• Climbing Accident: Earthquake, Avalanche, 21 Dead on Everest, Over 4,600 in Nepal
  • 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
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Impaled by a Quickdraw
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Two Carabiners Break on Leaning Tower
  • 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
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Not Again: Eldo Climber Raps Off End Of Rope
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Flake Breaks, Leader Falls, Hits Belayer
  • Rock Climbing Accident: BUNGLED!: Autoblock Belay Device Misused
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Fatal Gym Accident
  • Rock Climbing Accident: Solo 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
  •  
    Video Spotlight
    Andy Houseman on Denali's Slovak Direct
    Andy Houseman on Denali's Slovak Direct

    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.

    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