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Trouble in Paradise-Stuck ropes

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by Ram, May 30, 2018.

  1. Ram

    Ram

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    April is a great time to do explorations. Between 14 and 15 hours of daylight. I found myself with a collection of some of the most seasoned, ghosting skilled, explorers I know. Most having plied the trade together and separately. This was John's project and he had ascertained that the biggest drop, the last one, was likely not bigger than 200 feet. The canyon had many different moods, nice but neither scary nor spectacular. Then it got scary and spectacular. No big for this talented group. A sandtrap anchor was used at one drop of about 100 feet. Many experienced eyes saw no pulling concerns, including my own. We were wrong. Stuck were now 2 of our ropes, including our longest rope, the 200 foot rope. This was a basic mistake, as we had pull cord, but REALLY it is easier to pull with rope and it REALLY looked like a benign spot.

    Our group was spread out a bit, as we were 8 souls, and our skill sets were being applied at many problems simultaneously. I was near the front and noted a possible escape and then two 20 foot drops, leading to the long grand finale. We waited. And when the wait became longer than what seemed logical, folks at the stuck rope and folks near the front moved toward each other and communication was reestablished. A jug up a steep drop on a stuck sandtrap, is a dangerous business. Inventories were taken and options weighed. If we cut the ropes, this is what we would have left.
    110' (cut)
    75'
    50' (cut)
    Plus a 300' pull cord (dyneema)
    This would be the resources available for an unknown drop estimated at 200 feet plus or minus. Complicated, but manageable, as long as the drop was not longer than 235. Kind of a small margin. It was ascertained that the folks trying to retrieve the ropes could come down to the possible escape spot AND, with some effort, get back up to the bottom of the drop with the stuck ropes. It was decided NOT to cut the ropes yet and regroup and analyze the possible escape. We could always go back up and cut what we could, if the escape failed. And fail it could. It was steep, it turned out to be featureless at the crux and there was no guarantee that it would get us out of the canyon, as only the bottom quarter of the potential route was in view, from in the canyon.

    Going into the escape effort, it was considered that if we could get out, we had two options. Plain escape and perhaps return the next day to go through a 2nd time and clean up our mess from this pristine canyon. Or a part of the party could try to reenter the canyon above the drop with our stuck stuff and have a "do over."

    Capture techniques are as an important part of ghosting, as any technique. Perhaps only fiddlesticking is more used and valuable. It was tough and when the bottom problem was solved, it was not without some"boldness," from point man Bucky. After Bucky made it past the initial crux, all were pulled up. There was one more challenge near the top, that a rope came out for, but they were successful in getting out to the rim. Two folks went out to the bottom and came up to the final drop. Three of our group, John, Bucky and Taylor, found a way back into the canyon, above the stuck ropes. I was jealous of them, as the section they repeated was spectacular. I, with a few others, stayed just above the crux, one quarter of the way up, from the canyon bottom, to the rim. A stout anchor found, we would reenter the canyon if our "do over" crew made it work, the second time through. We would also be in position to have those folks exit up and out, if the 2nd time through, the anchor issues remained unresolved.

    The "do over" crew were successful and retrieved the ropes. They made the decision to use a piece of webbing, 8 feet down from the sandtrap anchor. They made it down to the escape. We rapped down and joined them for the final 3 drops, the third one, being the big one. It proved a complicated anchor too. We ended up just having a few feet of rope left and this pull was VERY difficult to pull too. Sheesh, what a bunch of amateurs!

    So we made it out of the canyon, which allowed for the customary "High five" back at the vehicles. That is the celebration of all getting out in one piece. The descent was tainted, by those few feet of webbing, but REALLY, that is not important enough to risk life and limb, by jugging up those stuck ropes. A friend of ours, an explorer in their own right, who reads and participates on this forum, had previously scouted this canyon, all the way up to the entry, was notified of the webbing left, longest rap distance and that perhaps some extra rope brought might be prudent. Nothing else was shared with them, which is good form. They shared approach info with us, from his scout. It was very gracious of them, when they found out that we were to beat them to the canyon by a mere 3 days. We felt badly for them. I think they are waiting till some rain washes away our footprints, to go. I hope they clean up our webbing.

    Sometimes you get the bear. Sometimes the bear gets you. And nature has a habit of keeping you humble. Another day in paradise. I captured our escape efforts on film. I will share that now below

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    Last edited: May 31, 2018
  2. Tirrus

    Tirrus Rope rider.

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    Great write up and pictures! I appreciate the detailed reports of when something goes wrong, instead of just success stories. Hopefully we can all learn from mistakes made, and challenging puzzles overcome. Glad you all made it out unscathed!
  3. Tom Collins

    Tom Collins

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    Location:
    Woodland Hills, UT
    What was the sandtrap caught on? Was it something you should have seen and just missed, or was it something that wasn’t really obvious until seen with the trap stuck on it?
    Ram and Rapterman like this.
  4. Chasetharp

    Chasetharp

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    Location:
    Salt Lake City
    Great story, glad it worked out. I’m with Tom, curious what hung up the sand trap.
    Rapterman likes this.
  5. John Diener

    John Diener

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    Location:
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    The drop is in a narrow spot with a chockstone. The canyon floor behind this widens and is all sand, roughly level with the chockstone. The groove/pinch on the RDC side of chockstone was quite small, and I believe we thought we could get an advantageous enough pull angle to overcome any issues. A small piece of wood or small stone would have been nice to place as a blocker, but not readily available. So we went without. We were somewhat cavalier with the pull - we should not have started the pull process until the pull line was at the most advantageous angle possible, but we didn't do that. I did not see the actual stuck trap, but I think it was indeed hung up in the RDC pinch/groove. I only have one pic of the area, from round 2, and unfortunately the offending chockstone is barely visible at the bottom edge of the photo.
    -john
    DSCF1046.
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