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Author Topic: Have you ever saved another climbers life?  (Read 850 times)

SA

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Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« on: August 31, 2013, 09:44:50 AM »

I wonder if this topic has ever been posted here. I just modified my original post, since I wanted to make clear what I meant by "saving a climbers life". I'm not suggesting giving advice or other instances where if a climber failed to tie in properly something may happen etc.
I'm talking about a situation where if you had not been in that particular location and acted swiftly, the climber would of most certainly died. These type of instances usually stick in your mind, and most likely, are not forgotten. I remember at least 3 instances where I saved someone's bacon. Here is my earliest encounter.

Back in 1966, only a year after I started climbing, I was walking along the carriage road, at the Gunks. I hear someone yelling for help, so I run up to the base of the cliff.
This bozo, who I recognized immediately, since he was known for being kind of an idiot, was hanging onto the rock, maybe 20 feet BELOW his belayer, who just finished the 1st pitch of Something Interesting.
He was obviously in trouble, since his rope had somehow come off his swami-belt.
I realized that he wasn't going to hang on forever, so without contemplating much, I soloed up to him, and somehow managed to tie him back into the rope.
His partner lowered him to the ground, while I hung on, and then I tied into the rope and finished the climb with his partner.
I don't recollect how I managed to tie the guy in, or myself, while soloing but somehow I managed to do it.
After I got down, I realized that I had soloed over the 1st crux of that route, but my adrenalin had spiked so high, that I really didn't realize what route I was on.
I've got at least 2 more episodes to relate but I'll hold off till other people post up. I'm sure there are some epics to be told.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 01:23:14 PM by SA »
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Admin Al

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Re: Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2013, 03:30:05 PM »

Dunno if this qualifies, but another Gunks story...

My wife and I were at the gunks for a weekend and were climbing some climb that went up and out an arete on the left. I don't remember the name of these climbs.  There was a party of 2 who were about 80' off the ground at the belay on a narrow ledge on the 2nd pitch of a climb to our right. Their climb went up a face for 15-20', and then over an overlap and up a face to the belay. We were at our belay, which was about 15' to the left of their belay. I watched the leader climb up and over the overlap and call out "off belay". The leader pulled up the rope and then I saw the end of their rope pull away from the second and start going up the cliff, about 10' out in space! I called out for the leader to stop pulling the rope, which they did, and told him to lower it back, which he also did. However the end of the rope was now about 3' out of reach from the second. My wife and I watched in horror as the second unclipped from the belay and started wildly trying to reach out and grab it. I called out for them to stop and clip themselves back into the anchor, which after several more unsuccessful reaches, they did. I tried to explain what was going on to the leader above, but it was hard to communicate with them. So, after telling the second to stay put, I climbed up on our route where I could communicate with the leader to tell him what was up. He rapped down to the belay, tossed an end of the rope to the second and had him pull the leader into the anchor. We watched as they both TR'ed the second pitch. Apparently this was the first time the second had climbed outside. Why they untied from the rope at all was unknown, not to mention why they would think it was OK to unclip from the anchor and try to reach the rope, which was IMO clearly out of reach.

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Re: Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2013, 03:58:47 PM »

After a successful climb of Crimson Chrysalis in Red Rocks the three of us were rapping. A 2 person party decided to bail right after we passed on our descent since they left their jackets at the bottom and it was a bit chilly. The first guy rapping joined me on the 3 bolt belay ledge (about 8 inches wide) that was the only significant ledge on the 1,000 foot vertical climb. He disconnected from his rap line and yelled up to his partner off belay then shot me a smile. I casually placed my arm behind him and asked if he would like to connect to the anchor. He was a bit startled when he realized he had almost leaned back with nothing attaching him to the wall 500 feet up...
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 04:00:20 PM by DMan »
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SA

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Re: Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2013, 05:07:41 PM »

Dman,

If you only knew how many times I've been not anchored in at a belay ledge. I'm usually a little more careful now. I still often start breaking down an anchor on an alpine climb, before the leader has me on belay. It just saves time, rather than get caught in a storm, like I was in a few days ago, up on the Armadillo route on Katahdin.
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DLottmann

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Re: Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2013, 07:04:33 PM »

Pretty sure you were aware u were not anchored in. This guy wasn't, perhaps because he was shivering. Breaking down an anchor to save time is totally different.
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SA

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Re: Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2013, 08:23:19 PM »

I agree.
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tradmanclimbz

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Re: Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2013, 09:56:50 PM »

1986 I had just led the Gobbler in Red rocks and we were rapping down one of the standard rapell routes on Black Velvet Wall. The last rap of the route was a diveing board to a 150ft free hanging rap.  There was a coupple at this  last anchor haveing a relationshit breakdown. She was scared to go off the diveing board and he had no patience to deal with the situation so he rapped, pulled his ropes and left the poor young lass with us ;D Charlie and i set up our ropes and we spent a good while getting her to stop crying and into the rap. She did fine eventually and I got to go last at dusk. We were hopeing she would ditch the arsehole and road trip with us for awhile but sadly it was not to be :'(  there was a bit of a row in the campground that evening and their VW buss was gone in the morning never to be seen again.....
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SA

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Re: Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2013, 07:54:48 AM »

That was quite a story! I wonder if their still together?
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pappy

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Re: Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2013, 11:43:30 AM »

Sporty and I went to do the N Face of Edith Cavell, E. summit direct 'cause Dougherty's book of lies said it could be done in a long day by a strong party, but the first six hundred feet or so are steep and wind up under a band of roofs and we could not figure a way through. Tried three or four ways that all blanked out at a rap anchor where someone else had gone wrong, too. Go figure. Then the sun hit the face and it became an artillery barrage and we allowed as how it was time to get the fuck out of dodge. It was highly stressful and distracting listening to the rocks whizzing by, and as Sporty took a step back to rap I grabbed him by the shoulder. He'd only threaded one rope through his ATC. Of course, there was a high degree of self interest involved, as he would have gone to the glacier and taken the ropes with him.

As to being unclipped from the anchor, ML and I were rapping into Timber Ridge in NC--two full rope length raps--and we were at the anchor after the first rappel 150' off the ground pulling the ropes. It's not exactly a hanging rappel, but the ledge you stand on is only 2-3" wide. We're heaving on the ropes and I look down and realize that the sling I'm clipped to has somehow come unclipped from the anchor, and the only thing holding me upright and in balance is the friction on the rope I'm pulling. I'd just found out the day before I was going to be a daddy. It was one of those moments that are still just as trouser filling whenever the brain dredges the memory back up. You'd think I'd learn to be redundant after something like that.
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SA

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Re: Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2013, 12:03:09 PM »

Pappy,

Looks like were both goofing off on a relatively sunny day---at least down here in Wlofeboro.

Anyway-- one hell of a tale! How did we live to get old?

I'm getting out of this chair and go solo something.
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markvnh

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Re: Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2013, 12:22:40 PM »

July 4, 1998 - a whole group of climbers from NH and PA meet up at Poke-O. I was getting ready to climb a one pitch route with Base even though it looked like rain. Two of the guys from PA were giving it up for the day. Base starts up and is maybe 20' up when I look over at one of the PA guys freaking out about 40' away. I yelled to Base that something was wrong, he plugged in a friend and I quickly lowered him. We ran over and I wasn't quite expecting to see what I did. Rockfall had hit one of the guys almost severing his leg plus there was a large open head wound. Instinct took over and we did what we could. It was pure adrenaline and thankfully common sense. After getting things settled I ran to the campground to notify authorities. Within an hour State Police and local SAR were at the scene. They further stabilized the climber. By now it was pouring rain. The police closed interstate 87 and landed a helicopter. It took the efforts of every climber at Poke-O, police and SAR to litter him out to an ambulance. Three hours. They got him to tne helicopter and flew him across Lake Champlain to Burlington VT. Two days later I finally spoke to the climbers wife and she said the doctors told her if the immediate attention was anything different than what it was her husband would have died.

Unbelievably the climber had no lasting head injury even with the open head wound (glancing blow not impact). The leg was touch and go for a long while but was saved after allot of surgeries and a long recovery.

The best part is that after what was almost two years the climber was back on the rocks.

One of the things I remember most was when I came back to the accident scene Base said "prepare yourself I don't think he's going to make it." I've never had another day like that and don't want to. Though I was involved in another rescue on the Black Dike less than nine months later it was no where near as touch and go as Poke-O.
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tradmanclimbz

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Re: Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2013, 06:07:17 PM »

Been in on a few rescues. Not sure how to describe it but after a serious rescue there is some pretty intense emotional recconing going on..
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markvnh

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Re: Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2013, 06:20:49 PM »

Tradman...

I hear you. It stuck with me for a long while. Even though it all ended up ok there was still the "could I have done more or different." While it took awhile to completely understand and realize that we had done our best - talking it out with others is really what really made me ok with what we had done.

Surprisingly it had little effect on my climbing. Other than my helmet always goes on when at the base of he climb and doesn't come off till I'm done or the day.
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SA

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Re: Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2013, 06:53:17 PM »

Not many people can honestly say they saved another person's life. It is something you don't forget.
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tradmanclimbz

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Re: Have you ever saved another climbers life?
« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2013, 08:00:48 PM »

Had a guy giveing up on us up on the winter rockpile. head injury and punctured lung. started trying to tell me what to tell his wife or GF or whatever. i had to get pretty stern with him and make sure he knew he was going to make it but he also had to do his part and stay with us.
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