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Heaps almost uneventful

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by caboalta, Jul 20, 2016.

  1. caboalta

    caboalta

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    Thought I would put this on to try and get some educational feedback and maybe prevent someone else from encountering a similar problem in the future. Went through Heaps with a group of 4 last weekend. 2 in the group had done Heaps 1 time prior, for me it was my first time through. I had studied up and prepared what I felt like was required for a safe passage through Heaps. Everything went smooth until the last 25-30 feet of the last rap. The leader was staying on the bird perch to sequence others through so I was the first in the group to the bottom. On the perch it was fairly windy causing the end of the rope which still had the Imlay bag attached to drift in the wind out away from the sloped ground. All 300 feet was visibly out with no knots. I have been using the Sqwurel for about the last 15 canyons and have really liked the ability to add friction on big raps mid rappel while keeping my brake hand in brake position. A hoard of tourists where gathered to welcome me with many taking pictures or video when before I realized what happened (25-30 feet from the ground) a knot caused by the rope twisting hit my brake hand. Before it went to the rappel devise I tried to pull it out and undo it but in trying this I descended the rope that foot or so and it tightened against the Sqwurel. At first I thought no big deal I will just pull this out and be done. After multiple attempts I realized this wasn't going to be that easy. I then decided I need to unweight the devise on the knot so I hooked on one (only had one with me) ascender with a sling for my foot. I stood up and tried using my left hand to keep myself upright trying to undo the knot with my right. After a number of failed attempts and a lot of expended energy I realized this was not happening. I studied the knot and found that if I could pull out one bend it should come undone. I was barely able to get a extra biner on the bend and with all the strength I had left I was able to twist and pull the bight of rope out undoing the knot. I'm about 30 minutes into this ordeal at this point still wearing a 5mm wetsuit and it is over 90 degrees out so I am dying of heat and exhaustion. To my great relief the knot pulls out but before I can celebrate I realize I am still stuck on the rope. A bight of the rope is wedged in the first tail notch. No knot at all. If I can pull the down side of the rope down it should pull it out but it is wedged in beyond imagination. I try and bounce on the rope to release it, this does nothing. The nuclear option for me at this point is to put on a back up atc I had and attach it to my harness waist loop and cut my harness belay loop and rap below the devise to the ground. I don't want to do this because I have now created a problem for the rest of the group. I have been yelling up to those on the perch but have heard nothing back. I later found out they could hear and see me through a crack but I never could hear or see them at all. During this time they were getting the other 2 down to the perch planning to use the pull side to send down ascenders and pull me up to unweight the knot if needed. They told me later had I left a knot or my sqwurel stuck on the rope the leader would have used the pull ropes (120 and 220), he was planning on lowering them 120 and then having them rap from below the rope junction knot to the bottom. He would have then set it back up as was originally intended and passed the knot/Sqwurel. I new I need to fully unwieght the rope and free up both hands to have any chance of ever getting free. I had another sling I got out and was going to make a prussic attached to my harness and try and use that in combination with the acsendor and foot loop. I finally decided to drop my heavy pack (we overnighted at the crossroads) onto the rocks so I wasn't pulling up that weight. Then the thought kept coming that if someone was able to pull me over I might be able to reach the slope before the cliff face starts. From my perspective it looked like I was to high but I was withering in the heat and already looked like a idiot in front of all these people. I decided before I would make anymore attempts of releasing the devise I would see if people could pull me over and at least get me closer to the ground and have me on firemans belay and maybe pull the bight of rope free. Three guys came around and pulled the rope over to a tree that was below me but somehow I still reached. I was able to grab the tree and one of them climbed up it a bit and I had him cut my belay loop. I had no strength in my arms at this point so they kindly offered to help and after about 5 minutes they were able to push the bight of rope though and release it from the tail notch. Everyone else then came down uneventfully.
    What I learned from this
    Don't wear a wetsuit on these raps if its hot at all.
    Watch the rope for twisting as you go down. I have seen ropes twist but never 30 feet from the end, in my experience it has been in the last 10-15 feet of rope and not creating a knot like that. A question I have was having the rope bag on the end have any effect on this.
    Be more prepared to unweight the rope mid-rappel and give it the proper effort the first attempt before I am over heating and exhausted.
    Any thoughts on the device being problematic in that the notches are just the right size to wedge a 8.3mm diameter twisted bight of rope into.
    It aint over til its over.

    My apologies for the poor spelling and grammar but aint nobody got time for that.
    Anna, darhawk, ratagonia and 7 others like this.
  2. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    My opinion, where the critical-decisions/failures/potential-disastrous-decisions were made [Op-ed comments in brackets].
    Remember, this is critique and not criticism.

    Although it was a failure, it wasn't a complete rescue event - good on you. Thanks for contributing to our ongoing education!
    Anna, darhawk, Mountaineer and 3 others like this.
  3. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    Caboalta
    Glad you made it OK!
    Here is my 'two bits':
    As first person down it is your inherent responsibility to make sure that the rope ahead of you is correctly deployed.
    It is common for rope twist to get generated during longer rappels (or the rope could have been already twisted in
    the bag and you are the one trying to straighten it out!)
    Looking down at your rope and seeing twists you should have locked off, then fixed the problem by pulling up the
    rope and clearing it.
    To do this comfortably you should not be wearing a wetsuit and you should have your pack hanging from your belay
    loop (not on your back).
    Thank you for sharing this Caboalta so that we all have the benefit of your experience!
    :twothumbs:
    Anna, Kuenn, Deagol and 2 others like this.
  4. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    Hi Caboalta, thanks for sharing your experience and good job on getting yourself out of a jam. Can you elaborate a bit on the details?

    Specifically, how the decisions were made to:
    - Have you go down first on the final rap ?
    - wear a wetsuit on the final rap ?
    - Bivy at the Crossroads (was this decision made pre-trip, or was it a "forced" bivy) ?

    And a few other questions:
    - Please provide more detail re: "I had studied up and prepared what I felt like was required for a safe passage through Heaps" Specifically, what prerequisite canyons, skill practice, reading, discussion, mental and/or physical training, etc. had you done to prepare for Heaps?
    - Was the trip leader the most competent person on the trip? Who was next-most-competent? Had the leader done Heaps before?
    - Summarize any discussion between you and the leader before you left the Bird Perch?
    - When had you last had any food and/or water prior to getting stuck?
    - Did you hang your pack on the final rap? On the penultimate rap? How were those decisions made?
    - Was the 300' rope a relatively new rope? What brand / model / diameter?

    Note: rope can get jammed in any device. I've had rope get jammed in a non-twisting bobbin rap device (rope turned out to be defective). New rope is very prone to twisting/kinking.


    Ha ha! No kidding! Bet that was the most difficult 25' of your canyon career, eh?
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2016
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  5. spinesnaper

    spinesnaper

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    I am also a student of Heaps trip reports but I have not done it yet. (I suspect that with the right team and conditions, I am basically ready). The one thing I do not recall is reading about anyone making the last set of raps with their wetsuits on. I just don't think this is commonly done. Hank makes a very good point about hydration, and nutrition. To that list, I would also add for some of us, caffeination and correct doping with motrin. Glad cool heads prevailed and I am sure that wetsuit made your ordeal so much worse. Thanks for sharing.
    Kuenn and Rapterman like this.
  6. joeb

    joeb middle aged guy who lies around alot

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    Caboalta

    Thanks for sharing this story. Made me realize my group has only practiced how to transition mid-descent to ascending the rope in "easy" situations (No wetsuit & heavy backpack combo). Will now add that to the training!
  7. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    Don't have too much to add, as I have never done Heaps, but:

    I did the rap of Micro Death Hollow and we had a rope bag attached to the end of the rope. I was first person down. The twisting was horrendous, and it all was pushed towards the end of the rope. The rope bag appears to have added to the rope's inability to twist with the people coming down, so each person down increased the amount of firm kinks in the line. We had to work hard to remove as much of this kinking/twisting as we could and it was not easy. Like Todd said, it's useful to look down at the rope that is still below you and lock-off above any twisting if you have to in order to be able to use both hands to smooth the rope out.

    I can see how you could become stuck by rapping to far and pulling the kinked rope into your device.
    Anna and Rapterman like this.
  8. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    Yes to self-trainings! Except...maybe skip the wetsuit part unless warranted by conditions. :stop:
    Rapterman likes this.
  9. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Thanks for sharing this story with us, well-told despite a few misspellings.

    You nailed the first couple of lessons to learn from this:

    1. Don't wear your wetsuit on the last raps. Yes, "Dress for Success". The last rap series takes most parties at least an hour, often two. Dress appropriately for comfort.
    2. Maintain awareness of the rope below you at all times. (Yes, the ropebag on the end probably prevented the twists from 'running off the end').
    3. Be more prepared to unweight the rope... (more on this below)
    4. Important to have ascending tools at hand, especially when you are the first one down a long rappel.

    I am impressed by the creative way you managed to get out of your difficulty. Good on ya!

    Here are some suggestions.

    A. you can LOWER your pack to the ground using the part of the rope below you. When you drop it, even from not so great a height, things tend to break (and there is no reason to do so). Getting rid of the pack is a way to instantly improve your capability (after you get anything useful out of the pack).

    B. As you noticed, just putting a rope clamp on the rope with a foot loop, and standing up in it, does not do you all that much good. It is strenuous to just hold yourself up. Instead, YES put on a foot loop, but when you stand up, clip in close to the ascender (meaning, make a link between the ascender and your harness) and then sit back and relax. The weight is now off your rappel device, and both hands are free, with no effort on your part. A helpful detail here is: MAKE the final link between you and the ascender a CARABINER TO CARABINER link. Biner to biner is faster to do with one hand, and, more importantly, faster to undo with one hand. When you are ready to go again, you will need to stand up and unclip that link, and getting a biner to unclip from webbing with one hand is usually really frustrating.

    C. On the long rappels, especially free ones, I like to extend the device 6" to 12". I use a string of biners - others use slings. It might have helped in this case, it might not have. At the least it may have made cutting the belay loop unnecessary.

    Cut your belay loop??? (Sad)

    :moses:
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2016
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  10. caboalta

    caboalta

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    Thanks for the feedback.


  11. inventme

    inventme Travis

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    Good point on the ascension skills training to include stress induced ascension mid-descent.
  12. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Kuenn parsed this out and added [critiques], but it was inside quotes so I missed it, and suspect many others did too. So here is the expanded version. The Original Post, plus Kuenn's comments.

    Thought I would put this on to try and get some educational feedback and maybe prevent someone else from encountering a similar problem in the future. Went through Heaps with a group of 4 last weekend. 2 in the group had done Heaps 1 time prior, for me it was my first time through. I had studied up and prepared what I felt like was required for a safe passage through Heaps.

    Everything went smooth until the last 25-30 feet of the last rap. The leader was staying on the bird perch to sequence others through so I was the first in the group to the bottom. On the perch it was fairly windy causing the end of the rope which still had the Imlay bag attached to drift in the wind out away from the sloped ground. All 300 feet was visibly out with no knots. I have been using the Sqwurel for about the last 15 canyons and have really liked the ability to add friction on big raps mid rappel while keeping my brake hand in brake position.

    A hoard of tourists where gathered to welcome me with many taking pictures or video when before I realized what happened (25-30 feet from the ground) a knot caused by the rope twisting hit my brake hand.
    [Did the "Hollywood" moment distract you from seeing this coming? The first person down on a long rappel will often need to resolve rope twist issues in the last 10% of the rap - should be watching for it.]
    Before it went to the rappel devise I tried to pull it out and undo it but in trying this I descended the rope that foot or so and it tightened against the Sqwurel. At first I thought no big deal I will just pull this out and be done.

    After multiple attempts I realized this wasn't going to be that easy. I then decided I need to unweight the devise on the knot
    [Maybe not "easy" but not "difficult" either, a skill required for the vertically competent.]
    so I hooked on one (only had one with me)
    [?? the longest rappel of the trip, the first guy down... should have been better prepared.]
    ascender with a sling for my foot. I stood up and tried using my left hand to keep myself upright trying to undo the knot with my right.
    [Bad technique. A better approach with the gear you had, would have been: Attach ascender with sling above Sqwurel and biner the sling to seat harness belay loop (hopefully you had a spare biner for this, if not, you could lark's head the sling to the belay loop) - tie a loop in main-line below the constriction/knot (alpine butterfly or fig 8 on a bight would work) - stand up in loop and slide the attached ascender up until the rap device is unweighted. This would have been a ONE MOVE un-weighting solution - VERY LITTLE energy expended. Now you have all the time you need to resolve the knot and bight in notch issue. After resolving the issues: Lock off rappel device - stand up in loop again (retie if necessary) to remove ascender - untie loop knot - release lock-off - rappel down 30' and sign autographs for the crowd of now completely dazzled spectators.]
    After a number of failed attempts and a lot of expended energy I realized this was not happening. I studied the knot and found that if I could pull out one bend it should come undone. I was barely able to get a extra biner on the bend and with all the strength I had left I was able to twist and pull the bight of rope out undoing the knot.

    I'm about 30 minutes into this ordeal at this point still wearing a 5mm wetsuit and it is over 90 degrees out so I am dying of heat and exhaustion.
    [Yes, begin with the end in mind. Although, disrobing from the wetsuit at the bottom of the rappel would have certainly been a crowd-pleaser.]
    To my great relief the knot pulls out but before I can celebrate I realize I am still stuck on the rope. A bight of the rope is wedged in the first tail notch. No knot at all. If I can pull the down side of the rope down it should pull it out but it is wedged in beyond imagination. I try and bounce on the rope to release it, this does nothing.

    The nuclear option for me at this point is to put on a back up atc I had and attach it to my harness waist loop and cut my harness belay loop and rap below the devise to the ground.
    [Ug! Fatigue/exhaustion contributed worst-idea-of-the-day thought.]
    I don't want to do this because I have now created a problem for the rest of the group.
    [Ah! Best thought of the day...not leaving your mess for others to cleanup.]

    I have been yelling up to those on the perch but have heard nothing back. I later found out they could hear and see me through a crack but I never could hear or see them at all. During this time they were getting the other 2 down to the perch planning to use the pull side to send down ascenders and pull me up to unweight the knot if needed. They told me later had I left a knot or my sqwurel stuck on the rope the leader would have used the pull ropes (120 and 220), he was planning on lowering them 120 and then having them rap from below the rope junction knot to the bottom. He would have then set it back up as was originally intended and passed the knot/Sqwurel.

    I knew I need to fully unweight the rope and free up both hands to have any chance of ever getting free. I had another sling I got out [Ah, more gear, could have been used above to resolve first issue.] and was going to make a prusik attached to my harness and try and use that in combination with the ascender and foot loop. I finally decided to drop my heavy pack (we overnighted at the crossroads) onto the rocks so I wasn't pulling up that weight. Then the thought kept coming that if someone was able to pull me over I might be able to reach the slope before the cliff face starts. From my perspective it looked like I was to high but I was withering in the heat and already looked like a idiot in front of all these people.
    [No worries, 99% of them thought this was all part of the show.]

    I decided before I would make anymore attempts of releasing the devise I would see if people could pull me over and at least get me closer to the ground and have me on fireman's belay and maybe pull the bight of rope free. Three guys came around and pulled the rope over to a tree that was below me but somehow I still reached. I was able to grab the tree and one of them climbed up it a bit and I had him cut my belay loop. I had no strength in my arms at this point so they kindly offered to help and after about 5 minutes they were able to push the bight of rope though and release it from the tail notch.
    [Meh, nothing better than complete humiliation to go along with fatigue and exhaustion. Hopefully the catalyst for being better prepared so this scenario never happens again.]

    Everyone else then came down uneventfully.

    What I learned from this:

    Don't wear a wetsuit on these raps if its hot at all.

    Watch the rope for twisting as you go down. I have seen ropes twist but never 30 feet from the end, in my experience it has been in the last 10-15 feet of rope and not creating a knot like that. A question I have was having the rope bag on the end have any effect on this.

    Be more prepared to unweight the rope mid-rappel and give it the proper effort the first attempt before I am over heating and exhausted.

    Any thoughts on the device being problematic in that the notches are just the right size to wedge a 8.3mm diameter twisted bight of rope into.

    It aint over til its over.
    Kevin likes this.
  13. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Good job solving the problem.

    Good job that no one got hurt.

    Thanks for alerting us all to a potential issue with the squirrel.

    An important lesson here is that ideally on a serious rappel like this everyone in the party should have the ability and equipment necessary to ascend the rope completely if needed. What if you weren't competent to at least unweight the device? Many of those we canyoneer (granted, not usually Heaps, but sometimes) with are not!

    Good idea on ditching the wetsuit before the rappels. Hadn't considered that.

    Great tip from Tom on ditching the pack once you knew you were in trouble. Like that one.
  14. Mike Zampino

    Mike Zampino Canyon season never ends.

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    This makes me think that if you had locked off your device you could have resolved the problem without it getting jammed or was it already too late? It sounds like you probably didn't think it was going to cause the issue that it did?

    Glad you were able to stay calm and work things out. Embarrassment has to hurt much less than falling. :smuggrin:
  15. Moab Mark

    Moab Mark

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    Thanks for sharing, learned a few new tools.

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk
  16. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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