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Wife 5 arch failure

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by Tirrus, Apr 30, 2019.

  1. Tirrus

    Tirrus Rope rider.

    Yesterday, a group descended Wife 5 in Capitol Reef NP. The first rappel is 100ft, anchored from two bushes, and are the anchor described in BluuGnomes beta.

    Unfortunately Wife 5 is one of the more popular routes in the park, so those little bushes have seen some impact, but are still a sound anchor option.

    Behind those bushes is an absolutely lovely little arch (bridge) in the watercourse, that has started getting used frequently as a substitute or backup anchor for the bushes. Every time I have visited Wife 5 there has been webbing slung from the arch, and extended out 25ft to the edge.

    This webbing being there has been a frustration, as per the Superintendents Compendium 1.5(a)(8):
    Climbing/Canyoneering Is prohibited on any arch or natural bridge within the boundaries of Capitol Reef National Park.

    Back to yesterday, the group descending Wife 5 utilized the bright yellow webbing anchor slung around the arch, and this happened while someone was on rappel:

    The group removed the webbing, and used the bushes as an anchor, safely completing the canyon.

    Things to learn:

    -Wingate can lose up to 30% of its strength when wet. (It had rained the day prior, and drizzled while they were in canyon)
    -Back those anchors up with meat.
    -Please don’t rappel using illegal anchors. (The park is planning to update the compendium to better define arch and bridge dimensions, but the standard definition is a 3ft opening)
    -Be careful out there.

    Thoughts on how this could have been prevented, or what caused the failure?

  2. wisconnyjohnny


    Whoa scary af. I like how nobody screamed! I have no sound advice. I’m a newb.
  3. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

    I would guess that wet sandstone was the #1 contributer.
  4. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

    Salt Lake City
    Public shaming?

    Hard to see, but, looks like a much bigger loop of webbing not located at the skinniest part of the arch would have been better. Tucked down at the bottom and maybe blocked into place with a few big rocks? A big loop as a back up which could be removed sans rope grooves an option too? In general, but, not if its prohibited by the park.

    A well placed bolted anchor might solve some problems...(also not allowed or allowed by the park?).

    Who buys bright yellow webbing? Eeek.
  5. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

    Here is the policy if you are interested:

    For the protection of park resources, canyoneering groups are limited to a maximum of six people, with some exceptions for certain routes near the Fruita area. Ask at the visitor center for details.

    Capitol Reef is a clean canyoneering area. Minimum impact techniques that do not damage or destroy rock or other park resources are required:
    • The installation of new fixed anchors (bolts, pitons, etc.) is prohibited.
    • Bolts may be replaced only if an existing bolt is unsafe.
    • The use of power drills is prohibited.
    • Where it is necessary to leave or replace existing webbing, the webbing should closely match the color of the surrounding rock.
    • Protection may not be placed with the use of a hammer except to replace existing belay and rappel anchors and bolts on existing routes, or for emergency self-rescue.
    • Physical alteration of rock faces is prohibited, such as chiseling, glue reinforcement of existing holds, trundling rocks, and gluing of new holds.
    • The intentional removal of lichen or plants from rock is prohibited. Potential seasonal closures or use limits may be in effect during your visit. Check at the visitor center for current closures or limits.​

    If using the arch is going to destroy it though, maybe they would make an exception to the bolt rule?
    darhawk likes this.
  6. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

    Salt Lake City
    Thanks, Scott. Was curious about the reg's.

    I'd guess there are plenty of rope grooves...speaking of rock damage...
  7. Ram


    The answer to NOT destroying arches, leaving grooves, is....fiddlesticks, smooth operators. Learn and use them safely.

    In the climbing world, they used to nail in pitons and then they evolved to using nuts and cams, to reduce impacts.
    In canyoneering, they bolted and pulled ropes through rings, grooving rock, whether it was webbing anchors or bolts.
    The answer is here already and its use is spreading. Speed, less impacts, longer raps, with less anchors needed, are among the many benefits. Learn and use with caution. You will never go back. The only people I hear bashing the technique are those that have barely or not used it at all.

    I think some positive changes may come to group size. Perhaps soon
    Last edited: May 4, 2019
  8. alavender27


    The video was taken after everyone was safely off rope.
  9. rick t

    rick t

    so are you going to "fiddlestick" off the now broken and weakened arch, or in killing the two little bushes, while we find out which one blows out first??
    Your fiddlestick does not address the anchor issue.I have hopes that, as they did at Cassidy, the park might see some wisdom of "A well placed bolted anchor might solve some problems". And prevent any unnecessary deaths.
  10. Zach Olson

    Zach Olson

    I was just in Wife V last week and we used the bushes. Looks like you could also use a sandtrap in that spot. Seems like the bushes are holding up fine slung with webbing. Not going to argue that bolts wouldn't make the rappel easier but would bolts really prevent overall resource damage?

    Wife V sees plenty of traffic and I'm sure a lot of beginners but it does retain a reputation as a canyon that requires at least minimal anchor assessment and natural anchor building skills. If you start bolting the canyon you open the door to an entire class of novices that would normally avoid it. Increasing the quantity and reducing the quality of groups in there is going to impact the canyon in other ways.

    Take Cassidy for example. I support Tom's recent bolting project to protect the resource because the canyon already had a reputation as an easy, beginner friendly, Zion style toss and go romp. Dumbing down one canyon in the name of safety that had already pretty much been sacrificed makes sense. Cassidy has been crazy crowded this fall with more people running through on a Saturday than even the busiest Zion canyons.

    Balancing use is not easy but I land on the side of keeping the reef wild, hard, discoverable and free of bolts.
    Ram, Craig, Eroni and 2 others like this.
  11. Nan


    The last time we did Wife 5 in June, we used a sandtrap below the bush. We were a bit worried about less than ideal geometry of the sandtrap placement, and also difficulty of the pull, so we lightened the sandtrap load and placed two full potshots on top of the trap so we could sequence the pull - each potshot pulled separately and then the sandtrap. Even so, the retrieval was difficult and we coreshot our pull cord. In this case, I agree that well positioned (and camouflaged) bolts may do less damage to the canyon and would certainly be more reliable. I also subscribe to Zach's opinion of keeping the canyons wild. The crowds will still come to this area whether it is bolted or not and I question the long term impact on the bush.
    NorthBound and rick t like this.
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