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Ideas of what happened here (Heaps)

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by vanyoneer, Sep 10, 2022.

  1. vanyoneer

    vanyoneer

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    I made a a trip over to Zion to get an Express membership, and since I had no buddies or trips planned I was relegated to sightseeing, so I hiked up to Upper Emerald pool to check out the Heaps exit.

    A rope is hanging in the watercourse with the tail approximately 40' above deck.

    First an overall shot of the dangling rope...
    [​IMG]

    We have a 'biner block with a figure eight on a bight tied to a pullcord (with smooth operator still attached?) via an interlocked figure 8 on a bight (?) not an actual flemish bend. The tail of the rope is blown out. The dangly end closest to the ground (but still 40' up) is actually the pullcord and didn't appear cut.
    [​IMG]

    Shot of the rope at the anchor. Through my binoculars.
    [​IMG]

    The hanging pullcord/rope goes up to the anchor and back down to somewhere as if the end was stuck during the pull. But there's not any rope close enough to ground to reach. Any ideas?

    Now that I think about it, they could have climbed up as high as possible to cut the pullcord and it simply swung back out into space... so it's probably just an old fashioned stuck rope. I wonder if the watercourse rappel was intentional...
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2022
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  2. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    THAT is a rigging set up I am unfamiliar with......
  3. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

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    Yes. And given how they rigged everything with the fiddlestick that way? Most likely lack of training and/or inexperience. They are lucky to be alive.
  4. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    I'm impressed with your binocular shot!! That's cool.
  5. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Someone had a bad day, but not REAL bad. Great that they were able to get out under their own power safely. (Assuming they did).

    Rethreaded Figure 8 Bend, bight to end, is a trick to have a clip in loop at the exchange point.

    People don't seem to read ALL the beta anymore. The exit over to the bird perch should probably be the first piece of beta presented, rather than the last.

    Tom
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  6. Andy in San Gabriel

    Andy in San Gabriel

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    What was the intention of this rigging? Did they intend to have a biner block and pull down with a pull cord? But then why the fiddlestick? It looks like the fiddle stick is not in a Stone knot. What is holding it there?
  7. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    From the FB Zion thread:

    "A group of three planned to exit the watercourse route with a 380-foot rope. After they rappeled into the watercourse via the 80' rappel off the logs, they walked down canyon about 60' and encountered the chains of the next rappel. A brass tag on these chains is stamped with "360 foot rappel" and so the group assumed that they had arrived at the 360' rappel. As some of you may know, these tags are apparently intended to warn you that the next rappel is 360'. The rappel with the brass tags labeled "360 foot rappel" is actually an 80' rappel to the last set of chains on a sloped platform. This last set of chains is the actual 360' rappel. The first person rappelling down was not expecting another set of chains and so was not looking for them. Because you can't see the bottom of the canyon from the penultimate set of chains with the brass tags and due to the possibility of people below at the emerald pools, he carried the rope bag hooked to his harness to let rope out as he descended. The (misleading) brass tags made him feel very comfortable that he was on the 360' rappel and that the rope in his bag would surely reach the bottom ... until the rope bag was suddenly in his hand, inverted, and sucked up into his critter. He was 80' off the ground at the end of the rope. He yelled to those above that the rope was not long enough. Because they had skipped the last rappel, the rope drag, angles, and cracks in which the rope was getting caught, made it impossible for the two people at the top to raise him back up using a 3:1 pulley system. The guy on rappel was unable to tie off the critter or do anything with one hand to add prusiks to ascend because he was hanging on the handles of the rope bag stuck in the critter trying to keep the rope bag from slipping through the critter. Since neither raising him or him self-ascending was an option, the two guys at the top unloaded the biner block holding the 380' rope using a microtraxion (and prusik for some redundancy). They removed the biner block and tied another rope into the system so that they could lower the guy on rappel the last 80' to the ground. Communication is difficult and they did not have radios. Meanwhile, the guy on rappel was getting nervous that he couldn't hang on much longer and had been there for about 30 minutes. The upper emerald pools hike was closed that day because of rockfall. However, three people from Switzerland did the hike anyway and found the guy on rappel about 80' off the ground. The guy on rappel asked them to use their 800mm telephoto lens to take a picture of how the 300' "stuck" rope was hooked into the wall on the normal bird-perch route about 50 feet to the south. They confirmed that it was tied on and looked like it had just not been pulled. Recognizing that it was still risky to use it, the guy on rappel decided to use it anyway because he wasn't sure how much longer he could hold on to the rope bag. The swiss guys brought the stuck rope to him and he switched over to that rope and rappeled to the ground. He had to cut the rope bag free to get off the 380' rope and it bounced way up in the air and tied itself in many knots because it is a noodly rope (more on that to come). Just as the two guys at the top began lowering him, the rope went slack and they knew that their friend had fallen to his death. In fact, he had just switched over to the other stuck rope. 3-4 minutes later, the guy on rappel was safe on the ground and yelled up that he had made it using "another rope." The guys at the top were very relieved. The second guy started coming down based on instructions from the first guy now on the ground that he would hand them a new rope that they would switch to. Of course, being much more aware and looking around, the second guy found the next set of chains that had been missed. The two guys attempted to pull the 380' foot rope up to re-rig and the actual last rappel, but the knots that formed when the rope was cut and sprung back up got stuck in the cracks of the cliff. Rigging from the other end of the 380' rope, the second guy began descending with plans to untangle the rope so that it would reach the ground. After tying off his critter and untangling the rope for 30 minutes, it was still so jammed in the cracks that it could not be freed. He cut the rope to leave 10' of stuck rope in the crack and then tied the rope back together so that it would reach the ground. He rappeled down (passing the knot). The final guy rappeled down and passed the knot as well. The rope could not be pulled due to the knot. They pulled down on the ropes as much as possible and then cut them so that they would not become dangerous swings. A few things were left behind at the top, including a smooth operator, a Petzl Ascender, a Micro Traxion, a few carabiners, and about 300' of used-once-and-hung-to-dry-for-weeks-in-the-sun Imlay Slyther rope. About $300 in free gear and a $600 rope for whoever recovers it all - all you have to do is Heaps [​IMG] Lots of coulda, woulda, shoulda. They have done Heaps several times before, but never the watercourse route. And by "they," of course, I mean me and my two friends [​IMG]. I was the second guy down. Sorry to leave it a mess for everyone else. I'll try to get back down there to clean it up, but it might be a while before I can get back down there (and find some new friends willing to go with me). If you are able to get to it before me, thanks for cleaning up my mess. I'm embarrassed to even post this here - but I do think it might be helpful for anyone else doing this route to know that the stamped brass tags refer to the route as a whole and not the actual rappel where they are located."
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  8. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Great save and thanks for sharing. So happy when these terrible stories have a happy ending. Better to be lucky than good sometimes. Sounds like those on site had a lot more skills than I see in the typical Zion canyoneer and they sure came in handy.

    Look at all the things done right, skills possessed, and the clear-headed thinking in a terrifying situation.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2022
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  9. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    No kiddin'. Whew!

    Sure, the first guy down missed the last anchor but likely wasn't looking for it due to a tag on the anchor they rigged from indicating a long rappel.

    After that, pretty great skills displayed. Good lesson to be learned from anyone doing a canyon like this: have those skills!

    Bullets dodged and not just by the folks in the canyon...

    Good outcomes don't always happen in scenarios like this. Really great outcome when everyone gets to walk away and go home. Kudos!
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  10. Craig

    Craig Feeling My Way

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    I was told this is called a "tourist assisted rappel" and it is considered bad form. :eek:

    What do you think would have happened had the "Swiss guys" not been there? Would the lower have been successful?
  11. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Yep, sounds like. The other two guys passed a knot and descended successfully even after futzing around trying to free the rope from the cracks.

    Pretty savvy crew.
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  12. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

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    If he reads this forum...

    Don't be embarrassed! Thanks for posting the experience as we all will learn from this. I did. It may save many lives out there. Great job to you and your team!
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  13. Canyon.406

    Canyon.406

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    I know this might be a dumb question, but can the bolts just be taken out of the water path? While I understand the majority of SAR issues in heaps has been from the bird perch, do you think it would help? I understand miscalculations happen to the best of us, but it seems the water path has caused some problems over the years. While it doesn’t solve novice canyoneers getting over their head, it could maybe save SAR a trip or two.
  14. Canyon.406

    Canyon.406

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    ^ oh and also great problem solving to the team in Heaps. I’m glad that you’re okay! That’s a pretty serious situation, one that many people couldn’t get out of.
  15. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    What SAR issues in Heaps involved the "water path" route?

    Not sure I can recall any.

    I think for folks who've done Heaps a time or two and want a slightly different challenge, the watercourse route has always been an option. Its more on folk's radar since its been more public due to Tom's write up of it.

    I think there's enough info out that that folks don't accidently end up in the watercourse. Especially with the tag being changed out at the 80' rappel station to indicate 80' then 355', folks really shouldn't be accidently getting to that last rappel with only a 300' rope/rappel option.

    Yeah, novice canyoneers really shouldn't be in Heaps in the first place, IMHO.
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  16. willie92708

    willie92708

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    We will retrieve this mess this coming Thursday when we run Heaps. Unless, some other groups beats us to it! :rolleyes2:
  17. Magnus Tveit

    Magnus Tveit

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    My friends saw this rope and were wondering what it was. Awesome read and some awesome skills were demonstrated.

    I would love to hear if you can get this!
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  18. willie92708

    willie92708

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    Some other party already retrieved the stuck rope this past weekend.

    Willie
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  19. Magnus Tveit

    Magnus Tveit

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    They must have just missed it!
  20. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Great learning story and commendable team and self-rescue... with a little help from the swiss.

    Just wondering out loud: If radios were available would the switch over have been made?
    (I would venture a yes, although it may have been only as a backup while waiting on the team's short-rig resolution to complete. Been in similar situations, I'm uneasy using unknown gear, especially when it's rope.)

    My takeaways to remember from this:
    - Having done a thing before doesn't guarantee next time success.
    - Communication is key when plans deteriorate.
    - Don't rappel to the end of your rope - but just in case you do - tie a stopper 5 feet from the end, even when it's bagged.
    - Despite best laid plans there are those times when you just have to take matters in your own hands and grind out a solution.
    - There's no substitute for a good team.

    And, as his strength
    Failed him at length,
    He met a pilgrim shadow;
    "Shadow," said he,
    "Where can it be,
    This land of Eldorado?"

    "Over the mountains
    Of the moon,
    Down the valley of the shadow,
    Ride, boldly ride,
    The shade replied,--
    "If you seek for Eldorado!"

    Edgar Allan Poe
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2022
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