Sad news

General Palm Springs area.

Re: Sad news

Postby Hikin_Jim » Mon Oct 03, 2022 11:32 am

It's really hard to know what happened. Press reports are pretty unreliable I think mainly because a lot of journalists don't really have a feel for the outdoors. Some reports even describe the two as "hikers" when it's fairly clear that they were in fact climbers.

There was a pretty big thunderstorm that hit about the time of the accident. That may have played into the accident either by dislodging the putative "refrigerator sized block" or by causing them to rush, "let's get the heck out of here," which could have in turn led to a mistake. I of course really don't know.

I understand that RMRU was on site at some point. I hope they'll publish a post mortem.

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Re: Sad news

Postby Ed » Thu Oct 06, 2022 10:18 am

The accident report we have been waiting for, from RMRU:

http://rmru.org/2022/10/05/2022-28/

The most detailed, well-written and careful report I have ever seen of a climbing accident.

I need to read it again, to fully understand some of the details. But sadly the conclusion seems to have been a dependence on a single loop of old webbing for a rappel anchor. The same as Tina Fiore. And both of them depended on it at the same time.

I knew two people who died rappelling, under circumstances I can understand, and taken risks myself with dodgy anchors, when there was no choice. I cannot understand this. Don't use a single piece of old webbing for a rappel anchor, with no backup. Period. And I have never heard of two people rappelling on the same rope from the same anchor at the same time.

As with Tina, it is so sad to see people with so much to live for die from this kind of accident.
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Re: Sad news

Postby drndr » Thu Oct 06, 2022 11:00 am

sad indeed.

I know nothing of climbing but when it says he rappelled first does that mean she was still at the top and pulled her over with his weight?
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Re: Sad news

Postby Ed » Thu Oct 06, 2022 1:02 pm

The only thing that seems clear is that they were both attached to the rope at the same time. I can think of no reason why that would be the case if they were following good practices. The two ends of the rope seem to have been separately knotted, which puzzled me. Sometimes you knot the two ends together, if you are worried about slipping from the end of the rope before you find a suitable place to end the rappel. Perhaps their plan was to rappel in parallel from the two rope sides. Possible, but then you have a balance problem, particularly if the two differ considerably in weight, which was the case. And the danger that you are increasing the load on the anchor.

Normally, you double the rope, and rappel one at a time on the doubled rope. Then retrieve the rope by pulling on one end. This leaves whatever you have for the rappel anchor in place. So you lose it. People today tend to use factory-sewn slings and runners. Perhaps they are more reluctant to leave them than we were, using the less expensive ones that we cut and knotted from tubular nylon webbing. It seems crazy to me to buy factory-sewn slings and runners, because they are said to be stronger, and then economize on them at the risk of having a fatal accident.
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Re: Sad news

Postby Ed » Thu Oct 06, 2022 2:22 pm

drndr wrote:sad indeed.

I know nothing of climbing but when it says he rappelled first does that mean she was still at the top and pulled her over with his weight?


I re-read the report. It does say that Chelsea was not attached to the rope when found, but probably was attached to the webbing loop being used both as a personal anchor for her and an anchor for the rappel. So the webbing broke under the load of Gavin's weight, and probably at the same time jerked her into a fall.

Whatever the details, the problem was relying on an old piece of webbing for an anchor, with no backup.
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Re: Sad news

Postby guest » Sat Oct 08, 2022 10:46 am

Wow, this is a great re-cap of a sad incident. Aviation has been doing this for decades, so others can learn, and hopefully prevent another incident.

Like many on this board, I've seen how fast the wx can move in here in SoCal,, (like other mountain areas), especially in summer, (early fall, when temps are still warm).
I was descending off San Jacinto one Sat, around 11am, (I knew going up that day, there was a good chance of rain). In a manner of minutes, it went from a easy rain, to heavy, to hail and a downpour.
Little rivulets were forming everywhere, luckily, there wasn't much lightning, but even w decent gear, I was soaked quickly. Only needed to make it back to tram, if it was Idyllwild, I would have been one cold, miserable hiker.
I can see people wanting to hurry up and get out of these conditions, (may not be the case in this climbing case).

I've seen how the sun & elements can destroy nylon, some good packs I kept in a garage, (w good ventilation), had the nylon straps just disintegrated after some years. Maybe the soaked anchor didn't look old, but still, and a tree bark can damage ropes over time as well.
At least their family & friends know what seems to have happened, maybe giving them a bit more peace.
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Re: Sad news

Postby Ed » Sat Oct 08, 2022 12:43 pm

I still can't get over this case and Tina's. So much emphasis on safety these days, but with amazing gaps. I am sure the rainstorm unsettled them and caused them to hurry. But still.

I checked the prices of tubular nylon webbing at REI:

https://www.rei.com/CompareProduct/User

35 cents per foot for 5/8” and 50 cents per foot for 1”. The 5/8” is rated for a load of 9 kilonewtons, and a kilonewton is 224.8 pounds. Far more strength than you need for the static load of a rappel. You cut 6 feet, tie it into a loop with a water knot, fuse the ends with a match or a cigarette lighter, and you have a wonderfully versatile piece of climbing equipment. To be ultra-conservative, check the knot before every trip and chuck it after 20 or 30 days of use. On a rappel, you leave it there and sacrifice a few dollars. Would have made the rappel quite safe. There are inherent dangers in climbing. But this should not be one of them.
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