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Communication error, climber fell 70+ feet 4/2011
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majid_sabet


May 6, 2011, 3:03 PM
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Communication error, climber fell 70+ feet 4/2011
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This was forwarded to me by another RC member and I do not think it was posted here but its worth reading

MS

Source

http://www.erockonline.com/...t=20&#entry32725

ACCIDENT REPORT
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Echo Canyon‐Triple Cracks area
Grass Crack

Written by: Neil Higa
Based on information from: Arik Yaacob, Chris Barton, James Faerber, Scott Harris, Du Lo, Andres Pelaez,
Joel Schopp, Anthony Stevens



Description:
On Saturday, April 16, 2011, several groups of climbers were climbing at, or in close vicinity of, the Echo
Canyon‐Triple Cracks area at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Fredericksburg, TX. These included a
group of 6 climbers from Austin, a group of 3 climbers from Houston, a group of approximately 15 boy
scouts guided by the Mountain Madness guide service, and another smaller group guided by the OWA
guide service.

Arik Yaacob in the Austin group was about to climb Grass Crack on toprope. Grass Crack is a 5.10a crack
climb, approximately 70 feet high. Before he started, his belayer and another climber below realized
that Arik would be the last person in their group to do the climb. They asked Arik if he was OK with
cleaning the anchors, which consisted of two bolts. He confirmed that he was. They asked him if he had
equipment that he could use to attach himself while cleaning, and he confirmed that he did. He then
proceeded to climb Grass Crack and reached the anchors.

At the anchors, he attached himself to the bolts and called “off belay”. The belayer verbally confirmed
that he was taking Arik off belay, then disconnected his belay device and walked away. There is a mild
positive slope at the top of this climb, which means the top is not visible from the bottom.

At the top, Arik rigged himself for lowering and yelled “take”. He did not receive a verbal response. He
yelled “take” again. This time, he thought he felt the rope tighten and felt like he was being supported
by it, so he assumed he was back on belay. However, the other climbers on the ground had not heard
him yelling “take” and had not put him back on belay.

He then disconnected himself from the anchors, called “lower me”, leaned back, and fell. On the way
down, he hit one boulder, then another boulder, and then a tree. The bottom of the climb has many
sharp rocks and uneven terrain, but he landed in a very small flat area between the rocks. He slammed
into the ground on his back and initially did not move. He had fallen approximately 70 feet, from the
anchors to the ground. He was not wearing a helmet.

The person who was previously belaying him rushed over to him. Arik initially did not appear to be
breathing. His belayer was about to attempt CPR, but Arik suddenly started gasping for air and moaning.
The OWA guide came over a few seconds later and stated he had wilderness first responder training.
The group at the base quickly decided that he should take charge. The OWA guide, along with a first
year medical student in the Houston group, and a guide from the Mountain Madness group, performed
the initial assessment of Arik.

Meanwhile, the head guide from the Mountain Madness group was able to scramble to a higher area
with better cell phone reception and was able to contact the ranger station to request emergency
response and a helicopter. Approximately 20 minutes later, the EMTs arrived on foot. A helicopter
arrived shortly after that, which transported Arik to a hospital in Austin.

Arik broke 6 ribs and suffered multiple cuts and bruises. He is expected to make a full recovery.



Analysis:
The primary mistake made was when Arik weighted the rope expecting to be on belay, when he had not
received a verbal confirmation that he was on belay.

This lack of communication was facilitated by the fact that there is no clear line of sight between the top
anchors and the belayer. The large number of people in the area may have also been a factor, as
witnesses said that the boy scouts and other climbers in the area were being very loud. This could have
made verbal communication between the climber and belayer even more difficult.

Arik was a relatively new member of the Austin group. He had climbed with some members of the
Austin group a few times previously. However, all of these times were in the Barton Creek Greenbelt in
Austin, where the top anchors are primarily sport clips. While convenient, these clips make cleaning
opportunities very limited. This means it is possible to climb a lot in the Greenbelt without being
exposed to the procedure of cleaning anchors, a procedure that is very common in other climbing areas.
Arik had cleaned anchors before in Israel before moving here, but he had not cleaned any since moving
to Texas in August 2010.

The fall may have been slowed by a number of factors. It is possible that hitting the two boulders and
the tree on the way down slowed his fall somewhat.

There is another factor that may have slowed his fall. After the fall, other climbers found his ATC and
several quickdraws scattered around the area, including one hanging in the tree he hit. Some of the
quickdraws had very deep scratches in them. Later examination of his harness revealed a broken gear
loop. A possible explanation for the damaged items is that the quickdraws were damaged on impact
with one of the boulders, and somehow snagged some protrusion and ripped the gear loop. Another
possible explanation is that the gear loop caught some part of the tree and ripped. Either of these
situations would explain the scattered gear, and could have further contributed to a slowing of the fall.

Finally, the fact that he was pulling the rope through the anchors as he fell may also have been a small
factor in slowing the fall.

It is still absolutely amazing that he was not hurt worse, given he fell 70 feet with no belay and no
helmet. It was probably some combination of the above factors, plus hitting the one flat area at the
base of the climb, that prevented him from receiving far worse injuries.


(This post was edited by majid_sabet on May 11, 2011, 10:23 AM)


slick_rick.org


May 6, 2011, 3:58 PM
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Re: [majid_sabet] Communication error, climber fell 70+ feet [In reply to]
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So glad the accident wasnt worse!
TFPU!!!


Rudmin


May 6, 2011, 4:55 PM
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Re: [majid_sabet] Communication error, climber fell 70+ feet [In reply to]
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Your analysis missed the fact that there was no reason to take him off belay in the first place. If he was going to be lowered, they should have left him on belay, or at least left the rope running through the belay device.


jammer88


May 6, 2011, 5:22 PM
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Re: [majid_sabet] Communication error, climber fell 70+ feet [In reply to]
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I had this exact scenario minus the fall happen to me the other day, while introducing a group of gym climbers to outdoor top roping. It was my fault as I trusted a belayer who had no idea what I was doing on top. Communication is so crucial, I was very lucky.


(This post was edited by jammer88 on May 6, 2011, 6:37 PM)


dudlej01


May 6, 2011, 5:39 PM
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Re: [jammer88] Communication error, climber fell 70+ feet [In reply to]
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The belayer may have assumed he was rapping down, and so no longer needed a belay once he told them he was off belay.


Rudmin


May 6, 2011, 5:42 PM
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Re: [dudlej01] Communication error, climber fell 70+ feet [In reply to]
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That means that it took two communication errors to make this accident happen.


socalclimber


May 6, 2011, 5:59 PM
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Re: [Rudmin] Communication error, climber fell 70+ feet [In reply to]
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Rudmin wrote:
That means that it took two communication errors to make this accident happen.

Yes, that's exactly what happened, and it was in the report. Communication does require at least two parties.


(This post was edited by socalclimber on May 6, 2011, 6:00 PM)


Rudmin


May 6, 2011, 6:09 PM
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socalclimber wrote:
Rudmin wrote:
That means that it took two communication errors to make this accident happen.

Yes, that's exactly what happened, and it was in the report. Communication does require at least two parties.

No I mean, first while on the ground, there was a failure to communicate that the climber intended to lower and not rappel. This lead to being taken off belay. Then when the climber has threaded the anchor, there was the failure to communicate that he was not on belay before he leaned back.


cacalderon


May 6, 2011, 6:12 PM
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glad to know he'll recover.

thank you for sharing and I appreciate the analysis.

Note: how your cleaning a route needs to be crystal clear before the leader leaves the ground (lower vs rappel, etc).. this could help prevent communication problems.


socalclimber


May 6, 2011, 6:26 PM
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Re: [Rudmin] Communication error, climber fell 70+ feet [In reply to]
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Rudmin wrote:
socalclimber wrote:
Rudmin wrote:
That means that it took two communication errors to make this accident happen.

Yes, that's exactly what happened, and it was in the report. Communication does require at least two parties.

No I mean, first while on the ground, there was a failure to communicate that the climber intended to lower and not rappel. This lead to being taken off belay. Then when the climber has threaded the anchor, there was the failure to communicate that he was not on belay before he leaned back.

Yup, and you brought up several important points:

Have a plan before you leave the ground.

Don't assume anything.


majid_sabet


May 6, 2011, 7:36 PM
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2 cheap FRS radio cost $12 on ebay


notapplicable


May 6, 2011, 7:48 PM
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Re: [majid_sabet] Communication error, climber fell 70+ feet [In reply to]
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majid_sabet wrote:
2 cheap FRS radio cost $12 on ebay

Paying attention to what you and those around you are doing - Priceless


bearbreeder


May 6, 2011, 8:29 PM
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Re: [majid_sabet] Communication error, climber fell 70+ feet [In reply to]
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majid_sabet wrote:
2 cheap FRS radio cost $12 on ebay

radios for cragging mista mahhhjeed? ...

not even gonna comment ...
Tongue


climbingaggie03


May 6, 2011, 8:35 PM
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yeah, you know, I learned to trad climb at e-rock and I've been up the route the climber fell off of. there's no way i'd have ever thought to take a radio to triple cracks.

there are some spots at e-rock that are hard to communicate, a full rope length out and a big curving slab between you and your belayer, it can be hard to communicate. (although I've never had to resort to rope signals, just yelling.) Grass crack though I've had conversations with people on the ground from the anchors.

I've climbed with a radio only once, and it was on a big wall. I think they quit working by the second day and I'll probably never bother to take them again.


majid_sabet


May 7, 2011, 12:12 AM
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Re: [climbingaggie03] Communication error, climber fell 70+ feet [In reply to]
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climbingaggie03 wrote:
yeah, you know, I learned to trad climb at e-rock and I've been up the route the climber fell off of. there's no way i'd have ever thought to take a radio to triple cracks.

there are some spots at e-rock that are hard to communicate, a full rope length out and a big curving slab between you and your belayer, it can be hard to communicate. (although I've never had to resort to rope signals, just yelling.) Grass crack though I've had conversations with people on the ground from the anchors.

I've climbed with a radio only once, and it was on a big wall. I think they quit working by the second day and I'll probably never bother to take them again.


those cheap radios had saved or at least assist rescuers in many big walls and twice last year on El Cap


patto


May 7, 2011, 12:57 AM
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I have seen other near misses like this when the guy up the top calls SAFE and then 5 minutes late calls TAKE. Crazy

If you want to stay on belay then DON'T send signals to indicate that you belay should take you off belay.

Furthermore NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER take off your safety until your weight is on the rope. So many accidents could have been prevented if this simple rule is followed.


karcand


May 7, 2011, 7:08 AM
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I don't know how these accidents keep happening. After cleaning a route I stay on my personal anchors until I know either my partner is on belay or my rapel gear is set up correctly. I know my partner is on belay because I will ask him to 'take' and I weight the rope before I release/remove my personal anchors. If I think he has taken and I am on belay but am actaully not, when I lean back, I'll fall but only 2 inches until my personal anchor catches me. Same with my repel, I will weight the rope and if something fails or is not set up correctly I will still have my pesonal anchors to catch me.


northfacejmb


May 7, 2011, 9:15 AM
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Re: [patto] Communication error, climber fell 70+ feet [In reply to]
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Another thing he could have done if he wasn't 100% sure he was on belay is attach a prussik from his gear loop to the other line. While being lowered he could manage the prussik and if he started falling all he'd have to do is let go.

That said, you should never let go to be lowered without making 100% sure that you're on belay.


maldaly


May 7, 2011, 9:42 AM
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This same scenario keeps happening over and over. I don't think it's going to ever stop. All the comments in the thread are right on but I want to re-visit one of them.

In the last couple of years I've seen an explosion of climbers who, when they clip in to the top anchors in preperation to lowering off, say "I'm safe" or "I'm in straight" or worst of all, "I'm off".

There is no reason whatsoever to use one of these calls. They serve no useful purpose and almost always confuse the ground crew.

Climb safe,
Mal


jt512


May 7, 2011, 9:57 AM
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northfacejmb wrote:
Another thing he could have done if he wasn't 100% sure he was on belay is attach a prussik from his gear loop to the other line. While being lowered he could manage the prussik and if he started falling all he'd have to do is let go.

That's retarded. All you have to do (and should do) is to grab the other side of the rope and lower yourself down hand over hand until you know that your partner's got you.

That said, this accident would not have happened had the climber not told his partner to take him off belay.

People say that definitions don't matter. This accident shows that they do. "Off belay" does not mean "I'm clipped in direct." It means "take me off belay."

Jay


shotwell


May 7, 2011, 10:19 AM
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jt512 wrote:
northfacejmb wrote:
Another thing he could have done if he wasn't 100% sure he was on belay is attach a prussik from his gear loop to the other line. While being lowered he could manage the prussik and if he started falling all he'd have to do is let go.

That's retarded. All you have to do (and should do) is to grab the other side of the rope and lower yourself down hand over hand until you know that your partner's got you.

That said, this accident would not have happened had the climber not told his partner to take him off belay.

People say that definitions don't matter. This accident shows that they do. "Off belay" does not mean "I'm clipped in direct." It means "take me off belay."

Jay

Perhaps the best way to do this is to say nothing about being in direct. I personally tend to ask my partner to take, slack, take, and lower me. All these commands are more than sufficient to clean a pitch and are easily understood. I see no reason to let my partner know I'm in direct (though they most certainly can figure it out), that information isn't all that helpful to them. Additionally, the people that can confuse 'off belay' for 'in direct' when they are at the anchor may confuse it when I am.

I have a partner that tends to rappel vertical or slabby pitches. Even if she told me on the ground that she is rappelling, I'll always confirm it when she calls 'off belay.' If in doubt, I'll stay on. I'll also make sure to stick around and let her know the rope ends are down.

Finally, always checking that my weight is fully supported before I come off my tether is a step I'll never skip, whether rappelling or lowering.


(This post was edited by shotwell on May 7, 2011, 10:20 AM)


enigma


May 8, 2011, 8:15 AM
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shotwell wrote:
jt512 wrote:
northfacejmb wrote:
Another thing he could have done if he wasn't 100% sure he was on belay is attach a prussik from his gear loop to the other line. While being lowered he could manage the prussik and if he started falling all he'd have to do is let go.

That's retarded. All you have to do (and should do) is to grab the other side of the rope and lower yourself down hand over hand until you know that your partner's got you.

That said, this accident would not have happened had the climber not told his partner to take him off belay.

People say that definitions don't matter. This accident shows that they do. "Off belay" does not mean "I'm clipped in direct." It means "take me off belay."

Jay

Perhaps the best way to do this is to say nothing about being in direct. I personally tend to ask my partner to take, slack, take, and lower me. All these commands are more than sufficient to clean a pitch and are easily understood. I see no reason to let my partner know I'm in direct (though they most certainly can figure it out), that information isn't all that helpful to them. Additionally, the people that can confuse 'off belay' for 'in direct' when they are at the anchor may confuse it when I am.

I have a partner that tends to rappel vertical or slabby pitches. Even if she told me on the ground that she is rappelling, I'll always confirm it when she calls 'off belay.' If in doubt, I'll stay on. I'll also make sure to stick around and let her know the rope ends are down.

Finally, always checking that my weight is fully supported before I come off my tether is a step I'll never skip, whether rappelling or lowering.

Obviously there's alot more communication needed. For instance in your can't hear your partner due to distance or wind .
You better know what going to happen before they climb, I can't believe a partner wouldn't know if someone was rappeling vs wanting to be lowered.
Additionally checking gear is crucial. How are you going to rappel without a device? Or if the party is going to walk off.
Its someones life
Better sit and drink beers than climb if you can't communicate well.


shockabuku


May 8, 2011, 2:50 PM
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jt512 wrote:
northfacejmb wrote:
Another thing he could have done if he wasn't 100% sure he was on belay is attach a prussik from his gear loop to the other line. While being lowered he could manage the prussik and if he started falling all he'd have to do is let go.

That's retarded. All you have to do (and should do) is to grab the other side of the rope and lower yourself down hand over hand until you know that your partner's got you.

That said, this accident would not have happened had the climber not told his partner to take him off belay.

People say that definitions don't matter. This accident shows that they do. "Off belay" does not mean "I'm clipped in direct." It means "take me off belay."

Jay

+1. This is the way I learned it.


bearbreeder


May 8, 2011, 9:27 PM
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enigma wrote:

Additionally checking gear is crucial. How are you going to rappel without a device? .

munter ... or carb brake

when in doubt and you cant hear em ... rap or walk off


Partner rrrADAM


May 9, 2011, 3:34 AM
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jt512 wrote:
northfacejmb wrote:
Another thing he could have done if he wasn't 100% sure he was on belay is attach a prussik from his gear loop to the other line. While being lowered he could manage the prussik and if he started falling all he'd have to do is let go.

That's retarded. All you have to do (and should do) is to grab the other side of the rope and lower yourself down hand over hand until you know that your partner's got you.

That said, this accident would not have happened had the climber not told his partner to take him off belay.

People say that definitions don't matter. This accident shows that they do. "Off belay" does not mean "I'm clipped in direct." It means "take me off belay."

Jay

Yep.

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