This whipper might not be the single-most exciting video you’ve ever seen, but the story behind it is both fascinating and educational!
Hunter Lee and his partner went up to Acephale, a crag in the Bow Valley, Alberta, Canada, to hop on Endless Summer (5.13d), a line they were both projecting. It had had quickdraws on it for a while—they didn’t know who they belonged to or how long they had been there, but they seemed in good shape and they had climbed through them before.
Lee wrote in an email to Rock and Ice, “We both warmed up on the route going bolt to bolt for our first climbs and we both had 2 redpoint burns on the climb where we both fell at the crux”—onto the draw that failed in the video above and in the pictures below.
“Neither of us noticed anything wrong with any of the draws,” Lee continued. “After the last fall, I decided to try to run through the crux while still a bit pumped after hanging from the draw for a couple of minutes. I climbed through the first few moves well but then I found myself with an incorrect foot sequence and decided to let go. I felt the rope load the draw and then I heard a ting sound and saw a piece of metal flying away from the corner of my vision. I fell further, but luckily the draw that failed was extended and the previous draw wasn’t much lower. If I had fallen from a lunge move to a horn at the end of the crux sequence, I likely would have decked.
“The route has a bolt in the crux sequence that basically always gets skipped (I believe it used to get clipped before a hold broke) and people have been extending the previous draw to clip it from a more comfortable position.
“This extended draw is composed of two Edelrid Slash Quickdraws: one full draw plus another with just the dogbone and bent-gate, rope-side biner attached. The dogbones have 2014 on their labels. The bolt is placed on a clean part of the rock and the draw hangs in space.”
Lee did some research and asking around, and believes the carabiner’s failure may have been at least partially been the result of something called gate flutter.
Kolin Powick, Climbing Category Director at Black Diamond, posited a broader theory of what may happened based on the pictures. “By the way the carabiner broke,” he told Rock and Ice, “I believe the dogbone was NOT right next to the spine, but rather drifted out towards the nose of the carabiner. Where the break is located is a classic combo of open gate, AND ‘nose hook’—or, basically, NOT being loaded next to the spine.”
Read More about Nose Hook Failure Here
Despite the broken carabiner’s position connecting the two dog bones—and therefore not having the rope running directly through it—Powick said gate flutter could still be at play, as it’s about the tension in the system and oscillations UNDER LOADING.”
He finished, “My guess is that SOME gate flutter was involved, OR AT LEAST that the gate was slightly open FOR SOME REASON, and that the load wasn’t in alignment with the spine. If you have all of that, it doesn’t take much for an open gate failure when the load is cantilevered AWAY FROM THE SPINE ON THE BASKET OF THE BINER.”
Happy Friday and climb safe this weekend!