ACCIDENTS in North American Mountaineering 2014


Accidents

STRADED, RAPPEL ERROR

Yosemite National Park, Royal Arches
On July 26, Ted and Stephanie climbed Royal Arches. They started at 10:30 a.m. The climb took a lot longer than they expected, so they didn’t begin the rappels until 1 a.m. on the 27th. They were climbing with one 60-meter rope, and when Ted set up the first rappel, they pulled the rope, forgetting to untie the knot in the end they released. The knot got stuck in the anchor above.
Ted thought about trying to ascend the stuck rope while tied to the end they still had, but the terrain between him and the anchor above looked like a “5.14 slab,” it was dark, and even with their headlamps there were no visible opportunities for protection. The summer night was relatively warm and they each had a shell jacket, so they decided it was safest to wait until morning and then call for help. At 6 a.m. Ted called 911. Rescuers climbed the route and rappelled with Ted and Stephanie to the ground.

ANALYSIS

Ted and Stephanie made the common mistake of getting a late start on an “easy” but long multi-pitch climb. Climbers who know the Royal Arches well often complete the route in eight hours or less. However, the climb involves 15 pitches of complex routefinding, a pendulum maneuver, and several traverses. As a result, parties with limited trad experiences are frequently benighted. Starting early gives you more daylight to deal with potential snafus suck as the dreaded knot jam, and there may even be another party above to drop your stuck rope to you. Finally, the more mentally and physically tired you are, the more likely you are to make mistakes.

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