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Morocco Mishap #1 April 2018

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by ratagonia, May 3, 2018.

  1. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    At the Dark Horse Rendezvous we went down to do Morocco with a bit of a crowd, spending some time working on deadman anchors at the start. Then we had a mishap at one of the awkward later rappels. And a save by the youth providing an attentive and aggressive bottom rappel.

    The rappel is off a chockstone with an awkward start. The slot to the side of the chockstone was nasty, therefore the webbing was extended quite a ways, with the ring over the edge, in order to make the retrieval successful. I came up after half the party had rapped, and started chatting with dude(1) who was providing a meat anchor backup, and coaching.

    Dude(2) was setting up to rappel, which involved stepping over a rock to get into position, grabbing the rope below the ring, rigging the device, then climbing as low as possible to get the weight on the rope.

    It happened very quickly. Dude(2) disappeared over the edge with a scream. Dude(1) and I jumped forward to view the carnage, but there was no carnage, as the youth was providing a bottom belay and caught the fall, about 2 feet off the ground. The ground was a nasty pile of large boulders.

    Analysis

    1. In a large group, it is good to set up a courtesy anchor, as we had done on at least one previous anchor.

    2. Dude(1) was providing a meat backup and coaching. Do NOT engage the dude in conversation when he is already performing an important task.

    3. Bottom belays are a good idea when the rappel start is awkward, even when the rappel is short.

    4. Perhaps Dude(2) thought he was being (courtesy) anchored by Dude(1). The backup Dude(1) could have easily been mistaken for a meat anchor. It would have made more sense to ignore the webbing and ring, and just give a meat anchor, rigging differently for the Last Person. The geometry was very good for meat anchoring.

    Short version: Don't Do That!

    Comments?

    Pictures: these pictures show a different rappel that has kinda the same geometry, the same problems.

    Morocco Awkward rap.

    Morocco Awkward from bottom.
    Last edited: May 4, 2018
    stefan likes this.
  2. Scott Byington

    Scott Byington

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    I'm not sure if it's taboo to comment on 3 of Tom's posts in a day???

    Great reminder that awareness is critical.
  3. qedcook

    qedcook

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    I'm not sure if I am thinking of the same spot, but the very first rap/bypass (to get around the initial slot and drop in right at the small bride/arch) is dangerous. I've been in the canyon when the anchor failed, and I've heard about it failing twice. There should be a warning about this in the beta that's out there. The big pile of rocks looks stable, but it is not.
  4. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Not the same spot, but...

    I do not think adding "Make sure the anchor is strong enough to hold your weight" to the beta will change what people do. And do I have to add that for every anchor at every drop in every canyon?

    I think I cover that with "Don't be a beginner being led by a beginner."

    Tom
  5. qedcook

    qedcook

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    I agree for the most part, but if a particular spot is known to be deceptive in looking like a good anchor but actually being bad, does it hurt to note it? And I didn't mean your beta in particular, I just meant anyone who provides beta on that canyon. And also as a general warning to anyone who reads these posts.

    Also, your response is just a little bit grumpy.
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  6. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Don't you think that about MOST of my posts?
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  7. MB_HD

    MB_HD

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    More than one friend is no longer with us because of a lack of attention. Be careful out there.
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  8. qedcook

    qedcook

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    Only the ones that are grumpy. I guess I was just surprised that you personalized my reply so much. I didn't even mention your beta. TBH, I don't even know if your site has Morocco beta. I just said "the beta that's out there."
  9. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Fair enough. But what I control, barely, is my own beta, so I think from that viewpoint.

    As a general rule, YES, when there is an especially acute hazard, the beta for the canyon should call it out. But I do not think there is an especially acute hazard here, I think there is the normal level of hazard of doing canyons. Other than the fact the canyon is extremely accessible, so a lot of low-skill canyoneers do this canyon.

    Any details on the anchor failing?

    You mention that the big pile of rocks is unstable. But the "big pile of rocks" keeps changing, and sometimes it will be stable and sometimes not. As a guidebook author/beta provider it is not my duty to hold their hand through the entire process, teach them how to build a cairn anchor, inspect the webbing, how the webbing is tied, how to back up the anchor, where to put it, etc. I realize some guidebook authors (esp. THE author) specify what to use for an anchor at each drop. I find this crazy - canyons change a lot, fairly quickly. Whatever beta is on the web is out of date now, unless the canyon was done yesterday and posted tonight. I think it better to make general statements that are true, rather than specific statements that will soon be false.

    In short, the duty of care lies with the individual to actually know what they are doing, rather than with the beta provider to specify how to do each thing.

    Tom
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  10. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    @qedcook ??
  11. qedcook

    qedcook

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    Sorry, I missed this question when reading your reply. I didn't see the anchor post-fail. But pre-fail it was very high and heavy, but covered with a lot of sand, and most of the rocks were stacked vertical rather than horizontal. Supposedly the bottom rock was a large flake that slipped out from underneath the rest. I didn't get a good look, as I went in the main watercourse. Once my group had gone ahead and gotten to the next rappel, we heard a fall and went back to hear the report. Hope that helps.
    ratagonia likes this.
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