/ Non-climbing author needs your expert advice

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I hope climbers in this community can help me. I am a crime author, but not a climber, and I need some help.

In my latest book, the lead character loses his wife in a climbing accident. I know what I want the outcome to be, but according to my editor, I have got *all* the terminology etc wrong!

Here is the scenario I need. How it happens is where you can, I hope, help me.

**********************

A man and his wife, both experienced climbers (though he has more climbs under his belt than her) are climbing in the Peak District in the UK. I'm thinking Hen Cloud.

He is leading.

I need her to fall away from the rock or come adrift somehow so she is dangling beneath him from a rope.

I need the gear anchoring him to the rock to be working loose. He sees this and realises he can't hold her.

She realises he can’t pull her up and demands he cut the rope joining them so she will die but he will live and be able to raise their young son. The alternative is they both die and he grows up an orphan.

Here is the way I have drafted it. Apparently all the terminology and gear names are wrong!

How would you suggest I fix it?
********

Wall hammer in hand, Ford looks down at Lou and smiles.

As the more experienced climber, he always leads. They’ve chosen Windgather again. It’s their favourite climb in the Peak District. Today they’re trying a new route he’s had his eye on for a while. He’ll probably end up grading it as an E4. It’s Lou’s birthday in a few weeks and he’s decided to name it ‘Louisa’s Squeezer ’.

He squints against the bright sunshine as a light wind buffets him, and he hammers each new piton into the rock. Twenty feet below, Lou’s dug her resined fingertips into cracks in the sheer rockface.

Her eyes are a piercing blue. He remembers the first time he saw her. He was captivated by those eyes, drawn in, powerless, like an old wooden sailing ship spiralling down into a whirlpool. He paid her a clumsy compliment, which she accepted with more grace than he’d managed.

Lou smiles at him now. [Even after seven years of marriage, his heart thrills that she should bestow such a radiant expression on him.

Two hundred feet below her, the needle-pointed rocks at the foot of the climb resemble grey rubble.

He calls down to her, ‘Hold on for a sec while I put another peg in.’

She frowns. He’ll think, later, that the wind must have taken his words. Because now she starts to climb again. He waves his hand to stop her because it’s not safe, not yet. He slips and dislodges a piece of rock with his left boot. It spins down and hits her on the shoulder.

It’s a nothing blow, really, but it startles her and she loses her grip and falls outwards, away from the flat plane of lichen-scabbed limestone. She jerks at the end of the rope: a spear of pain lances from his shoulder to his chest.

The weird physics of this odd, two-person pendulum swing him face-first against the rock, gashing his chin.

Ford tries to stay calm. Every climber knows: you panic, you fall. Stay calm, you might make it. But she’s spinning slowly at the end of the rope. Those sapphire-blue eyes are wide as her straining fingertips brush the rockface then arc into empty air.

He’s got one peg in but it’s not enough. He’s holding his lead rope with his left hand while Louise dangles from his right. She shed all her baby weight years ago – she’s no more than eight and a half stone. But straight down? It’s too much. Now she’s screaming and trying to swing herself over to the rock face but the angle is all wrong.

He looks up and sees that the peg he hammered in is coming out. The rock is crumbling, tiny chips breaking away around the peg. He won’t be able to hold her. His left shoulder is ablaze. This is it. The moment it all ends.

She must have seen what’s happening, because she’s screaming at him to cut the rope. ‘Let me go. We can’t both die!’

‘No! I’ll save you, Lou. I will.’

But there’s no way he can. Somewhere, he knows it. The agony in his left shoulder is proof. They are both going to die, spinning down and bumping against Windgather’s unforgiving face for two hundred feet. Thirty feet is the maximum to stand a chance.

‘Cut it!’ she screams. ‘Save yourself.’

He’s crying now. He can’t do it. Then she presses the only button she has left.

‘You have to,’ she screams. ‘Who’s going to look after Sam if we both die?’

Sam is eight and a half. Born two years before they married. Right now he’s being entertained by Louise’s parents. Ford knows she’s right. He can’t leave Sam an orphan. They were meant to be together for all time. But now, time has run out.

He draws his knife from the sheath on his belt. The blade is as sharp as a razor: he has spent hours honing its edge, enjoying the breathy rasp of steel on stone. Knives should be sharp; otherwise, what’s the point?

She’s heavier, now: her bodyweight seems to have doubled. He can feel the peg scraping against the rock as it works its way out of the crack. The muscles in his arms are ablaze.

‘Do it!’ she screams. ‘Do it before it’s too late.’

His breath is coming in gasps and sparks are shooting off in the outside of his vision, exploding like tiny fireworks. His chest is tight and his fingertips are tingling.

He slices through the rope, which parts with a muted pop like a child’s handclap.

She falls away from him, arms flailing.

Through his tears, he sees her lips form two words. ‘Thank you.’

Something happens to Ford at this moment. The sparks in his peripheral vision disappear. The tingling in his fingertips ceases. He falls into an eerie calm. Watching his arms and hands perform robotic movements, he hammers in another peg, then finishes the climb.

At the top, rock gives way to scrubby grass and wind-flattened heather. He slumps. The calmness that saved his life has vanished. Now he is hyperventilating, heaving in great breaths that won’t bring enough oxygen to his brain, and sighing them out again.

A wave of nausea rushes through him, and sweat flashes out across his skin. The wind chills it, making him shudder with the sudden cold. He lurches to his right and spews out a thin stream of bile on to the grass.

Then his stomach convulses and his breakfast rushes up and out, spattering the sleeve of his jacket. He retches out another splash of stinking yellow liquid and then dry heaves until, cramping, his guts settle. His view is blurred through a film of tears.

He falls back and lies there for ten more minutes, looking up into the cloudless sky.

Odd how realistic this dream is. He could almost believe he just killed his wife.

Then he sobs, a cracked sound that the wind tears away from his lips and disperses into the mountain air.

And the dream blackens and reality is here and it’s ugly and painful and true.

Realising what needs to be done, he gets to his feet and stuffs the cut rope into his bag. He needs to reach Lou and sort out her end of the rope.

When the police arrive, he doesn’t want it on the official record that he cut it. Even though he had no choice. It’s not a lie. Not really. Lies cover up wrongdoing, not love.

He’ll tell them Louise must have tied it on wrong. He’ll say she fell and the rope just ran through her figure of eight belay.

And he will never, ever tell Sam.

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TobyA 08:48 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Sorry, but from a very quick scan, it would never work. All the Peak district crags are relatively speaking so small, you would just lower the second back down to the ground. People fall the height of Windgather from time to time, occasionally people tragically die, more often they go to hospital in an ambulance, occasionally they walk away.

I can't think of any Peak district climbing scenario where you would need to cut the rope.

I don't think there are any E4s at Windgather either! It's about the easiest cliff for average grade in the area.

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TobyA 08:50 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Basically no one places pitons with hammers in the UK either (except occasionally winter climbing).

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Yanis Nayu 08:51 Thu
In reply to TobyA:

This is going to be fun...

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TobyA 08:52 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

OK, now I'm on to resined finger tips. Pegs, E4s at Windgather, that's enough for me.

Right, this is a joke isn't it? Well played sir/madam! Now I need to do some work from home and stop getting trolled on UKC!

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In reply to TobyA:

Thanks for your answers so far but it isn't a joke at all. I really am writing a novel, but as I said, I am not a climber hence needing some expert help from this who are.

Can you suggest a place where the heights and danger would be enough to make this sort of accident possible?

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Coel Hellier 08:55 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Your plot seems taken pretty-much straight from Touching the Void, don't you think? 

But, as the previous comment says, it does not sound realistic for a summer rock climb in the Peak district (as oppose to a snowy mountain in the Andes). 

It's rather unlikely that a rock belay (as oppose to snow) would "work loose", it would either hold or fail.   Second, in almost all circumstances, there would be enough rope that the leader could simply lower the hanging climbing to the ground or at least a ledge.  Also, a male could nearly always hold the weight of a female partner even without a belay. 

Also, lowering would be *far* easier than cutting the rope. No-one carries an easily accessible knife in that situation. 

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JuneBob 09:03 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

How about they have a nice time climbing, but on the walk back to the car she trips over a tree root, falls, and bangs her head on a rock, dying instantly. Much more likely than your scenario.

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In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Thanks for these replies. I see now that I need to be more (and less) specific. And I apologise for asking such an obviously error-laden question.

First off, this isn't the plot - it's just part of the main character's back story. Like a prologue.

What I need -- in fact*all* I need -- is for him to be partly the cause of his wife's death during a climbing accident. She slips and falls away from the rock and can't get back. Does she fracture an arm - tear a muscle? He can't retrieve her and *has* to make the fatal choice.

Or would it be more realistic that she falls because he chose a climb too difficult for her and so blames himself for her accident.

It doesn't have to be the Peak District, it doesn't even have to the in the UK. I just need a reasonably feasible situation where he has to sacrifice her to save himself to look after their son.

Anyone?

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deepsoup 09:05 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

> How would you suggest I fix it?

I'm afraid you can't.  There's no realistic scenario that would lead to someone having to cut the rope the way you describe.

Maybe not so much in the Peak, but if they were climbing somewhere a bit more remote and she was injured he might have to chose between staying with her and leaving her behind to go and get help knowing that she probably wouldn't survive the wait for help to arrive. 

If you wanted the choice to stay with her to threaten his life as well they would probably have to be winter climbing, and the main threat to his life would be hypothermia.

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Al Randall 09:06 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

I think that this has already been done.  Watch the Vertical Limit early scenes.  Terrible film but may give you some idea of the type of scenario you are looking for.

Al

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In reply to JuneBob:

I don't know if you read my question, but I made it perfectly clear that I have no expertise in climbing as I am an author.

Presumably you never need to ask anyone about anything outside your own field of expertise?

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In reply to deepsoup:

Thank you! You have got my point, which is he has to feel that he was the cause of her death, even though it was an accident.

Where/when might be cold/remote enough for that to happen? Scotland? January? Or abroad somewhere?

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Wanderer100 09:08 Thu
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Isnt the plot from the opening scene of Vertical Limit? 

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Andy Hardy 09:10 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

For tall(ish) crags in the peak, you want limestone - High Tor or Beeston Tor or Ravens Tor. 

Realistically though nobody would need to get to the straits you describe in Derbyshire. 99.9999999% of stances would be less than a rope length from the ground so you'd just lower an injured climber down.

Why not set your story in a cave?

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Coel Hellier 09:11 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

OK, I can't resist:

> As the more experienced climber, he always leads. They’ve chosen Windgather again. It’s their favourite climb in the Peak District.

Favourite "crag" not "climb".

> Today they’re trying a new route he’s had his eye on for a while.

New route at Windgather?   All possible climbs have been done.

> He’ll probably end up grading it as an E4.

Though he'd likely decide that after climbing it.

> He squints against the bright sunshine as a light wind buffets him, and he hammers each new piton into the rock.

No-one hammers pitons to lead climbs in the Peak these days.

> Twenty feet below, Lou’s dug her resined fingertips into cracks in the sheer rockface.

Twenty foot below she'd be standing on flat grass.  Windgather is about 20 ft high.

> Two hundred feet below her, the needle-pointed rocks at the foot of the climb resemble grey rubble.

Two hundred foot is 10 times the height of Windgather.

>  He calls down to her, ‘Hold on for a sec while I put another peg in.’

He would not be using pegs.

> It’s a nothing blow, really, but it startles her and she loses her grip and falls outwards, away from the flat plane of lichen-scabbed limestone.

Windgather is gritstone, not limestone

> He’s got one peg in but it’s not enough. He’s holding his lead rope with his left hand while Louise dangles from his right.

This doesn't make sense.  They would be tied to the rope, holding the rope would not depend on his hand or his shoulder   (It would be attached to his waist or to a belay device.)

> She must have seen what’s happening, because she’s screaming at him to cut the rope. ‘Let me go. We can’t both die!’

Like how?  By wandering down to his rucsac, getting the knife out of the top pocket, and then going back up? 

In anything like the above situation he would simply be lowering her to the ground.

> He draws his knife from the sheath on his belt.

Which no-one would carry in Peak district cragging.

> She falls away from him, arms flailing.

... and falls about 15 ft to the ground, grabs her throbbing ankle and says "ow, it hurts, I think it's broken".

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GerM 09:11 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Looks fine to me. One technical matter that would make those that have some knowledge of climbing appreciate the attention to detail would be to refer to the area the are climbing in as 'The Peaks'.

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In reply to Andy Hardy:

Yep, caving could work although I'm not a caver either! Say they were on Ravens Tor (cool name and therefore good), how might she fall and die with him feeling he might have been responsible (even wrongly)?

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Prof. Outdoors 09:15 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

This really does come across as a troll.

I would echo that the story line echoes the actual real life situation where climber Simon Yates had to cut the rope holding Joe Simpson who then fell into a crevasse, was given up as dead but managed to survie and crawl out. Google "Touching the Void" for outline.

Joe understood the reasons that Simon cut the rope.

Another point for your story would be that Police and Mountain Rescue would probably have been called. There is no way the climber would have been allowed to put the rope into his rucksack and walk off with it.  A rope cut with a knife under load would be very obvious. 

Your storyline may appeal to people who are not climbers but I think that because the whole premise is so close to a well known actual event you may wish to consider another plot line.

As a suggestion you could always have a life and death situation where one climber was in the process of bolting Three Pebble Slab when some local trad climbers arrive.

Post edited at 09:17
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Tom Ripley 09:17 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

A more realistic accident would be he lowering her off the end of the rope whilst sport climbing, at somewhere like Malham.

Not as dramatic, but he could guilt ridden for not tieing a knot in the end of the rope.

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elsewhere 09:19 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

> Thank you! You have got my point, which is he has to feel that he was the cause of her death, even though it was an accident.

Husband climbing dislodges a small block that lands on his wife belaying. 

If you move to winter just bad* decisions can result in death.

*or unlucky

Read some mountain rescue reports for plausible scenarios.

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Andy Hardy 09:21 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Tricky. Lots of routes at Ravens Tor are now sport routes (bolted) and are very safe. In your shoes I would buy some guidebooks to the area and get on YouTube / Vimeo for videos of people climbing multi pitch routes (which is how your victim could end up beneath her husband)

A few instruction books and / or videos would help too (assuming you write this book before the end of covid-19)

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Lucid_Dreamer 09:24 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Rather than having to make a 'fatal choice' it would be a lot easier for him to make a 'fatal mistake' that leads to the death of his wife and much more realistic.

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Wanderlust 09:25 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

> Yep, caving could work although I'm not a caver either! Say they were on Ravens Tor (cool name and therefore good), how might she fall and die with him feeling he might have been responsible (even wrongly)?


How about she's leading, gets nervous but he convinces her to push on. She does, she falls, her gear rips and she hits the deck.

If he's leading it's more difficult, as she will basically be safe by default unless he does something really stupid like letting go of the rope. Even if the belay fails, it's more likely that both or neither would fall.

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MeMeMe 09:26 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

This is the best thing I've ever read, I wouldn't change it one bit, the technicalities don't really matter, I can literally feel the gritstone beneath my fingers and the depth you've brought to the characters in just that one short section astounds me. It brought tears to my eyes.

Please, PLEASE let us know once it is published.

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nikoid 09:27 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

I honestly wouldn't worry, I imagine your target audience isn't going to be climbers.

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Red Rover 09:27 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

If this isn't a windup then I would avoid the rope-cutting story alltogether. It's been done before, either by Vertical Limit (please don't use this as inspiration it's garbage) or by Touching the Void (which was on a  huge face in the Andes not a 20 foot gritstone outcrop in the Peak). This is windgather by the way: If somebody was dangling 20 feet below you they'd be happily sat on the ground. You could always get the boy-scouts to form a human pyramid to rescue you.

https://live.staticflickr.com/84/229487284_34c6df09f7_b.jpg

Post edited at 09:28
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NBR 09:27 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

They cut the rope trope is something that in real life requires a very specific cock-up casscade to have occured. You could use it if you put them somewhere more extreme than the Peak, but it is a proper cliche.

If you want him to kill his second one way is to have a route that traverses, a second falling can pendulum into something and get smooshed, the risk of this is controlled by the postioning of protection by the leader, so you can get your guilt there.

Other ways are not tying a knot in the end of the rope for a multiple absail descent, dropping/knocking loose a rock.

Getting the sacrifice for the son thing in and being 'acurate' well that'll be a challenge.

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Coel Hellier 09:27 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

> It doesn't have to be the Peak District, it doesn't even have to the in the UK. I just need a reasonably feasible situation where he has to sacrifice her to save himself to look after their son.

Maybe try winter climbing in Scotland, say on Ben Nevis (much more chance of things going wrong, of belays failing, and plenty of height for her to fall to her death).   

A more plausible scenario would be them getting into trouble, and him deciding to solo out to try to get help, leaving her behind. Then she dies (e.g. he sees an avalanche take her; or she dies of exposure), and he feels guilty for abandoning her.   Something like that could be made realistic -- would that sort of thing do?

Or, alternatively, set it on a sea cliff.  After he fails to get up a route, falling off it, they are stuck at the bottom with the tide coming in.  She urges him to solo out to get help, and/or look after their son, then he sees a wave take her. 

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In reply to Wanderlust:

This could be the simplest and best answer so far. Thank you! If I can get the prologue down to a few lines so much the better.

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john arran 09:28 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

They're abseiling after a successful ascent of Ilam Rock (a pinnacle with no other means of descent). He goes first so he can untangle the rope which has caught on bushes part-way down, then realises he may not have made sure she knew how to attach the abseil device correctly.

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In reply to Coel Hellier:

Beautiful! I love it. Have you ever thought of becoming an author!!

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GerM 09:29 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Don't know how you would work the drama side of it, but maybe an abseiling accident accessing a climb might work. Maybe sea cliff, Cornwall maybe.

Guilt angle, he's more keen to get on the committing route than she is (slow build up, but could add tension between them). He sets up the anchor and something fails, unreliable anchor choice (maybe decent sized boulder moves due to positioning/changes due to erosion) or she doesn't check something (attachment to rope or backup prusik) because she's a bit distracted through being a bit hacked off with him. She weights the rope and pluges down the cliff onto rock/ into sea below. Or she gets started, unwisely relies on her prusik to sort something out (like piece of equipment on harness catching on a spike of rock), but due to not setting it up correctly she falls to her death.

Not sure if it fits the bill but maybe could be made to work.

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GerM 09:32 Thu
In reply to john arran:

Beaten to it on the abseil idea, was busy typing!

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In reply to Coel Hellier:

If I went for the sea cliff idea, could you maybe give me a few tips on the gear they'd be using and just a few of the technicalities and maybe a location? As someone else here has said this isn't a climbing manual or even a novel about climbing, it's just brief backstory.

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In reply to GerM:

This sounds like it would really fit the bill. Can you give me some correct technical terms for the type of anchor etc?

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mauraman 09:38 Thu
In reply to GerM:

although not a lot further away, both the lake district or north wales have multipitch climbs, longer and higher than any in the peak district, some in the order of 500 feet or more and possibly E4s ( can consult a guide and find out name and grade of climbs). A lead fall could result in a deadly accident. may be she should be the leader. Most climbers swap lead, one climber doing the first pitch (rope lenght), the second climber doing the next, etc...the most experienced climber taking the most difficult pitches if there is a difference in ability.

A likely scenario could be that she wanted to try leading a pitch (slightly above her capacity) she has a fall, a piece or two of gear comes off (possible) she keeps falling, bangs her head or whatever) and the husband blame himself for allowing her to lead the pitch in the first place and also for not being able to arrest her fall while belaying her (which is the role of the second during the leader climb). this will eliminate the rope cutting unrealistic scenario but not the guilt felt by the husband, which seems to be essential to the plot.

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In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

A few people seems to think I am a troll (although for the life of me I can't imagine a more pointless exercise than posting daft questions on a climbing forum, but there you are!). Anyway, to establish my bona fides and I hope this isn't breaking forum rules, but if you check out my author website at andymaslen.com or my Amazon author page (search for name) you will see that I have written over 15 novels to date.

I will credit the forum in general and anyone whose idea is workable in the book's acknowledgements. It's called Shallow Ground, published by Thomas & Mercer and it comes out on November 20 of this year.

Sorry for anyone forming the impression I was a troll.

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Andy Moles 09:42 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Here's a scenario for you, based on a real life near miss.

She is leading the first pitch on a big sea cliff climb. Could be any number of places. The sea crashes below and the wind whips about, making it hard to hear. He is standing at the bottom on a rock shelf, and has not tied in to the ends of the ropes yet (this is necessary to make the scenario work). He watches nervously as she edges upwards, almost out of sight. The rope pays out, then comes slack. What's happening up there? There isn't much rope left, she must be building a belay. Finally a cry comes from above: SAFE! He takes the rope out of the belay device, and calls OFF BELAY! At this point we depart from the real situation on which this was based, where she screams NO, NO, TAKE! and he quickly puts her back on belay and takes the rope tight... instead the ropes whip away and he watches in horror as she plummets to her death.

'Safe' and 'take' can sound dangerously similar.

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Dave Garnett 09:45 Thu
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Or, alternatively, set it on a sea cliff.  After he fails to get up a route, falling off it, they are stuck at the bottom with the tide coming in.  She urges him to solo out to get help, and/or look after their son, then he sees a wave take her. 

Yes, if the key is an agonising choice with tragic consequences, it has to be some credible situation where the husband abandons the wife in order to try to fetch help. 

Your sea cliff scenario very nearly happened to my wife and I.  She fell off leading the damp first section of Brave New World at St Govans East and landed on the platform with what might easily have been serious back injuries.  The tide was coming in and for a minute or so I was trying to work out how I could get help without moving her - it wasn't obvious to me how I going to do it.  Very fortunately, it turned out she wasn't too badly hurt and after a while could walk... she's tough and apart from spectacular bruising was fine.

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Deadeye 09:46 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Looks really good to me.

You just need to add:

"Her chest heaved with the exertion, pulling her bodice tightly across her ample bosom..."

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Coel Hellier 09:53 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

> If I went for the sea cliff idea, could you maybe give me a few tips on the gear they'd be using and just a few of the technicalities and maybe a location?

Something like:

They are climbing at Pembroke Range West.  They do two established routes.  He wants to try a new line he has spotted.  To get to the base of the route they scramble down to sea level and then traverse, just above sea level, to a ledge.   She is reluctant but he is cockily confident.  (You could have him make a mistake about tides, saying the tide is going out when it's actually coming in.) He starts up the climb. He finds it far harder than expected.  He wastes lots of time.   Eventually he pulls a block off and so falling (though is held on the rope by gear he has placed).  But the block hits her leg, injuring it badly.  She lowers him to the ledge.

By this time, the tide has come in, cutting off their escape.  Within an hour it will be swamping the ledge.   She, with a damaged leg, can't climb.  He, though, could climb out, solo, by traversing to easier ground. He says he won't leave her. But she urges him to save himself to get help and/or for the sake of their son.  He does so, soloing out.  He calls the coastguard.  By the time they get there she has been swept off the ledge.  Her body is found the next day. 

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MischaHY 09:56 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Andy, I'll try and take this as a writer rather than a climber to give a more level response. 

The fortunate reality (for climbers!) is that accidents like this are so rare as to be almost unheard of. Rock climbing is actually a very safe sport where thankfully vanishingly few fatal accidents occur compared to the scale of our community. For this reason, the scenario you're proposing is not a realistic one. 

The Peak district in all its forms is also a remarkably safe playground. The accidents that do occur tend, in the vast majority, to happen to inexperienced beginners or simply the very unlucky. 

I appreciate as an author you've visualised the events that have formed your character and feel his emotions etc etc. However, the reality is that you've dug yourself into a scenario that you don't even have close experience too, meaning that you simply can't bring realism to the situation. You have two options going forward in my opinion: 

1) consult an experienced mountaineer on a realistic construction of a fatal climbing accident. Take their advice on terminology, setting, the physics and dynamics of the situation. Rather than focusing on the specifics where you don't have experience, instead focus on what you do understand - fear, grief, and grim reality. An accident like this would be well publicised and there would be no keeping it from anyone, least of all family. 

2) If you prefer to go it alone and also follow the line of secrecy for your MC, simplify the situation massively. And example would be: The pair are winter mountaineering in Scotland. The conditions are poor, but they're experienced and moving well over familiar ground. Heavy snow sets in and they lose visibility, so your MC begins navigating by map and compass. They head towards their descent route, but the MC's partner breaks through a cornice (overhanging packed snow at the top of a cliff/steep ground) and falls to her death. If you wanted to stretch reality you could have them both fall but him survive somehow - this is the sort of scenario that has tragically happened to well experienced mountaineers. Your MC would be somewhat implicit due to being the one navigating and so could have a healthy dose of survivors guilt (although nobody tends to be truly guilty in these horrible situations). It would also give the MC something to hide that would be possible to hide from a child - being somehow complicit to the death of the mother but in a way that would be understood and forgiven by society. 

You've taken a good first step in reaching out to the climbing community but my advice would be to find yourself someone who you can sit down with and work through situations and plot devices in detail in order to find a realistic and ultimately useful scenario which adds value and depth to your characters and further plot without being unnecessarily dramatic or unrealistic. I'd also recommend doing some reading of good pedigree climbing literature to understand how utterly haunting these sorts of accidents can be, but what compels us as climbers and alpinists to still venture into these incredible locations. 

I'd recommend Starlight and Storm and Savage Arena as good places to start. 

https://www.amazon.com/Starlight-Storm-Conquest-Library-Exploration/dp/0375755063 

https://www.amazon.com/Savage-Arena-Joe-Tasker-ebook/dp/B00FIP8YBY 

I hope this helps! 

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Andy Moles 09:59 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

> This sounds like it would really fit the bill. Can you give me some correct technical terms for the type of anchor etc?

Ditch pegs and have them placing nuts and cams instead (you can easily Google these to see what they look like). Don't have the placements incrementally failing - if the rock crumbles or the piece of gear pops out, it will be with the initial shock load.

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GerM 10:10 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Hard to know where to get started. It might be easier for you to flesh thing out a bit first, then come back for corrections?

not really looked through videos but are from reliable sources, and give ideas on principles and terminology.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6OUGgYKK-w

things to go wrong (simple things but can and do happen when people distracted)

belay device incorrectly attached to rope (through device but not on carabiner)

carabiners left with gate not closed properly (needs another cause to open to dislodge/open/detach - highly unlikely but plausible, slip on awkward bit and contact of equipment on rock and extra movement)

pruisc attached at one end but not the other, prusic unwraps and doesn't hold when loaded

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NS2EN25nXEo

Attachment method for climb NOT abseil in this one  (above) but some general terminology

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5imLMrvCdQ

things that could go wrong:

Poor judgement on reliability of anchor. Would probably need to be over reliance on one point eg a reliable looking single spike/boulder. If more than one anchor used it would greatly reduce the chances of failing. Nuts in cracks could fail if one side of crack was not solid, but it would be quite unusual to rely on only one of these. Climbers will occasionally rely on one big spike or boulder if they thought it was reliable ('bombproof' or 'bomer' in climbing lingo). More likely to make poor judgement if in a hurry or distracted.

Knot incorrectly tied. Can happen when not concentrating sufficiently, hurried, distracted. A 'Bowline' is a knot sometimes used in this context (to tie around a spike or boulder), can work loose with movement and without additional knots to ensure safety, and would be a fun little plot point for climbers, there is much debate as to the reliability versus usefulness of this knot in many circles. I might even get slated for suggesting it could fail.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEBSCg5scQM

not sure of source of this last video but illustrates the point. be careful about terminology from other countries, uk, european, american, australasian and other areas' terminology can vary quite a lot.

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In reply to MischaHY:

Massive thanks for such a detailed, and understanding, reply. Believe me this is invaluable!

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GerM 10:20 Thu
In reply to MischaHY:

Good idea on sitting down (or discuss remotely over the web) with someone who knows their onions. If budget allows might be worth consulting someone with multipitch climbing qulas (MCI (or MIA), WMCI (MIC) or IFMGA guide). There will be plenty of people who would be keen for working from home on some climbing consultation at the moment. Someone on here might even get in touch!

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Lord_ash2000 10:21 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

I only read a few lines in and yes it's total nonsense from a climbing point of view. 

Most grit crags are fairly short and like many have said you could just lower her safely to the ground and unless she's 18 stone the husband could easily hold her weight even without anchors if he had to. 

To get something vaguely believable but still along the same lines you'd want to set it on a multi-pitch route, likely in the Lake District, North Wales or Scotland. A multi-pitch route is where you climb a cliff in stages because it's longer than your rope or would lead to much drag if you did it all in one go.

How it works is this, The leader starts off up the cliff, and places protection every few meters, (note hammering in pitons is not done in the UK) instead we place metal wedges called "nuts" or devices called "cams" (see vertical limit into) into cracks with the idea being that if the leader fell he'd only fall twice the distance he was above his last protection point. You'd generally call this placing "protection" or "gear". 

Also, you don't use resin, you use chalk on your fingers, same as sort of thing as gymnasts use.

Anyways, the idea is the leader climbs up, say 20m or so to a "belay stance" such as a ledge where they anchor themselves to the wall with several pieces of protection, in order to allow their second (his wife) to climb up, removing his protection as she goes until she reaches the ledge as well. Then then you'd lead up the next pitch and repeat until you get to the top.

In your scenario, you'd have them three pitches up and the leader can't find a suitable ledge so has to set up a hanging belay, this is where there is no real ledge to set up on so you just put several pieces of protection in around you and hang from them to bring up your second. So his wife sets off, gets to the overhanging roof which is the hardest section (crux) and falls, causing the gear he placed in the roof to rip out and she swings into space, unable to get back onto the rock and to high above the ground to be lowered down.

As she dangles there helplessly he notices his anchors (the protection he's placed to hang from) starting to come loose, one comes out, adding extra load to the others which are now also working loose, it's only a matter of time before the lot goes and they both die. So he makes the choice the cut the rope. 

Funnily enough, I've been in something pretty close to that situation myself once but thankfully I can prusik up a rope. 

Also, an E4 multi-pitch is quiet serious meaning his wife would also be a pretty experienced climber even if she was just planning on seconding. And it's very unlikely they would be doing a new route, but it's fine to say they were setting off on an established E4, with a notoriously difficult section over the roof on pitch 3 for example.  

Post edited at 10:24
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deepsoup 10:24 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

> although for the life of me I can't imagine a more pointless exercise than posting daft questions on a climbing forum, but there you are!

Ha ha - maybe so, and yet..
(Even in more normal times, let alone while everyone is cooped up at home gradually going insane with cabin fever.)

> Sorry for anyone forming the impression I was a troll.

Oh god, don't apologise.  If you were trolling your OP would have been a particularly fine example, really excellent craftsmanship.   (Though you'd have blown it by continuing to post in the thread.)

I'm not the one to answer your questions about winter climbing I'm afraid, far too nesh for all that malarky so barely better up on the technical side of things than you.  (But yes, it could easily happen in Scotland.)

You've got some good serious answers here, in and among people more or less subtly taking the piss.

There's a fair bit of stuff you could watch on youtube, and there's usually a weekly 'friday night video' thread here with a link to something - some of those would be worth checking out.  Mountain rescue teams generally log call-outs and incidents on their websites, a browse though some of those could give you some good ideas as to accidents that actually happen and won't leave you looking like you've plagiarised 'Touching The Void'.

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aln 10:28 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

If you want to understand the technical side of climbing why don't you go on a climbing course after lockdown's finished?

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Lankyman 10:45 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

> If I went for the sea cliff idea, could you maybe give me a few tips

Yes! Set it on Jack Scout - the biggest sea cliff in Lancashire no less. She falls screaming ( not into a maelstrom of foaming waves) but into the bottomless mud of Morecambe Bay. Her husband watches helpless as she is sucked into oblivion. With a last gurgle, the mud closes over her leaving only the silence of the clams ..... Actually, the last bit is bit naff as there aren't any clams there, just a few cockles and limpets but who's to know?

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LastBoyScout 10:46 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Apart from the errors in location and equipment (see Coel's answer), the scenario has been done before:

Vertical Limit - opening scene:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0gx_D--iDw

Cliffhanger - opening scene:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI_7kYuZhF8

You might also want to look up a film called "Killing me softly", which, again, was about a climbing accident: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0250468/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

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GerM 10:55 Thu
tlouth7 11:08 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

You are probably already too committed to your characters at this stage but why not consider the possibility that the woman is the stronger climber?

Also killing off a minor female character as motivation for a lead male character is an even more massive cliche than a climber cutting the rope.

Reversing the roles would avoid both of the above pitfalls. Alternatively if the man is the weaker climber then he could be the one who gets stuck and then feels guilty after his wife sacrifices herself to save him (he gets stuck and she falls while soloing to try to help him, he gets injured and she dies of exposure waiting with him etc).

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Toerag 11:45 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

You can reduce the amount of words describing the anchor - just have the chap tie his rope around a boss of rock.  That avoids all the talk of nuts and cams which your average reader won't understand.

If you're thinking of a sea cliff or mountain pick somewhere that people will have seen on telly or been familiar with on their holidays - the more people can relate to a story the better (as long as they can't pick holes in it - for example, your original idea of the peak district would fit the 'known location' idea but the mechanisms of the incident are unrealistic).

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Big Steve 11:48 Thu
In reply to LastBoyScout:

I'd forgotten how epic that Vertical Limit scene was

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Blue Straggler 12:29 Thu
In reply to Big Steve:

> I'd forgotten how epic that Vertical Limit scene was

They've got AMATEURS at twelve o'clock

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malk 12:35 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

this crag would be a better setting (35m+, pegs, dodgy rock): Whitestone Cliffe

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Oceanrower 12:43 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Whilst not directly comparable, there's a book review on here (page 12) about a murder in a caving area, the book being written by a non-caver.

Some of the points noted by the reviewer may be relevant. For example either go geographically fictional or accurate but try not to mix both...

https://british-caving.org.uk/wiki3/doku.php?id=publications_information:newsletter

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JuneBob 12:56 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

> I don't know if you read my question, but I made it perfectly clear that I have no expertise in climbing as I am an author.

> Presumably you never need to ask anyone about anything outside your own field of expertise?

Eh? It was a fairly genuine suggestion, and variations of that happen a lot. If you did know about climbing history you'd know that a significant number of famous climbers have been killed on the walk in or walk out or climbing easy terrain.

Or read about Patrick Edlinger, he fell climbing stairs.

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Sean Kelly 14:24 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

You really need to sit down with someone and go through the possible scenarios so that it makes sense to both climbers and non climbers alike. We are really talking big crags and possibly remote so no phone signal or handy rescue nearby. So that rules out most of Europe today!

Post edited at 14:25
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lithos 14:30 Thu
In reply to Tom Ripley:

I was going to suggest just that (as at least 2 of the best climbers in the world have had this happen to them DM, AH as well as many others)

the other was casual/careless belaying and dropping her

or scrambling off the top of a route type accident, soloing whne they should have been ropeed up

or tying a double figure-of-eight and her abbing first and it comes undone, leaving him at top of crag ....

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lithos 14:34 Thu
In reply to Deadeye:

> Looks really good to me.

> You just need to add:

> "Her chest heaved with the exertion, pulling her chest-harness tightly across her ample bosom..."

FTFY

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Graeme G 14:45 Thu
In reply to Lankyman:

> With a last gurgle, the mud closes over her leaving only the silence of the clams ..... Actually, the last bit is bit naff as there aren't any clams there, just a few cockles and limpets but who's to know?

Than you,  thank you, thank you. That made me smile. And god knows I needed to smile today.

Post edited at 14:45
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Graeme G 14:48 Thu
In reply to Sean Kelly:

Ah, but the OP could set the story during lockdown? Husband convinces partner to break the lockdown knowing they might not get rescued. Sure enough he has to leave her alone and cold on The Peaks after calling 999 and MRT refuse to attend. The guilt would leave him crushed....

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pasbury 15:09 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

You are Gaucho and I claim my £5.

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Bulls Crack 16:13 Thu
In reply to Graeme G:

Or how about the climbing partner being their butler? 

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TobyA 16:15 Thu
In reply to pasbury:

Andy has given us his -supposed- name and -supposed- website but I'm still finding it very hard to believe anyone could be that perfectly wrong. I still think some one who writes "Lou’s dug her resined fingertips into cracks in the sheer rockface" probably remembers the angry Letters to the Editor in OTE quite-a-small-number, the month after they had the black white picture of Ben Moon on Brad Pitt on the cover and there in the bottom corner of the photo was <shock horror!> his pof rag!!! Cue much apologising from Mr Moon and long explanation that he had it for Font but used the tails of it for slapping dry holds in the Peak, and of course he would never use resin on grit!

And then of all the crags to pick for these epic events - Windgather! Lolz. The most punter-friendly grit crag out there. Then calling it limestone, talking about pitons and hammers, and describing basically the opening scene of the Vertical Limit.

It's so beautifully, perfectly wrong, it could only have been written by an expert. 

And this just happens to happen whilst everyone is stuck at home under virtual house arrest? A few days away from April 1st too!

It is a work of art indeed, just a different work of art to the one it purports to be!

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PaulJepson 16:32 Thu
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

I approve of this troll. Bravo. 

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Deadeye 16:53 Thu
In reply to PaulJepson:

I thought so originally...but he's replied.

The complete lack of climbing knowledge is ok, but the apparent complete lack of writing talent might be an issue.

Either way, the thread is comedy gold.

Post edited at 16:55
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Lankyman 17:17 Thu
In reply to Graeme G:

> Than you,  thank you, thank you. That made me smile. And god knows I needed to smile today.


Glad to know it made you smile even though you've crushed my literary ambitions by assuming I wasn't being serious . I suddenly glimpsed the Booker 2021  ... Seriously though, hope you're bearing up. I'll be back in the store Monday hoping things are better than Saturday last.

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MeMeMe 08:06 Fri
In reply to Deadeye:

It's the best thing since Louise Watmough and her brittle knees.

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alan moore 08:55 Fri
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Sorry, a bit late, but that's brilliant!

Dont change anything.

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wintertree 08:58 Fri
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Re: the piercing blue eyes - maintaining good eye contact with someone below you on a climb is really going to bugger up both your necks.

Post edited at 09:01
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BrendanO 17:33 Fri
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Andy, in terms of realistic-ish scenarios, how about:

-Coming down from a climb, Lou abseils off end of rope as its too short. Ford as more experienced would blame himself (and that might partly be justified esp if he'd said it'd be fine)

-they're both walking down from the climb, ropes coiled badly/quickly, Lou has one over her neck/shoulder. She trips...

-near top, Ford kicks off loose rock, kills Lou (maybe he left her helmet at home, lent it to a mate the weekend before, cycled to work wearing it and forgot it,...

-that selfie moment at the top and it goes wrong...

And I apologise to any at UKC if these raise ghosts. My arms are now goodebumps, and I'll stop typing there.

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BrendanO 17:40 Fri
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

> I don't know if you read my question, but I made it perfectly clear that I have no expertise in climbing as I am an author.

> Presumably you never need to ask anyone about anything outside your own field of expertise?

Hi Andy

UKC is a very knowledgeable place, but it can also be a harsh environment. I dont think that comment is  eant as harshly as perhsps you're taking it.  That said, this thread will be a tough tough read for you. And we've all been grounded for a bit.  Be strong.  (they're not being TOO bad do far, honest). 

There are also some VERY good writers on here, so you may also get some response to your first sentence. 

Be great if you got someone to take you out climbing...

Anyway, good luck

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BrendanO 17:50 Fri
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

Do send Wanderlust a free copy!

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Rob Parsons 18:22 Fri
In reply to TobyA:

> Andy has given us his -supposed- name and -supposed- website but I'm still finding it very hard to believe anyone could be that perfectly wrong. ...

> It is a work of art indeed, just a different work of art to the one it purports to be!

If you follow the links, you can infer that the OP is for real and, in any event, has replied very politely several times to this thread. I suspect that he might have been reading US climbing fiction in order to try to get insights and, if so, those are not very appropriate to climbing in the UK. But big deal.

Good luck to the OP. I mean it.

Post edited at 18:26
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bouldery bits 18:27 Fri
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy:

£5 please

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bouldery bits 18:28 Fri
In reply to BrendanO:

> Hi Andy

> UKC is a very knowledgeable place, but it can also be a harsh environment. I dont think that comment is  eant as harshly as perhsps you're taking it.  That said, this thread will be a tough tough read for you. And we've all been grounded for a bit.  Be strong.  (they're not being TOO bad do far, honest). 

> There are also some VERY good writers on here, so you may also get some response to your first sentence. 

> Be great if you got someone to take you out climbing...

> Anyway, good luck

Yes, this thread is bizarrely friendly. 

Post edited at 18:28
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althesin 18:36 Fri
In reply to CrimeAuthorAndy

Sam finds out doesn't he.

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BrendanO 10:18 Sat
In reply to althesin:

Oooo, spoiler!!

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