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Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident?
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JasonsDrivingForce


Apr 23, 2012, 10:24 AM
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Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident?
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During the local climbing competition a climber told us about a fall at the UNC Chapel Hill climbing wall. She stated that the auto belay failed and the climber was in intensive care.

I couldn't find any information about it online.

Just wondering what the root cause of the failure was if it really was an Auto belay failure.

I hope the climber recovers from her injuries.


csproul


Apr 23, 2012, 10:31 AM
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We just got a notice that the gyms on campus are closed pending the investigation. I have not heard from anyone what happened.


JPhipps


Apr 24, 2012, 6:15 AM
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Re: [JasonsDrivingForce] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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This was on the Daily Tar Heel this morning:
http://www.dailytarheel.com/..._closed_indefinitely


akelleh


Apr 24, 2012, 9:27 PM
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Re: [JasonsDrivingForce] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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She was a wall employee who was climbing when no students were there climbing. The autobelay was retracting normally on the way up, but when she jumped off at the top to lower down, it lowered without resistance. She fell from the top ( ~30 feet ) and was badly injured. A passing police officer heard her yelling for help from outside, and came in to help.


majid_sabet


Apr 24, 2012, 11:07 PM
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Re: [akelleh] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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our gyms has a bunch of those auto belay things and i used one tonight. do you know the brand/model of what they had there ?


JasonsDrivingForce


Apr 25, 2012, 6:23 AM
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Re: [akelleh] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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akelleh wrote:
She was a wall employee who was climbing when no students were there climbing. The autobelay was retracting normally on the way up, but when she jumped off at the top to lower down, it lowered without resistance. She fell from the top ( ~30 feet ) and was badly injured. A passing police officer heard her yelling for help from outside, and came in to help.

Wow that is an awful story to hear. I am glad she survived it. I hope she recovers quickly. I hope they can determine what exactly happened.


akelleh


Apr 25, 2012, 7:04 AM
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It was the trueblue autobelay. I heard a rumor that it was behind on maintenance, but can't confirm this, or how behind it was.


matasw


Apr 25, 2012, 8:37 AM
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Re: [akelleh] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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Thats Terrible. Those things have always scared me.


akelleh


Apr 25, 2012, 8:43 AM
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I've done laps on that very autobelay (I climb at UNC's gyms). Very scary.


BMatt5302


Apr 25, 2012, 3:58 PM
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Re: [akelleh] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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What is confusing me the most is that if the descent mechanism fails, the device locks. Meaning the worst thing that should happen is you get stranded in the air. . . .

I'm starting to wonder if the entire device fell off the top of the wall.


akelleh


Apr 25, 2012, 4:04 PM
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From talking to a friend, who is one of Lizzie's coworkers at the wall, the device failed to lock.


Gmburns2000


Apr 25, 2012, 4:30 PM
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Re: [matasw] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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matasw wrote:
Thats Terrible. Those things have always scared me.

Yeah. No freakin' way you'll catch me on one of those autobelay machines. They scare the hell out of me. I'm surprised gyms even use them.

Hope the girl recovers well and quickly.


notapplicable


Apr 25, 2012, 5:29 PM
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Re: [Gmburns2000] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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Gmburns2000 wrote:
matasw wrote:
Thats Terrible. Those things have always scared me.

Yeah. No freakin' way you'll catch me on one of those autobelay machines. They scare the hell out of me. I'm surprised gyms even use them.

Hope the girl recovers well and quickly.

I used an autobelay exactly once and it sketched me out enough that i haven't used one since. Nothing strange actually happened, just a gut reaction kind of thing.


BMatt5302


Apr 25, 2012, 8:25 PM
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Re: [akelleh] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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While I don't wish to speak ill of the injured, I feel that accidents need to be discussed in order to prevent them in the future. Everyone I've tried to talk to doesn't have much idea of what exactly happened. She was there alone, and fell. We only have her explanation, which is likely not particularly clear considering the accident.

Without going into details (google the patent if you want them), the device has three independent braking mechanisms that engage based on the centripedal force from the webbing feeding out. As long as its taking rope in as you climb, failure of the device should only cause it to break harder. Unless there is an impending (and incredibly late recall at this point), any properly maintained and operated trublue should be perfectly safe. The important question is what errors were made that caused the accident so that we can all learn from them.





To y'all who have a natural fear of newfangled devices such as the trublue, I'll refer you to an interview I saw on The Colbert Report the other day where we learn how science and reality are determined by personal feelings. (http://www.hulu.com/watch/353531/the-colbert-report-don-mcleroy)

B


akelleh


Apr 25, 2012, 8:38 PM
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I'll ask around about the maintenance thing tomorrow at the gym (the CH community center, not UNC's, which is closed pending the investigation) and see what I can find out from the other UNC climbers.


JAB


Apr 26, 2012, 4:31 AM
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Re: [akelleh] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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The trublue seems pretty similar to the other autobelays which were recalled and discountinued a couple of years ago after similar accidents. Based on the intro video on trublue's site it looks really sketchy so I'm not at all surprised if it turns out it really did fail catastrophically.

The gym I frequent has some kind of hydraulic autobelays which feel very solid (in fact almost too solid since they pull on you contantly, not with a delay like the trublu).


matasw


Apr 26, 2012, 6:31 AM
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Re: [JAB] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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I used one a few times on one of my first climbing experiences and it simply didn't seem right. I'd prefer a human on the line rather than some mechanical device that may or may not be maintained properly.

Plus the tension on those things is often so high that it's easy to whip yourself in the face with one trying to clip in.


csproul


Apr 26, 2012, 7:21 AM
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BMatt5302 wrote:
While I don't wish to speak ill of the injured, I feel that accidents need to be discussed in order to prevent them in the future. Everyone I've tried to talk to doesn't have much idea of what exactly happened. She was there alone, and fell. We only have her explanation, which is likely not particularly clear considering the accident.

Without going into details (google the patent if you want them), the device has three independent braking mechanisms that engage based on the centripedal force from the webbing feeding out. As long as its taking rope in as you climb, failure of the device should only cause it to break harder. Unless there is an impending (and incredibly late recall at this point), any properly maintained and operated trublue should be perfectly safe. The important question is what errors were made that caused the accident so that we can all learn from them.





To y'all who have a natural fear of newfangled devices such as the trublue, I'll refer you to an interview I saw on The Colbert Report the other day where we learn how science and reality are determined by personal feelings. (http://www.hulu.com/watch/353531/the-colbert-report-don-mcleroy)

B
Properly maintained and operated is key. Also these devices don't brake well if the line is impeded, i.e. if it running over features and holds, or if you have traversed too far to one side. These conditions should still not result in a plummet to the ground, but would still result in a much harder fall than expected (which doesn't sound like the case here).

Also, it should be easy to determine if she was properly clipped in or not (as long as her memory and the memory of the responder is accurate). If she was still clipped in and on the ground, then it is clear that the device failed. If the line is not attached to her when she is on the ground, then either she was never properly attached to it or someone removed it from her after the fall.


petsfed


Apr 26, 2012, 7:49 AM
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JAB wrote:
The trublue seems pretty similar to the other autobelays which were recalled and discountinued a couple of years ago after similar accidents. Based on the intro video on trublue's site it looks really sketchy so I'm not at all surprised if it turns out it really did fail catastrophically.

The gym I frequent has some kind of hydraulic autobelays which feel very solid (in fact almost too solid since they pull on you contantly, not with a delay like the trublu).

The trublue works by a completely different mechanism from the recalled ones. The recalled ones used friction to dissipate falling energy, the trublue uses magnetic braking (e.g. eddy current induction) to dissipate falling energy.

I worked at a commercial gym when the trublues came out, and while I didn't like the descent rate, they were very reliable. However (and this was a complaint the management had), they have to be sent in every year for maintenance, which isn't cheap. If there was a maintenance issue, I'd bet it was that the annual refit wasn't performed. Beyond that, the only maintenance to be performed is to vacuum out the nozzle.


sandstone


Apr 26, 2012, 11:20 AM
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Re: [matasw] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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matasw wrote:
... it simply didn't seem right. I'd prefer a human on the line rather than some mechanical device that may or may not be maintained properly....

A human has many more possible modes of failure (distraction, fatigue, hangover, etc.) than a machine, yet we feel safer trusting a human than a machine.

We place great trust in machines to transport us to a climb (did you really think about the brakes in your car when you were driving, or did you not even think about them and just blindly trust that they would work?), yet we have trouble trusting a much simpler machine to belay us once we're there.

I'm the same, I prefer a human, but I know I'm not safe either way.


JasonsDrivingForce


May 1, 2012, 12:37 PM
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Re: [csproul] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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Is there anymore information on what happened here. If the auto belay failed for any reason I have to imagine that it will affect the use of auto belays in gyms.

I thought they redesigned these so that they would always arrest the fall even if the primary mechanisms failed?


csproul


May 1, 2012, 12:47 PM
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JasonsDrivingForce wrote:
Is there anymore information on what happened here. If the auto belay failed for any reason I have to imagine that it will affect the use of auto belays in gyms.

I thought they redesigned these so that they would always arrest the fall even if the primary mechanisms failed?
As near as I can tell, there has not been any more information released other than second hand rumors. We may never be made aware of the results of any investigation. It was also my impression that the TruBlue autobelay was supposed to lock up in the event of a mechanism failure. But I have to take the manufacturers word on that as I really don't know how the thing works.


Gmburns2000


May 1, 2012, 1:49 PM
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sandstone wrote:
matasw wrote:
... it simply didn't seem right. I'd prefer a human on the line rather than some mechanical device that may or may not be maintained properly....

A human has many more possible modes of failure (distraction, fatigue, hangover, etc.) than a machine, yet we feel safer trusting a human than a machine.

We place great trust in machines to transport us to a climb (did you really think about the brakes in your car when you were driving, or did you not even think about them and just blindly trust that they would work?), yet we have trouble trusting a much simpler machine to belay us once we're there.

I'm the same, I prefer a human, but I know I'm not safe either way.

it's a straw man argument. I wouldn't trust that the human maintained the machine. I can't talk to the machine, it can't talk to me, and neither of us can verify that the machine is, in fact, working, whereas I can be sure my human partner is working based on a simple conversation and smelling his breath.


sandstone


May 1, 2012, 3:11 PM
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Re: [Gmburns2000] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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Gmburns2000 wrote:
it's a straw man argument....

No, it was not a straw man tactic. For that to be true I would have had to make a misrepresentation, and use that distortion to promote my view.

All I did was point out a bit of irony in the fact that (in general) we will blindly trust very complicated machines to transport us to a climb, yet not trust a simple machine for a belay once we are there.

In reply to:
... I can be sure my human partner is working based on a simple conversation and smelling his breath.

I know what you mean, but in reality you cannot be sure your belayer will catch you. Even a sober and experienced belayer is still very fallible, all it takes is something as simple as fatigue or distraction to lead to complete failure. It's a risk we accept, and one we try to minimize, yet the risk is always there.


Gmburns2000


May 1, 2012, 4:34 PM
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sandstone wrote:
Gmburns2000 wrote:
it's a straw man argument....

No, it was not a straw man tactic. For that to be true I would have had to make a misrepresentation, and use that distortion to promote my view.

It's misrepresented because the belay machine requires fairly routine maintenance done by a human being. In other words, the machine itself doesn't remove the human element.

And the idea of comparing a car to a belay machine is kind of silly, though I get the irony. A car requires quite a bit less maintenance before something serious happens (e.g. - change my oil every 5000 miles? pffttt...I bet I can get away with 10k before my engine seizes up. It might cost me more money in the long run to do it that way, but it won't cost me a broken arm, leg, or, potentially death). The two are not on the same level, but I get what you're saying.

In reply to:
All I did was point out a bit of irony in the fact that (in general) we will blindly trust very complicated machines to transport us to a climb, yet not trust a simple machine for a belay once we are there.

In reply to:
... I can be sure my human partner is working based on a simple conversation and smelling his breath.

I know what you mean, but in reality you cannot be sure your belayer will catch you. Even a sober and experienced belayer is still very fallible, all it takes is something as simple as fatigue or distraction to lead to complete failure. It's a risk we accept, and one we try to minimize, yet the risk is always there.

I'm a lot more sure a human would catch me than I would a human would fix the machine. This is because I can test the human fairly competently in the moment before climbing. I can't make the same assumptions that the machine was maintained correctly when I wasn't around.


sandstone


May 2, 2012, 6:30 AM
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Gmburns2000 wrote:
... the idea of comparing a car to a belay machine is kind of silly...

I wasn't comparing the machines, I was comparing two scenarios of human trust. The silliness is in the inconsistency of our trust.


petsfed


May 2, 2012, 8:26 AM
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Gmburns2000 wrote:
It's misrepresented because the belay machine requires fairly routine maintenance done by a human being.

You can read the manual on their webpage if you like. The routine maintenance is vacuuming the nozzle that the webbing comes out of on a weekly basis. Otherwise, the routine maintenance is an annual checkup. If you're only changing your oil once a year, you can probably expect a much higher failure rate.

I was trained up on the maintenance of these things; I don't think a simple maintenance issue was the source of the problem because the in-house maintenance is almost completely irrelevant to the safe operation of it.


Gmburns2000


May 2, 2012, 2:35 PM
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petsfed wrote:
Gmburns2000 wrote:
It's misrepresented because the belay machine requires fairly routine maintenance done by a human being.

You can read the manual on their webpage if you like. The routine maintenance is vacuuming the nozzle that the webbing comes out of on a weekly basis. Otherwise, the routine maintenance is an annual checkup. If you're only changing your oil once a year, you can probably expect a much higher failure rate.

I was trained up on the maintenance of these things; I don't think a simple maintenance issue was the source of the problem because the in-house maintenance is almost completely irrelevant to the safe operation of it.

so what are the possible answers to what happened?


petsfed


May 2, 2012, 3:42 PM
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No idea. I'm curious to read the accident report.

Like I said, if there is a maintenance issue, its wrapped up in that annual checkup, and either the manufacturer's failure during that checkup, or the operator's failure to send it in for that checkup, not the in-house maintenance that is, no joke, performed with something like a dustbuster.


JasonsDrivingForce


May 15, 2012, 9:48 AM
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Still no update on this? If it was the auto belay's fault I would have expected a recall or at least a "stop use" notice by now.

Is the climber recovering well?


Chi5


May 16, 2012, 9:24 PM
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I wrote a letter to the company that makes the Trublue autobelay a couple days after the accident. Despite assurance on their website that they respond to all inquiries within a business day, I still hadn't heard back several weeks later. So I sent it again last week. Still no response. Any chance I ever had of getting back on an autobelay is gone. If the company completely ignores the concerns of their end user, it says a lot about their culture. Here's the letter I wrote if anyone is interested.



I am writing in regard to the April 21st incident in which a climber at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was severely injured after falling 30 feet as a result of the failure of your Trublue Auto Belay device. It has been rumored that the device had not been properly maintained and was overdue for its annual recertification. This letter assumes that this is indeed the case. While I expect that this clears your company of liability, the failure of such a device, one that people unquestioningly put their lives in the hands of every day, warrants some very serious questions.

Will your company be involved in the investigation into the failure of the device? If so, will you make the results of the investigation available to the public? My fellow climbers and I would be very interested to know what caused the failure and whether or not it could have been prevented had the device been maintained properly.

How can I, as a climber, know if a gym has been following the proper maintenance guidelines? Of all the gyms I have climbed in, I would have ranked the gym at UNC as the most trustworthy. It was a wall run without concern for profit, and it had the backing a major institution. If a gym with so much concern for policy and safety checks can have a device fail, how can I and my fellow climbers trust a smaller business that is concerned with profit above all else? How can we blindly trust a gym that might not be able to afford the $200 per device annual recertification fee so easily? Could there be some way of requiring gyms to post the auto belayís certification in a place that is easily visible? (i.e. not on the back of the device 45 feet up so that one must use the device to see it.)

What can you, as a company, do to make climbers aware that their gym has missed its annual maintenance check? It seems that this would encourage gyms to properly maintain their equipment. I understand that you are under no legal obligation to implement such a policy, but if the annual recertification is really necessary to ensure the productís safety, then you do have an ethical responsibility to inform those who risk their lives on your device that it is no longer safe for use.

What is the failure rate for your product? Have there been other cases of failure in actual use? Have these cases all been the result of improper maintenance or use? Are there any inherent flaws in the product that may cause failure even when proper safety is practiced?

I appreciate that your company seems to show great concern for the safety of the end user. I look forward to being able to use your devices again once my concerns have been answered and my fears of a similar incident alleviated. I sincerely appreciate the time you will take in reading and responding to my questions.


csproul


May 17, 2012, 6:27 AM
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Chi5 wrote:
I wrote a letter to the company that makes the Trublue autobelay a couple days after the accident. Despite assurance on their website that they respond to all inquiries within a business day, I still hadn't heard back several weeks later. So I sent it again last week. Still no response. Any chance I ever had of getting back on an autobelay is gone. If the company completely ignores the concerns of their end user, it says a lot about their culture. Here's the letter I wrote if anyone is interested.



I am writing in regard to the April 21st incident in which a climber at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was severely injured after falling 30 feet as a result of the failure of your Trublue Auto Belay device. It has been rumored that the device had not been properly maintained and was overdue for its annual recertification. This letter assumes that this is indeed the case. While I expect that this clears your company of liability, the failure of such a device, one that people unquestioningly put their lives in the hands of every day, warrants some very serious questions.

Will your company be involved in the investigation into the failure of the device? If so, will you make the results of the investigation available to the public? My fellow climbers and I would be very interested to know what caused the failure and whether or not it could have been prevented had the device been maintained properly.

How can I, as a climber, know if a gym has been following the proper maintenance guidelines? Of all the gyms I have climbed in, I would have ranked the gym at UNC as the most trustworthy. It was a wall run without concern for profit, and it had the backing a major institution. If a gym with so much concern for policy and safety checks can have a device fail, how can I and my fellow climbers trust a smaller business that is concerned with profit above all else? How can we blindly trust a gym that might not be able to afford the $200 per device annual recertification fee so easily? Could there be some way of requiring gyms to post the auto belayís certification in a place that is easily visible? (i.e. not on the back of the device 45 feet up so that one must use the device to see it.)

What can you, as a company, do to make climbers aware that their gym has missed its annual maintenance check? It seems that this would encourage gyms to properly maintain their equipment. I understand that you are under no legal obligation to implement such a policy, but if the annual recertification is really necessary to ensure the productís safety, then you do have an ethical responsibility to inform those who risk their lives on your device that it is no longer safe for use.

What is the failure rate for your product? Have there been other cases of failure in actual use? Have these cases all been the result of improper maintenance or use? Are there any inherent flaws in the product that may cause failure even when proper safety is practiced?

I appreciate that your company seems to show great concern for the safety of the end user. I look forward to being able to use your devices again once my concerns have been answered and my fears of a similar incident alleviated. I sincerely appreciate the time you will take in reading and responding to my questions.
There are 2 assumptions in your letter:

1) the autobelay failed and the fall was not a result of the climber incorrectly clipping into the device.

2) the device was not properly maintained and that led to the failure

As far as I know, neither has been established, at least publicly. Regardless, it is a shame that we have not heard from either UNC or from TruBlue.


Partner drector


May 17, 2012, 9:10 AM
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Re: [JasonsDrivingForce] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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According to the UNC website, the walls are still closed. No other information is available on the internet, from what I can tell.

For anyone interested in what your gym might be doing, here is a link to what appears to be the trublue user maintenance document:

http://www.slideshare.net/...belayoperatorsmanual

It is interesting what they leave up to the gym.

I would like to hear more about the accident if there is any news because I climb on these things often.

Dave


Chi5


May 17, 2012, 9:29 AM
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In reply to:
There are 2 assumptions in your letter:

1) the autobelay failed and the fall was not a result of the climber incorrectly clipping into the device.

2) the device was not properly maintained and that led to the failure

As far as I know, neither has been established, at least publicly. Regardless, it is a shame that we have not heard from either UNC or from TruBlue.

The autobelay did fail. She was still clipped in when they found her. Granted, I only know this from word of mouth, but as a climber at UNC who still climbs with many of her friends and fellow wall employees, I think that information is pretty reliable. And I say quite clearly in the letter that the device not being properly maintained is only a rumor.

Neither has been established publicly, which is sort of the point. I feel like we have a right to know. The company shouldn't ignore our concerns, and the school should do more to inform us about what's going on. The only "official" communication after it happened was a series of contradicting emails on the listserv from the guy who ran the gym, the same one who is being blamed for the accident. The first email said that one gym (the one we would later learn was the site of the accident) was closed for the day, but that the other would be open. A couple hours later, he sent an email that both gyms would be closed for the weekend. A few days later, the first "official" communication that there had been an accident came from the same guy, saying simply that there had been an accident and that both gyms would be closed for an unknown time period. There has been no communication since. All other information comes from word of mouth from former gym employees. The fact that the school is leaving us to depend on rumors to get the facts here is very disappointing. If a gymnast had gotten hurt on some piece of equipment, I think the reaction would have been very different. I seriously doubt that they would have canceled the entire gymnastics program with hardly a word, even if it was the result of equipment failure. And I think the school would have communicated better with those who used the facilities. I guess the point of this long-winded, winding rant is that neither the school nor TruBlue are handling the situation as they should be.


csproul


May 17, 2012, 9:56 AM
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Re: [Chi5] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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Chi5 wrote:
In reply to:
There are 2 assumptions in your letter:

1) the autobelay failed and the fall was not a result of the climber incorrectly clipping into the device.

2) the device was not properly maintained and that led to the failure

As far as I know, neither has been established, at least publicly. Regardless, it is a shame that we have not heard from either UNC or from TruBlue.

The autobelay did fail. She was still clipped in when they found her. Granted, I only know this from word of mouth, but as a climber at UNC who still climbs with many of her friends and fellow wall employees, I think that information is pretty reliable. And I say quite clearly in the letter that the device not being properly maintained is only a rumor.

Neither has been established publicly, which is sort of the point. I feel like we have a right to know. The company shouldn't ignore our concerns, and the school should do more to inform us about what's going on. The only "official" communication after it happened was a series of contradicting emails on the listserv from the guy who ran the gym, the same one who is being blamed for the accident. The first email said that one gym (the one we would later learn was the site of the accident) was closed for the day, but that the other would be open. A couple hours later, he sent an email that both gyms would be closed for the weekend. A few days later, the first "official" communication that there had been an accident came from the same guy, saying simply that there had been an accident and that both gyms would be closed for an unknown time period. There has been no communication since. All other information comes from word of mouth from former gym employees. The fact that the school is leaving us to depend on rumors to get the facts here is very disappointing. If a gymnast had gotten hurt on some piece of equipment, I think the reaction would have been very different. I seriously doubt that they would have canceled the entire gymnastics program with hardly a word, even if it was the result of equipment failure. And I think the school would have communicated better with those who used the facilities. I guess the point of this long-winded, winding rant is that neither the school nor TruBlue are handling the situation as they should be.
I have also heard 2nd hand that she was still clipped in, but it is still pretty much rumor to me. The account of the injured party would be more than suspect in this case (the memory of accident victims is notoriously inaccurate). To accurately reach that conclusion would require corroborating accounts (ie from the first responders).

I agree that it is incredibly frustrating, but keep in mind that it has been less than 4 weeks since the accident. If this turns out to be a genuine autobelay failure as a result of inadequate maintenance, it is not surprising that we have heard nothing from UNC. A University isn't going to publicly announce that it might be liable for such a serious accident, especially before any litigation that might occur. If TrueBlue had information that their product could fail, then they'd have to be stupid to not make that information available (at least to other gym owners).

Regardless, closing the gyms seems a little over-the-top and having no communication with the students is also a little hard to swallow. I wish the gyms would re-open, even if the autobelays were removed.


csproul


May 22, 2012, 7:24 AM
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Re: [Chi5] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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PS, I have emailed the climbing program coordinator http://campusrec.unc.edu/contact-page to ask for an update and have received no response. It would at least be nice to know if there was a possibility of using the climbing facilities this summer. I'd encourage any other UNC climbing wall users to email or call as well and maybe we can get a response. If I still get no update, then perhaps it's time to start emailing the Director of Campus Recreation.


notapplicable


May 22, 2012, 6:06 PM
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Re: [csproul] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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I can understand why they wouldn't want to give any details of the investigation itself but it seems odd that they are completely nonresponsive on how it's actually progressing, or when the wall might be reopened.


belaymonkey93


May 24, 2012, 2:01 PM
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Re: [Chi5] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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Actually, I heard differently. I heard that when she was found she wasn't clipped in at all. Of course, all of these posts seem to include quite a bit of speculation and rumors, isn't it generally ill-advised to climb alone?

I'm friends with quite a few people who have worked at the wall over the years, and I'm also pretty sure that one of the rules for wall employees is not climbing during their shifts,.

I've also climbed at both of unc's walls and their equipment and facilities have ALWAYS been incredibly well maintained and, for the most part, the staff seem attentive and well trained.

ALSO
In regards to the possibility of the delay of immediate annual service (within a few months of the recommended service window) - if indeed it did fail, then I do not think that the device was properly designed or tested. Safety equipment shouldn't fail that easily.


(This post was edited by belaymonkey93 on May 24, 2012, 2:04 PM)


csproul


May 24, 2012, 2:27 PM
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Re: [belaymonkey93] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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belaymonkey93 wrote:
Actually, I heard differently. I heard that when she was found she wasn't clipped in at all. Of course, all of these posts seem to include quite a bit of speculation and rumors, isn't it generally ill-advised to climb alone?

I'm friends with quite a few people who have worked at the wall over the years, and I'm also pretty sure that one of the rules for wall employees is not climbing during their shifts,.

I've also climbed at both of unc's walls and their equipment and facilities have ALWAYS been incredibly well maintained and, for the most part, the staff seem attentive and well trained.

ALSO
In regards to the possibility of the delay of immediate annual service (within a few months of the recommended service window) - if indeed it did fail, then I do not think that the device was properly designed or tested. Safety equipment shouldn't fail that easily.

Well, that's the critical piece of info that has not been made public. Was she clipped in or not? Either way, if it has come out that the autobelays were not serviced as they were supposed to be, that is inexcusable and could severely open UNC to liability should something go wrong with those devices.

I'd agree that a device that is a few months overdue on its inspection should still not fail. That would indeed be a poor design.

The staff attentive and well trained...sorry if I chuckle a bit when I read that. There are some talented climbers on the staff, and some are definitely attentive, but I can''t count the number of times I've seen dangerous behavior by the climbers in that gym while the staff is busy studying/climbing/slacklining (yes, that happened),


belaymonkey93


May 24, 2012, 2:41 PM
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Re: [csproul] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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I'm pretty sure that you don't have to be a talented climber to work at the wall, but they do need to make sure that they are following all the rules set forth by the head of the climbing wall.

It sucks that not all of the students can be responsible and do their jobs properly without their boss constantly watching them.


JasonsDrivingForce


May 29, 2012, 10:38 AM
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Re: [csproul] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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I guess we may not ever know exactly what happened. Is the girl doing better now?


csproul


May 29, 2012, 10:46 AM
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JasonsDrivingForce wrote:
I guess we may not ever know exactly what happened. Is the girl doing better now?

http://carolinaclimbers.org/...nc-climbing-gym.html

This thread on the CCC website has an update on her condition. It sounds like she is doing better but still has some pretty extensive injuries and rehab to go through.


lhutson


Jun 4, 2012, 7:16 AM
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Re: [csproul] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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Hey folks,

If you're like me you've been wondering when/if the UNC walls will reopen. I contacted UNC's Director of Campus Recreation the other day and he had this to say. He said I could pass it along.

"Iím very sorry for the lack of communication but I donít have access to the climbing listserv. Unfortunately, the investigation continues and, Iím quite sure, it will not be completed before the end of the summer. You should probably make other arrangements at this time and I will look into a more definitive completion date. Any information I receive will be posted on the Campus Recreation website."

So it looks like we'll all be climbing at the community center, VE, TRC or elsewhere this summer.


JasonsDrivingForce


Jun 13, 2012, 12:30 PM
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lhutson wrote:
So it looks like we'll all be climbing at the community center, VE, TRC or elsewhere this summer.

Apart from the drive those options are not that bad.


Chi5


Jun 15, 2012, 8:44 AM
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I finally got a response from Trublue, and it kind of changes everything in my opinion. If what they say is true, then the rumors (which I had thought to be pretty reliable since I heard first hand from her good friend and coworker) are completely wrong. Here's the reply:

Thanks for your questions Ė itís always a good idea to be cautious with gear and systems in our sport.

We are awaiting word of what happened at UNC-Chapel Hill. They have given us no indication that a TruBlue was involved in the accident. UNC has referred us to this article in response to our question about whether a TruBlue was involved:

http://www.dailytarheel.com/index.php/article/2012/04/student_injured_after_fall_from_climbing_wall_saturday_rock_wall_closed_indefinitely

If the accident happened on a TruBlue, we would need to see the unit to find out what happened. We have had no device failures Ė the unit is designed to be failsafe. Iíll go a little deeper into how the unit works, especially considering the misinformation present in the maintenance on that same thread.

The TruBlue operates on eddy current braking Ė when you pass a magnet across a non-ferrous metallic substance like aluminum, a current is generated in that material. This current carries a magnetic charge with it that repels the magnetic field generated by the magnet. Think of taking two magnets and trying to push north pole to north pole. This is the mechanism that provides the braking force in a TruBlue. Aluminum rotors spin into a magnetic field provided by rare earth magnets. The heavier the person falling, the more centrifugal force the rotors see, and the farther they spin into the magnetic field. This regulates the speed of descent. The unit is designed in such a way that any failure causes the rotors to spin completely into the magnetic field, so if there is a device failure, a climber will simply be lowered at a very slow rate. That said, weíve never had a device fail.

The braking force is applied in the space between the rotors and the magnets, so there are no wear parts to grind down and limit the effectiveness of the unit.

The best way to keep yourself safe as a TruBlue user is to perform a weekly inspection before use. The webbing line is the main wear component of the unit, but is fortunately, easy to inspect. Youíll simply pull the webbing line out, check that there is a smooth, strong retraction, and visually inspect the webbing line for fraying, discoloration, hard or shiny spots Ė anything out of the ordinary. Itís similar to checking a rope, and we recommend that all climbers do inspect the webbing line themselves, just as they should do an inspection of a gym-provided lead rope, a friendís rope, etc. A closer inspection should be done by the gym on a weekly basis, and that process is detailed in the attached manual. Check pages 20 and on for some good information about what to do as a user, and what to expect your gym to do.

Ask your gym if the units are being kept up to date regarding recertifications and inspections. They may have logs of these. If the units are properly inspected, and kept within the yearly recertification requirement, we have full confidence in our devices. They are extremely reliable, but there is a responsibility for gyms and users to provide due diligence in making sure the units are properly maintained, just as with any climbing device.

Thank you,
Tyler

This is an excellent response and I'm happy with it. My only complaint is that they actually mention this thread. Would they have ever responded if I hadn't badmouthed them here?


notapplicable


Jun 15, 2012, 9:23 AM
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Re: [lhutson] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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Are the autobelays the primary or only source of belay at the gym? Can climbers belay each other?

If so, why is the gym closed at all? Just take the autobelays out of service (or not, if they weren't involved in the first place) and reopen the gym.

This all seems very strange.


(This post was edited by notapplicable on Jun 15, 2012, 9:25 AM)


djlachelt


Jun 15, 2012, 9:50 AM
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Re: [notapplicable] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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notapplicable wrote:
Are the autobelays the primary or only source of belay at the gym? Can climbers belay each other?

If so, why is the gym closed at all? Just take the autobelays out of service (or not, if they weren't involved in the first place) and reopen the gym.

This all seems very strange.

Perhaps the issue is not with a device itself, but rather with the management of the facility as a whole. If indeed some required maintenance were not done as scheduled (and clearly the word is still out on what actually happened), then that might point to some unsound practices... and a full review is in order.

Please note, I'm not saying this is the case, just pointing out that it may be more complicated than just taking some mechanical devices off-line.


shockabuku


Jun 15, 2012, 1:29 PM
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Re: [Chi5] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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Chi5 wrote:
I finally got a response from Trublue, and it kind of changes everything in my opinion. If what they say is true, then the rumors (which I had thought to be pretty reliable since I heard first hand from her good friend and coworker) are completely wrong. Here's the reply:

Thanks for your questions Ė itís always a good idea to be cautious with gear and systems in our sport.

We are awaiting word of what happened at UNC-Chapel Hill. They have given us no indication that a TruBlue was involved in the accident. UNC has referred us to this article in response to our question about whether a TruBlue was involved:

http://www.dailytarheel.com/index.php/article/2012/04/student_injured_after_fall_from_climbing_wall_saturday_rock_wall_closed_indefinitely

If the accident happened on a TruBlue, we would need to see the unit to find out what happened. We have had no device failures Ė the unit is designed to be failsafe. Iíll go a little deeper into how the unit works, especially considering the misinformation present in the maintenance on that same thread.

The TruBlue operates on eddy current braking Ė when you pass a magnet across a non-ferrous metallic substance like aluminum, a current is generated in that material. This current carries a magnetic charge with it that repels the magnetic field generated by the magnet. Think of taking two magnets and trying to push north pole to north pole. This is the mechanism that provides the braking force in a TruBlue. Aluminum rotors spin into a magnetic field provided by rare earth magnets. The heavier the person falling, the more centrifugal force the rotors see, and the farther they spin into the magnetic field. This regulates the speed of descent. The unit is designed in such a way that any failure causes the rotors to spin completely into the magnetic field, so if there is a device failure, a climber will simply be lowered at a very slow rate. That said, weíve never had a device fail.

The braking force is applied in the space between the rotors and the magnets, so there are no wear parts to grind down and limit the effectiveness of the unit.

The best way to keep yourself safe as a TruBlue user is to perform a weekly inspection before use. The webbing line is the main wear component of the unit, but is fortunately, easy to inspect. Youíll simply pull the webbing line out, check that there is a smooth, strong retraction, and visually inspect the webbing line for fraying, discoloration, hard or shiny spots Ė anything out of the ordinary. Itís similar to checking a rope, and we recommend that all climbers do inspect the webbing line themselves, just as they should do an inspection of a gym-provided lead rope, a friendís rope, etc. A closer inspection should be done by the gym on a weekly basis, and that process is detailed in the attached manual. Check pages 20 and on for some good information about what to do as a user, and what to expect your gym to do.

Ask your gym if the units are being kept up to date regarding recertifications and inspections. They may have logs of these. If the units are properly inspected, and kept within the yearly recertification requirement, we have full confidence in our devices. They are extremely reliable, but there is a responsibility for gyms and users to provide due diligence in making sure the units are properly maintained, just as with any climbing device.

Thank you,
Tyler

This is an excellent response and I'm happy with it. My only complaint is that they actually mention this thread. Would they have ever responded if I hadn't badmouthed them here?

Damn, magnetic charge, those guys are going to win a Nobel prize!


Huecotanked


Jul 27, 2012, 5:07 PM
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Re: [shockabuku] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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Way to go TruBLue. Those guys are the bomb. I've used their devices at many different gyms and will continue to use them w/out any hesitation or reservation.
I recently heard from a pretty reliable source that the girl injured in the accident may not have told the truth about what had actually happened. I heard when the wall closed Friday night that the auto belay biner was at the top of the wall and that when the girl was found after the accident she was not attached to the biner. Sounds a little suspect to me. Sounds like she made the story up to cover her butt. It's still pretty horrible that she got hurt, but come on. I've heard that there are only 2 possible ways the Trublue could fail - one is pilot error and the climber screws up connecting to the device and the other is the webbing fails. So even if the device was not sent back in time to be cleaned/serviced as some of you have speculated, from what I know about the ones at UNC they were only a year old and change.
I also heard from another friend that UNC has not even contacted TRUBLUE. What's up w/that? I can't imagine that all these unsubstantiated rumors about the device supposedly failing has been very good for the company. It sounds like the device wasn't even used. I think UNC needs clear this up and reveal what exactly happened. Rumors suck and it seems like a number of them started on this site. TruBlue seems to have manufactured a pretty incredible device and I'm sure we'll continue to see them at local gyms for years to come. Thanks TruBlue
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Player


Jul 29, 2012, 6:17 PM
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Huecotanked wrote:
Way to go TruBLue. Those guys are the bomb. I've used their devices at many different gyms and will continue to use them w/out any hesitation or reservation.
I recently heard from a pretty reliable source that the girl injured in the accident may not have told the truth about what had actually happened. I heard when the wall closed Friday night that the auto belay biner was at the top of the wall and that when the girl was found after the accident she was not attached to the biner. Sounds a little suspect to me. Sounds like she made the story up to cover her butt. It's still pretty horrible that she got hurt, but come on. I've heard that there are only 2 possible ways the Trublue could fail - one is pilot error and the climber screws up connecting to the device and the other is the webbing fails. So even if the device was not sent back in time to be cleaned/serviced as some of you have speculated, from what I know about the ones at UNC they were only a year old and change.
I also heard from another friend that UNC has not even contacted TRUBLUE. What's up w/that? I can't imagine that all these unsubstantiated rumors about the device supposedly failing has been very good for the company. It sounds like the device wasn't even used. I think UNC needs clear this up and reveal what exactly happened. Rumors suck and it seems like a number of them started on this site. TruBlue seems to have manufactured a pretty incredible device and I'm sure we'll continue to see them at local gyms for years to come. Thanks TruBlue
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Your right about one thing. Rumors do suck.


ericthebat


Feb 11, 2014, 1:57 PM
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Re: [JasonsDrivingForce] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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  I would be interested to know if any authoritative conclusions were reached with regard to the described autobelay incident.
The posts in this thread are variously of greater or lesser value, and demonstrate a classic weakness in this medium, especially when misinformation, rumors, hearsay, and opinion cloud what really needs to remain an unbiased and thorough examination of all evidence in such an incident.
Had a casual reader not bothered to follow to the end of the entire thread, a very different sense of the event would stick in his or her mind. Some type of user error appears to be primary, complicated by the unwillingness to admit as much. Yet the bulk of the discussion focused on the device, malfunctions, maintenance, etc.
I have a personal interest here, because my local gym, the Boulder Rock Club, has several Trublue units, and perhaps because they are financially invested in the company, they are diligent about servicing them. Yet, our gym has had two, and now possibly three user error incidents, the most recent one the first fatality- a friend with decades of experience and a huge resume.
Noone saw him fall, but some heard an impact. He was basically DOA, and while harnessed, was not clipped in at all to the Autobelay. The two prior accidents both also involved men over 60, at least 10 years experience, and both simply spaced out clipping in. One let go at the ceiling, and instantly realized his error, surviving with a few major breaks and internal bruising. The other fellow had lesser injuries but had fallen lower.
I know of no device failures (unlike other older models and brands); the most disturbing element is the trend of user failure to even remember to clip in.
I know gyms and companies are starting to examine strategies to avoid these mistakes, but it is a paradox that the device is actually totally outside the accident, save for its presence in the facility.
Logically, things that I worry about, like the use of earbuds, general distractions, overall climbing experience, lack of specific testing for the autobelay, have not been factors in our recent accidents.
Trusting a mechanical device is one thing; fostering a safety-conscious environment that instills an internal, reliable 'checklist' is a tricky psychological exercise, obviously not perfected in 150 years of climbing. Without some workable protocols, autobelays may be perceived as attractive nuisances that have risks with few benefits for the average facility. The same might be said of climbing walls themselves.
Outdoors, especially here in Boulder, climbing tradition and general awareness run so deep that the concepts of self-reliance and responsibility are implicit in the activity. Indoors, a different universe with its own criteria makes the facility management the final arbiters for all aspects of safety- just because you're Tom Frost doesn't waive your belay test (really witnessed at the BRC!).
I hope your facility doesn't get overreactive, but don't be too surprised if they find the tradeoffs with autobelays too problematic to risk.
E Aldrich


csproul


Feb 11, 2014, 2:35 PM
Post #52 of 53 (395 views)
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Registered: Jun 4, 2004
Posts: 1765

Re: [ericthebat] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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I'm sure official conclusions were made, but to my knowledge, they were never made public. The auto-belays were removed from this gym and the gym's director was replaced. It is my opinion, and all of the (maybe unsubstantiated) rumors that i heard about this accident supported-that there was never anything wrong with these devices and that the climber either did not clip in, or only partially clipped into the auto-belay.


(This post was edited by csproul on Feb 11, 2014, 2:41 PM)


jae8908


Feb 17, 2014, 9:20 AM
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Registered: May 15, 2011
Posts: 270

Re: [ericthebat] Any information on the UNC Chapel Hill Auto Belay accident? [In reply to]
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The gym apparently let their auto belay lines fully retract every night before closing. When they opened the next day employees would either self belay up to retrieve them or have another employee belay them up to retrieve them. One employee decided to "free solo" up to retrieve one without being on belay or without anyone being there at all. She fell before even reaching the auto belay to clip herself in.

Source: TruBlu rep.


Forums : Climbing Information : Accident and Incident Analysis

 


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