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Pine Creek Last Rappel - loss of control

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by ratagonia, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    From a correspondent who wishes to remain anonymous...

    Hi Tom,

    ...

    But first I would like your advice if you don't mind. I bought your 8.3 Canyon rope and I, other than the ladies I was with struggled with it. I was inexperienced with using it on my first descent last year. I fell on the last rappel on Pine Creek. I thought about posting my experience in the Group but did not for fear of criticism.

    I had no issues the Year before (First Season), and took a course with Dave @ ZAC but the rope was different that year (Sterling 9mm+)(TOM: not likely. ZAC uses BW Canyon Pro, and has a selection of Imlay Ropes for people to borrow the 'day after' a class). I did not factor that in when using the 8.3 so going off the lip free hanging posed a challenge for me after 30 feet down. I was using a Piranha on one horn only and possibly weighing around 200+ lbs with pack and gear. It was that dry pack sealed with air and gear that absorbed my ~ 30 foot fall. I have it all on video from my helmet cam which has given me a needed humbling experience.

    I was a bit cocky and I have myself to blame for this mishap. The last time I when down I felt I had too much friction so this is why I went on the single horn only. Going down and as the device started heating up, it started feeling like I was more on a pulley than a braking device. What made matters worse was that my prusik was not kicking in! I was using all my strength at this point to control the descent until the rope burnt my hand from the friction.

    I let go...

    I could go on, but the long and short of it is that I was ok and got back on the horse (Pine creek) the next day using both horns and testing my autoblock this time! I was so lucky to get way with just burns. I was just a foot or two away from landing on rocks. The sand and pack saved me from death or serious injury. I got a second chance.

    I found that the 8.3 combined with the Piranha did not work for me that well. As I said the girls had not issues. I on the other hand had either too much friction at times and not enough at others. The last rappel on Behunin was a jerky ride for me. I would have like a more smoother decent.

    So this year I am going to try out the Sterling ATS and desire a more beefier rope. So Tom, given that the Sterling Canyon rope feels like a 8.5 as you describe, would you recommend your 9.2?
    (TOM: for the record, ropes and rappel devices do not automatically know how to set themselves up. It requires skill and experience on the part of the rappeller to do so.)
    Blake Merrell likes this.
  2. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

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    Thanks for sharing, anonymous, as I'm also finding this is very common. No embarrassment, as we can all learn from others.

    Every rope and device behaves differently. I have to put on a lot of friction to safely descend using my Canyon Extreme rope, even more than the canyon fire 8. That rope is smooth and fast! And whenever I use a new device or rope, I always put on a lot more friction than I think I need, and adjust later to "dial it in".

    I always have an extra carabiner or two on my harness, so if I feel I'm starting to lose control I can quickly add a Z rig on the fly, for more friction and redirects. And if someone went before you, always good to have them be ready on your rope. As such you're not a wimp, incapable, or a rookie, just a smart canyoneer.
    BrianD and ratagonia like this.
  3. Mike Zampino

    Mike Zampino Canyon season never ends.

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    To add to Mountaineer: We met up before the 4th to do some canyons in Zion. On our first canyon (Telephone) there is a 130ft rap where the bottom is overhanging. We both brought our 8mm ropes. He has the Canyon extreme and I have the canyon pro DS...same diameter, same manufacturer. The sheath is different on the ropes making the canyon extreme much quicker. So what normally would work for me was only providing minimal friction. I thought about giving my XTS a wrap to add friction, but when I looked down his son had the rope so in hand, so I just asked for some tension on the belay and safely came to rest on the canyon floor.

    Luckily we were all trained and have tons and tons of experience. Had I been a beginer and new to the sport, things could have easily turned out very differently.
    BrianD and ratagonia like this.
  4. EvergreenDean

    EvergreenDean OK with what happens

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    It took me three years to feel like I had my friction figured out on most ropes with various devices for different length rappels. Dozens of tests with others going down first so I could try a new device, new setting, etc. Practice sessions, meetups in Boulder canyon (thanks Tony, AJ & Charly) and tons of research on all the canyon sites. Watched a good friend who started canyoneering with me years ago but didn't put in the same testing effort lose his marbles on a big rappel this year. He lost control 50 feet in on a 280 foot free hanging rappel. Fortunately I knew to go first and was there to save him. This was after much explanation to him about how to add friction, how big raps are different, pack hanging etc. He would readily tell you I saved his life by being on fireman's belay. There is simply no substitute for experience.
    BrianD, Kuenn, Kevin and 1 other person like this.
  5. Erik B.

    Erik B. Thirsty for canyon...

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    It seems to me that experience is sometimes as simple as learning a lesson the hard way and living to tell the story. I'd say anonymous got a healthy dose of experience in a hurry. I would also propose that many "experienced canyoneers" likely didn't attain their level of expertise without an incident or two learned the hard way.

    I once learned a lesson about rushing in a rather unpleasant fashion:
    There was a dead animal rotting in a log jam last year in Pine Creek that smelled something fierce. I waited nearly 100 ft away to avoid the smell for the canyoneer in front of me to rappel the log jam. "Off Rappel". I SPRINTED (not breathing) up to the short rappel, connected, and hastily moved over the edge. Fortunately this was a very short rappel because half-way down my leg got snagged in the rope and I turned upside down and fell on my back about 5 feet.....into the pool with the dead animal juice. GREAT! What made matters worse is I was STILL in rush mode and when I disconnected I dropped my ATC INTO the dead animal pool. (Second lost rap device of the trip...sigh) Fortunately, my canyon partner apparently has ATC radar and easily recovered my rappel device from the the filth pool....but only after I spent several minutes neck deep in the foul water groping for it. Lesson learned in a big way! NO RUSHING...EVER!

    Anonymous: I'm glad you're OK! As you can see from all the posts above, you're not the first to struggle with friction or make mistakes. Good for you for getting back in the saddle and taking something away from this incident.
    BrianD, Kuenn and Mountaineer like this.
  6. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Being straight up, we've probably all experienced with Anonymous a bad-judgement-act(s) at least a time or two.

    So the $64 question IS:
    Bingo!

    The kind of positive action that comes when sensory input triggers derived training knowledge. What Bo Beck (and plenty of others on here) says is a weakness in the present "let's get on rope" crave. I realize I'm preaching to the choir here....but I feel better now. [​IMG]

    The crux: So, how do you respond to an opportunity when you see something in the field that has the appearance of lack of experience and make it a positive teaching moment without coming off as a know-it-all jack... uh, wagon? Or, how do you ask pointed questions that may reveal experience deficiencies prior to committing? I know people that do well and not so well with this kind of instruction slash inquiry (self included, on the not side).
    Michael Walsh and ratagonia like this.
  7. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    Just make friends. Friends help friends, right? Go at least a little out of your way to establish a minimal (or greater) level of friendly communications / relationship with the folks you encounter out there. Kinda like what LE are doing in Zion these days: be genuinely friendly first, ask questions later (if necessary). If you have no relationship, then try to jump into an emerging situation with questions blazing (and perhaps a fake n' hasty smile), you might just come off as a meddler. Hmmm, sounds like another Foxworthy-inspired thread:

    You MIGHT be a meddler if...

    - you say nothing to the Group Of Obvious Newbies* until they are about to die right in front of you
    - the first thing you ask them is, "mind if we pass - using your ropes?"
    - ?
    Michael Walsh, Mountaineer and Kuenn like this.
  8. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

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    Great question, and often a tough one. It is easy to come off as a "know-it-all jack...uh, wagon". I've heard a lot of varying opinions, all the way from natural selection (i.e. just let them go) to intervene on everything that doesn't meet your level of approval. It depends on the situation for sure. Not black and white, but would any of us watch someone just continue with a mistake? When it could involve their life at risk? I would rather offend someone than have some culpability/guilt after the fact. Here is a topic. Are you liable if you don't intervene with a group you are not responsible for? Morally or legally? The Pine Creek thread splinters off...

    In a class, guided group, or gym: let the instructor know. For example, I saw one person in the climbing gym belaying improperly. Rather than approaching the stranger, I let the store know. It was handled quickly and correctly, and everyone was safe.

    If I'm guiding a group: everything is done by my strict instruction per the rules of the governing body. Everyone agrees. If not, you go home.

    If I'm in a meet up, where everyone is on equal standing: this one is tougher. If I'm not 100% sure of the skill levels, I casually insist or arrive at the decision that I or my son/or other known participant goes first and I go last. At least on the first rap, and usually on all the others. I've seen some near injuries in the past. Want to avoid those, even if we are just "meeting up", no leader. If there are issues on the trip, I make recommendations and also gladly receive them, in a positive fashion. Probably better to agree and say, "yes, that is a good idea", even if you already know about that idea...ha ha. I see it as a "win win", unless of course the person you are with continually points things out in the day - no fun there.

    Come upon another group: if it involves safety, point it out. I've seen some crazy stuff (others in Zion), but have just let it go if they are still safe, then tried to help them fix their mistakes, but usually they don't want the help. However, better to part as enemies than part in a body bag, right? Or I like Hank's suggestion, "Mind if we pass?" :cautious:

    Hopefully all of us don't make too many enemies out there, then maybe we'd all argue the other position... :facepalm:


    Good topic Kuenn.
    Michael Walsh likes this.
  9. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    THanks Mountaineer

    Goes w/o saying (or, it did...) that if folks are fixin' to die, best to head that off quickly and safely, etiquette be damned. Lots of situations, variables, etc. Yeah, good topic!
  10. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Meet Up Groups - no leader?

    This explains a lot.

    Tom
  11. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

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    If there is a designated leader, then an accident, isn't that leader now legally responsible? Good question for legal experts, as my understanding when I asked this of an attorney the answer was yes.
  12. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Well, it depends. Generally not.

    In the suggested worldview: in order to avoid legal responsibility, anyone who knows anything has to carefully deny knowing anything, thus CREATING a situation that makes injury or death significantly more likely. I would call this RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT, which carries both civil and criminal liability.

    Tom
  13. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

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    I think you are mixing legal issues. Lying and reckless endangerment is one issue. Certainly you never want to lie or misrepresent yourself in any situation. And certainly you always want to do your best while swimming, hiking, or crossing the sidewalk; to your highest ability. Good Samaritan law.

    Being a designated leader is entirely different, and takes on another meaning and higher responsibility.

    I'll circle back with some attorneys on the topic to verify. I hope it doesn't come down to never meet up again, or have everyone sign waivers and each keep a copy...wow.

    And the thread splinters to legal..:)
  14. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Meet ups are super popular. I think there's the "organizer" of a meet up group, but, not a "leader" for a trip, per se.

    But, what does it explain, really? Per your post above, is my take away that if folks take a course through ZAC, then they are still bumbling idiots? Of course not.

    Even super experienced people f up. Simul rappel, anyone? Ever had an anchor fail? Ever get lost on a solo climb? And on and on. Generalizing...

    I cringe when I hear "designated leader" for some reason. I wouldn't take that on, personally. Too much liability.

    Not to poke to hard at the above statement, but, wtf does that mean? Governing body? Whose, what? You make folks review the rules, sign on the dotted line? Your strict instruction? Yikes.

    Maybe I'm unleadable...ha ha.
  15. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

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    Exactly, I agree. Seems with getting together you do the best you can, with the skills you are given. Just be careful not to improperly set group expectations.

    Good to poke. Constructive dialogue here. :)

    My limited experience is with guiding a BSA group, under their policies and provisions (which are very strict). They do need to have a parents signature on tour forms, yes. Although their line is solid. :D If there is a participant that is not willing to follow the rules, then they do not get to go. The climb lead instructor is responsible to make sure those rules are followed by all (not my rules).

    I imagine if you carry liability insurance (as a guide), there are certain rules, policies, and limits there as well.
  16. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Ah, given that context, they best do what you say! Ha ha.

    These groups that get together are an intersting mix, to be sure. They're extremely popular, and, will continue to be. Clubs (Wasatch Mountain Club comes to mind) I'd think would lose potential members to these groups. Less structure, no or very minimal fees, no signing on the dotted lines...very much an appeal for some, maybe most, folks.

    Folks struggle to find other folks to play with. Social media, meet ups, Facebook, these are all viable venues for pulling folks together. Its hard for me to condemn them for lacking "proper" leadership. "Leadership", per se, isn't really their purpose. I'd hope most folks don't want to be guided, but, maybe some do. Interesting to ponder.

    Another issue is how delusional folks can be when it comes to their experience and saavy. Easier to judge with the benefit of hindsite...(which by then is sometimes too late).

    Its the Wild West!
  17. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Just a point of nomenclature...

    If you are paid money, you are guiding.

    If you are not paid money, you are leading.

    Do they pay you money?

    Tom
  18. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Mountaineer can certainly speak for himself, but my experience with the BSA is quite the opposite. You pay them money and then volunteer your time and resources.

    I must like it though because I keep doing it.
  19. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Are young men's souls worth anything? Ha ha.

    guide
    /gīd/

    Noun
    A person who advises or shows the way to others.

    guiding present participle of guide (Verb)
    Verb
    1. Show or indicate the way to (someone).
    2. Direct the motion or positioning of (something).

    Most references that define "guide" or "guiding" don't mention monetary compensation as a requirement.
  20. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

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    Absolutely right! :) It is all about service. Donations. And making a difference in lives.
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