• Rappelling Accident Leaves Climber Shattered
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Gunks Climber Raps Off End of Rope
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  • Climbing Accidents: My Helmet Saved My Life - Short Story Series
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  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Falls to Death, Apparent Bolt Failure
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Tragedy on Infinite Bliss - Rappelling Claims Climber
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Gear Rips, Leading Climber Critical
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Impaled by a Quickdraw
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  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Fined For Obstructing Rescue
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Triggered Rockfall: Kills Two on El Cap
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Gear Pulls: Grounder at White Rock, New Mexico
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Death on Capitol Peak
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Respected Climber Falls 50 Feet and Dies at Cathedral Ledge
  • Rock Climbing Accident: NPS Chops Bolts: Man Dies Descending Forbidden Peak
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  • Rock Climbing Accident: Flake Breaks, Leader Falls, Hits Belayer
  • Rock Climbing Accident: BUNGLED!: Autoblock Belay Device Misused
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Fatal Gym Accident
  • Solo Ice Climber Dies in Fall
  • Climbing Accident: Three Killed in Cairngorms
  • Climbing Accident: Ice Climber Killed
  • Climbing Accident: Despite Warnings, Three Injured in Mount Washington Avalanche
  • Climbing Accident: Four Dead in Scottish Highlands
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Bolt Pulls Out in the New River Gorge
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Belayer Drops Climber 70 Feet to Ground
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Rope Cuts, Climber Dies in Eldorado
  • Climbing Accident: Belayer Pulls Leader Off Ice Climb
  • Climbing Accident: Fifty-Footer Rips Three Screws
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Rope Chopped by Carabiner
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Falls 140 Feet and Lives
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Todd Skinner Killed on Leaning Tower Rappel
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climbing's Insidious Danger: Rockfall
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Top Rope Slips Off
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Rappel Knot Fails, Climber Falls 300 Feet to Death
  • Climbing Accident: Ice Cave Collapses, Kills Hari Berger
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Unclips From Anchor, Falls to Death
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Counterweight Rappel Failure
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Back Cleaning Results in 150-foot Fall
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Dies When Rappels Off End of Rope
  • Mouse Attacks
  • Climbing Accident: Hold Breaks, 60-foot Fall
  • Climbing Accident: Avalanche Kills Six In Alps
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Autoblock Belay Failure Causes Fall
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Rappel Swing Goes Awry, Climber Injured and Rescued
  • Climbing Accident: Ice Climber Falls Entire Pitch, Dies
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Comes Unclipped, Falls 140 Feet at Red Rocks
  • Climbing Accident: Ice climber rides Vail's famous Fang 100 feet when the pillar collapses
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Two Bolt Hangers Break, Climber Falls
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Nose-hooked Carabiner Breaks, Causing Ground Fall
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Bowline Comes Untied, Climber Falls to Ground
  • Climbing Accident: Rope Burns Through Lowering Sling, Climber Falls to Ground
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Gear Rips, Leader Hits Ledge
  • Climbing Accident: 600-foot Ice Climbing Fall
  • Climbing Accident: Ice Climber Unropes, Slips, Falls 60 Feet
  • Climbing Accident: Ice Climber Dislodges Ice, Belayer Hit and Seriously Injured
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Belayer Drops Leader Due to Miscommunication
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Climber Rappels Off Rope, Dies
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Leader Rips 10 Pieces on El Cap, Falls 80 Feet
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Leader Falls, Gear Rips, Belay Fails
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Gear Pulls: Grounder at White Rock, New Mexico

    18-Aug-2014
    By

    Daniel Trugman on <em>Manic Crack</em> (5.11), scene of a recent accident where three cams zippered. Photo by Jason Halladay.Late in the afternoon on February 16, Kerr Adams started up Manic Crack  (5.11) at White Rock near Los Alamos, New Mexico. He climbed to about 30 feet, placing three of Black Diamond’s relatively new X4 cams. At this point, Adams “got off sequence,” visually checked the highest X4, and asked his belayer, Aspen Wilks, to take. As soon as he dropped onto the top cam, it pulled, as did the two cams below it. In an interview with Rock and Ice, Adams reported that he felt no resistance as the cams pulled out. 

    His feet clipped a small ledge on the way down and Adams landed flat on his back. He stood up immediately but couldn’t breathe. According to Adams, Wilks screamed at him to lie down. After a moment, he complied and she ran off to get help. Some of Adams’ friends were climbing nearby and they called 911. 

    Adams broke five vertebrae, T3 through T7. As of May 29, Adams was “sorta climbing” again, but his confidence has been badly shaken. He said he was having trouble trusting gear. “I just start freaking out,” he said.

    [ Analysis ]

    Perfectly placed cams made by reputable gear manufacturers don’t fail when plugged into solid rock. However, a number of factors can compromise placements—even those that start out as bombproof. In this case, Adams reported that he didn’t use slings, but clipped his rope to carabiners on the stems of the cams. He also confirmed that Manic Crack has a bulge down low that causes the belayer to stand back from the base, creating an angle in the rope as it tracks through the first piece. Finally, with only 30 feet of rope in the system, the short fall Adams took onto the top piece likely exerted a high force. 

    As Nick Rueff, the director of quality assurance at Black Diamond, explained in an e-mail to Adams, “Depending on how you had spaced each placement and how much rope your belayer had out, with an aggressive take you could easily have seen a fall factor of greater than 1.” (In tests conducted by Rock and Ice, a .5 fall factor generated 1,700 pounds of force. A fall factor of 1 would be roughly double that.) 

    This accident occurred because of a combination of factors. First, the top piece was probably less than ideal, possibly because it shifted when Adams had Wilks take. The high force exerted by the short fall with little rope out caused it to fail.  Because of the position of the belayer, the other gear also probably shifted, then pulled. This explanation is consistent with the damage seen on the cam lobes and trigger wires, according to Rueff.

    [ Prevention ]

    Cams are designed to be loaded in line with the stem. Therefore, use slings to help ensure that they don’t shift as you climb past, or when you fall. Sometimes, your belayer will be forced to stand away from the base of a climb. In these instances, place a low directional piece designed to take an outward/upward pull. This low piece should keep the rope in line so that the upper pieces will only receive a downward load in the case of a fall. Finally, beware of short, hard falls. Sometimes, it’s safer to take the plunge rather than have your belayer reel in slack and compound forces.

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