• Climber Loses Finger Tips in Crack
  • Climber Grabs Draw, Skins Finger
  • Gear Pulls, Climber Decks at Indian Creek
  • Climber Dropped at Instructional Clinic
  • Euro-Death Knot (Flat Figure-8) Mysteriously Fails
  • Mark Davis Dies in Tragic Rappelling Accident at Indian Creek
  • Climber Dies In Fall From Moonlight Buttress, Zion
  • Ice Climber Falls 100 Feet in Banff National Park
  • Ice Climber Falls 100 Feet on Screw and Climaxe
  • Diablo Canyon Climber Dies in 170-foot Fall
  • Climber Breaks Ankle and Back After Fall in the Palisades, California
  • Rockfall Knocks Out Belayer, She Never Lets Go
  • North Carolina Climber Dies in 50-foot Fall
  • Lightning Strikes Twice - Rockfall on the Cassin, Cima Piccolissima
  • Climber Dropped When Lowered in Autoblock Mode
  • Climber Dies in a Fall at Dishman Hills, Washington
  • Climber Falls 200 Feet on the Nose
  • Danger Zones: The Nose - Accidents On El Cap's Most Popular Route
  • Rappelling Accident Leaves Climber Shattered
  • Gunks Climber Raps Off End of Rope
  • Inattentive Spot Leads to Broken Arm
  • Man Survives Fifty-Foot Ground Fall
  • Bolt Breaks, Climber Falls to Death
  • Climber Falls to Death, Apparent Bolt Failure
  • Tragedy on Infinite Bliss - Rappelling Claims Climber
  • Gear Rips, Leading Climber Critical
  • Impaled by a Quickdraw
  • Two Carabiners Break on Leaning Tower
  • Climber Fined For Obstructing Rescue
  • Climber Triggers Rockfall, Kills Two on El Cap
  • Gear Pulls: Grounder at White Rock, New Mexico
  • Death on Capitol Peak
  • Respected Climber Falls 50 Feet and Dies at Cathedral Ledge
  • NPS Chops Bolts: Man Dies Descending Forbidden Peak
  • Not Again: Eldo Climber Raps Off End Of Rope
  • Flake Breaks, Leader Falls, Hits Belayer
  • BUNGLED!: Autoblock Belay Device Misused
  • Fatal Gym Accident
  • Solo Ice Climber Dies in Fall
  • Three Killed in Cairngorms
  • Ice Climber Killed
  • Despite Warnings, Three Injured in Mount Washington Avalanche
  • Four Dead in Scottish Highlands
  • Bolt Pulls Out in the New River Gorge
  • Belayer Drops Climber 70 Feet to Ground
  • Rope Cuts, Climber Dies in Eldorado
  • Belayer Pulls Leader Off Ice Climb
  • Fifty-Footer Rips Three Screws
  • Rope Chopped by Carabiner
  • Climber Falls 140 Feet and Lives
  • Todd Skinner Killed on Leaning Tower Rappel
  • Climbing's Insidious Danger: Rockfall
  • Top Rope Slips Off
  • Rappel Knot Fails, Climber Falls 300 Feet to Death
  • Ice Cave Collapses, Kills Hari Berger
  • Climber Unclips From Anchor, Falls to Death
  • Counterweight Rappel Failure
  • Back Cleaning Results in 150-foot Fall
  • Climber Dies When Rappels Off End of Rope
  • Mouse Attacks
  • Hold Breaks, 60-foot Fall
  • Avalanche Kills Six In Alps
  • Autoblock Belay Failure Causes Fall
  • Rappel Swing Goes Awry, Climber Injured and Rescued
  • Ice Climber Falls Entire Pitch, Dies
  • Climber Comes Unclipped, Falls 140 Feet at Red Rocks
  • Ice climber rides Vail's famous Fang 100 feet when the pillar collapses
  • Two Bolt Hangers Break, Climber Falls
  • Nose-hooked Carabiner Breaks, Causing Ground Fall
  • Bowline Comes Untied, Climber Falls to Ground
  • Rope Burns Through Lowering Sling, Climber Falls to Ground
  • Gear Rips, Leader Hits Ledge
  • 600-foot Ice Climbing Fall
  • Ice Climber Unropes, Slips, Falls 60 Feet
  • Ice Climber Dislodges Ice, Belayer Hit and Seriously Injured
  • Belayer Drops Leader Due to Miscommunication
  • Climber Rappels Off Rope, Dies
  • Leader Rips 10 Pieces on El Cap, Falls 80 Feet
  • Leader Falls, Gear Rips, Belay Fails
  • Video Spotlight
    On Ice with Paradox Sports
    On Ice with Paradox Sports
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: One Cam Away
    Weekend Whipper: One Cam Away
     



    Rock Climbing Accident: Belayer Drops Leader Due to Miscommunication

    15-Dec-2009
    By

    On Monday, October 13, a group of three decided to climb the steep and popular Ro Shampo (5.12a) at the Red River Gorge's Roadside Crag. The leader completed the climb without incident and was lowered to the ground. The second climber elected to tie into the middle of the 60-meter (200-foot) rope, and toproped the overhanging climb on the side of the rope clipped through the draws. Since the third climber also wanted to toprope, the second climber clipped the trailing line through the quickdraws as she went up. Because the climb was only 60 feet tall, she planned to go in direct, and simply switch the knot to the other side of the anchor carabiners and lower -- this plan hinged on the belayer switching rope ends, too. After lowering, there would be enough rope left for the third climber to toprope the route with the benefit of all the draws clipped.

    According to the account written by the belayer on redriverclimbing.com, the second had explained the scenario, but the belayer didn't fully understand how it would work. When the climber approached the anchors, she again tried to explain what she was going to do, but the belayer was still confused. The climber eventually told the belayer that she was in direct. She fiddled with the set up, then asked the belayer to take. The belayer took in rope, and the climber unclipped and fell to the ground, breaking her back, hip, leg, wrist, and shattering her pelvis. At press time she was still in the hospital recovering from two surgeries. According to friends, in spite of the extent of her injuries she is in excellent spirits.

     

    ANALYSIS

    While there was nothing inherently wrong with the logistics of the plan, it was unusual and required the belayer to change sides of the rope in order to lower the climber. When the climber clipped the anchors and went in direct, the belayer should have confirmed that she was taking the climber off belay -- clearly communicating and waiting for verbal assurances from the climber and then switching sides, re-rigging the belay, and taking in slack. In this case, the belayer was confused from the get-go, and clearly needed better communication and understanding before the climber left the ground. The crucial switch was never completed, and the climber was on the same side of the anchor as the belayer when she unclipped and decked.

     

    PREVENTION

    This is yet another example of miscommunication leading to an accident. Each year climbers are hurt or killed when lowering schemes are unclear to one or both parties. Sometimes the belayer takes the climber off belay, mistakenly assuming that the person will rappel. Sometimes the height, shape or acoustics of a climb prevent clear communication when the climber reaches the anchor. But in most of these cases, the belayer and climber were not in accord before the climber started up the route, and the accident resulted because of miscommunication -- or lack of communication -- at the base of the climb. Therefore, don't leave the ground or commit to belaying until every party understands the plan for lowering. Further, confirm every step of the process, either verbally or, in the case of longer pitches that take a climber out of sight, by a prearranged system of commands and/or rope tugs. Always be redundant with your communication and wait for your partner's response before proceeding to the next step. At the anchor, clip in and let your partner know what's up. When cleaning an anchor, go in direct with longer slings or draws so that you can first weight the rope and feel that your belayer has you before you unclip your tethers from the anchor. That step alone would've prevented this accident.

    A good rule in all situations is to keep it simple. If you are confused about any proposed plan -- whether it is a lowering, anchoring, toproping or leading scenario -- don't climb or belay until you are clear about every step. If you can't picture the proposed scheme, then insist on something simpler. Avoid un-tying, switching the belay or using complicated rope trickery. A simpler solution would have been to toprope the route, and then swing in and re-clip the draws while lowering.

    Reader's Commentary:

    Don't want to use Facebook, but still want to comment? We have you covered:

    Add Your Comments to this article:
     
     
    Hello