• 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
  • My Helmet Saved My Life - Short Story Series
  • Man Survives Fifty-Foot Ground Fall
  • Bolt Breaks, Climber Falls to Death
  • Earthquake, Avalanche, 21 Dead on Everest, Over 4,600 in Nepal
  • 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
  • Climbing Accident: Rope Burns Through Lowering Sling, Climber Falls to Ground

    02-Feb-2010
    By

    When Cri Boratensky heard a “pop” as he lowered off the Rigid Designator, a classic Colorado ice climb, he assumed his rope had slipped over a small hump above, and thought nothing of it.

    When he felt the second pop, he thought the anchor, a tree on which slings had been wrapped, had pulled, and he looked up expecting to see it hurtling down the ice.

    Instead he only saw his rope, coiling “like a cobra,” falling through the air with him, over 70 feet to the ground.

    It was March 21, in the ice amphitheatre above Vail, and Boratensky, 31, instantly assumed he would not survive.

    Today he recalls experiencing “a vision” of his wife and year-old son off to his right side, like holograms. “They were still images and may have been recollections of actual photos,” he writes in an e-mail, “but their background consisted of rock scrolling upward at a blurring pace. I said, ‘I’m sorry,’ to them in my mind.” His friends say he never made a sound before hitting the ground.

    His rope had been threaded through two pieces of webbing, and as he lowered, the friction burned through them.

    Boratensky, who has been climbing since he was 15 doing ice routes in Valdez, Banff and Ouray, and peaks such Rainier, Shasta and Shuksan, realized his error in retrospect. After leading the pitch, he had threaded his rope through two loops of webbing on the tree “with the expectation that I would rap down, pull the rope through and my buddies would lead up as well.” Upon reaching the ground, he found that his partners, Charlotte and Oscar Fors, wanted to toprope rather than lead as he had expected. “I never thought about the fact that I hadn’t run the rope through biners.”

    As he puts it, “A momentary lapse of judgment is all it takes.”

    Both of his friends toproped the ice formation and lowered off. Boratensky then toproped it to finish the day.

    He had been lowered about 15 or so feet when both slings failed. He sustained nine fractured vertebrae, a collapsed lung, a broken nose, facial lacerations, two broken ribs, a broken sternum, a dislocated hip and two dislocated shoulders. Fortuitously, he had no head trauma (he wore a helmet). Rescuers from the fire department arrived in 30 to 40 minutes, followed by the Vail Mountain Rescue team, and evacuated him.

    Boratensky has generally recovered, though he will experience some lasting effects. He plans to attend the Ouray Ice Fest.

    He expresses enormous appreciation for his life and luck. “I think every day how much worse the situation would have been had the anchors failed while one of my friends was climbing.”

    ANALYSIS

    At its source, the accident was caused by the friction of rope against webbing, which will melt slings. Even the action of pulling a rope through slings once, as per the climber’s original plan, weakens them for subsequent use. In this case, belaying and lowering three climbers cut the webbing.

    PREVENTION

    Never run a climbing rope over slings. Ropes should only run over metal! Leave carabiners or quick links on the slings if necessary.

    If you choose to rap through slings, replace old tat with new slings. While rappelling with the ropes directly through slings is common on mountain and alpine routes where you may not have enough gear to leave carabiners, do so with extreme caution.

    For toprope anchors, always use redundant anchors, fresh slings and two opposed carabiners. In the same way that you check your partner’s knot, habitually check on anchors, even ones arranged by someone you trust.

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