/ Your worst ever Abseil.
For me it was something on my first ever foreign climbing trip. We had gone off route descending from Bispen*, and was working my way down a choss covered ledge system.
It was getting dark, and safe ground was in sight but we had to do an ab to get to it. Unfortunately we couldn't see the ends of the (single 60m) rope due to an overhang. Best anchor available was a largish rock that was kind of stuck into a crack but moved alarmingly when prodded.
I don't mind saying I was bricking it all the way to terra firma and I haven't had a good word to say about abseiling since.
*How? By being a pair of numpties with far less mountain experience than we thought we had of course!
Alps, coming off the Nadelhorn when it was blowing a gale of doom.
A bit of 5mm tat over a tiny flake with the knot hammered into a small crack for confidence.
I downclimbed it essentially.
A few years ago my partner and I were forced to ab from the top of a route on Aonach Dubh, due to approaching darkness and an avalanche-prone descent. It was a nightmare: diagonal abseils, jammed ropes that eventually had to be abandoned, the lot! I certainly learned a great deal about retreating from winter climbs...
I don't like abseiling. Worst abseil is a difficult one to rate:
- Most traumatic was probably trying to get off the Dentelles in a howling gale with an inexperienced second, lots of snagged ropes!
- Most unpleasant, descending the Cromlech in some of the heaviest rain I've ever experienced on a mates completely worn out reverso, no prussik and slick ropes. Very little control till I managed to wrap the rope round my leg!
- Most painful was abbing off the bottom of a friends rope at St. Govans he had neglected to point out the middle mark wasn't in the middle and I didn't knot the ends!
- Most dangerous was retreating off a single skyhook in the alps, I needed a few stiff drinks after that one!
We climbed as a 3 at Montserat in Spain. We started a 3 pitch route at 3pm, reaching the top just as dusk arrive, with swirling mists pouring over the peak. We abbed to the first bolted anchor with no real problem, but as it was now pretty dark, the rock was conglomerate, with lots of blobby, different coloured rocks embedded in a cement, and the anchors were a couple of teeny bolts, we had real problems in spotting where our next ab should go to. There was no natural pro in the rock, but there was a lone, handy tree, sprouting out within 50 metres. We abbed down to it and all clung there, but as we had gone off at an angle, the rope was stuck!!! Oh no!!! Some swishing, flicking and tugging finally got the rope back down, but that was a long moment in my life!
We then managed to ab back to the track, which is actually high up in the mountain - we had taken the funicular railway up there and it was now closed, and the alternative was a long walk through dark woods...
So we climbed the fence and made our way down the 45 degree slope of the railway. Luckily, no monks spotted us. I was very glad to finally get back to the car!
We were only climbing on a single 60m 8.1mm iceline and which proved a mistake, given that the in-situ abseil stations were at 50metre intervals!
Motto of this tale - it IS possible to go TOO lightweight.
Probably a shonky abalakov, while half carrying someone with broken ankles in Canada in 99.
I had to pendulum to make a decent ledge.
I very oh so nearly used my trousers as a latrine.
> - Most dangerous was retreating off a single skyhook in the alps, I needed a few stiff drinks after that one!
Chapeau Sir! Braver than me :-)
Motto of this tale - it IS possible to go TOO lightweight.
Heathen. Go forth and readeth the message from the tome of "Extreme Alpinism" and spread the word of the prophet Twight! Light is right ;-)
Your worst ever Abseil
Down Grim Wall Direct at Tremadog last Aug bank holiday, the abuse I got was awful
Chapeau Sir! Braver than me :-)
No just more desperate! If I hadn't had the hook I'd have resorted to plan B... Jump. I was about 12m up a gearless corner that I had no hope of reversing. If the hook hadn't seemed ok-ish then I was going to jump and try to hit the snowdrift in the next corner. Lesson learnt, when in France give the guidebook to a French speaker :-)
> Your worst ever Abseil
> Down Grim Wall Direct at Tremadog last Aug bank holiday, the abuse I got was awful
Let me tell you about my idea to hang a portaledge from Scavenger...
Worst ever abseil didn't happen to my mate. We were at Swanage cliffs, so easiest was down to the sea ledges was by abseil. So we got a bit casual. My mate was so casual that he didn't notice that his abseil rope was not attached to the anchor. I did and stopped him just in time.
The only pleasure in abbing is relief in getting to the ground.
I put that down on the other thread because I figured if you like abseiling you would have liked it. For me I dislike abseiling so it's the same.
Abbing of the Spitzkoppe with a bunch of sport climbers and just one pair of half ropes:
Picture 4 of us at a hanging belay clipped in to just the one bolt below an ever so slightly diagonal abseil, with the knotted end of rope we needed to pull on to retrieve it for the next ab dangling just out of reach to the side of us after someone had let go of it...
Oh and all the while the sun melting the rubber of my rock shoes into my feet. Never like abseiling before that anyway and certainly not afterwards!
Mine was from about three quarters of the way up the Tournier Spur with an injured partner (knackered ankle and dislocated shoulder) from a bad fall and after a storm and two nights' uncomfortable bivouac. That was 14 hours of stress. Abandoned most of the rack. One abseil off a single less than pertfect rock 1 was particularly memorable.
Aguille du chardonnet, 1983, storm after doing the north spur.....abseiling blind at night over a bergschrund off a snow bollard....could it get worse? Er yes....my duvet hood got drawn into the fig 8.....whilst hanging in space over the schrund crevasse....
I was hanging....literally.....
Off Kilnsey Crag maybe 19 years ago......seemed quicker than walking round...somehow my rope jammed in my fig 8. I had to unclip and sort it out with one hand while hanging on like grim death with the other, 80 feet up. The things we do in reckless youth.....
Two anecdotes spring to mind:
1) Going down Hairy Gully at Polney, as you do, and discovering why it's a bad idea to have a prusik backup on your abseil, if the halfway marker on the rope is a piece of tape which sticks out from the rope <slaps forehead>
2) Following a guide and his party over Bidein Druim nan Ramh, I think it might well have been Mr Lates, who airily and no doubt correctly said "No need to leave tat for this next ab--just thread that boulder and pull through after you're down." He did and it worked for him. So I did and it stuck for me. So I had to climb back up to free the rope. So I had to downclimb what I'd just abbed anyway. Might have been quicker to downclimb it first time <slaps forehead again>
I abbed off craig pant ifan a while back only to realise my two ropes were fifties not seventies.
Off a half-driven blade peg in the Pyrenees in a blizzard. At least the peg was in a horizontal crack, but it bent and flexed as though it wasn't meant to be there. Apparently there were bolts around somewhere, but there was so much snow they could have been anywhere.
A mate & I both ended up free-hanging off the same ancient 'coin de bois' (wooden wedge hammered into a crack) after we found ourselves short in the middle of a series of abseils off the Gd. Charmoz
On a different tack: My mate Jim, abseiling into Lancaster pot in Yorkshire, 150' free-hang, he realised about 1/3rd of the way down his descender was still on his gear loop & not on his harnesses attachment point!
Thankfully she was still conscious and I lowered her a bit to a small ledge where she managed to fiddle in a dodgy wire to secure herself to. Two sketchy diagonal abseils on "interesting" gear got me to her position. No first aid to do as such, just an incredibly swollen foot, tears, apologies and being asked whether I was ok. Four long accompanied abseils in the dark, going slowly over the awkward slabby ground, small roofs and overlaps to try and protect her foot. Abseiling into unknown ground was unnerving but pulling the ropes was the scariest part. The constant worry of the ropes getting jammed or hooked up on the abundant Cactus/Euphorbias or worse; pulling them or loose rock down on us. All the while being told by my partner that I was doing really well.
Luckily the pulls were fairly clean till the last one, which after some persuasion finally came down after a concerted effort. When coiling the rope I had a nasty reaction, my eyes, lips and throat were all burning and breathing became very difficult, for a few minutes I couldn't see. I think this was brought on from the ropes getting covered in the poisonous sap from the Euphorbias when it pulled through some of them when it was hung up. My partner was quite concerned as apparently I was starting to look like Will Smith in Hitch.
One more shorter abseil got us to the base of the cliff about 2 hrs after the accident had happened. Only 3 hrs of bum scooting, crawling and hopping over scree and rough ground, 2 hrs of very slow dirt track driving (covering about 5km), 30 mins driving to our accommodation, 2 hrs driving to Agadir to get to a clinic, 3 days of f*cking around with the doctors/insurers (who only ever prescribed her Paracetamol for the pain), 2 flights back to the uk, 8 days of understaffed NHS inertia and she's finally had an operation done today to mend it.
> On a different tack: My mate Jim, abseiling into Lancaster pot in Yorkshire, 150' free-hang, he realised about 1/3rd of the way down his descender was still on his gear loop & not on his harnesses attachment point!
I've done that too - the gear loop was one of those plastic ones on an old troll harness. I had adrenaline coming out of my ears. I also suddenlt got strong enough to do a one arm lock-off.
Welcome back - seems the least I can offer !
Oh, and sounds like you "did really well" ;o)
They're all terrible, hate all abseils equally. May it always be thus, keeps me on my toes.
700m up. Triple-sized rack on harness. Full day-sack. Huge heavy haul bag hanging from gear loop. Single 9mm static rope. Specialist thin-rope belay device. Half way down 80m abseil ... rrriiiiiiip! Rope sheath severed by belay device - probably partly melted earlier. Now hanging from exposed core as sheath rucks up against belay device.
Stay calm. Reach over to crack. Place gear. Place more gear. Shout for replacement rope - thankfully I wasn't going down last and more rope was available.
Abbing down off a route in Yosemite. Got parted from the designated abseil line (which was a bit wayward and in any case difficult to find), ended up one pitch from the bottom realising that it was either climb back up or abseil into the river.
We got wet.
No great danger involved. It sticks in the mind because it was one of my first, and one of the worst in some ways. I was learning how to abseil. We decided it would be good to try a free abseil, so did it off the Leaning Block on Higgar. I didn't have a figure of eight back then so it was a classic abseil of a kind via a Krab on a Whillans Harness. But it didn't fit very well (too big) so the Krab was pulled up towards my neck as I descended. Half way down I fiddled with it, but didn't notice that as I was doing so my hair was getting drawn into and wedged between the Krab and the rope (I had more hair back then). Initial attempts to free it only made it worse. Eventually a one arm lock off on the rope above me and a painful jerk of the head sorted it out.
Most bonkers? Abbing down Luna Bong in the Verdon in an improvised harness made of slings and (I think, though I shudder to remember) a karabiner break. I suspect we didn't tie knots at the end of the rope either, even though you're 1,500' above the deck and have to swing in 15', then catch your next anchor - a tree - with your foot...
I can't recall what excuse he made not to go and get the rope himself because of his continual heckling, "what are you complaining about it? doesn't look that hard / that big a lob"...
Bailing from Dolt Tower on The Nose - totally depressing after a year of planning knowing that you haven't got time to give it another go later in the week.
Looking down 1000ft knowing that it's a minimum of 6 x 150 raps to get you down.
Great thread Dave, I am very thankful I don't have anything to contribute!
My worst was an unintentional freefall abseil earlier this year: This was the result of giving a practical demonstration of why you should always back up your anchor and check it by sending your heavier climber down first...... As it turned out, the 100% bomber thread I abseiled off, was not as bomber as it looked! The resulting 30ft of freefall abseiling went better than expected: I Landed on my feet, crumpled, and rolled, so other than ruining my ankle go away pretty much unscathed from the actual fall. Unfortunately I then rolled straight off the edge at the foot of the crag, and down 40ft of 70° slope, the highlight of this fun jaunt was a 15ft fall onto my head!
Upon coming to rest just above the next big drop. I heard “Don’t move” to which I replied “ I can’t see out of either eye, I just suffered a major head injury, and I’m guessing I’m somewhere I don’t want to be. Why would I move?!”
Luckily my partner was quick on her feet, and had managed to grab the rope and get me on a waist belay and slow me down, and I’d decided to wear my helmet. The result was a shafted ankle, lots of Grit/Heather rash, a couple of minor head injuries. If I’d not got my lid on, it would have definitely have been a ride in the sky-taxi for me!
I made two choices that day:
-Both ab off properly, or just lower my partner, and then trust the anchor was OK
-Take my helmet and first aid kit, or not bother as it was a long walk in, and probably wouldn’t need them anyway.
Luckily one of them was the right choice.
The second was not actually an abseil, it was a prussik out of Cilan halfway through doing The Giant, we had to abseil off the lip of the overhang resulting in Keith (by far the stongest swimmer). Keith pulled me ashore with all the gear so I didn't get too wet and we set off to prussik up the escape rope left down Central Pillar, unfortunately we only had death on a stick prussiks otherwise known as Heibler Clamps or death on a stick
So my top heibler clamp came off the rope and I was hanging by my foot clamp, I managed to swing onto a nearby ledge and though I coukdn't communicate with Keith in the gale he started up as the rope went slack. He suffered mild shock as he saw me on the ledge and confessed to having the same problems with his clamps. We both finished the prussik on knots and slung the Heibler Clamps into the sea.
Worst was trying to abseil off a route in Jordan after discovering that there is less twilight closer to the equator, and it just goes from day to night.
After not being able to find the first ab point we put the rope round a tree and I started abbing down the cliff. Part way down I went over an overhang and was left hanging free from the cliff with my ropes disappearing off into the gloom. Made the wise decision to prussic back up and wait till dawn.
One cold night later (involving some uncomfortable spooning) we found the correct ab point, and despite a short delay caused by misjudging the length of the ropes, we got to the ground. Luckily our buddies were watching us from the ground and brought over a cup of tea just as we reached terra firma.
Best... tea... ever...
On a route called El Elephantito in La Pedriza. Whilst on route I was buzzed and dived at by Griffon Vultures (protective over a nest we had no idea was there). I was unhappy with the accepted abseil so left a sling a bit further back before abseiling to about 10m from the ground (on a single 60m). It didn't quite reach a ledge and was left with no other option than untie the knot, hold onto the bottom of the rope below the belay device, swing and catch the ledge with tiptoes, simultaneously undercling a hold (and stop rocking back) and slip free from the end of the rope. I quickly got some protection in and made a station for my oblivious partner before we made the final abseil.
Abseiling off after doing Bircheff/Willams in Yosemite. Even before the 1st ab it was absolutely PITCH black - everything had to be done by feel. It got dark around 6:30 and it was almost 11:00 when we reached the car. Epic!
> Great thread Dave, I am very thankful I don't have anything to contribute!
Those with nothing to contribute are probably still to experience their epic. I'm going to walk down from now on. And I'm not going back to the alps.
It was dark and the famous manmade landmark was there crying out for it. Setting up the ab, lucky protected with prussik. Slipped off the top and ended up getting caught by prussik. Lucky it was dark and nobody was about.
Cracking thread folks! I've got sweaty palms just reading.
And the charity abseilers wonder why climbers are not keen on abseiling!
My scariest (and most stupid, so I don't need any updates on that aspect thanks)- classic ab' off High Tor. I'd used every scrap of gear I had (Darius) and my second refused to follow. Classic ab down to the bolt ledge where I got to the crab with my sticht plate: very, very scary. That was more than 20 years ago and I have not spoken with or seen that second since.
A series of abalakovs on 4mm tat was pretty worrying.
Any ab' in the dark is a worry in my book.
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