handlining and sliding in on a hip. The rock over which the extension runs is rounded and smooth without sharp edges.

    Based on the accident report, my guess would be that when the webbing was replaced the courtesy was not re-established or was not utilized by this party. Given the awkward transition, the extension may have been worn and frayed by rappellers dragging it over the rock and was not properly inspected by the party in question. I would also suspect a dynamic loading scenario may have been at play given the party were climbers and not canyoneers. It also sounds as if the victim was not the LAMAR and the party wasn't utilizing a meat backup while rapping off of an in situ natural anchor.
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  18. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    You bring up a point I've often thought about with rap points that start at or over the edge. Dynamic climbing rope is given a UIAA fall rating to indicate how many and what factor falls the rope is designed to withstand. This is one of the reasons I don't trust used rope- you don't know its history, particularly for climbing, but even for static canyoneering rope. But what about webbing in situations where it is positioned in a way that dynamic loading is more likely to occur with inexperienced canyoneers? Is it possible for webbing to look good and be significantly weakened by dynamic loading? Curious about others' thoughts! I've done a bit of google searching and haven't found much discussion or research on this topic as it relates to tubular nylon.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
  19. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    And like many things "every climber knows", your statement is completely wrong.

    The 2017 version of Accidents in North American Mountaineering has a 1951-2015 compilation of reported accidents in the USA and Canada - a total of 7,656 accidents reported. Of these, "Rappel Failure / Error" was listed as the cause of 452 accidents. Excluding the 80 "Unknown" cause events, that is about 6% of accidents. So... no.

    Tom
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
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  20. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    What do you mean?

    Do you really mean that you never rappel off an anchor rigged with webbing?

    Where do you canyon - Europe?

    Tom
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