• Climber Dies in Fall From El Cap's East Ledges
  • Fatal Unroped Fall On Easy Terrain - Bear Creek Spire, California
  • Simul-Rappel Goes Tragically Wrong - Reed’s Pinnacle, Yosemite
  • Dropped Haulbag Strikes Climber in Yosemite
  • Rappel Knot Fails, Climber Falls to Death on the Goat Wall
  • 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
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    Fifty-Footer Rips Three Screws


    On November 21, two climbers from Canmore, Alberta, made the long approach to Planter’s Valley, a canyon on the south side of Devil’s Gap in Canada’s Ghost River Wilderness Area. They started up the first pitch of the 330-foot Weathering Heights (WI 4). The leader, Simon, encountered extremely brittle ice and very cold conditions—minus-14 degrees—but managed to climb 100 feet and establish a belay consisting of a 20-cm and a 16-cm screw clipped to a self-equalizing sling. After belaying his partner to the screw station, Simon climbed six feet higher, placed a 16-cm screw and clipped it with a load-limiting draw, then placed a second 16-cm screw roughly six feet above that.

    He described what happened then in a post on gravsports-ice.com: “After placing the second screw, I was hit with an overwhelming, nauseating case of the barfies and took on the screw. I sat there for at least three to four minutes, warming my hands up, and chatting with my belayer. I was also assessing the ice for a possible Abalakov because the conditions were so cold that it was time to retreat. Next thing I knew, I was falling backwards through the air.” Both screws pulled, then the 16-cm belay screw also ripped. Simon stopped about 30 feet below the belay. “We were climbing on two 8-mm ropes, and one rope was shredded down to the core, three core strands of six cut.” The other rope was undamaged.

    Despite a long fall by the leader that pulled out all the screws but one, both men escaped with minor injuries. Simon gashed his elbow and required stitches. It was later surmised that the rope was cut during the fall by a sharp crampon point.

    “We were very lucky,” Simon wrote. “{I'm} going to sacrifice a goat to the climbing gods soon.”


    Seven days later, Calgary climbers Grant and Ryan hiked into Weathering Heights to climb the route, retrieve gear and provide photos and analysis of the accident. Once again the ice was brittle. The temperature hovered around minus-10 degrees. In his subsequent post to gravsports-ice.com Grant described “a shell over either older ice or chandelier, which seemed to be widespread.” He had trouble getting good screws at the belay and decided to incorporate V-threads, but had a hard time finding good ice for them. After he brought up Ryan, the two bailed and posted up the photos.
    Will Gadd, the administrator of the gravsports forum, looked at the pictures and commented: “That ice is classic ‘white’ ice that forms fast when the temperature really drops. This is the sort of ice that I’ve bounce-tested screws out of while on a rap. Usually when screws go in, the cores fall apart in almost rice-like bits rather than come out as ice. Even if the placements weren’t in shell ice, which it looks like they were, this ice is really, really weak, almost ‘snow ice’ but still quite hard to the touch.”


    Ice morphs and changes constantly. Dig and clear until you find solid, uniform base ice. Most people don't clear enough ice. As Gadd wrote toward the end of the Weathering Heights thread: “If a screw isn’t in good, well-supported ice, tip to hanger, then it’s not a good screw.”

    Other tips for placing good screws:

    Place screws waist high so you don't have to reach up and get pumped.

    If you feel like you need a screw, place one. Don't keep running it out!

    Note any sudden change in resistance as the screw goes in. A placement that gets noticeably easier to twist has hit an air pocket or bad ice. Consider it suspect.

    Check the ice core. Is it solid?

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