Forums: Climbing Information: Accident and Incident Analysis: Re: [billl7] NEAR MISS REPORT: The stupid mistakes edition: Edit Log


Jan 4, 2011, 10:57 AM

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Registered: Mar 29, 2009
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Re: [billl7] NEAR MISS REPORT: The stupid mistakes edition
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Last winter I was on a snow slog in the Pyrenees. We were looking for a notch to get over a ridge. It was supposed to be a short scramble down. It was pretty white out, so from the top I couldn't see very far down and was about to start scrambling when my partner insisted that I rope up. This turned out to be a good idea (roping up, a better idea would have been to go back). The scramble got steeper and steeper until I was on rappel. I still couldn't see the ground but I decided we were in the right place still, and maybe it was only because of the snow and ice that it seemed so steep.

So one pitch down, I set up another anchor (a loop over a frozen block about the size of a small fridge) and went down for another 100 ft of rappelling. My partner later told me that the block moved and he sat on it to keep it in place. By this time the slope was vertical with some overhangs and ledges. By the end of the rope, I still couldn't see the ground. I was also at the knots about 10 feet above a snowy ledge. With no anchors around, I just kind of kicked out a seat in the snow and told my partner to look for better anchors above.

Well he came down to where I was without bothering to look, so I prussiked back up. While ascending I was acutely aware that the top of the rope was simply looped over a big rock and there wasn't any anchor below me. Our plan if the anchor gave away was to try to both end up on opposite sides of a big rock and hopefully not slip over it. It was frightening. Eventually I found where someone else had been here and chopped off the end of their rope and tied it around a kind of flake/horn in a corner. This was also backed up with a camera strap. I added a sling and a carabiner and we finally had a decent anchor. Luckily the last rope length got us to the snowpack at the base of the cliff.

We abandoned our plans for the day and crossed back over through the actual notch which did not require any ropes and was about 500 m downhill. In hindsight, one or both of us could have died pretty easily.

The biggest lesson I guess was routefinding (trust what you see, not what you think you know), and don't stay out in whiteout conditions. Also, I should have ascended back up after the first rope length instead of committing to something unknown.

I found a photo of the start of the rappel:

And the actual notch we came back over:

(This post was edited by Rudmin on Jan 4, 2011, 11:13 AM)

Edit Log:
Post edited by Rudmin () on Jan 4, 2011, 11:02 AM
Post edited by Rudmin () on Jan 4, 2011, 11:07 AM
Post edited by Rudmin () on Jan 4, 2011, 11:13 AM

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