Author Topic: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland  (Read 20643 times)

Offline Olaf

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SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« on: June 27, 2013, 12:44:56 pm »
Some of you may have heard that there was a deadly caving accident in Switzerland some time around last New Years (29th December 2012 or so). As the Swiss are very thorough, they've of course investigated the cause of the accident and finally published their findings:

http://www.speleo.ch/~site/images/stories/documents/unfall_dokumentation_de.pdf (German)
http://www.speleo.ch/~site/images/stories/documents/documentation_accident_fr.pdf (French)

If you speak neither German nor French, the pictures are still very instructive. The accident happened on the traverse shown in Fig 1, which is obviously done using handjammer and footloop. Incidentally, they happened to have a photo of the SRT kit in question which was taken on the way into the cave at the very same spot where the accident happened later on. They've hence reconstructed the SRT kit setup as shown in Fig3: The handjammer was attached to the long cowstails using two snapgates! In the other two pictures, they remind and recommend everyone to use mallions or at least screw gates for the job.

The danger should be quite obvious, and in the UK most people use a separate safety cord with mallion anyway, but just keep it in mind if you are experimenting with alternative setups.

PS: And the casualty was just passing one of the knots on the traverse, when she noticed that she was no longer attached to her handjammer, so she didn't have a second point of attachment at the time.

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SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« on: June 27, 2013, 12:44:56 pm »
Warmbac

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2013, 04:51:20 pm »
The danger should be quite obvious

Clearly not.

Many thanks for the links/post, Olaf.  :thumbsup:

Offline Nigelh

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2013, 09:36:43 am »
"Her companion heard an exclamation behind him. When he turned all he saw was the rope traverse with her ascender with the footloops hanging."

Chilling.

A very thorough investigation by the Swiss Speleological Society, which must have been helped no end by the photo showing the SRT setup.

Offline EwanCameron

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SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2013, 06:02:17 pm »
Putting any part of your SRT kit together with snap gates is never going to end well
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Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2013, 07:37:02 am »
Isn't it still a widespread practice to use snaplinks for cowstails?

Her rig closely matched the ones shown in Marbach & Tourte's bible "Alpine Caving Techniques" (still the most up-to-date manual on SRT) and progression on a traverse with a single cowstail is still considered acceptable practice, including reiteration of this in the FSS's own 2013 Caving Technical Guide.



What she did incorrectly was deploy her hand jammer in a particular way while traversing and/or to be connecting two snaplinks in combination.

According to a cursory check of the book, her rig set up appears at first glance to be AOK for prusiking.

« Last Edit: July 11, 2013, 08:35:42 am by Cap'n Chris »

Offline EwanCameron

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SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2013, 10:06:00 am »
The facts of the matter are she uses a snap gate it opened she's dead you do not need much more info to make your own mind up that its a bad system with faults


We have had a number of issues in the UK with snap gates coming open and I would think that most instructors at CIC level may be passing on info about the possibility of snap gates coming open when on bolts or on other crabs
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Offline EwanCameron

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SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2013, 10:15:57 am »
If she had been using 2 x Cows tails with crabs and a fixed line jammer running to her D link she would be here today to tell us the funny story of how she loaded her jammer upside down
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Offline mmilner

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2013, 11:17:58 am »
If she had been using 2 x Cows tails with crabs and a fixed line jammer running to her D link she would be here today to tell us the funny story of how she loaded her jammer upside down

Agreed. I would never dream of using snap gates on anything I might fall onto. (Eg:- cows tails.) Screw gates all round for me. And always 2 points of attachment!
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Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2013, 06:52:09 pm »
its a bad system with faults

Perhaps someone should tell the FFS and the authors of ACT.

Offline GT

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2013, 11:56:09 pm »
If she had been using 2 x Cows tails with crabs and a fixed line jammer running to her D link she would be here today to tell us the funny story of how she loaded her jammer upside down

Agreed. I would never dream of using snap gates on anything I might fall onto. (Eg:- cows tails.) Screw gates all round for me. And always 2 points of attachment!

Interesting, I think you'll find many a climber who frequently fall onto snap links and are all still kicking about.

Personally I have no problem with snap links on cows-tails and having seen many a person fumble with a screw gate thats inadvertently locked up at a critical point feel there are pros and cons to screw gates or snap links. Having said that as someone who works professionally leading groups/individuals underground I have one screwgate and one snap link on my cowstails, as I do find myself hanging around on one of them for long periods and find the security of a screwed up krab comforting!

Sadly what this incident does highlight is one of the downsides to what is a very common continental SRT rig (you just have to look at not just Alpine Caving Techniques but also the Petzl website). It's good to share this information and the Swiss have done a good job in doing so, just wish they'd translated it into English! Google translate just doesn't do that fine a job...

Offline mmilner

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2013, 12:45:43 am »
Interesting, I think you'll find many a climber who frequently fall onto snap links and are all still kicking about.

I did think about that while posting my comment... maybe the fact that climbers use dynamic rope as opposed to static or semi-static srt rope that cavers use might make a difference?

Plus, if a snap gate comes open, it's strength reduces massively. I know screw gates are gonna take a bit more faffing around, but as you say it's comforting to know u r connected to your rope/belay by something that absolutely will not come undone, etc.
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Offline ianball11

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2013, 05:28:07 am »
Anyone use a twistlock?

Offline EwanCameron

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SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2013, 06:29:53 am »
Yer I have twist locks on my stop and I have 1 I use for my cows tail if its clean caving with no mud
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Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2013, 07:34:50 am »
Quote
if a snap gate comes open, it's strength reduces massively

Indeed. The same is true of a screwgate.

Routinely screwgates fail to close completely (thus being significantly reduced in strength) since the gate often part-screws and stops the spring-loaded gate engaging, whereas snaplinks automatically self-close (hence the name).

The increased reliability of the higher strength of the auto-closing snaplink therefore would seem to count as a good plus point.

The recent fusion/BotB hiatus also concluded that cowstails should utilise HMS carabiners!

There's been dozens of pages about the relative pros and cons of various cowstail set-ups.

This thread is about a specific failure circumstance, which neither a screwgate nor a snaplink carabiner cowstails would have overcome, since the failure was caused by the use of a snaplink carabiner on the handjammer (which a maillon or screwgate would have avoided).

Offline EwanCameron

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SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2013, 08:20:14 am »
I have a HMS & Small Screw gate in dirty holes then a lock gate in clean stuff
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Offline Blakethwaite

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #15 on: July 12, 2013, 08:53:20 am »
There's an old (engineering?) adage that goes something along the lines of if it looks right then it probably is right.

In this case the two krabs clipped together looks so ugly, awkward & plainly wrong that it makes you wonder why it didn't leap out as being dodgy to somebody (presumably) experienced enough to do what appears to be a relatively technical route...

Offline EwanCameron

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SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #16 on: July 12, 2013, 09:22:49 am »
It's worth getting two snap gates and have a play see how easy it is to twist them open

They twist open on P bolts if the get pulled the right way
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Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #17 on: July 12, 2013, 04:33:52 pm »
The snaplink failure with bolts has been known about and widely publicised for around a decade or more, IIRC.

Meanwhile, back to the matter in hand.



I suspect that the deceased caver stood in the footloop, thus making the handjammer and footloop taut while attempting to transfer her shorter 2nd cowstail onto the next part of the traverse line; finding that the move wasn't possible for some reason, she decided to rest her weight back onto the cowstail attached to the handjammer, which instantly unclipped itself as shown in the video above, resulting in an unpredicted and immediate fall.

The fatality is therefore directly attributable to the use of the snaplink as the connector on the jammer/footloop, and is nothing to do with the type of carabiner used on the cowstail, nor does it call into question the practice of clipping suitable carabiners together.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2013, 04:49:20 pm by Cap'n Chris »

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #18 on: July 12, 2013, 04:35:58 pm »
two krabs clipped together looks so ugly, awkward & plainly wrong that it makes you wonder why it didn't leap out as being dodgy

Again refer to the diagram from ACT above. Some very eminent cavers would appear to consider it AOK.

Offline Rhys

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #19 on: July 12, 2013, 05:27:44 pm »
Again refer to the diagram from ACT above. Some very eminent cavers would appear to consider it AOK.

Alpine Caving Techniques may be regarded as the SRT Bible by some. On this issue though, personally, I'm a non-believer...

;-)

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #20 on: July 12, 2013, 06:54:42 pm »
The 2013 Petzl Basic solves it anyway.

Offline Burt

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #21 on: July 12, 2013, 10:55:51 pm »
Anyone use a twistlock?

I use twistlocks on via ferrata but not SRT (screwgates). The convenience of twistlocks is great but they don't perform properly when full of mud.
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Offline cavermark

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #22 on: July 13, 2013, 08:34:36 am »
The 2013 Petzl Basic solves it anyway.

...if the cowstail is clipped direct to the ascender (the new basic has a lrge enough hole for 2 krabs)

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #23 on: July 13, 2013, 06:39:16 pm »
(the new basic has a lrge enough hole for 2 krabs)

Indeed, which is why I posted....

The 2013 Petzl Basic solves it anyway.

Offline Mike Hopley

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Re: SRT kit - deadly accident in Switzerland
« Reply #24 on: August 22, 2013, 05:25:30 pm »
Chris has it right, and that video is useful. I hadn't seen this method of failure before.

It's worth reiterating that the "double carabiner" setup is not a peculiarity of Alpine Caving Techniques. It's a very common European setup, and it's recommended by the French Caving School in their 2013 technical guide. If anything, we in the UK are the oddballs, with our unusual tied-in safety cords!

Here's what they say about cowstail carabiners:

Quote from: EFS
Cavers use two cowstails for moving along ropes ... The karabiners are snap-gate D-shapes ... Avoid bent- or wire-gate karabiners as they have a tendency to open unexpectedly.

And here's what they say about the jammer safety (i.e. long cowstail -- they don't even consider our UK method):

Quote from: EFS
For cavers who do not want to have the upper jammer permanently connected to the long cowstail, it can be connected directly to the foot loop instead and the cowstail connected indirectly via the foot loop karabiner. If you do this, it is important to use a screwgate karabiner with a breaking strength in excess of 22kN, as it will have the cowstail karabiner connected to it.

Either setup is fine, providing it's used correctly. Chris's video, however, suggests that a "double snapgate" setup is not safe. This is useful to know, and it's consistent with the EFS recommendation.

 

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