General > Epics and Accidents

Cathedral accident yesterday?

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DLottmann:
WMWV 93.5 Just talked about a rock climbing accident where someone fell 30 feet to the ground yesterday and required a rescue. Anybody have any details or at least what route this was on?

perry:
Hi DMan, I wrote an email to my friends last night on the incident:


Hi friends,

I wrote a little accident report partly to record what happened, but also to help collect my thoughts. some of you may find it helpful. Stay safe.
---
Spang and I were involved in a rescue today when a climber in his early 20s decked off of Child's Play (5.5) at Cathedral Ledge.  We had just come down off of Recluse at the North End and were packing up around 2:30pm. A party had finished Child's Play, the line directly to the right of Recluse and were descending via rappel from a tree on the North End belay ledge. The first climber down had improperly thrown the ropes such that one side of the rappel was about 25 ft off the ground. He rappelled just past the bulgy ledge about midway up Child's Play when the short end of the rope ran through his device and he fell to the ground, landing on his back. I inspected the rappel device; he had extended his rappel device and backed it up with a prussick, but both of these failed when one end, unknotted, slipped through.

My guess is that he fell about ~25-30ft,  landing on the ground and a large downed tree trunk. He suffered serious lower back injuries, along with leg, arm, neck, and other injuries. He remained conscious the entire time, though in a lot of pain. We along with all of the other climbers around North End were able to respond immediately, including an Eastern Mountain Sports guide, an EMT, WFR, and any number of other qualifications I was glad relieved to have on hand. Within 15-20 minutes of the fall, emergency services arrived, followed by SAR. He was stabilized, placed on a backboard, and littered out by everyone by hand via the trail. He was in the ambulance by 3:30ish. All of the surrounding climbers and hikers were extremely helpful and the rescue was incredibly efficient and well done.

I've never been that close to a climbing accident before. It sucks that it takes an accident to reinforce shit you already know you should do, but always tie knots in the rope. There are very few reasons not to. I had rappelled to the ground just minutes before the accident, I did not tie knots in the rope, for the same reasons that these climbers cited: "its a short route, i've done the rap before, i know the rope is long enough..."  Fortunately, I checked that I had my middle mark at the rings. These guys, for whatever reason, today, did not. One of the climbers friend's had mentioned that they had had a recent conversation about tying knots, and that he was normally a very safe climber. It's easy to miss these simple checks, especially when it's late in the day, getting dark, you're tired, and you want to go to Flatbread and get a beer. This has got to be one of the most common climbing accidents and its so easily preventable.

I don't know the status of the climber who fell. Best wishes to him.

Stay safe,
-perry

DLottmann:
Thanks for sharing. While I have knotted ends more often this season I still think lack of using an accurate middle mark is more of a contributing factor in similar accidents.

Did you happen to notice if the rope they were using had a middle mark?

Regardless of middle marks and end knots, I feel I am always constantly looking for my ends while rappelling... Itís hard for me to imagine an end sneaking up on me like it did to this victim.

It is tragic this easily preventable type of mistake keeps happening, but I am also not too surprised as I notice lots of folks who donít set up rappels smoothly or take shortcuts.

Iíve always encouraged threading the rope to the middle mark, then, if on a ledge like this one, back stack the entire rope to the ends in a neat pile, then toss. You can hear the ends hit the ground if itís quiet. Even then I stop at that bulge and get a visual on the ends before continuing... hope he fully recovers quickly.

tradmanclimbz:
Sending light to the injured for a hopefully full recovery. Unfourtunatly is its not as simple as tying knots in the rope every time. that can also get you killed......

lucky luke:

--- Quote from: perry on July 23, 2013, 07:46:46 PM ---I've never been that close to a climbing accident before. It sucks that it takes an accident to reinforce shit you already know you should do, but always tie knots in the rope. There are very few reasons not to. I had rappelled to the ground just minutes before the accident, I did not tie knots in the rope, for the same reasons that these climbers cited: "its a short route, i've done the rap before, i know the rope is long enough..."  Fortunately, I checked that I had my middle mark at the rings.
--- End quote ---

Perry, the question that nobody can answer is: "why the guy didn't look at the end of both ropes?" For me, it is more important to see both end of the rope than to tie a knot and rap without care to the bottom.

I think that it is an other good example of learning in situation without real danger. They follow a procedure that they learn and was winning. But, developing our instinct to see the danger is so important in climbing. I remember one of my friend, guide, running after a couple and saying: "it is important you will see later". The couple don't lesson and, I am sure, are candidate to accident.   

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