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Partner robdotcalm


Feb 1, 2009, 4:17 PM
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Avalanche accident
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In early January, Keith Spencer and Mark Jenkins, both very experienced ice climbers were caught in an avalanche on Main Vein outside of Cody WY. Mark had led the 4th pitch. Keith followed and about 15 feet below Mark a huge avalanche roared down. The force of the avalanche caused the belay rope to slip through the Jaws belay device. The device was anchored to 2 ice screws. The rope pulled tight when he had gone the full rope length. Mark climbed down to Keith and discovered he was dead. The cause was a broken neck.

Markís description can be found at

http://aaronmulkey.blogspot.com/

An interesting comment is the following by Dougald MacDonald


http://www.mountainproject.com/..._avalanche/106334436

ďAs someone else pointed out, if Mark had been beleaying with an autolocking device like a Reverso, he'd be dead, as the screws would have failed. Mark also believes that if he'd been belaying off his harness he'd be dead, because his falling partner would have pulled him into the main flow of the avalanche. As it was, he was only inches from being killed by falling debris. He was extraordinarily lucky to have survived.Ē

This is the second accident this year where an autolocking device, e.g., a Gri-Gri, would have caused the death or serious injury of the belayer. In the other incident at Tahquitz, the anchor failed and the belayer was knocked unconscious by the falling climber, but the belayer remained on the ledge as the climber fell past her and the rope ran through the belay device.

http://www.rockclimbing.com/...;;page=unread#unread

I find this a strange disadvantage for an autolocker as itís hard for me to imagine this happening very often. But now itís twice in one year.

Incidentally, Mark is a well-known writer of adventure material having written for Outside for many years and now for National Geographic as well as authoring the book, ďThe Hard WayĒ.

Condolences to the friends and family of Keith. From what I read about him, he will be long and well remembered.

RobDotCalm


Partner j_ung


Feb 2, 2009, 6:34 AM
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Re: [robdotcalm] Avalanche accident [In reply to]
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robdotcalm wrote:
I find this a strange disadvantage for an autolocker as itís hard for me to imagine this happening very often. But now itís twice in one year.

But, at least in this case, it didn't actually happen. Is it common for people to use Gri-gris in ice and alpine situations? Given the nature of the protection, I don't think I'd be inclined to. But what do I know?


Partner robdotcalm


Feb 2, 2009, 7:00 AM
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Re: [j_ung] Avalanche accident [In reply to]
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j_ung wrote:
robdotcalm wrote:
I find this a strange disadvantage for an autolocker as itís hard for me to imagine this happening very often. But now itís twice in one year.

But, at least in this case, it didn't actually happen. Is it common for people to use Gri-gris in ice and alpine situations? Given the nature of the protection, I don't think I'd be inclined to. But what do I know?

My comment was not stated clearly. What I meant was this. In each case, if the belayer had been using an autolocking device, the odds were high that the belayer would have died. In each case, the belayer's use of an ordinary belay device contributed to the belayer's survivial.
Cheers,
Rob.calm


Partner j_ung


Feb 2, 2009, 7:06 AM
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Re: [robdotcalm] Avalanche accident [In reply to]
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Gotcha.


moose_droppings


Feb 2, 2009, 7:13 AM
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Re: [robdotcalm] Avalanche accident [In reply to]
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robdotcalm wrote:
ďAs someone else pointed out, if Mark had been beleaying with an autolocking device like a Reverso, he'd be dead, as the screws would have failed.

Though I believe this to probably be true, it is speculation since it wasn't locked off and we don't know the outcome of what didn't happen. The rope did become taught (locked off) after slipping to the end and still held.

Your right to bring up the idea that people should remain aware of what can happen and the forces that could be involved in certain situations when a rope is locked off bringing up a second.

edit:
I see your reply to jay while I was posting and agree that the odds are higher.



(This post was edited by moose_droppings on Feb 2, 2009, 7:16 AM)


Gmburns2000


Feb 2, 2009, 7:53 AM
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Re: [robdotcalm] Avalanche accident [In reply to]
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robdotcalm wrote:

An interesting comment is the following by Dougald MacDonald


http://www.mountainproject.com/..._avalanche/106334436

ďAs someone else pointed out, if Mark had been beleaying with an autolocking device like a Reverso, he'd be dead, as the screws would have failed. Mark also believes that if he'd been belaying off his harness he'd be dead, because his falling partner would have pulled him into the main flow of the avalanche. As it was, he was only inches from being killed by falling debris. He was extraordinarily lucky to have survived.Ē

This is the second accident this year where an autolocking device, e.g., a Gri-Gri, would have caused the death or serious injury of the belayer. In the other incident at Tahquitz, the anchor failed and the belayer was knocked unconscious by the falling climber, but the belayer remained on the ledge as the climber fell past her and the rope ran through the belay device.

I'm not so sure of this, Rob. It may very well could have been the case, but the report suggests that the fallen climber was "hanging" and not on the ground. I can't see how a full-rope length fall would have been less able to yank the anchor than a smaller fall. Maybe I'm just not reading that correctly, so if anyone has another perspective then I'd be interested to hear about it.

Condonlences to all affected by the accident.


reno


Feb 4, 2009, 10:57 AM
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Re: [j_ung] Avalanche accident [In reply to]
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j_ung wrote:
Is it common for people to use Gri-gris in ice and alpine situations? Given the nature of the protection, I don't think I'd be inclined to. But what do I know?

I would never use a Gri-Gri for ice, or alpine, or even multi-pitch trad routes. Ice and alpine for the protection concerns you mention above, j_ung.

That, and the darn thing is just too bloody heavy.


acorneau


Feb 4, 2009, 11:26 AM
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Re: [reno] Avalanche accident [In reply to]
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reno wrote:
j_ung wrote:
Is it common for people to use Gri-gris in ice and alpine situations? Given the nature of the protection, I don't think I'd be inclined to. But what do I know?

I would never use a Gri-Gri for ice, or alpine, or even multi-pitch trad routes. Ice and alpine for the protection concerns you mention above, j_ung.

Directly from the Grigri manual:
In reply to:
This product is a belay device for the leader or second on a rope. It has been developed for indoor wall climbing or for climbing
on well-protected sport routes where anchors meet the UIAA standard. It should not be used for mountaineering or adventure climbing.


qqac


Mar 3, 2009, 1:10 PM
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Re: [Gmburns2000] Avalanche accident [In reply to]
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Greg,
The key is energy dissipation via (1) the rope pulling through the belay device, (2) rope stretch (having the whole rope on the stricken climber's side provides more rope to stretch) and (3) dispersion of the avalanche debris over time and distance. Think Screamer. In contrast, if the rope had locked up short without much length out to stretch, similar to what happens with a high fall factor fall, or a static line fall, most of the energy would have loaded up on the anchor, probably pushing it past the point of failure.


Gmburns2000


Mar 3, 2009, 1:25 PM
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qqac wrote:
Greg,
The key is energy dissipation via (1) the rope pulling through the belay device, (2) rope stretch (having the whole rope on the stricken climber's side provides more rope to stretch) and (3) dispersion of the avalanche debris over time and distance. Think Screamer. In contrast, if the rope had locked up short without much length out to stretch, similar to what happens with a high fall factor fall, or a static line fall, most of the energy would have loaded up on the anchor, probably pushing it past the point of failure.

I guess the key is the avalanche. I wasn't reading that he had "ridden" the avalanche down, thus making the fall slower. I initially imagined the avalanche knocked the climber off, sending him into "space."

I'm still not buying that a full rope-length fall straight down would have a lesser impact than a smaller fall. A ten-foot fall straight on the anchor vs. a 200-foot fall straight on the anchor? It just doesn't sound right to me. But I don't know much about physics, so I'm willing to be corrected.


qqac


Mar 4, 2009, 12:43 PM
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Re: [Gmburns2000] Avalanche accident [In reply to]
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"Gmburns2000 wrote:
I'm still not buying that a full rope-length fall straight down would have a lesser impact than a smaller fall. A ten-foot fall straight on the anchor vs. a 200-foot fall straight on the anchor? It just doesn't sound right to me. But I don't know much about physics, so I'm willing to be corrected.

It's not the force from the falling climber per se, it's the force from the avalanche striking the climber, that would blow out the anchor.


(This post was edited by qqac on Mar 4, 2009, 12:44 PM)


Gmburns2000


Mar 4, 2009, 1:07 PM
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Re: [qqac] Avalanche accident [In reply to]
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qqac wrote:
"Gmburns2000 wrote:
I'm still not buying that a full rope-length fall straight down would have a lesser impact than a smaller fall. A ten-foot fall straight on the anchor vs. a 200-foot fall straight on the anchor? It just doesn't sound right to me. But I don't know much about physics, so I'm willing to be corrected.

It's not the force from the falling climber per se, it's the force from the avalanche striking the climber, that would blow out the anchor.

Right, but he was found hanging (the climber), so I assume that to mean the avalanche carried the climber for a while before the climber fell out of the avalanche zone and into free space.

So I guess what I'm hearing is that the force of the avalanche while the climber was in the avalanche zone would have pulled the anchor out if the belayor had used an autoblock-type device, but also that the avalanche somehow slowed the fall of the climber such that the full rope-length distance that he fell was not powerful enough to rip the the anchor out upon impact.

Sorry for the paralysis; I'm just trying to visualize it. I think I've got it now. Thanks...


qqac


Mar 4, 2009, 1:50 PM
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Re: [Gmburns2000] Avalanche accident [In reply to]
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"Gmburns2000 wrote:
So I guess what I'm hearing is that the force of the avalanche while the climber was in the avalanche zone would have pulled the anchor out if the belayor had used an autoblock-type device, but also that the avalanche somehow slowed the fall of the climber such that the full rope-length distance that he fell was not powerful enough to rip the the anchor out upon impact.
The avalanche did not slow the fall. Do you fish? Think of it like the drag setting. If a 400 lb tuna hits your 100 lb test line and you have the drag cranked down tight, the line will break or you will be pulled into the water. However, if you have the drag properly set to slip , the line will pull out from the reel and will not break immediately. The line will pull out with resistance, which hopefully will eventually exhaust the energy of the tuna before you run out of line. See the analogy?


Gmburns2000


Mar 4, 2009, 1:56 PM
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qqac wrote:
"Gmburns2000 wrote:
So I guess what I'm hearing is that the force of the avalanche while the climber was in the avalanche zone would have pulled the anchor out if the belayor had used an autoblock-type device, but also that the avalanche somehow slowed the fall of the climber such that the full rope-length distance that he fell was not powerful enough to rip the the anchor out upon impact.
The avalanche did not slow the fall. Do you fish? Think of it like the drag setting. If a 400 lb tuna hits your 100 lb test line and you have the drag cranked down tight, the line will break or you will be pulled into the water. However, if you have the drag properly set to slip , the line will pull out from the reel and will not break immediately. The line will pull out with resistance, which hopefully will eventually exhaust the energy of the tuna before you run out of line. See the analogy?

Yep. Thanks.


scrapedape


Mar 5, 2009, 5:58 AM
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qqac wrote:
The avalanche did not slow the fall. Do you fish? Think of it like the drag setting. If a 400 lb tuna hits your 100 lb test line and you have the drag cranked down tight, the line will break or you will be pulled into the water. However, if you have the drag properly set to slip , the line will pull out from the reel and will not break immediately. The line will pull out with resistance, which hopefully will eventually exhaust the energy of the tuna before you run out of line. See the analogy?

As the tuna pulls out line it runs out of energy.

As the avalanche falls through space, it could well be picking up more energy.


qqac


Mar 5, 2009, 7:31 AM
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scrapedape wrote:
As the tuna pulls out line it runs out of energy.

As the avalanche falls through space, it could well be picking up more energy.
But we are only interested in the energy of the avalanche with respect to the climber. The team was in a funnel-like section of the route when the avalanche hit. The avalanche was concentrated into a tight, dense flow, and the climber was stationary, or moving upward, so the initial impact force was high. As the climber began moving in the same direction with the avalanche, i.e., falling, the force on the climber decreased (though not to zero, since he was "falling" slower due to the rope dragging through the belay device). Also, once past the funnel section, the avalanche was no longer restricted to as dense a flow. Eventually, the avalanche fell past the climber (who had reached the end of the rope), so the energy in the avalanche as it continued downward was no longer relevant, effectively going to zero.


Terry2124


Mar 7, 2009, 7:52 PM
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Was it slack in the rope that saved the belayer?


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