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Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC
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csproul


Feb 14, 2011, 8:56 AM
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Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC
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This weekend, myself and several others witnessed a pretty long fall that resulted in a climber hitting the ground. I was climbing Foreign Trade Zone while a party of two was toproping some variation of Bat Out of Hell (really I think they were just off route).

One of these two young men had reached the top of their climb while I was about half way up mine. I heard a whoosh and a loud thump and looked down to see the climber yell and bounce off the ground.

I had my belayer lower me and we sent a couple people up the trail to call 911 and notify the Park Ranger. Meanwhile, the climber's partner, myself and a couple others (tried to) kept him still and tied a shirt to a small cut on the back of his head. He was alert, not obviously injured and otherwise seemed ok (no loss of feeling, no clearly broken bones, no excessive bleeding, pupils looked normal...). Rangers and EMS arrived fairly quickly and checked him out. He was up and walking around pretty fast, refused treatment and seemed completely ok, and the two actually kept climbing.

His apparent lack of injury was pretty amazing to me. He had fallen from the top of the route, which I'd estimate at ~40 ft. and landed on his back/ass. His belayer had taken him off belay, assuming he was going to rap, when he was, in fact, expecting to be lowered.

Their anchor was obviously constructed in a manner that created a lot of rope drag with the rope going over a large ledge at the top. Ultimately, I think this actually saved his ass. Because of the friction, when he began falling, he fell pretty slowly until he was 20-25 feet off the ground. He really only got up speed for the last 20 feet or so. The poorly constructed anchor actually slowed down at least half of his fall.


david7896


Feb 14, 2011, 10:09 AM
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Re: [csproul] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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wow that guys is very lucky. just another story of communication failure. i hope they learn from it.


milesenoell


Feb 14, 2011, 11:10 AM
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Re: [csproul] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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I hope that if I ever blow it big I'm even half as lucky as this guy. Here's to being young and lucky!

That said, calling this accident preventable is an understatement. Hand lowering himself until he felt tension from the belay would have kept that guy from decking, plain and simple.

Edit: for clarity


(This post was edited by milesenoell on Feb 14, 2011, 11:11 AM)


wwalt822


Feb 14, 2011, 12:40 PM
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Re: [milesenoell] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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milesenoell wrote:
That said, calling this accident preventable is an understatement. Hand lowering himself until he felt tension from the belay would have kept that guy from decking, plain and simple.
Edit: for clarity

Or like you know if the belayer didn't take him off belay until he calls off belay.


csproul


Feb 14, 2011, 12:49 PM
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Re: [milesenoell] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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milesenoell wrote:
I hope that if I ever blow it big I'm even half as lucky as this guy. Here's to being young and lucky!

That said, calling this accident preventable is an understatement. Hand lowering himself until he felt tension from the belay would have kept that guy from decking, plain and simple.

Edit: for clarity
I think he actually may have done this (he said he did). The high friction on the anchor, however, made him think that his belayer was holding him when it was really just the friction in their system that was holding him.


bearbreeder


Feb 14, 2011, 12:50 PM
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Re: [csproul] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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i wouldnt climb again with that belayer after that ... amazing they did more climbs ... Tongue


milesenoell


Feb 14, 2011, 1:34 PM
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Re: [csproul] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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Perhaps my assertion was misplaced. I had just intended to stress that the person getting dropped has a role in this that is often overlooked. It's easy to blame this on the failure of the belayer, but I see it as a mutual failure.


byran


Feb 14, 2011, 6:57 PM
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Re: [milesenoell] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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I've had a sort of related experience once before. I was climbing with someone who wasn't from the States so the typical climbing lingo got a bit mixed up. I clipped into the anchors and yelled "take" in order to be lowered. He heard it as "safe" and took me off belay. Luckily I had several things working in my favor, like - I clearly heard him yell up "off belay", I was standing on a nice big ledge and could easily clip into the anchors, and it was obvious that there was no tension on the rope. So accident avoided, no harm done.

But in that situation there were a number of factors which led to the confusion. I was 80 ft up, out of sight from my belayer, there was a rushing river nearby, and we were two climbers from different countries who had never climbed together before. I'm really struggling to imagine how this sort of thing happens on a 40ft climb without there being some serious carelessness in part by the climber AND belayer.


reaeper


Feb 14, 2011, 7:00 PM
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Re: [csproul] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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Damn, miscommunication always seems to be the problem in these cases... Anyway, at least he is okay, yet another reason to make sure both the climber and belayer are on the same terms.


socalclimber


Feb 14, 2011, 7:30 PM
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Re: [csproul] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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Uh.... Wow! I really have to question the intelligence of the two to continue climbing after that. Probably would have been a good idea to go home for the day. Severe injuries don't always manifest themselves right away.

Case in point:

About 4 years ago one of my best friends, and looooong time climbing partner was up in Mammoth snow boarding on a Thursday. He took a small jump, and landed hard and banged his head. He said he was a little out of it at first, but brushed it off and kept on for the day. Friday he drove down to my place and arrived in the early evening. As we normally do, we had big fire that night and went to bed. Saturday 6:30 am, I'm up making coffee in the house, all of a sudden I hear another friend start yelling "ROBERT ROBERT COME QUICK! STEVE'S HAVING A SEIZURE!".

Out the door I fly. Sure enough, he's on the ground. Full Gran Mall. I roll him on his side and after a minute or so he's starting to come out of it. Next thing I know he's up and standing, hands out in front of him yelling "OW OW OW IT HURTS! WHAT'S HAPPENING? MAKE IT STOP!". For the next 20 minutes while we waited for EMS to arrive he was combative and stumbling around without a clue as to where he was and what had happened. The best we could do was to keep him from hurting himself. Finally he came back to some semblance of reality and EMS arrived and took care of the rest.

I knew this was no "normal" seizure. Turns out he had a slow bleed in his brain from the snow boarding incident.

I still see him quite often, and talk almost everyday, but he isn't the same. Memory loss is a big one. All in all he's still Steve, but there are definite differences.

Think Mechanism Of Injury (MOI). Don't just slough off things like this just because you can get up on your own.


Vegasclimber10


Feb 14, 2011, 7:47 PM
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Re: [socalclimber] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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Good point, thanks for bringing that up.


healyje


Feb 15, 2011, 3:33 AM
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Re: [socalclimber] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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Blowing it off is why Natasha Richardson died after a skiing fall.


socalclimber


Feb 15, 2011, 3:47 AM
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Re: [healyje] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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healyje wrote:
Blowing it off is why Natasha Richardson died after a skiing fall.

Now that you mention it, that's true. I had forgotten about that one.


wwalt822


Feb 15, 2011, 7:58 AM
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Re: [milesenoell] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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milesenoell wrote:
Perhaps my assertion was misplaced. I had just intended to stress that the person getting dropped has a role in this that is often overlooked. It's easy to blame this on the failure of the belayer, but I see it as a mutual failure.

it is 100% the belayers fault if the following conditions are true.

Climber and belayer knew eachother's communcation system (no language barrier etc)

Climber didn't call off belay

Belayer didn't announce belay off.


jt512


Feb 15, 2011, 8:07 AM
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Re: [wwalt822] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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wwalt822 wrote:
milesenoell wrote:
Perhaps my assertion was misplaced. I had just intended to stress that the person getting dropped has a role in this that is often overlooked. It's easy to blame this on the failure of the belayer, but I see it as a mutual failure.

it is 100% the belayers fault if the following conditions are true.

Climber and belayer knew eachother's communcation system (no language barrier etc)

Climber didn't call off belay

Belayer didn't announce belay off.

The climber should still ensure he is on belay before weighting the rope, so I don't see how this could be 100% the belayer's fault. In fact, I consider it to be nearly 100% the climber's fault. I don't know why the belayer took him off, but the climber should have been aware of it.

Jay


csproul


Feb 15, 2011, 8:11 AM
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Re: [wwalt822] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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wwalt822 wrote:
milesenoell wrote:
Perhaps my assertion was misplaced. I had just intended to stress that the person getting dropped has a role in this that is often overlooked. It's easy to blame this on the failure of the belayer, but I see it as a mutual failure.

it is 100% the belayers fault if the following conditions are true.

Climber and belayer knew eachother's communcation system (no language barrier etc)

Climber didn't call off belay

Belayer didn't announce belay off.
The first two are true, but the last one is not, and I don't agree with the last statement. If the climber didn't ask to be taken off belay, the belayer shouldn't take (or call) him off belay. Period*. The belayer did call him off belay, when he never should have. Due to wind and being around a corner, the climber never heard him. But the bottom line was that the climber should have never been "off belay", called or not.

*the only exception I can think of is when climbing multipitch and the leader is out of rope and out of communication. In that case I will take them off belay and start climbing.


wwalt822


Feb 15, 2011, 8:33 AM
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Re: [jt512] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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jt512 wrote:
wwalt822 wrote:
milesenoell wrote:
Perhaps my assertion was misplaced. I had just intended to stress that the person getting dropped has a role in this that is often overlooked. It's easy to blame this on the failure of the belayer, but I see it as a mutual failure.

it is 100% the belayers fault if the following conditions are true.

Climber and belayer knew eachother's communcation system (no language barrier etc)

Climber didn't call off belay

Belayer didn't announce belay off.

The climber should still ensure he is on belay before weighting the rope, so I don't see how this could be 100% the belayer's fault. In fact, I consider it to be nearly 100% the climber's fault. I don't know why the belayer took him off, but the climber should have been aware of it.

Jay

So if I take you off belay when you don't call for it and don't make sure you hear me, then you fall and die, its nearly 100% your fault?


jt512


Feb 15, 2011, 8:34 AM
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Re: [wwalt822] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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wwalt822 wrote:
jt512 wrote:
wwalt822 wrote:
milesenoell wrote:
Perhaps my assertion was misplaced. I had just intended to stress that the person getting dropped has a role in this that is often overlooked. It's easy to blame this on the failure of the belayer, but I see it as a mutual failure.

it is 100% the belayers fault if the following conditions are true.

Climber and belayer knew eachother's communcation system (no language barrier etc)

Climber didn't call off belay

Belayer didn't announce belay off.

The climber should still ensure he is on belay before weighting the rope, so I don't see how this could be 100% the belayer's fault. In fact, I consider it to be nearly 100% the climber's fault. I don't know why the belayer took him off, but the climber should have been aware of it.

Jay

So if I take you off belay when you don't call for it and don't make sure you hear me, then you fall and die, its nearly 100% your fault?

Yes.

Jay


csproul


Feb 15, 2011, 9:19 AM
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Re: [jt512] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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jt512 wrote:
wwalt822 wrote:
milesenoell wrote:
Perhaps my assertion was misplaced. I had just intended to stress that the person getting dropped has a role in this that is often overlooked. It's easy to blame this on the failure of the belayer, but I see it as a mutual failure.

it is 100% the belayers fault if the following conditions are true.

Climber and belayer knew eachother's communcation system (no language barrier etc)

Climber didn't call off belay

Belayer didn't announce belay off.

The climber should still ensure he is on belay before weighting the rope, so I don't see how this could be 100% the belayer's fault. In fact, I consider it to be nearly 100% the climber's fault. I don't know why the belayer took him off, but the climber should have been aware of it.

Jay
I agree that it is on the climber to ensure that he/she is safe, but I still think this was mostly the belayers fault. There is no reason he should have taken the climber off belay. If the climber is telling the truth, he stated that he did hold the belayers side of the rope and felt there was tension on the rope before leaning back to be lowered. Because he was around a corner and over a ledge, and they had a lot of rope drag, the climber felt the tension and mistook it for a belay. Especially since there was poor communication, the climber should have remained on belay. I certainly have an expectation that my belayer will keep me on belay until I ask to be taken off belay.


csproul


Feb 15, 2011, 9:22 AM
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Re: [jt512] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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jt512 wrote:
wwalt822 wrote:
jt512 wrote:
wwalt822 wrote:
milesenoell wrote:
Perhaps my assertion was misplaced. I had just intended to stress that the person getting dropped has a role in this that is often overlooked. It's easy to blame this on the failure of the belayer, but I see it as a mutual failure.

it is 100% the belayers fault if the following conditions are true.

Climber and belayer knew eachother's communcation system (no language barrier etc)

Climber didn't call off belay

Belayer didn't announce belay off.

The climber should still ensure he is on belay before weighting the rope, so I don't see how this could be 100% the belayer's fault. In fact, I consider it to be nearly 100% the climber's fault. I don't know why the belayer took him off, but the climber should have been aware of it.

Jay

So if I take you off belay when you don't call for it and don't make sure you hear me, then you fall and die, its nearly 100% your fault?

Yes.

Jay
That's bullshit. As far as the belayer is/was concerned, the climber could have just as well fallen while climbing as fallen while lowering. I have an expectation that my belayer will catch me when I fall, and will not take me off belay until I request it (with the exception noted above).


jt512


Feb 15, 2011, 9:45 AM
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Re: [csproul] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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csproul wrote:
jt512 wrote:
wwalt822 wrote:
jt512 wrote:
wwalt822 wrote:
milesenoell wrote:
Perhaps my assertion was misplaced. I had just intended to stress that the person getting dropped has a role in this that is often overlooked. It's easy to blame this on the failure of the belayer, but I see it as a mutual failure.

it is 100% the belayers fault if the following conditions are true.

Climber and belayer knew eachother's communcation system (no language barrier etc)

Climber didn't call off belay

Belayer didn't announce belay off.

The climber should still ensure he is on belay before weighting the rope, so I don't see how this could be 100% the belayer's fault. In fact, I consider it to be nearly 100% the climber's fault. I don't know why the belayer took him off, but the climber should have been aware of it.

Jay

So if I take you off belay when you don't call for it and don't make sure you hear me, then you fall and die, its nearly 100% your fault?

Yes.

Jay
That's bullshit. As far as the belayer is/was concerned, the climber could have just as well fallen while climbing as fallen while lowering.

Context, please. We are not talking about a belayer taking his partner off belay in the middle of a climb.

Jay


jt512


Feb 15, 2011, 9:56 AM
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csproul wrote:
jt512 wrote:
wwalt822 wrote:
milesenoell wrote:
Perhaps my assertion was misplaced. I had just intended to stress that the person getting dropped has a role in this that is often overlooked. It's easy to blame this on the failure of the belayer, but I see it as a mutual failure.

it is 100% the belayers fault if the following conditions are true.

Climber and belayer knew eachother's communcation system (no language barrier etc)

Climber didn't call off belay

Belayer didn't announce belay off.

The climber should still ensure he is on belay before weighting the rope, so I don't see how this could be 100% the belayer's fault. In fact, I consider it to be nearly 100% the climber's fault. I don't know why the belayer took him off, but the climber should have been aware of it.

Jay
I agree that it is on the climber to ensure that he/she is safe, but I still think this was mostly the belayers fault. There is no reason he should have taken the climber off belay. If the climber is telling the truth, he stated that he did hold the belayers side of the rope and felt there was tension on the rope before leaning back to be lowered. Because he was around a corner and over a ledge, and they had a lot of rope drag, the climber felt the tension and mistook it for a belay.

Because he was around a corner and over a ledge, and had a lot of rope drag, the climber should have been even more cautious than usual in ensuring that he was on belay before committing to the rope. Can you imagine yourself in that situation thinking "I can't see or hear my belayer, he can't see or hear me, and there's a lot of rope drag, so it's hard to tell whether I'm on belay or not, so I guess I'll just lean back and hope for the best"?

In reply to:
Especially since there was poor communication, the climber should have remained on belay. I certainly have an expectation that my belayer will keep me on belay until I ask to be taken off belay.

I have that expectation as well, but I never just assume it's true, and under difficult circumstances, as we have in this case, I'd be even more cautious than usual.

Jay


byran


Feb 15, 2011, 10:10 AM
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Even if the belayer was 100% responsible for dropping the climber (which I doubt is the case here), the climber is still 100% responsible for choosing to be belayed by someone who is an inexperienced noob/irresponsible idiot.


csproul


Feb 15, 2011, 10:37 AM
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I can see where you and Jay are coming from and I agree that we all bear our own responsibility for choosing qualified and trusted belayers. So in that respect, the climber bears some/much responsibility. But in my mind it is still a greater violation of basic principles to take someone off of belay that does not request it. This should just be a basic practice.


csproul


Feb 15, 2011, 10:44 AM
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Re: [jt512] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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jt512 wrote:
csproul wrote:
jt512 wrote:
wwalt822 wrote:
jt512 wrote:
wwalt822 wrote:
milesenoell wrote:
Perhaps my assertion was misplaced. I had just intended to stress that the person getting dropped has a role in this that is often overlooked. It's easy to blame this on the failure of the belayer, but I see it as a mutual failure.

it is 100% the belayers fault if the following conditions are true.

Climber and belayer knew eachother's communcation system (no language barrier etc)

Climber didn't call off belay

Belayer didn't announce belay off.

The climber should still ensure he is on belay before weighting the rope, so I don't see how this could be 100% the belayer's fault. In fact, I consider it to be nearly 100% the climber's fault. I don't know why the belayer took him off, but the climber should have been aware of it.

Jay

So if I take you off belay when you don't call for it and don't make sure you hear me, then you fall and die, its nearly 100% your fault?

Yes.

Jay
That's bullshit. As far as the belayer is/was concerned, the climber could have just as well fallen while climbing as fallen while lowering.

Context, please. We are not talking about a belayer taking his partner off belay in the middle of a climb.

Jay
The belayer couldn't see the climber, nor had good communications with the climber. Therefore, the belayer could not see if the climber was still climbing or at the anchor. So really, as far as the belayer knew, he may as well have taken the climber off belay in the middle of the climb.

On your other points, I can agree, but I'd still be pretty mad at my belayer. After that initial reaction, hopefully I'd eventually come to understand my own responsibility for the accident.


jt512


Feb 15, 2011, 11:17 AM
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csproul wrote:
jt512 wrote:
csproul wrote:
jt512 wrote:
wwalt822 wrote:
jt512 wrote:
wwalt822 wrote:
milesenoell wrote:
Perhaps my assertion was misplaced. I had just intended to stress that the person getting dropped has a role in this that is often overlooked. It's easy to blame this on the failure of the belayer, but I see it as a mutual failure.

it is 100% the belayers fault if the following conditions are true.

Climber and belayer knew eachother's communcation system (no language barrier etc)

Climber didn't call off belay

Belayer didn't announce belay off.

The climber should still ensure he is on belay before weighting the rope, so I don't see how this could be 100% the belayer's fault. In fact, I consider it to be nearly 100% the climber's fault. I don't know why the belayer took him off, but the climber should have been aware of it.

Jay

So if I take you off belay when you don't call for it and don't make sure you hear me, then you fall and die, its nearly 100% your fault?

Yes.

Jay
That's bullshit. As far as the belayer is/was concerned, the climber could have just as well fallen while climbing as fallen while lowering.

Context, please. We are not talking about a belayer taking his partner off belay in the middle of a climb.

Jay
The belayer couldn't see the climber, nor had good communications with the climber. Therefore, the belayer could not see if the climber was still climbing or at the anchor. So really, as far as the belayer knew, he may as well have taken the climber off belay in the middle of the climb.

This is adding new information or new assumptions to the facts. If the belayer really did not know that the climber was at the anchors, then it would be an inexcusable mistake for him to take the climber off belay. Yet he did, so I suspect that the belayer did know that the climber was at the anchor. So the next question is, why would the belayer take his partner off belay at the anchor? If I had to speculate, I would say that he heard something from his partner that he interpreted as "off belay." If so, then this is another example why, if you plan to be lowered, you should not say anything when you get to the anchor, except "slack," if you need to clean the anchor, "take," and "lower." Any other communication (eg, "safe") is unnecessary, useless, and an invitation for miscommunication.

Jay


(This post was edited by jt512 on Feb 15, 2011, 2:36 PM)


socalclimber


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Re: [jt512] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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Oh good lord and butter. The blame here lies in both camps. For starters, neither one had a clue what they were doing.

Simply, the climber made assumptions, the belayer made assumptions. End result, the guy decked.

When you look at these accidents, the usually seem to happen at the anchor point. Personally once at the anchor I'm not committing to the system till I'm sure of whats going on below.

They both blew it.


milesenoell


Feb 15, 2011, 2:31 PM
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socalclimber wrote:
Oh good lord and butter. The blame here lies in both camps. For starters, neither one had a clue what they were doing.

Simply, the climber made assumptions, the belayer made assumptions. End result, the guy decked.

When you look at these accidents, the usually seem to happen at the anchor point. Personally once at the anchor I'm not committing to the system till I'm sure of whats going on below.

They both blew it.

Very succinctly put. Jay takes this view a bit further than I do, at least for the sake of argument, but I really have to disagree with wwalt about this being simply a belay failure. Regardless of how you parse the blame, when it's me, I choose to make it my responsibility. I recommend that others do the same, but I can see that that this isn't a foregone conclusion among the climbing community.


milesenoell


Feb 15, 2011, 2:39 PM
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Re: [wwalt822] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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wwalt822 wrote:
milesenoell wrote:
Perhaps my assertion was misplaced. I had just intended to stress that the person getting dropped has a role in this that is often overlooked. It's easy to blame this on the failure of the belayer, but I see it as a mutual failure.

it is 100% the belayers fault if the following conditions are true.
I just cant agree with you there.
In reply to:
Climber and belayer knew eachother's communcation system (no language barrier etc)

Climber didn't call off belay

Belayer didn't announce belay off.


I don't see the conditions as superseding the climber's responsibility to be their own first line of protection. Hell, you owe it to your partner as well as yourself not to assume risk recklessly.



Edit: cheestit


(This post was edited by milesenoell on Feb 15, 2011, 2:41 PM)


Partner j_ung


Feb 15, 2011, 2:58 PM
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Re: [socalclimber] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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socalclimber wrote:
Oh good lord and butter. The blame here lies in both camps. For starters, neither one had a clue what they were doing.

Simply, the climber made assumptions, the belayer made assumptions. End result, the guy decked.

When you look at these accidents, the usually seem to happen at the anchor point. Personally once at the anchor I'm not committing to the system till I'm sure of whats going on below.

They both blew it.


What are we talking about here? I think accountability for an injured climber's circumstances and the roles/responsibilities of climbers/belayers are two different things. Certainly, they both screwed up. But, IMO, the party injured while participating in climbing activities is always 100% responsible for his or her situation. If you choose to climb, then you have either accepted the risks or are ignorant of them. Those risks include bad belaying.

This is something that the general public seems to get better than most climbers do. Though it's callous and insensitive to be sure, there's a measure of truth in the statement, "Serves him right for rock climbing."

Let's see how many one-stars this draws. Laugh


(This post was edited by j_ung on Feb 15, 2011, 2:59 PM)


sspssp


Feb 15, 2011, 4:03 PM
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Re: [j_ung] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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On a somewhat related topic (and I have no idea if this happened here, but it sounds like it could have):

I notice that a lot of leaders when they get to the anchor announce something like, "I'm at the ancor", or "I'm clipped in", etc. They say this even when they are planning on being lowered.

I think this is a bad habbit. It invites the belayer to take them off belay, even though they haven't announced "safe" or "off belay" or (whatever commands the two climbers are using).

If you get to the top and are planning to be lowered, I think it is better to say absolutely nothing until you announce, "ready to lower" (or again, whatever commands you use).

The belayer never hears anything that would mistakenly encourage them to take the leader off belay.

My $.02


(This post was edited by sspssp on Feb 15, 2011, 4:04 PM)


socalclimber


Feb 15, 2011, 4:44 PM
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Re: [j_ung] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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j_ung wrote:
socalclimber wrote:
Oh good lord and butter. The blame here lies in both camps. For starters, neither one had a clue what they were doing.

Simply, the climber made assumptions, the belayer made assumptions. End result, the guy decked.

When you look at these accidents, the usually seem to happen at the anchor point. Personally once at the anchor I'm not committing to the system till I'm sure of whats going on below.

They both blew it.


What are we talking about here? I think accountability for an injured climber's circumstances and the roles/responsibilities of climbers/belayers are two different things. Certainly, they both screwed up. But, IMO, the party injured while participating in climbing activities is always 100% responsible for his or her situation. If you choose to climb, then you have either accepted the risks or are ignorant of them. Those risks include bad belaying.

This is something that the general public seems to get better than most climbers do. Though it's callous and insensitive to be sure, there's a measure of truth in the statement, "Serves him right for rock climbing."

Let's see how many one-stars this draws. Laugh

I cannot disagree with this entirely. I guess my point was trying to keep things in a more practical light.


bearbreeder


Feb 15, 2011, 5:38 PM
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Re: [csproul] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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if i dont call off belay or secure ... and you took me off belay without a very good reason (like being mauled by a bear)

im not climbing with you again ...

period

and if i ever took you off belay without you calling it ... you get to beat me down with that #6 camalot

you should always be on belay till you call off or die ..... thats one of the cardinal rules of climbing ... unless ive just entered some alternate rc.com universe Tongue

its that simple IMO Crazy


milesenoell


Feb 15, 2011, 6:11 PM
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Re: [bearbreeder] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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bearbreeder wrote:
you should always be on belay till you call off or die ..... thats one of the cardinal rules of climbing ... unless ive just entered some alternate rc.com universe Tongue

its that simple IMO Crazy

I would say that that, and this:
j_ung wrote:
IMO, the party injured while participating in climbing activities is always 100% responsible for his or her situation. If you choose to climb, then you have either accepted the risks or are ignorant of them. Those risks include bad belaying.

are entirely complementary to each other.


csproul


Feb 15, 2011, 6:39 PM
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Re: [j_ung] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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j_ung wrote:
socalclimber wrote:
Oh good lord and butter. The blame here lies in both camps. For starters, neither one had a clue what they were doing.

Simply, the climber made assumptions, the belayer made assumptions. End result, the guy decked.

When you look at these accidents, the usually seem to happen at the anchor point. Personally once at the anchor I'm not committing to the system till I'm sure of whats going on below.

They both blew it.


What are we talking about here? I think accountability for an injured climber's circumstances and the roles/responsibilities of climbers/belayers are two different things. Certainly, they both screwed up. But, IMO, the party injured while participating in climbing activities is always 100% responsible for his or her situation. If you choose to climb, then you have either accepted the risks or are ignorant of them. Those risks include bad belaying.

This is something that the general public seems to get better than most climbers do. Though it's callous and insensitive to be sure, there's a measure of truth in the statement, "Serves him right for rock climbing."

Let's see how many one-stars this draws. Laugh
So let's say you are the climber in this situation. Accordingly, you take responsibility for the fall because you chose to climb with a bad belayer. Ok, I can get on board with this. But answer this (truthfully): you just hit the ground and you get up...are you pissed off at yourself, or are you mad at your belayer? I call bullshit at anyone who says that their immediate reaction would be to blame themselves and not their belayer.


Rmsyll2


Feb 16, 2011, 7:57 AM
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Att'd is a photo of the route involved in the fall, including the climber who fell, taken after the fall when he repeated his climb including getting to the top. His partner has said that they did stop at a hospital that performed full X-rays and MRI, finding no such damage, and that five staples were put in the cut on the back of his head.

You can see that the rim would put the climber out of view and at a distance that would make communication difficult. What does not show is the wind gusting that day to 30 mph; and that the rope was itself over the edge making about a 45deg angle along a ground ramp from a distant tree. The climber thought the belayer had asked if he was okay, not if he was off belay as a repeated query. He did not announce his descent before starting. Belayer suffered no rope burns, which is all that would have resulted from trying to regain control of the rope.

Another climber ran to the parking lot, a Park ranger did call, and EMS was there by the time the belayer was at the parking lot to direct them. Climber was so unaffected by the fall that the rescue person walked past him, asking where the victim was. Climber signed a "no treatment" form.

Both belayer and climber continued trying that route, and then worked on another with a very difficult start until closing time. They are on good terms, and plan to learn a lot more and to continue climbing.

LL
Attachments: BatRt climbJ1 sm.jpg (82.7 KB)


jt512


Feb 16, 2011, 8:37 AM
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Rmsyll2 wrote:
The climber thought the belayer had asked if he was okay, not if he was off belay as a repeated query. He did not announce his descent before starting.

With this information, the accident makes more sense.

Jay


spikeddem


Feb 16, 2011, 9:18 AM
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Re: [jt512] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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I'll continue to look both ways before crossing the street, even if I've got a little white walker illuminated.


Partner j_ung


Feb 16, 2011, 2:57 PM
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csproul wrote:
j_ung wrote:
socalclimber wrote:
Oh good lord and butter. The blame here lies in both camps. For starters, neither one had a clue what they were doing.

Simply, the climber made assumptions, the belayer made assumptions. End result, the guy decked.

When you look at these accidents, the usually seem to happen at the anchor point. Personally once at the anchor I'm not committing to the system till I'm sure of whats going on below.

They both blew it.


What are we talking about here? I think accountability for an injured climber's circumstances and the roles/responsibilities of climbers/belayers are two different things. Certainly, they both screwed up. But, IMO, the party injured while participating in climbing activities is always 100% responsible for his or her situation. If you choose to climb, then you have either accepted the risks or are ignorant of them. Those risks include bad belaying.

This is something that the general public seems to get better than most climbers do. Though it's callous and insensitive to be sure, there's a measure of truth in the statement, "Serves him right for rock climbing."

Let's see how many one-stars this draws. Laugh
So let's say you are the climber in this situation. Accordingly, you take responsibility for the fall because you chose to climb with a bad belayer. Ok, I can get on board with this. But answer this (truthfully): you just hit the ground and you get up...are you pissed off at yourself, or are you mad at your belayer? I call bullshit at anyone who says that their immediate reaction would be to blame themselves and not their belayer.

There again, we may be talking about two different things at the same time. 1. Hell yes, I'd be pissed at my belayer. 2. But I also wouldn't climb back on the stone with him.

1. My belayer didn't do his job.
2. I see now that he's a weak belayer.

Of course, in light of the new info above, it looks like the climber is mostly at fault in both respects.


sp115


Feb 16, 2011, 4:28 PM
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jt512 wrote:
...This is adding new information or new assumptions to the facts. If the belayer really did not know that the climber was at the anchors, then it would be an inexcusable mistake for him to take the climber off belay. Yet he did, so I suspect that the belayer did know that the climber was at the anchor. So the next question is, why would the belayer take his partner off belay at the anchor? If I had to speculate, I would say that he heard something from his partner that he interpreted as "off belay." If so, then this is another example why, if you plan to be lowered, you should not say anything when you get to the anchor, except "slack," if you need to clean the anchor, "take," and "lower." Any other communication (eg, "safe") is unnecessary, useless, and an invitation for miscommunication.

Jay

I tend to agree with you on taking responsibility for yourself, but "take" and "slack" are far too close phonetically to be easily interpreted, especially in situation where communication is already difficult.

Though I grant you neither should be confused with "off belay"...


jt512


Feb 16, 2011, 5:24 PM
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Re: [sp115] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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sp115 wrote:
jt512 wrote:
...This is adding new information or new assumptions to the facts. If the belayer really did not know that the climber was at the anchors, then it would be an inexcusable mistake for him to take the climber off belay. Yet he did, so I suspect that the belayer did know that the climber was at the anchor. So the next question is, why would the belayer take his partner off belay at the anchor? If I had to speculate, I would say that he heard something from his partner that he interpreted as "off belay." If so, then this is another example why, if you plan to be lowered, you should not say anything when you get to the anchor, except "slack," if you need to clean the anchor, "take," and "lower." Any other communication (eg, "safe") is unnecessary, useless, and an invitation for miscommunication.

Jay

I tend to agree with you on taking responsibility for yourself, but "take" and "slack" are far too close phonetically to be easily interpreted . . .

But I was talking about when you are at the anchor, so there is no danger if your belayer misunderstands "slack" for "take" or vice versa.

Jay


(This post was edited by jt512 on Feb 16, 2011, 5:26 PM)


rightarmbad


Feb 16, 2011, 9:02 PM
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If communication with the belayer is that hard, then the best option would have been to set up to abseil.


socalclimber


Feb 17, 2011, 3:29 AM
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Re: [rightarmbad] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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Uh, boy, I think there are a lot of people out there who don't get it. If you're at the top, can't hear or see your belayer, then BEFORE you commit to anything, tie in. Then start pulling up rope and at least see if it's tensions. At the very worst case, tie off the rope and make it fixed and rap down to see what's happening.


bearbreeder


Feb 17, 2011, 10:22 AM
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IMO a belayer should never tell a climber if hes off belay without a prompt from the climber ... short of an emergency situation

the climber should say so ... and the belayer should confirm ...

there blame enough on both sides ... the climber should also have shouted lower ... and received a confirmation


socalclimber


Feb 17, 2011, 10:36 AM
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Re: [bearbreeder] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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I agree. But as I said before, there was plenty of blame on both partners. For godsakes they didn't even have a plan that was discussed before they left the ground. Mistake #1. Whether my belayer should or should not take me off with out asking first or being instructed, that's just stupidity. The belayer is there for a reason. If the climber new what he was doing he would have had the sense to make sure the belay was intact before committing to the system. He didn't do that, and look what happened.


fatal3rr


Feb 17, 2011, 12:22 PM
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Re: [csproul] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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     Disregarding all of the arguments trying to place blame... :) Thank you for posting this. I take a lot of new climbers out and am BIG on safety. Mostly because as they've not been climbing or have only been climbing a few times, I consider them all 100% my responsibility. I sent this article to all of them so they can see why I force them all to use proper communication at all times. So this article combined with some of my other tactics will help keep everyone safe by showing a bad example.

One of my favorite things to do when someone is just starting a climb and they don't say climbing or on belay, is to sneak up behind them after they're about one foot off the ground and push them off. Lets em understand that there isn't anything stopping them from decking if they fall without telling me they're climbing.

Again, Kudos for posting.


socalclimber


Feb 17, 2011, 5:07 PM
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fatal3rr wrote:
Disregarding all of the arguments trying to place blame... :) Thank you for posting this. I take a lot of new climbers out and am BIG on safety. Mostly because as they've not been climbing or have only been climbing a few times, I consider them all 100% my responsibility. I sent this article to all of them so they can see why I force them all to use proper communication at all times. So this article combined with some of my other tactics will help keep everyone safe by showing a bad example.

One of my favorite things to do when someone is just starting a climb and they don't say climbing or on belay, is to sneak up behind them after they're about one foot off the ground and push them off. Lets em understand that there isn't anything stopping them from decking if they fall without telling me they're climbing.

Again, Kudos for posting.

I'm not sure I agree with your "tactics". Shock value is not the best way to teach. You would be better off teaching by pure repetition. In other words, never let them leave the ground until all the safety checks are done. If they miss a step, then you tell them "No, don't leave the ground". When they ask why, tell them "You tell me". This will make them think about what the process is rather than "punishing" them.

The idea here is to constantly bake the idea into their heads. Scaring them really isn't the best way. It also isn't the safest way to teach.


(This post was edited by socalclimber on Feb 17, 2011, 5:09 PM)


sethg


Feb 18, 2011, 7:58 AM
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To me what this incident highlights is the importance of reaching an understanding BEFORE the climber leaves the ground. If you are doing single-pitch sport climbing there should be a discussion about what the leader is going to do when he or she reaches the anchor, and then there will be no confusion about whether the belayer should or shouldn't take the leader off belay. (In my opinion you generally shouldn't take the belay off, there's usually no reason to, but that's a different discussion, and it's been had many times.)

Once last summer I was a participant in a situation, somewhat like this one, in which I was sport climbing in a group, belaying someone I'd not previously climbed with, and when she got to the top she said "off belay." Now this surprised me so I yelled up to her: "Did you say off belay? You want me to TAKE YOU OFF BELAY?" She confirmed that she did. I thought she must be setting up a rap. So I took her off, although a part of me thought it was a mistake to do so.

Then the nightmare happened: she yelled "take."

I don't want to prolong the story, so I'll just cut to the chase and say no disaster resulted. I started screaming at her that she wasn't on belay, she didn't fall, everything worked out fine. She hadn't meant to go off belay and she'd just said the wrong thing. My questioning hadn't woken her up enough to make her realize it.

She easily could have died. And in the discussion that might have followed here on rockclimbing.com I think most people would not have blamed me. But I never would have forgiven myself, because I had a feeling deep down that I should never have taken her off; I should have disobeyed the instructions, fed a bunch of slack and waited. This incident haunted me for months; sometimes I think I'm still not over it.

And it all would have been avoided if before she led off we'd talked about what she intended to do at the top. With longtime partners this sort of explicit dialogue is unneccessary. But if you're in a group, pairing off into different partnerships that are less familiar, life can depend on your mutual understanding of what systems will be used. Best to iron these things out beforehand and not to assume everyone has the same understanding.


jt512


Feb 18, 2011, 9:47 AM
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sethg wrote:
Once last summer I was a participant in a situation, somewhat like this one, in which I was sport climbing in a group, belaying someone I'd not previously climbed with, and when she got to the top she said "off belay." Now this surprised me so I yelled up to her: "Did you say off belay? You want me to TAKE YOU OFF BELAY?" She confirmed that she did. I thought she must be setting up a rap. So I took her off, although a part of me thought it was a mistake to do so.

Then the nightmare happened: she yelled "take."

I don't want to prolong the story, so I'll just cut to the chase and say no disaster resulted. I started screaming at her that she wasn't on belay, she didn't fall, everything worked out fine. She hadn't meant to go off belay and she'd just said the wrong thing. My questioning hadn't woken her up enough to make her realize it.

That's because you asked the wrong question. In that situation I ask, "Are you going to rappel?" and the answer I'm looking for is, "Yes, I'm going to rappel." Just, "yes," isn't good enough, and I keep the climber on belay. An experienced climber will understand why you are asking and will give you the response you expect.

In reply to:
She easily could have died. And in the discussion that might have followed here on rockclimbing.com I think most people would not have blamed me. But I never would have forgiven myself, because I had a feeling deep down that I should never have taken her off; I should have disobeyed the instructions, fed a bunch of slack and waited. This incident haunted me for months; sometimes I think I'm still not over it.

To her credit, at least she said "take," rather than just unclip and lean back, like the guy in the OP apparently did.

In reply to:
And it all would have been avoided if before she led off we'd talked about what she intended to do at the top.

True, and you're right that with a new partner you should make sure that each of you understands what the climber plans to do when she gets to the anchors. However, there's even a better solution: when sport climbing, never rappel. Don't even carry a belay device up with you. This notion that you're supposed to rappel to "save the anchors" is nonsense, and no experienced sport climber I have ever met anywhere believes in it. It's strictly a n00bism that creates an unnecessary opportunity for miscommunication.

Jay


(This post was edited by jt512 on Feb 21, 2011, 11:05 PM)


sethg


Feb 18, 2011, 11:08 AM
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Re: [jt512] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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I agree with all of that (except maybe the part about not carrying the rappel device...).

I think what held me back from asking "are you going to rappel?" is the same thing that led me to take her off belay against my own instincts: I didn't want to patronize her or act like I knew better than her. She sounded like she understood and knew what she wanted. Of course I now believe this was sheer stupidity and I'll never make that mistake again. It is better to risk angering your partner than to endanger him or her.


jt512


Feb 18, 2011, 11:21 AM
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Re: [sethg] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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sethg wrote:
I agree with all of that (except maybe the part about not carrying the rappel device...).

Why? Seriously, it's sport climbing. You don't need to carry anything with you but draws. That's right, you can actually take all that trad crap—your rappel device, your prusics, your daisies, and whatnot—right off your harness.

In reply to:
I think what held me back from asking "are you going to rappel?" is the same thing that led me to take her off belay against my own instincts: I didn't want to patronize her or act like I knew better than her. She sounded like she understood and knew what she wanted. Of course I now believe this was sheer stupidity and I'll never make that mistake again. It is better to risk angering your partner than to endanger him or her.

I can't imagine anyone being angered by their partner verifying that they're going to rappel. Around here, it's standard to ask.

Jay


(This post was edited by jt512 on Feb 18, 2011, 11:21 AM)


karcand


Feb 18, 2011, 11:42 AM
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Re: [csproul] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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It's 99% the climber's fault. Before climbing I will talk with my belay and find out if I am leaving a TR for them, cleaning the route or just coming down and leaving the draws up. This way we both know the plan. And if the plan changes and I am now going to clean the route I will anchor in. And before I remove my personal anchors I will always weight my repel device or if I am getting lowered I will weight the rope. This way if my gear fails or if i am not on belay then my personal anchors will save my life.


Rmsyll2


Feb 21, 2011, 5:58 AM
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Re: [Rmsyll2] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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Both climbers were back this weekend, with faller's girlfriend who also climbs. Both men were able to pull the difficult overhang start that had stumped them before, and the faller completed the 5.9 route in good fashion. He wore a new climbing HELMET (head wound staples have dropped out already), and they have new webbing with carabiners for TR anchors. Both now know both common methods for rigging rim anchors, including equalizing.

.
Attachments: Spindrift climbJ.jpg (74.6 KB)


yodadave


Feb 21, 2011, 6:32 AM
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Re: [Rmsyll2] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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the beautiful circle of the learning experience is complete Smile


notapplicable


Feb 21, 2011, 8:05 PM
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Re: [Rmsyll2] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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Rmsyll2 wrote:
Both climbers were back this weekend, with faller's girlfriend who also climbs. Both men were able to pull the difficult overhang start that had stumped them before, and the faller completed the 5.9 route in good fashion. He wore a new climbing HELMET (head wound staples have dropped out already), and they have new webbing with carabiners for TR anchors. Both now know both common methods for rigging rim anchors, including equalizing.

.

Cool. Glad they both took away some lessons and didn't let the incident run them off.


JasonsDrivingForce


Mar 1, 2011, 12:06 PM
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Re: [csproul] Ground fall at Pilot Mountain, NC [In reply to]
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csproul wrote:
So let's say you are the climber in this situation. Accordingly, you take responsibility for the fall because you chose to climb with a bad belayer. Ok, I can get on board with this. But answer this (truthfully): you just hit the ground and you get up...are you pissed off at yourself, or are you mad at your belayer? I call bullshit at anyone who says that their immediate reaction would be to blame themselves and not their belayer.


The real question is not who should take the blame. The question should be who goes through that situation and thinks "let's try that again and see if it turns out any better".


(This post was edited by JasonsDrivingForce on Mar 1, 2011, 12:15 PM)


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