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A close call...

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Had a bit of a close call earlier today, and thought it was worth putting on here just in case someone else can learn something from it, and if any of you have any advice for me to avoid something like this happening again.

Me and a mate were practicing escaping the system (with backups in place obviously). All went well with that. As I was tidying up the belay at the top having finished practicing (my mate safely on the ground), I was sorting out what had become a bit of a mess of krabs on the masterpoint of the belay we'd built. As I was removing the krabs, I leant forward to make it easier to take the krabs off, took a few krabs off - and just as I went to lean back above a 20m drop, I realized I'd unclipped my PAS. I quickly clipped it back in, but it's genuinely freaked me out. I've always considered myself a cautious climber - I p**s off my mates by being super fussy about buddy checks, I double-check things before I weight them (which is why nothing awful happened I guess?), I'm fussy about knowing enough self-rescue stuff to be super safe, and generally I'm very hesitant about doing any bold or dangerous routes. For me this has served has a bit of a harsh reality check about how easy it is to f**k something up badly - I guess in my head I was always too careful for it to happen to me...

Just thought it was worth putting on here just in case someone can learn something from it, and just as a reminder that we're all susceptible for f**k ups For me, I'm just gonna be hyper-vigilant every time I unclip a krab, and spend a second checking it's not clipped to anything. Just feeling lucky that nothing came of it, and it's definitely gonna make me a more cautious climber in the long run.

In reply to Oscar Dodd:

A great point to raise. And potentially worthwile using a dedicated crab that not a screwgate that just instigates that though of ‘am i safe, is my abseil or whatever other form of protection sorted before I commit to unclipping’ esp useful if ur knacked after a long day potentially in dark or adverse conditions and abbing down. 

1
 AlanLittle 25 Nov 2022
In reply to Oscar Dodd:

Friend of mine did something similar in the middle of a multipitch abseil descent: arrived at the ledge - not a big comfy picnic ledge either - and unclipped his device from the rope before clipping in to the belay. I saw what he was doing and managed to grab his belay loop before he leaned back.

Always be vigilant. It was towards the end of a long hot afternoon on a west face, where we started late due to getting lost on the approach and ended up hot, thirsty, frazzled, and probably in too much of a hurry to get back down to our spare water bottles beckoning at the foot of the wall. Easy to make mistakes in those circumstances.

In fact, a few pitches further down the same descent we started pulling up the rope end with the stopper knot still in. Fortunately realised quickly and only had to lead up a short way on the other end of the rope to get it back.

In reply to AlanLittle:

Also another thing that could happen. This reinforces the idea that an extended abseil is the best method of abseil as you already have you pas lines up ready to go. Forming the habit of clipping in first before undoing you abseil is something to.. well just make a habit. And come natural with the extended ab. Also means there virtually no instances where your prussik can become jammed in the belay plate or disengaged by the belay plate. 

10
In reply to dking02:

> A great point to raise. And potentially worthwile using a dedicated crab that not a screwgate that just instigates that though of ‘am i safe, is my abseil or whatever other form of protection sorted before I commit to unclipping’ esp useful if ur knacked after a long day potentially in dark or adverse conditions and abbing down. 

I'm not sure if this is what you meant but having a different mechanism opening carabiner for this might be useful in situations where you're potentially dealing with a cluster or carabiners (like having a three doing a climb). If it's a triple lock or a magentron your fingers would know they were doing something different than normal if you start removing your tether. It might well be a faff but I lie the idea of a haptic difference in operation.

 Michael Gordon 25 Nov 2022
In reply to Oscar Dodd:

Re learning points, other than double checking everything, I wonder if you created confusion by having more krabs clipped into the system than strictly necessary? It sounds like a fair number considering you were the only climber still at the anchor point.

 Mark Haward 25 Nov 2022
In reply to Oscar Dodd:

Thanks for posting. I suggest you send a copy to this website too:

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/modules/incident-reporting/

As others suggest; having a different colour or design screw gate for your main attachment point for your PAS can help in this scenario. Personally I use my one and only bright red screw gate just for this purpose.

 TheGeneralist 25 Nov 2022
In reply to Oscar Dodd:

Err  what's a PAS?

3
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Yeah, I think this is the main reason it happened. Also, as the krabs were being kind of pinched together, it meant to take them off, I had to unweight the system briefly, otherwise, I couldn't have taken my PAS off. 
Next time I practice, I think I'll set up a completely separate masterpoint for the backup rope to be attached to. Would have meant things were a lot less cluttered

In reply to TheGeneralist:

lanyard.

Post edited at 15:08
In reply to Oscar Dodd:

It's remarkably easy to do - I've had the "Oh shit! I'm not connected to anything!" moment three or four times in my lifetime. It's rather like performing a sleight-of-hand conjuring trick on oneself. When several climbers are on a ledge together, they should be doing buddy-checks all the time.

In reply to timparkin:

yeah that's what im on about. Something which has a completely different movement pattern for opening the crab. Hence you know that only this type of crab is your pas. Other coloured crabs could work but again your unlikely to see it when theres a lot going on in a busy system. 

3
In reply to John Stainforth:

That makes me feel slightly less stupid. Thanks I like the idea of conscious, perhaps even verbal, buddy-checking when on a belay when you both meet. Extends beyond hopefully obvious things like being clipped in, to less obvious things like harnesses not being done up right, or your mate still having a few bits of the rack on their harness etc. 
 

In reply to Michael Gordon:

we were practicing escaping the system so had a back up running through the power point hence had a few crabs there and other bits from escaping, hence the business of the system is less likely to occur in normal situations but it could if multiple climbers etc. so still a worthwhile point i guess. 

 Wry Spudding 25 Nov 2022
In reply to TheGeneralist:

PAS = Personal Anchor System (multi link lanyard)

 Holdtickler 25 Nov 2022
In reply to Oscar Dodd:

It might be worth considering that you can sometimes practice things like escaping the system on the ground, like at the foot of the crag. That way you won't have things like a backup system confusing things (which you wouldn't necessarily have in a real emergency) or any real risk.

Keep things tidy and simple. Sounds like you've already learned your lesson from it and that you are already a cautious person.  Keep being vigilant, it doesn't matter if that annoys your partners, they may be very thankful for it one day... Not a bad idea to give yourself a bit of running commentary as you do things. If you are seeing it, saying it, hearing it, and your partner too, before you commit to do things, then there's lots of chances to double check everything and prevent mistakes.

Consider how you would solve things if you couldn't simply unweight the system as well maybe as this can be half the job in some tricky circumstances.

In reply to Holdtickler:

Yeah we were considering practicing at the base - we’d both practiced at a lower level before so we’re trying to get a more realistic experience - but in the future, I’d stick to low level. I think one of the reasons it happened was the mental switch from being really focused when practicing escaping the system, to, once everything was finished and I was just tidying up to go home, being more relaxed about it all.

I really like the idea of a running commentary and will start doing it form now on. I’m convinced saying “I’m unclipping this krab connected to…” would pretty much stop something like this from happening again. 
 

Another mistake we made was that my mate was sorting something else out - think he was walking back round to the top. Had I waited the extra 2 mins to have a second set of eyes it would have made things much safer.

 Holdtickler 25 Nov 2022
In reply to Oscar Dodd:

If you're escaping the system for real of course, there's a good chance your partner will be dangling on a rope somewhere and not helping you much.

In reply to Oscar Dodd:

Sometimes it's described as the https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect but in my opinion it's similar and related but not exactly the same...

Imagine experience as a bell curve, there are great parallels outside climbing too. In this example the higher the curve the greatest risk and experience along the X axis.  The two outer areas are..

Very inexperienced people - typically know they're inexperienced and are less likely to bite off more than they can chew and are more cautious and check things multiple times. Usually pretty safe.

Very experienced people - typically more cautious and check things multiple times after learning the hard way on many occasions, having near misses and friends having accidents. Usually pretty safe.

The people in the middle of this imaginary bell curve are by far the most at risk. They have enough basic experience that they no longer feel like novices and more likely to take on bigger challenges, do more adventurous stuff and as the expression goes "familiarity breeds contempt". There are a lot of near misses and just silly accidents, we've all done stupid things like you described (in my case much worse!) Often several occasions and different scr3w ups

Welcome to the dangerous middle ground!

 Michael Gordon 26 Nov 2022
In reply to CantClimbTom:

Dunno, I reckon the first few years of climbing/mountaineering are the most dangerous due to a big inbalance between great enthusiam and lack of skill/experience. I'm sure many on here can think back to early experiences which they survived more due to good luck than judgement.

 Michael Gordon 26 Nov 2022
In reply to Oscar Dodd:

> Had I waited the extra 2 mins to have a second set of eyes it would have made things much safer.

Possibly. I think having others around can also make you more relaxed and less likely to check things over with as much seriousness as if you were on your own.

 Offwidth 26 Nov 2022
In reply to CantClimbTom:

I think that's simply not borne out by the evidence..... maybe the middle ground are just a bit more likley to be foolishly complacent.

Some incredibly experienced climbers have had accidents from not checking knots and many of us have been  terrified by a minority of beginners... also for some stats read about accidents in Yosemite:

http://www.bluebison.net/yosar/alive.htm

"Most Yosemite victims are experienced climbers, 60% have been climbing for three years or more, lead at least 5.10, are in good condition, and climb frequently. Short climbs and big walls, easy routes and desperate ones – all get their share of the accidents..........    ............at least 80% of the fatalities and many injuries, were easily preventable.  In case after case, ignorance, a casual attitude, and/or some form of distraction proved to be the most dangerous aspects of the sport."

Post edited at 15:52
In reply to CantClimbTom:

This rings true with my experience. I know, despite my best intentions, I've become more blase with things than when I was a less experienced climber. I think it's easy to fall down the trap of - I've done this a million times without making a mistake, I'm not going to make one now, and just get a little lazier with certain things, and pay a little less attention etc. Even the double-checks become lazy. 

I was out doing some climbing today, and I was consciously much more thorough and systematic with all my checks than I had been before, and just a little slower with things - I think long run I'm gonna be glad I had this experience and nothing came of it - it's a good reminder that climbing is a dangerous sport, and spending another 30 seconds giving everything one last triple check is time well spent!


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