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NJSlacker


May 15, 2012, 3:08 PM
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Should I be concerned?
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Hey all

I'm new to leading on gear. Last weekend I lead a 5.4 in Joshua tree. I was originally planning on topping out (Turtle Rock) but was running low on slings and decided to set up a toprope on bolts and lower off instead. While lowering off, two of my pieces pulled. The two pieces were on opposite sides of the rope, at almost the same heights. One was a BD nut in a horizontal crackthat I had thought I'd oriented for a downward and rope-ward pull. The other was a tri-cam in a vertical crack that I thought was solid (at least for a downward pull).

My question is, which piece pulled first? I'm assuming the whip-back from the rope pulled the second.

and more importantly, should I be concerned? Was this a bad placement that would have pulled if I'd fallen? Or does a tensioned rope do this often?


climbingaggie03


May 15, 2012, 4:38 PM
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Re: [NJSlacker] Should I be concerned? [In reply to]
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It's hard to say whether or not those pieces would have held, but It's not too suprising that they popped. My guess is that the outward force of the rope pulled them out of where they were placed.

Were these your first pieces on the route? Passive pieces, and actively placed tri-cams are much more vulnerable to this than SLCD's. If you set them really well, and sling them a bit longer, they'll probably stay put, they'll also be harder to clean.


TradEddie


May 15, 2012, 6:01 PM
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Re: [NJSlacker] Should I be concerned? [In reply to]
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If those pieces were the first on the route, you've just learned why the first piece should be multi-directional, (think outward, not just up/down/left /right). This is especially important if the belayer is standing away from the wall, which is a common bad habit from gyms and sport climbing. People have died from this zipper effect as the outward pull towards the belayer successively rips each piece from the bottom up.

If placing two pieces at the same height on opposite sides of the rope, those placements need to withstand horizontal and vertical pulls. Using quickdraws instead of slings will make this even worse.

Either way, be concerned, but not too much. See what you can learn from it.

TE


granite_grrl


May 15, 2012, 7:01 PM
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Re: [NJSlacker] Should I be concerned? [In reply to]
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The gear popping out isn't a huge concern. What might be a bigger concern is that you didn't identify these pieces as being able to take little outward pull.

Can you remember what the gear looked like when you placed it? I would say it's something to be aware of and learn from the experience.


Partner rgold


May 15, 2012, 7:23 PM
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I think you should be damn concerned. Your protection system suffered a serious failure. Those two pieces would have zippered if you fell, ruining the redundancy of your set-up. If the piece you fell on pulled too, you would have been in for a big ride with who knows what for consequences.

There's no way anyone here can comment on the placements themselves, but almost by definition they weren't slung long enough if they zippered like that. Maybe one or both needed opposed directionals to hold them in place. Maybe you should just have placed one piece. Maybe...

If something like that happens again while you are being lowered, you'd do well to hang on a top rope and replace whatever zippered to see what is needed to keep your pro in place. That's the only way to learn much from the incident, since once the pieces blow you really don't know much about what made it happen.


billl7


May 15, 2012, 7:29 PM
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Re: [NJSlacker] Should I be concerned? [In reply to]
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NJSlacker wrote:
I'm new to leading on gear ... should I be concerned? Was this a bad placement that would have pulled if I'd fallen? Or does a tensioned rope do this often?

You should be concerned. You don't know if it was a good/bad placement for the lead. And you are asking people here who can't possibly know. Work to climb more with folks who know what they are doing.

Also, beware of slack introduced if the piece were quite a ways off to the side. Folks have decked when such pieces pull.

Good luck!
Bill L


viciado


May 16, 2012, 1:47 AM
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rgold wrote:
I think you should be damn concerned. Your protection system suffered a serious failure.

+1 - Your pro works as a system and should be thougt of being as strong as your weakest link. Your system might have kept you off the deck, but then again maybe not. You pointed out the major concern... you THOUGHT the pieces were good, but they were not. Sometimes you have to deal with marginal pro and you need to be able to recognize it and manage your system accordingly. There are a lot of ways to practice with some sort of back-up... also, try to find a good mentor.


david_g48


May 16, 2012, 8:16 AM
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Sometimes people place a piece of gear down low that is not necessarily there to catch you before a ground fall but because it is bomber for multi directional pulls it will help stop any zippering effect. It must have a shorter sling than the next piece if the next piece placed can not be multi-directional.
RG what are your thoughts on this deadman piece of protection being placed???? (RG is a good source for technical aspects of climbing, listen to what he said about safety.)
I would not be concerned about not stopping just because 2 pieces fell out because in all my years of climbing I found that the ground will always catch you.


shockabuku


May 16, 2012, 8:27 AM
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NJSlacker wrote:
Hey all

I'm new to leading on gear. Last weekend I lead a 5.4 in Joshua tree. I was originally planning on topping out (Turtle Rock) but was running low on slings and decided to set up a toprope on bolts and lower off instead. While lowering off, two of my pieces pulled. The two pieces were on opposite sides of the rope, at almost the same heights. One was a BD nut in a horizontal crackthat I had thought I'd oriented for a downward and rope-ward pull. The other was a tri-cam in a vertical crack that I thought was solid (at least for a downward pull).

My question is, which piece pulled first? I'm assuming the whip-back from the rope pulled the second.

and more importantly, should I be concerned? Was this a bad placement that would have pulled if I'd fallen? Or does a tensioned rope do this often?

rgold wrote:
There's no way anyone here can comment on the placements themselves, but almost by definition they weren't slung long enough if they zippered like that.
+1


Partner rgold


May 16, 2012, 9:24 AM
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david_g48 wrote:
Sometimes people place a piece of gear down low that is not necessarily there to catch you before a ground fall but because it is bomber for multi directional pulls it will help stop any zippering effect. It must have a shorter sling than the next piece if the next piece placed can not be multi-directional.
RG what are your thoughts on this deadman piece of protection being placed???? (RG is a good source for technical aspects of climbing, listen to what he said about safety.)
I would not be concerned about not stopping just because 2 pieces fell out because in all my years of climbing I found that the ground will always catch you.

Well, as usual, it depends. Direction pieces are needed...when they are needed, which is sometimes but not always at the base. Directional pieces at the base to prevent zippering are called for if the belayer isn't up against the cliff face (which can be pretty often, if for no other reason than convenience for the belayer), or if the route diagonals. Overhanging starts can be especially deceptive: the belayer can be near the base but lifting still happens.

Such pieces won't prevent zippering further up the route that occurs because the angle changes from slabby to steep. There is also sideways zippering that occurs if pieces are placed alternately behind a pair of parallel flakes, etc. etc.

The best thing a climber can do is to try to visualize what will happen when the rope tries to form a straight line from belayer to climber, which is what the rope is going to try to do when loaded, and then either reinforce or sling placements appropriately. As mentioned above, be especially aware of what happens when the wall changes angle.

It may well be worth backing down, if you can, to fix things, because sometimes you'll only notice the zippering potential after you've climbed past the piece that needs reinforcement and/or a longer sling.

In my experience, zippering pieces is by far the most common mistake expert climbers make. No matter how good you are, it is going to happen occasionally, but this is not a reason to dismiss the seriousness of it. Every time it happens, it is important to understand why and to make sure that you won't repeat that particular mistake again.


dagibbs


May 16, 2012, 9:33 AM
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And, a further concern not mentioned -- if these had been the lowest two pieces (first placed) you now have two chunks of metal flying down the cliff straight at your belayer... who can't dodge them, cause they're guided right at him/her by the rope. They're going to come to a sudden stop, on the rope biner, at the belay device... with the non-rope end (nut/tri-cam/cam) spinning around in a crack-the-whip way into your belayer -- hitting hands, crotch, or maybe even face. At best this just really pisses off your belayer, but the impact might be enough to cause them to drop you.

And, the early pieces are, in fact, the ones most likely to pop-out when the rope tensions for a lower, or from a fall.


NJSlacker


May 16, 2012, 9:37 AM
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Thank you all for the tips and advice

This was not the first piece in my system. I knew to place a multidirectional piece first (actually from a friend who had most of his gear zipper from belayer error). The pieces that pulled were my last two.


climbingaggie03


May 16, 2012, 11:14 AM
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Did you traverse alot to get to the bolts you lowered off of?


NJSlacker


May 16, 2012, 11:25 AM
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yes, at least somewhat. The bolts were off to the right of those placements


climbingaggie03


May 16, 2012, 11:44 AM
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That probably had something to do with it.


Partner cracklover


May 16, 2012, 2:12 PM
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rgold wrote:
In my experience, zippering pieces is by far the most common mistake expert climbers make. No matter how good you are, it is going to happen occasionally, but this is not a reason to dismiss the seriousness of it. Every time it happens, it is important to understand why and to make sure that you won't repeat that particular mistake again.

(bolded by me)

That's an interesting statement. It's not uncommon that I have a piece pop (maybe a few times in a hundred routes) in a scenario like that of the OP. They are always pieces I expect to pop, and it rarely concerns me. They're typically shallow nuts that are only placed to protect a short stretch of climbing before I suspect I can get in a better piece. They look like they'll take a downward force nicely, and an upward force not at all, so when they pop, as I said, it's not unexpected.

Given all that, I'd like to hear you argument for the bolded part of your post. Why is it a serious concern that I should not be dismissing as lightly as I am?

GO


desertdude420


May 16, 2012, 4:02 PM
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If your first piece of pro isn't a bolt, then make it a cam! It's amazing how much your rope pulls out and UP on the first piece!


sam_s


May 16, 2012, 4:42 PM
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NJSlacker wrote:
Hey all

I'm new to leading on gear. Last weekend I lead a 5.4 in Joshua tree. I was originally planning on topping out (Turtle Rock) but was running low on slings and decided to set up a toprope on bolts and lower off instead. While lowering off, two of my pieces pulled. The two pieces were on opposite sides of the rope, at almost the same heights. One was a BD nut in a horizontal crackthat I had thought I'd oriented for a downward and rope-ward pull. The other was a tri-cam in a vertical crack that I thought was solid (at least for a downward pull).

My question is, which piece pulled first? I'm assuming the whip-back from the rope pulled the second.

and more importantly, should I be concerned? Was this a bad placement that would have pulled if I'd fallen? Or does a tensioned rope do this often?


What climb was it?


Partner rgold


May 16, 2012, 10:00 PM
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cracklover wrote:
That's an interesting statement. It's not uncommon that I have a piece pop (maybe a few times in a hundred routes) in a scenario like that of the OP. They are always pieces I expect to pop, and it rarely concerns me. They're typically shallow nuts that are only placed to protect a short stretch of climbing before I suspect I can get in a better piece. They look like they'll take a downward force nicely, and an upward force not at all, so when they pop, as I said, it's not unexpected.

Given all that, I'd like to hear you argument for the bolded part of your post. Why is it a serious concern that I should not be dismissing as lightly as I am?


Well perhaps I should reword to say that it is serious when a piece pops that you didn't expect to pop, as seems clear in the OP.

Anytime gear fails that you thought was good, it calls for some thought, introspection, and review. I don't need to elaborate on that, do I?


(This post was edited by rgold on May 16, 2012, 10:02 PM)


bearbreeder


May 16, 2012, 10:53 PM
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i believe there have been reported accidents where pieces pulled in the middle of climbs and the extra slack caused a more serious fall, despite the first and last piece holding

tricams can be quite finicky and rattle out of vertical/diagonal cracks ... sling em LONG

as to the placements ... no one can tell em from the intrawebs as others have alluded to ..


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May 17, 2012, 9:32 AM
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rgold wrote:
cracklover wrote:
That's an interesting statement. It's not uncommon that I have a piece pop (maybe a few times in a hundred routes) in a scenario like that of the OP. They are always pieces I expect to pop, and it rarely concerns me. They're typically shallow nuts that are only placed to protect a short stretch of climbing before I suspect I can get in a better piece. They look like they'll take a downward force nicely, and an upward force not at all, so when they pop, as I said, it's not unexpected.

Given all that, I'd like to hear you argument for the bolded part of your post. Why is it a serious concern that I should not be dismissing as lightly as I am?


Well perhaps I should reword to say that it is serious when a piece pops that you didn't expect to pop, as seems clear in the OP.

Sure, if a piece pops unexpectedly, that means there's something you need to learn from the situation. I thought you were saying something broader - that any time a piece pops from rope drag or rope pull, you did something improper enough that it requires further consideration.

In reply to:
Anytime gear fails that you thought was good, it calls for some thought, introspection, and review. I don't need to elaborate on that, do I?

No, I suppose not. It's just that your definition of "good" is a little unclear. I guess that's the area I'm trying to clarify. If you expect the piece to be able to hold a fall, and then three pieces later, it wiggles out, I'm not sure if it has demonstrated that it was not suited to the task.

As an example, if I'm climbing on a single rope, and have a tricky move to pull, and I can place a moderately good nut that is outside of the line the rope will take, I have three choices. 1 - I can sling it long (say three or four feet) and risk a significant fall, 2 - I can sling it short (not dogbone short, but two foot or maybe tripled runner short) and risk having the rope lift the piece out later, or 3 - I can hang on and try to get in an oppositional piece to help hold the piece in place.

I typically go with option 2, and maybe 1/3 of the time the piece wiggles out before the second gets to it.

I'm guessing from your earlier posts that you typically go with options 1 or 3, and since we differ, and you have more experience, I'm curious to hear your reasoning.

GO


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May 17, 2012, 9:41 AM
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I should add that if a piece is out of the line of the rope, and *must* hold, I will double up the placement and equalize the two pieces. An example is a piece placed way off to the side of the belay, such that if the second were to weight the rope, and the piece were to pull, it would introduce a lot of slack into the system, giving the second a lead fall. An extreme example:



In this case, a single piece, especially as it will be subject to sideways forces from the rope like we've been discussing, *must* be doubled up.

GO


dr_feelgood


May 17, 2012, 9:44 AM
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If you can't get solid pro on a 5.4, you should probably be spending a lot more time placing gear at ground level. Definitely don't venture onto harder terrain until you are solid.


LostinMaine


May 17, 2012, 10:22 AM
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dr_feelgood wrote:
If you can't get solid pro on a 5.4, you should probably be spending a lot more time placing gear at ground level. Definitely don't venture onto harder terrain until you are solid.

I'm confused. What does a climb's difficulty rating have to do with availability of adequate protection?


Partner rgold


May 17, 2012, 10:51 AM
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Gabe, you are initiating a somewhat different discussion, having to do with the nuanced decisions faced by experts. My comments were aimed at a beginning trad climber who had two pieces pull unexpectedly, and in that context I do not think it is wise to reply to a simple and direct question with an avalanche of hypothetical situations in which gear might be expected to pull after serving some purpose, which is why I said and still maintain, "you should be damned concerned."

But nuances are what you are after with your example of a piece placed off to the side and your demand for a clearer definition of what "good" pro is. OK, you want a definition, here is one: it isn't "good" if it will hold a fall near it but pop out later. That doesn't mean that we all don't use such pro, but I wouldn't call it good. If it "wiggles out" while you are climbing, no big deal, assuming that you realized not to count on it after its initial function, but if it stays in and then blows during a fall on higher gear, it will add slack to the system and that is not good.

I might add that this hypothetical piece that is off to the side and later pulls because of its location might not be as good at holding a nearby fall as you think, since it will still be subjected to sideways loads and those are what extracts it later on.

As for your proposed options, I don't see the them as having much to do with my comments. We are speaking of a piece that is already understood to be subject to failure later on, and as I keep saying, it is unanticipated failures that are cause for concern.

As for what option I'd choose, it is so situational I see little purpose in pretending that there is an ideal response, but if I really need to count on the piece, and if I have the reserves, and if the rock supplies the opportunities, and if I have gear for those opportunities, then I'd try to reinforce the placement so that lifting can't remove it.

I guess I should also add that because I always climb with double ropes, problems like this for single-rope climbers are often not an issue. This is one of the many often unappreciated reasons that double ropes are useful way beyond their ability to reduce rope drag.

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