Author Topic: A sad abseiling lesson  (Read 1168 times)

Offline glyders

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A sad abseiling lesson
« on: November 29, 2019, 08:06:22 am »
Experienced climber dies after abing off the end of his rope.
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/nov/29/brad-gobright-renowned-us-rock-climber-dies-after-fall-in-mexico?CMP=fb_gu&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook#Echobox=1575011966
Sounds like tiredness played a large factor in poor decision-making. Now, I know why it wasn't knotted in this situation, but rarely an excuse in caving.

Offline paul

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2019, 12:15:31 pm »
There is a bit more information on https://www.outsideonline.com/2406215/brad-gobright-climber-dies

Quote
Simul-rapping is a technique by which two climbers each descend opposite strands of a rope that has been rigged through a rappel anchor, their bodies acting as counterweights to each other. While this technique saves time, it also demands close coordination and communication between the two climbers, for if one stops weighting the rope, it could mean sending the other climber into a fall.

Almost all rappelling deaths are caused because climbers fail to tie stopper knots in the ends of their ropes. Despite the fact that this life-saving step is universally known to climbers, many still avoid tying knots in the ends of their ropes simply because knots can cause ropes to get stuck.

Although they didn’t tie stopper knots, a stuck rope still appears to have played a role in this accident. According to Jacobson, he and Gobright reached an anchor at pitch nine, where there were two climbers from Costa Rica. They wondered if they could make it all the way down to a large ledge atop pitch five, but realized they didn’t have a long enough rope. Instead, they opted to go down to pitch six, just 50 feet above the ledge. 

Jacobson says they didn’t bother pulling their rope to its midpoint, “since it was such a short rap, we figured we’d be fine with an 80-meter rope,” he says. Jacobson’s side was clearly touching down on the ledge, while Gobright’s side was tangled up in a bush off to the side.

“I asked if we were good, and he said, ‘Yes, we can untangle the rope on the way down,’” says Jacobson. “We didn’t tie knots in the rope, either. We started rapping. I was a bit above him. I was on the left. He was on the right. Then all of a sudden, I felt a pop, and we started dropping.”

They were about 20 or 30 feet above the ledge atop pitch five when they both simultaneously fell. Jacobsen crashed through a bush, which slowed his fall, before striking the ledge.

“It was basically a blur,” says Jacobson. “He screamed. I screamed. I went through some vegetation, and then all I remember is seeing his blue Gramicci shirt bounce over the edge…”

Apparently, there was less rope tangled up in that bush than both Jacobson and Gobright had thought—not enough to get Gobright all the way down to the ledge. And because there were no knots in the end of the rope, it slipped through Gobright’s GriGri rappel device.



I'm not a complete idiot: some parts are missing!

Offline ChrisJC

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2019, 09:43:40 am »
I'm finding it hard to be very sympathetic. It seems these two were lackadaisical with fatal results.

A valuable lesson.

Chris.
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Offline langcliffe

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2019, 03:41:47 pm »
I'm finding it hard to be very sympathetic. It seems these two were lackadaisical with fatal results.

Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Offline Boy Engineer

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2019, 04:00:59 pm »
I'm finding it hard to be very sympathetic. It seems these two were lackadaisical with fatal results.

Please try. If we reserve our sympathy for the very few occasions where there is absolutely nothing that the individual(s) could have done, we’ll be the poorer for it. There will be families and friends grieving the loss, and struggling to come to terms with the “if only I’d” thought.
There can be few of us who haven’t done something that we wish we hadn’t, and a sympathetic response from others is simple kindness, imho. It’s not the same as condoning.

Offline rhychydwr1

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2019, 04:05:28 pm »
ALWAYS TIE A KNOT IN THE END OF THE ROPE

Offline droid

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2019, 04:11:13 pm »
Well said.
No longer 'Exceptionally antagonistic' 'Deliberately inflammatory'

Offline SamT

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2019, 05:41:32 pm »
ALWAYS TIE A KNOT IN THE END OF THE ROPE

Multi-pitch abseiling in mountains can often mean pulling your ropes over edges, bushes, undergrowth, cracks and chimneys.  Climbers often dont tie knots due to the vastly increased chances of the ropes becoming jammed solid when trying to pull them down.

If you're not going to put a knot in.  Just make damned sure you're aware of where the end is at all times.

Offline Speleotron

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2019, 05:55:52 pm »
If your abbseil path is looking snaggy then its best to still have the knots in but clip them into your harness, and feed the rope out of a rucksack, or from coils clipped into your harness, as you go down. Easy with modern 8mm ropes. Then you have the best of both worlds. I do this all the time now anyway as I think just lobbing the ropes down anything other than a trivial abbseil is asking for trouble.
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Offline mikem

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2019, 06:02:33 pm »
Not so applicable to outside multistage abs, where you ideally want to see if the rope reaches the next ledge...

Offline Speleotron

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2019, 06:13:24 pm »
True but I've found on a lot of multipitch descents it's so ledgy that you'll never be able to throw them to the target ledge anyway. And when its really ledgy if you start getting towards the end of the ropes and you're not at the target ledge then you can make do with another one.

I've abbed down 1000 foot VDiffs where the method I suggest has worked well and lobbing the ropes would have been a nightmare, especialy with loose rock. Maybe its just the things I abb down, I dont do overhanging stuff. Unsnagging ropes from piles of loose rock is dangerous. And if its windy then lobbing is useless; I once threw my ropes for an abb off Gimmer and they blew straight up and ended up above me.

PS do it however you like I would never not have knots thats all
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Offline Topimo

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2019, 07:55:10 pm »
Very sad news.

I'd extend the usual message from "knot the end of the rope" to, "knot with a reasonable distance from the end of the rope". Doesn't have a ring to it sadly.

Having hit a knot that was some 30cm from the end of the rope while 10m off the deck on a new 80m pitch on exped, I'd have been more comfortable with a bit more rope below me incase of slippage (perhaps slippage is why this knot was so close to the end, I'm not sure).

In the climbing world it's standard practice to remove any rope end markings and plastic sheaths/tape etc as these can get stuck in cracks when pulling ropes. Combine this with trimming the ends of ropes as the get limp from falls and shrinkage with age - who knows how long your trusty 60m single rope is now? Should be fine...

Offline Bob Mehew

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2019, 09:47:23 pm »
Very sad news.

I'd extend the usual message from "knot the end of the rope" to, "knot with a reasonable distance from the end of the rope". Doesn't have a ring to it sadly.

Having hit a knot that was some 30cm from the end of the rope while 10m off the deck on a new 80m pitch on exped, I'd have been more comfortable with a bit more rope below me incase of slippage (perhaps slippage is why this knot was so close to the end, I'm not sure).


We did some work a few weeks ago where we saw an overhand knot roll along some dyneema cord under a moderate force (a few kN) on the BCA static tensiometer rig located at the Bradford Pothole Club's garage.  I have not figured it out but I suspect there are knots which won't roll due to their 'configuration'.

Offline Fulk

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2019, 10:33:44 pm »
SamT:
Quote
Multi-pitch abseiling in mountains can often mean pulling your ropes over edges, bushes, undergrowth, cracks and chimneys.  Climbers often dont tie knots due to the vastly increased chances of the ropes becoming jammed solid when trying to pull them down.

But if you had a knot in the end of the rope, you would untie it when you reached the ground or the intermediate ledge before pulling it down.

Offline Speleotron

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2019, 10:40:45 pm »
I thought it was refering to the ropes jamming as you chucked them down, as a lot of the time they dont seem to fall end first.
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Offline SamT

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #15 on: December 01, 2019, 10:34:06 am »
But if you had a knot in the end of the rope, you would untie it when you reached the ground or the intermediate ledge before pulling it down.


I thought it was refering to the ropes jamming as you chucked them down, as a lot of the time they dont seem to fall end first.

Yeah - more chucking down ahead of you. If its windy/ledgy - the ropes can get jammed off to one side, it can be a right pain in the arse, and putting a knot in the end just increases the chances of it getting stuck.  Sure, stuffing the ropes into rope buckets with a knot in the end is the best answer. but on a multipitch ab, the time and faff of re-stuffing the bag etc etc. 

Every single situation in the mountains is different and unique, and climbers have to adapt to those situations.

Sure, they effed up. big style.   But then who doesn't occasionally.  Mostly we get away with it. Unfortunately, sometimes, we dont.  :(

I'm finding it hard to be very sympathetic. It seems these two were lackadaisical with fatal results.

Well aren't you just the Mother bloody Teresa.   :shrug:

Offline Fulk

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #16 on: December 01, 2019, 10:37:54 am »
Thanks for clarifying that, Sam.

Offline David Rose

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Re: A sad abseiling lesson
« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2019, 12:45:12 pm »
After doing a lot of expedition caving, I got into Alpine climbing in a big way for a number of years.  I made some very long descents on abseil, such as 16 consecutive ones down a long groove on the SE Face of the Aig Noire de Peuterey when it started to rain heavily on the S. Ridge, which we had been trying to climb, and a retreat from just below the Chandelle on the Central Pillar of Freney - where there were no equipped abseil stations, requiring us to make deep inroads in our supplies of tape. Another time, I made it to the top of Aig Noire and got caught in a storm on the way down. It was blowing so hard that the abseil ropes (this time on the East Ridge, the usual descent route) sometimes blew up vertically when I tried to chuck them down. On that occasion, having knots in the ends would almost certainly have led to them getting stuck multiple times, and even without them, they did get stuck badly at least once - not on the pull through, but on the attempted chuck down.

Generally, however, I always knotted the ends, and simply undid one of them when pulling through, then retied it before setting off again. Most climbers didn't, I noticed, but my caving background had convinced me of the importance of doing it. 

The sensible way to reduce risk when you do have to abseil without knots in the ends is to use a French prussik knot attached to your harness, and keep the rope flowing through by holding it, much as you would a handle on a Petzl Stop. Then obviously keep an eye on things as you approach the ends of the ropes. Indeed, Alpine climbing courses teach this as a general practice  to make all abseils safer. I didn't always do this, but I certainly did in dodgy spots like the Freney pillar, when you couldn't be sure where the abseil was going to end, or where you would find the next place to rig one.

Of course this a terrible, tragic accident, and the loss will be felt by many. That doesn't mean we shouldn't learn from it. It's all the sadder because it was, evidently, avoidable.