Groundfall at Churchmans

Home Forum Accidents, near-misses and mishaps Groundfall at Churchmans

This topic contains 11 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Ross 11 years, 10 months ago.

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  • #3332 Reply

    Roo

    G’day Folks,

    Had my first real (15M) lead fall on Saturday…, I was leading “The Bite” and everything seemed to be going OK, I had 2 fairly average (for sideways pull anyway) nuts placed before the tree, Slinged the tree (thank God) my next piece was a #2 TCU in a fairly average crack, I tried to put a #3 in there but it was getting close to overcammed and I was worried my second might not be able to clean it, I struggled at the crux and fell but had grabbed the base of the tree not fully loading the rope, I laughed to my belay that it was a fairly poor attempt at a fall and continued climbing up to the crux, My belayer was standing about 4m away from the face (to dodge falling rocks) and I wasnt able to get a piece in at ground level as I was taught. While trying to get past the crux my arms and fingers started to pump and unable to hang on any longer I started slipping, called “falling” and kicked myself away from the wall so I wouldnt clip any ledges… I waited for the feeling of the rope slowing me down but heard POP…… POP….. then THUD.. a dust cloud erupted, there was some yelling.. I was lying there thinking “Hmmm this isnt supposed to happen..” My belayer was asking me if I was OK, I was slightly winded lying flat on my back, tested all my limbs and sat then stood up.. I knew this was going to leave a mark… My pro was neatly collected with my belays ATC and on my harness but luckily the rope was still running through the sling on the tree. It would appear that the rope had taken most of the fall but the stretch had dumped me on the deck, We figured there was lots of slack in the system due to not having a solid piece in at the ground, The belay was standing away from the wall, The belayer was giving me slack as I was struggling to move up the climb. Also the pull direction became very sideways instead of downward and pulled out my next nut, I should have put the #3 TCU in there and not worried about how hard it would be to clean, I should have checked it after I weighted it. I should have put ground piece in or had the belayer close to the wall. I should try and make sure all the nuts will take a 45degree sidepull minimum. The TCU that pulled was only scratched on the very tips of the cam so didnt really have much purchase on it. Anyway, I’ve learnt lots from this and plan to keep it in the back of my mind on my next climb, I don’t blame my belayer for anything, he’s very safe, We top roped 2 more climbs after the fall. I’ve only been outdoor leading for a month, Think I’ll be practicing more on easier routes and not trying to tick the grades as much. Hope you guys can learn something from this as well.

    Cheers

    Roo

    #3333 Reply

    Dave

    Hi Roo

    sounds like you experienced what is called the zipper affect. There has been at least one recorded death in Australia as a direct result of the zipper affect, which is essentially pieces popping from the ground up. When you clip your second piece of gear the rope creates an angle at the first piece with one axis of this angle going from the first piece to the belayer and the other axis going from the first piece to the second piece. In the event of a fall the forces on the first piece are in a direction that precisely bisects that angle, if the belayer is at a distance from the cliff the direction of force is often UPWARD and outward. If the piece is not secured against forces in that direction it will pop, in the event you have placed several pieces the conditions affecting the first piece are transferred to the next piece i.e. forces will be applied in the direction of a line that directly bisects the angle between the belayer the second piece and the next piece in line. The death i mentioned was at Arapilles and involved popping ten pieces including the last. The way to minimise the zipper affect is through managing the position of the belayer to reduce the outward and upward forces on the protection, and the placement of protection that is multi directional early in the climb i.e. passive gear that is secured against multi directional forces, bolts, camming devices (please note camming devices though generally considered multidirectional sometimes have unfavourable responses to large rotational forces)or sling a solid tree. Not placing multi directional protection and inappropriate belayer position seems to be very common, i believe your accident and the discussion that will ensue will be of great benefit to the climbing community here in WA. This is a limited response to what is a more complicated issue, the affects similar to those mentioned can be created with any change of direction of a rope, nor have i touched upon how the rope drag created affects the dynamic abilities of a rope to absorb forces applied to a climber, or his or her protection. i would encourage those with the experience to discuss these issues further, this is an excellent opportunity to inform new climbers of important issues that are regularly overlooked, glad you came out unscathed Roo, congrats for posting this warning and thank god for that tree.

    #3334 Reply

    Di

    Glad to hear you’re OK Roo! I know a lot of people consider Churchies an ideal place to learn to lead trad but the climbs I’ve done there have always scared me because of dodgy gear placements. Admittedly I’m only in my second season of trad leading but if the place is supposed to be so good for learning trad then it really shouldn’t be full of what seem like dodgy gear placements to new trad leaders! (I await the flames from other more experiences traddies, go on, don’t disappoint me).

    Willyabrup has many climbs in the 7-15 range with solid gear, strongly recommended for refining your gear placements!

    And Roo have you done an outdoors lead course with someone like Adventure Out? Or done a heap of following an experienced leader and learning about placements that way? If not, either (or both) are highly recommended- you know why now, eh?

    One more thing- rockfall is not always straight down, frequently rocks bounce on their way down, so your belayer SHOULD be standing as close under the first piece of gear as possible- the chance of being hit by falling rock isn’t really any greater there. My two cents anyway!

    Have fun out there!

    #3335 Reply

    Roo

    Thanks Folks,

    I did the 2 day Lead course with Adventure out at Willy’s and they said they where happy with me going out and doing climbs 10-15 trad lead. (The bite is 17) I’ve done Pink Knickers, First Route, the Sting, The Fang, Caladonean Way, Gabbo’s grove and a few others on lead and was just working up the grades (maybe a bit quick) My belay seconded my climb on CW the same day and commented that my placements where solid, I think it was just a combo of having the top cam not cammed enough and the belay too far from the rock (or the bottom piece not in)and not checkingthe cam when I fell on it the first time..

    Cheers

    #3336 Reply

    Glenn

    Hi:

    I am relieved you are Ok, you should buy a lottery ticket – you are most fortunate. I seen two accidents where people have lost the ability to walk from lesser falls.

    Having lead the climb you mentioned I can see how such an accident could happen if your wire placements were not-so-good, belayer stood out from the cliff /and or the wires were improperly extended (infact there was a big bloke at the cliff a few months back that said he fell and hit the deck in the first 5m of this climb, I cant remember if he ripped wires or just had no gear in.).

    Were the wires properly extended with a long sling? Sometimes you need to use long slings on wires since quick draws can rotate a wire (or cam) out of the placement and allow a bad loading direction in a fall. I would buy a set of 10 single length slings for trad climbing, quick draws can be dangerous.

    One other question, did you seat the wires into place by loading them (ie pulling down to lock the wire in place?). I bet the wires were not properly sized for the crack, the crack just above the tree is pretty bomber if the wire is correctly sized.

    I wouldnt feel sensitive about the fact all your gear came out, I know for a fact my gear placements were crap for the first few years of my climbing, especially my wire placements. It takes time to develop these skills, and I agree with Di’s advice: climb a lot on easy grade, well protected climbs (and place LOTS of gear for redundancy – put the entire rack in); and climb with people from whom you can learn. Be aware your gear is probably crap and dont be afraid to back down when the gear becomes unacceptable.

    I would recommend carrying a double length sling for slinging trees on climbs like this.

    A story:

    I was leading the crux of a climb once and suddenly a young bloke ran towards us screaming his mate had decked out. We found him crunched up on the ground below a perfect hand width crack laying on the ground still attached to the rope; injuries included broken back, fractured skull, broken leg and arm (open fracture) – not pretty. It turns out his gear was undersized, and had been improperly extended (and had rotated and unzipped when he fell).

    On the matter of Di comments, having seen her climb I cant imagine her ever needing gear as she defies gravity.

    #3337 Reply

    Roo

    Thanks Glenn,

    I always test the nut placement by yanking down on them hard (I leave all the nuts on the crab, pick the one I want, seat it and then grab the other nuts and yank the hell out of it) I do pull down and maybe 45degrees to the side not 90 degrees, A couple of the nuts I put in on Saturday where “shallow” they would have held a direct downward fall but would have prob popped with 30degrees sideways, I couldnt find any “bomber” placements close so kept that in mind and kept moving planning to put something else in ASAP. Good point about long slings, I have plenty of long slings and always use them to reduce rope drag, I didnt use one in this case as the pro was inline with the direction of climb.. Had I used one it may have stopped the zipper I suppose ?.. I know prob the biggest mistake I made was to choose to put the #2 in instead of the #3 cos I was worried about not being able to retrieve it, The #2 has scratches just on the very tips of the cams which tells me it didnt have much of a chance.. The other was not putting a ground piece in andor having the belayer away from the wall, If I had done either of these 2 I might have just kissed the dirt instead of making a crater in it.. I agree using as much of your rack as you can, During the AO course the aim was to get to the top with an empty rack, Might have to continue with this idea.

    Thanks Guys and Gals, Hope to see you out there..

    #3338 Reply

    Edd

    Hey folks, Im bored at work so thought I would add my two cence.

    One good thing about what happened to Roo is that his gear is likley to get a hell of a lot better after the incident. I have had a similar experience to Roo having taken a rather large deck fall myself ( only I was climbing somewhere decent i.e not Churchmans …(ohh the flame builds)) having pulled a wire then ripped out rock that the other wire was behind and then getting hit in the head by it. Tro add insult to injury I landed on the large flake that was suppossed to be on the climb where “good gear” described by the guide existed. Anyways the result is that most of my gear now get checked, rechecked and checked again. By the way when not climbing at churchmans that dosnt always mean making it a permenat feature through hammering it in.

    Right now that i have tried to start some more disscusion to keep me interested at work I will leave it there.

    #3339 Reply

    Edd

    Hey folks, Im bored at work so thought I would add my two cence.

    One good thing about what happened to Roo is that his gear is likley to get a hell of a lot better after the incident. I have had a similar experience to Roo having taken a rather large deck fall myself ( only I was climbing somewhere decent i.e not Churchmans …(ohh the flame builds)) having pulled a wire then ripped out rock that the other wire was behind and then getting hit in the head by it. Tro add insult to injury I landed on the large flake that was suppossed to be on the climb where “good gear” described by the guide existed. Anyways the result is that most of my gear now get checked, rechecked and checked again. By the way when not climbing at churchmans that dosnt always mean making it a permenat feature through hammering it in.

    Right now that i have tried to start some more disscusion to keep me interested at work I will leave it there.

    #3340 Reply

    Kath

    Hi Roo, glad you didn’t hurt yourself. I agree with Di that many climbs at Churchman’s are hard to protect, so it’s a good idea to lead well within your comfort zone. Another idea is to set up an abseil rope and check out the climb before you lead it. Some people even pre-place gear on harder climbs, until they’re confident enough to properly lead it.

    Never worry about your second not being able to retrieve gear. Your life, as you have learned is more important. It is also easy enough to abseil back down(on single pitch climbs) to collect gear that a seconder can’t get out. I have been shown ways of retrieving badly overcammed(stuck) cams, but this was too long ago for me to remember all the details. All I do remember is attaching something through the hole, then adding a sling and using your foot/leg to push down. I guess the theory was that you have more muscle in the legs. Does anyone else have some better hints for this?

    If money permits, some offset nuts can be useful in those slightly flaring cracks where nothing else will fit. I now have the full range, and love them. When I was leading regularly, I used one on average probably on every second climb.

    Also if you can save the money, a trip to Mt Arapiles is a fantastic way to get heaps of leading at the grades you mentioned. The guidebook we had was extremely detailed, and if a climb was difficult to protect then it said so in the description.

    #3341 Reply

    richard

    hi roo

    send a thankyou note to CAWA. When Calm took over management of Churchmans a few years ago they were going to remove that tree. Cawa fought to keep it, one of the motivations being that it provided secure protection.

    #3342 Reply

    Roo

    Thanks Richard, I’ve Emailed them. I keep meaning to join, I’ll get my act together and do it now.

    Cheers

    #3343 Reply

    Ross

    Hey, deja voo! I did an AO course also, also few weeks later decked from 15m (on Major) after a nut pulled. No damage apart from seized arsehole. This was many years ago.

    Obviously we need to place better pro. Only after I stated aiding I found how crap solid-looking nuts can be. In smooth rock cams are generally much better, get some microcams like aliens and STUFF them in. Again – at your stage in climbing don’t run it out without good gear.

    There is good pro 3m and 5m above the tree, you were just too pumped to either see the latter or place gear. That crux is a real awkward bulging prick with no good holds, it gave me grief (much sweat) long after I was leading 20s.

    Ciao

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