Yesterday (2/11/12), a friend and I headed to the Texaco Amphitheater where we witnessed a near fatal disaster. The accident happened late afternoon when a climber was going back up a route (don't know the name) to remove a directional ice screw and clean his anchor. I was on the far right side of the crag flaking my rope when I heard the thundering collapse of ice. I quickly glanced around the corner when I heard the noise to see a blur of bodies and ice flying all over the place. My partner who was down below from me had a clear view of the entire route coming down on the belayer and climber. According to my partner when the route came down, the ice dragged the climber down maybe 10-15 feet before freeing him - which in turn shot the belayer up into the air momentarily. We came to the conclusion that this probably saved the belayers life, since he would have been crushed by several hundred pounds of falling ice, instead the belayer was luckily suspended in the air while the route flew past his face. When the dragged down climber was freed by the falling ice, the rope stretch shot him back up in the air where his thighs where met by more large blocks of falling ice. The whole scene lasted less than 5 sec and the aftermath left the climber badly beat up and a belayer on an adjacent route also injured (from ice debris). Somehow the belayer on the route that collapsed walked away unscathed. The extent of the injuries between the belayer on the adjacent climb and the climber where miniscule to what they could have been. I treated the belayer for miner cuts on her knee, a swollen ankle and a cut on her forehead. The climber had a deep cut on his chin and his thighs were pretty sore from the ice. We helped free their rope from the ice chunks and carried the injured climbers bags down to the parking lot.
As a veteran rock climber but a novice ice climber, I want to know if this is fairly common? Should ice climbers be concerned with entire routes collapsing on them? I climbed this route twice that day and it was thin in areas, but I never expected it to all
come down. Unfortunately, I didn't see how the climber was climbing, but when I climbed the route previously I expressed caution on the thin areas and slotted my tools instead of swinging - could the fail have been triggered by excessive banging? I want to learn from this experience so that I don't put me or my partner in danger. Please chime in with your thoughts on how this could have been avoided.
I've included some before and after photos for people to analyze of the route. http://www.flickr.com/photos/62694254@N02/sets/72157629285680547/
The conditions were, Partly Sunny high of 34.
*This was my first time to Texaco, so I'm not sure of the route's name but would love to know what it is.