/ Abseiling death in Costa Blanca

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Tom Phillips - on 05 Mar 2013
http://desnivel.com/escalada-roca/un-fallecido-y-una-herida-grave-en-un-accidente-de-escalada-en-red...

describes a recent accident at Redovan where it appears two people were abseiling on the same rope (both ends simultaneously) which has obvious consequences when you get it wrong. The report describes a similar fatality on the same crag a few months earlier. A time saving technique to be avoided!
I like climbing - on 05 Mar 2013
In reply to Tom Phillips:
How sad. I just got back from climbing near there.
Caralynh - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Tom Phillips:

Just read the whole article. A far cry from here, where to discuss mistakes and describe actions as careless stupidity in the same article that informs of the accident would be seen as overstepping the mark.
lowersharpnose - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Tom Phillips:

I get a comical translation fron Google:

According to other witnesses who shared roped climbing day on the same wall, the two decided to retire injured in the third meeting of its track and no longer continue with the four that were missing to complete the 230 meters to the top. While the other two cordate who interbred with them continued to climb...

Anyway, poor sods.
Dave Garnett - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Tom Phillips:

For non-Spanish speakers could you briefly summarise what went wrong? Seems a bit weird if there have been two similar incidents within a couple of months. Was this a failure of the anchor? Abbing off the end of the rope?
nniff - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Dave Garnett:

I don't know what happened here, but several of the possible scenarios have ended badly in the past. The historic errors have included a failure to get the middle point right so that one party abs of the end and thus the other falls too. The easier error to make is one party clips into the belay before the other (not unusual) and then releases their grip on their end of the rope(habitual) and the other falls. That happened in the Verdon Gorge a little while ago.

Both can be solved by not abbing together or tying knots in the end of the rope. Linking both parties with a sling gives some security and a prusik makes some provsion against releasing the end of the rope at an inopportune moment.

This technique also increases the risk associated with loss of control during an abseil, in that once a rope is released by one party it accelerates as the second party also starts to fall, pulling the rope with them and decreasing the ability of the first party to regain control.


Very sad that it has happened again.

I have a deep-seated aversion to it and have yet to reconcile a few minutes saved with the additional risk.
Caralynh - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Article says he didn't tie a knot in the end of the rope, abbed off the end and fell 20m which left his partner in free fall too.
Dave Garnett - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to nniff:
> (In reply to Dave Garnett)
>
>
> Both can be solved by not abbing together or tying knots in the end of the rope. Linking both parties with a sling gives some security and a prusik makes some provsion against releasing the end of the rope at an inopportune moment.

Or simply by tying the ends of the rope together


>
> I have a deep-seated aversion to it and have yet to reconcile a few minutes saved with the additional risk.

Not something to be routinely used, but very useful sometimes if you have a lot of pitches to get down in a hurry.
Dave Garnett - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Caralynh:
> (In reply to Dave Garnett)
>
> Article says he didn't tie a knot in the end of the rope, abbed off the end and fell 20m which left his partner in free fall too.

OK, thanks. That would do it, certainly.
bullybones - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Dave Garnett:
> Not something to be routinely used, but very useful sometimes if you have a lot of pitches to get down in a hurry.

More haste, more speed - just not on the rope. It's a daft method (that I thought only Aussies used), and not any quicker - going one at a time, first one down can untie one knot and get the pulling end through the anchor while next-one-down is abbing (ahem, roping down in the preferred Anglo Saxon). Safe as long as the rope is held firm.

Plus, while simulrapping, if either individual has an accident (stonefall, loss of conscioussness, etc) the other guy is in a relatively undesirable situation, dangling in space rather than anchored.

GrahamD - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Caralynh:

> Article says he didn't tie a knot in the end of the rope, abbed off the end and fell 20m which left his partner in free fall too.

So the problem wasn't the lack of a knot, it was the fact that the rope ended 20m short.
David Coley - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to bullybones:
> (In reply to Dave Garnett)
> [...]
>
> More haste, more speed - just not on the rope. It's a daft method
>
> Plus, while simulrapping, if either individual has an accident (stonefall, loss of conscioussness, etc) the other guy is in a relatively undesirable situation, dangling in space rather than anchored.

Firstly, sad news for all those involved.

I'm not sure it is always daft. There are many places where it is a good approach to take, and potentially safer. If the other guy gets hit on the head it isn't going to be simple, but it might be better than if you were at either of the anchors and he was hit mid rap. It can also be comforting for someone to have their partner next to them. Knots in the end of the ropes and prusik backups are the key, but then, they always are.

My experience is that it is no faster.

Toerag - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Tom Phillips: Simultaneous abseils are needed to descend from some of the sea stacks here. They're fine when each abseiler can see the other, but there is normally quite a bit of friction at the top so it's probably difficult to tell when the other person is down if you can't see or hear them.
Messners Yeti on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Toerag:
Why is it necessary?

This is an honest question. I'm trying to work out how it changes anything other than potentially the time taken. Both climbers still end up about 50m lower on the face than they were at the start of the abseil, there's still a knot at the top and the ropes still need to be pulled through don't they?

Pete
Tom Phillips - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Messners Yeti:
> (In reply to Toerag)
> Why is it necessary?
>
> This is an honest question. I'm trying to work out how it changes anything other than potentially the time taken. Both climbers still end up about 50m lower on the face than they were at the start of the abseil, there's still a knot at the top and the ropes still need to be pulled through don't they?
>
> Pete


In this case it was probably a single rope (sports climbing) so no knot at the top, so rope would pull through either way.
bullybones - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Toerag:
...as opposed to the near-total lack of friction through a bolt anchor. So, maybe OK on stacks and pinnacles; but on a bolt anchor:

...when one person de-weights their rope, the other jolts downwards.
...the rope can slide through the anchor towards the heaviest guy (can be quite alarming when it's steep), potentially complicating access to the next anchor.
...on diagonal abs, you can knock each other off the rock.
Mark Kemball - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Toerag: I have never understood the reasoning behind the"see-saw" abseil. To me the solution is for the leader to lower the second down, then ab off the opposite side of the stack using the second (still tied into the rope) as a counterweight / anchor. This seems much less risky.
Trangia - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Tom Phillips:

Yes sad, but why the need for two peple to abseil simultaneously?

Abseiling has enough inherrent risks attached to it without complicating the situation needlessly.
Messners Yeti on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Tom Phillips:
From the other replies, is it that on a sea stack you would each ab down opposite sides so as to not overload the stack? Surely then after the first ab you're stuck? Even if you could each get enough rope to ab again you'd end up building ab points all the way down on both sides? Also if the stack is so weak as to potentially fall because 80kg is slowing being lowered down it then wouldn't it definitely have toppled if the leader had fallen whilst climbing?

Still haven't worked out scenario where I ever need to simul ab...

Pete
Mr Lopez - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to GrahamD:
> (In reply to Caralynh)
>
> [...]
>
> So the problem wasn't the lack of a knot, it was the fact that the rope ended 20m short.

Multi-pitch route... The guy abseiled off the end of the rope on the second pitch.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Jonny2vests - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Messners Yeti:
> (In reply to Tom Phillips)
> From the other replies, is it that on a sea stack you would each ab down opposite sides so as to not overload the stack? Surely then after the first ab you're stuck? Even if you could each get enough rope to ab again you'd end up building ab points all the way down on both sides? Also if the stack is so weak as to potentially fall because 80kg is slowing being lowered down it then wouldn't it definitely have toppled if the leader had fallen whilst climbing?
>
> Still haven't worked out scenario where I ever need to simul ab...
>
> Pete

Imagine a pinnacle with no anchors at the top. You throw a rope down each side and as long as the rope reaches somewhere sensible for all concerned, then you can simul, or lower one / ab the other or ab one at a time but counterbalancing each other. That's the only time I've done it -because there were literally no other options.
Dave Garnett - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Messners Yeti:
> Still haven't worked out scenario where I ever need to simul ab...
>

All I can say is that I've done where we've needed to get down 10+ pitches of slabs in a storm. Ab together, clip the next chains, untie the knot at the bottom, pull (correct) rope down behind the chains, clip back into one rope each (tie a quick overhanf then unclip from the chains, off you go...

It helps if it isn't vertical and the belays are uncomplicated and obviously sound. As I said, not something to do routinely or if you aren't completely sure you know what you are doing. You do need confidence in your partner and I wouldn't do it where stonefall was an issue. It is useful if the alternative is drowning or being struck by lightning and, in my experience, it is quicker other things being equal.
GrahamD - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Mr Lopez:

So the problem was the rope didn't reach the next anchor or that the guy abseiled past the anchor. The knot might have saved them but the lack of knot is not the cause.
jcw on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Tom Phillips: My impression is that this is a technique only really used in the States. Am I correct?
Oceanrower - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to jcw:
> (In reply to Tom Phillips) My impression is that this is a technique only really used in the States. Am I correct?

Obviously not. Unless they've moved Costa Blanca!
jcw on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Oceanrower: I could not see the names given. It might just be, if you think about it, that thy were Americans climbing on the Costa Blanca.
Mr Lopez - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to GrahamD:

"The lessons i learnt from this accident: by Dr Graham D

- If you abseil a 150m cliff, take with you a 300m rope"

Thanks, for that. The world is now a safer place
rgold - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to jcw:

Quite a few people in the States and Canada do use it; it is called "simulrapping" here. Our climbing websites are full of debates similar to the one here. A couple was recently killed in Canada simulrapping when one of them went off an end.

Knotting the ends of the ropes should eliminate the biggest danger, which is one person going off a rope end, but still, there are more things to go wrong and higher anchor loads, neither of which is a good thing.

I think it is at least a little faster, which can add up over multiple rappels. I've personally been smoked by simul-rappers on a long series of rappels in situations in which my partner and I were rapping very efficiently in the conventional way.

The rappelling devices used have to have enough friction for controlling single-strand descents, and the additional risks involved means that some kind of rappel backup is arguably more important than in the conventional case.

In bad conditions, there is something to be said for having the two party members together and able to communicate easily and unambiguously, rather than having one waiting up at the top in the dark in a gale wondering what is going on with the first person down.
biscuit - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Tom Phillips:

Sad news Tom. There was a similar incident in El Chorro not so long ago. A couple abbing off Amptrax. Not 100% what happened but the story goes he took himself off the rope when he touched down causing his girlfriend to fall to her death. Awful.

I am sure it has its place in climbing but as a technique that is not that common it seems to have a disparate amount of deaths associated with it.
teh_mark - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Tom Phillips:

I wonder how many deaths are due to it not being a commonly-used technique, with people forgetting, doing what they would at the end of any other abseil, and causing their partner to fall to their death? It strikes me that it'd need a LOT more attention to do safely than a normal abseil, just because you need to consciously remember to not do the automatic actions you'd do at the end of any normal abseil.
Andy Say - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to jcw:
Used in the Czech Republic for getting off sandstone towers for sure! Been there; done that.
David Coley - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to Mark Kemball:
> (In reply to Toerag) I have never understood the reasoning behind the"see-saw" abseil. To me the solution is for the leader to lower the second down, then ab off the opposite side of the stack using the second (still tied into the rope) as a counterweight / anchor. This seems much less risky.

Mark, I think the answer is that it is hard to safely lower when there is no anchor at to top. Of course this means that you just brought the second up on a non-existence anchor as well. For some reason this doesn't feel so bad! In addition lowering someone of a desert tower would cut a grove in the tower and trash the rope.
Jonny2vests - on 07 Mar 2013
In reply to David Coley:

Generally speaking, you're not going to lower people with no anchor at all unless you really can't help it - a la touching the void etc. And of course, the reason its not so bad bringing someone up with no anchor is because you don't have their weight unless they fall.

Mark's method involves lowering the second on the anchor you belayed them up on, dismantling the anchor, then abbing off the opposite side of the stack using them as a counterbalance - no more grooving or trashing of ropes than a standard simul ab. Personally, I'd rather simul ab in that situation, communication is probably going to be easier and you can 'synchronize'.
GrahamD - on 07 Mar 2013
In reply to Mr Lopez:
> (In reply to GrahamD)
>
> "The lessons i learnt from this accident: by Dr Graham D
>
> - If you abseil a 150m cliff, take with you a 300m rope"
>
> Thanks, for that. The world is now a safer place

Not if you think thats what I said, then no it isn't.

Maybe slightly off topic, but the whole point here is that the abseiler has to concentrate 100% on getting the fundamentals right and not get distracted by "rules" or "methods". Unfortunately, in this case (and other cases I have witnessed at supposedly safe venues - happily with less severe outcomes)the abseiler did not ensure the fundamentals were right. Concentrating on the absence of the stopper knot distracts from this basic fact.

David Coley - on 07 Mar 2013
In reply to jonny2vests:
> (In reply to David Coley)
>

>
> Mark's method involves lowering the second on the anchor you belayed them up on, dismantling the anchor, then abbing off the opposite side of the stack using them as a counterbalance - no more grooving or trashing of ropes than a standard simul ab.

On soft sandy rock it is the lowering of the second that might damage rock and rope as the top out is likely to be near horizontal and the belay some way back. With a lower the moving rope is weighted. With a simul-rap the weighted rope is not moving.

In many other situations the method mentioned by Mark would be better at a guess.
Andy Say - on 07 Mar 2013
In reply to GrahamD:
> (In reply to Caralynh)
>
> [...]
>
> So the problem wasn't the lack of a knot, it was the fact that the rope ended 20m short.

The fact that the rope ended 20m short was a recoverable problem (I've seen it happen once when someone missed the abseil anchors and finished up in space); the lack of a big chunky knot preventing someone going off the end of the rope converted the 'problem' into a 'disaster'.

GrahamD - on 07 Mar 2013
In reply to Andy Say:

> The fact that the rope ended 20m short was a recoverable problem (I've seen it happen once when someone missed the abseil anchors and finished up in space);

Possibly True - irrespective of the presence of the knot. If you are concentrating and watching what you are doing you don't abseil off a rope.

> the lack of a big chunky knot preventing someone going off the end of the rope converted the 'problem' into a 'disaster'.

But not having the knot is not the cause of the disaster. Relying on a stopper knot may be a recoverable situation (provided the weather is OK etc) but it certainly isn't a trivial situation once the knot has jammed hard on your belay plate.

Don't get me wrong - if there is any doubt the ropes aren't going where you need them to go put the knot in every time but don't inadvertantly slip into a mindset that says "I'm alright 'cos I have a stopper knot".
Jonny2vests - on 07 Mar 2013
In reply to David Coley:

Yes of course, any moving loaded rope situation can damage rock, especially with a poorly chosen stance. I was just clarifying what he said as you seemed to misunderstand it.

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