• 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
    Lifelist - Climbing Tasmania's Pillars
    Lifelist - Climbing Tasmania's Pillars
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: One Cam Away
    Weekend Whipper: One Cam Away
     



    Ropes Don't Break-They Cut: Tragedy on the Yellow Spur

    21-Dec-2012
    By

    Photo by <a href="http://www.serbophoto.com/" target="_blank">Celin Serbo</a>On the morning of June 22, 2010, Joseph Miller began leading the second pitch of the Yellow Spur (5.10a), one of the most popular routes on the Redgarden Wall in Eldorado Canyon near Boulder, Colorado. Miller’s belayer was anchored to a tree and paid out slack as Miller traversed to the base of a short dihedral, placing a nut and a .4 Camalot along the way. According to his belayer, Miller had some trouble with the tricky 5.8 moves leading into the dihedral and paused to wiggle in a marginal .5 Camalot. Shortly after placing the cam, Miller slipped. The .5 pulled and he plummeted past a small ledge. The rope pulled tight and the belayer witnessed Miller decelerate, as if the fall were being arrested. Under normal circumstances, the belayer should have been pulled sharply to the left but he later said in an interview conducted by the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group that he felt little force. The rope stretched and severed abruptly. Miller fell 80 feet to the ground and died.

    Analysis

    As climbers we take it for granted that ropes don’t break. That’s why this accident attracted the attention of the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group (RMRG), a volunteer, primary responder to all mountain-rescue emergencies in Boulder County. The RMRG performed a number of drop tests on the second pitch of the Yellow Spur using the same gear. After completing these tests and interviewing witnesses, the RMRG concluded that the rope-end carabiner of a two-foot runner on the .4 Camalot had pinched the rope against the rock. The RMRG then recreated the accident using a drop tower and a piece of flagstone that simulated the sharp edge over which Miller’s rope ran on the Yellow Spur. The RMRG measured fall forces generated on the belayer and climber sides of the protection and created falls that severed ropes. The damage at the rope ends, however, didn’t match the damage characteristics of Miller’s rope, which was abraded for roughly two inches with core strands pulled out. The damage characteristics suggested that the rope had sawed for a short distance across the edge. When the RMRG added the slight pendulum that would have occurred given Miller’s position relative to the protection, the rope severed under 800 pounds of force with 100 pounds of force exerted on the belayer, and the rope abraded for two inches before it cut. In short, it appears that when Miller fell his rope was pinched, tensioned and sawed along the sharp edge.

    Prevention

    The old tenet, “Ropes don’t break, they cut” holds true here. Climbers must take every precaution to ensure that their ropes don’t run across sharp edges. Use slings to extend your rope so that it runs without rubbing. Slings will reduce drag and help protect your lifeline in the event of a fall. Sometimes, however, rock features like ledges, aretes and roofs are impossible to negotiate without having the rope contact an edge. In these instances, it is important to place good gear that will minimize pendulums and therefore protect against sawing the rope along the edge. While ropes are super burly and constructed with sheaths that protect the core fibers, tensioned ropes are actually very easy to chop. On routes or in areas where ropes inevitably contact sharp edges, it is a good idea to climb with double ropes. Finally, if you feel that your rope is in danger of being cut if you fall, don’t press on without remedying the situation. Retreat might be the best option.

    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