UKC

/ Sad el cap news

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MJAngry on 03 Jun 2018
Tom V - on 03 Jun 2018
In reply to MJAngry:

Very sad news.

I've never really been a fan of speed climbing, though; I can see a difference between climbing fast to lessen objective dangers, which makes sense,  and climbing fast for speed's sake.

 

4
jon on 03 Jun 2018
In reply to Tom V:

There is some confusion about the cause of this accident. At first someone thought there were hit by a falling haul bag, now it seem it seems they fell but the reason isn't clear - gear pulled, running it out on easy ground? There have been a number of close shave recently starting with Quinn Brett's tragic fall in October that left her paralysed. Then Hans Florine fell and hit a ledge and smashed both ankle/heels on Pancake flake when gear popped. Apparently(?) Caldwell took a 100ft fall(!) during a training run on his and Honnold's record ascent. Now this. Inevitable given the risks? 

2
MJAngry on 03 Jun 2018
In reply to jon:

Regardless, the account of the incident is pretty is grim. 

Certainly sobering. 

Tom V - on 03 Jun 2018
In reply to jon:

Do you mean the risks of "normal" climbing or the type where people are attempting to establish a speed record?

I dread the day when there are queues at the foot of Christmas |Crack seeing who can solo it in the fastest time. Others will disagree .

8
eroica64 - on 03 Jun 2018
In reply to MJAngry:

Reporting or rubbernecking?

43
Tyler - on 04 Jun 2018
In reply to eroica64:

> Reporting or rubbernecking?

Semantics, people are interested so it doesn't matter what you choose to call it. 

Jarad on 04 Jun 2018
In reply to eroica64:

It's different when public figures pass away than those of us in the regular population. I would call this one a tribute.

1
Tom V - on 04 Jun 2018
In reply to Jarad:

Depends how you define a "public figure".

3
rgold - on 04 Jun 2018
In reply to eroica64:

> Reporting or rubbernecking?

When highly experienced climbers (masters of the big wall genre) have a fatal accident like this, they type of thing that shouldn't happen, it is utterly natural and highly appropriate that the climbing community takes notice and discusses.

And by the way, these guys were not "public figures," just extremely good climbers who weren't part of the instagram circuit at all and made their living at non-climbing jobs.

1
eroica64 - on 04 Jun 2018
In reply to rgold:

Hi rgold. Pushing my pointed stick in a little further - I see no difference between the discussions  in this topic and those about the fatality at the Exeter Climbing Wall, which were judged insensitive and shut down. I reckon the difference is about 6,000 miles, not the character, role and fame of the fatalities or the tenor of the postings. 

Let's hear from the Exeter fatality discussion critics; will they say this topic is insensitive and should be shut down?

5
jon on 04 Jun 2018
In reply to eroica64:

Have a look at the Supertopo thread on this accident, in particular the posts of rgold and Largo. http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/3093022/Death-on-El-Cap-Freeblast-this-morning

Post edited at 17:28
1
rgold - on 04 Jun 2018
In reply to eroica64:

> Hi rgold. Pushing my pointed stick in a little further - I see no difference between the discussions  in this topic and those about the fatality at the Exeter Climbing Wall, which were judged insensitive and shut down. I reckon the difference is about 6,000 miles, not the character, role and fame of the fatalities or the tenor of the postings.

My comment would apply, but with far less urgency, to the Exeter thread as well.  The main differences have nothing to do with the geographical separation. 

There are a handful of explanations for the gym accident; we already know them all and can at best rehash the list.  Certainly better to wait for at least some details. Meanwhile, I see nothing wrong with posting it as a news item.

The El Cap tragedy occurred to an extremely competent, extensively experienced party operating at a very high level but still well within the limits of their experience and ability, on ground that is very moderate for climbers at their level.  It seems to me to be imperative for anyone who climbs and who believes they can achieve a desired level of safety to at the very least reflect on what the recent spate of incidents means for climbing in general and for their own climbing practices and choices in particular. 

The idea that climbers wouldn't or shouldn't discuss this is absurd.  Of course one might hope for  sensitivity and empathy, and I presume egregious failures of civility would be moderated out of existence.  As for criticisms, justified or not, and assumptions, justified or not, these are part of an evolving conversation which will, at some point reach an end which might or might not be satisfactory.

There is a situation in which analyses of an accident's details is inappropriate, and that is when a dedicated memorial thread is established.  That is a place for memories and testimonials, not a dissection of how the tragedy unfolded and what might have been done to prevent it.

 

2
Tom V - on 04 Jun 2018
In reply to Tyler:

I think you are missing his point.

99ster - on 05 Jun 2018
eroica64 - on 05 Jun 2018
In reply to 99ster:

That is a horror show; an horrendous accident. 

 

Michael Hood - on 05 Jun 2018
In reply to eroica64:

The stark bluntness of that statement somehow highlights the tradegy. Awful.

Offwidth - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to rgold:

Eroica64 sees the accident police when I see climbers urging a little distance on things like the Exeter tragedy for the sake of the family and the business involved, and to ensure we discuss real facts rather than speculation. I've never seen anyone here sensibly argue for no discussion: so when accident victims volunteeered such information very soon after accidents we had some excellent threads, as we also did with the near miss thread recently. Climbers are not unwilling to discuss accidents, its a myth. Some climbers (including me) doubt the utility claimed by others of accident databases (I think they are useful but make little difference because the climbers who need to learn the lessons most don't and won't read them)

Climbing is all about games played in the face of known and sometimes large levels of risk. So I also worry that people need to have some familarirty with a game and the motives of those who play it before they attack it. Some context for these El Cap deaths and accidents,  in case people get carried away in a 'something must be done' mode. Sober reading:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deaths_on_eight-thousanders

3
MJAngry on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to 99ster:

Harrowing read.

Offwidth - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Michael Hood:

An eyewitness account.

https://www.climbing.com/news/eye-witnesses-recount-tragic-accident-on-el-caps-freeblast/

This was not a speed ascent, given a party of three. It was very able climbers moving fast and taking the standard risks that such climbers do on the easier pitches. One of the biggest messages from the John Dill analysis of deaths on el Cap is the neccesity of better climbers retaining focus and care on easier pitches but even then bad luck like a falling stone or a broken hold will still add hazards that any amount of concentration or risk management might fail to counter. 

https://www.friendsofyosar.org/climbing

Toerag - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

>  One of the biggest messages from the John Dill analysis of deaths on el Cap is the neccesity of better climbers retaining focus and care on easier pitches but even then bad luck like a falling stone or a broken hold will still add hazards that any amount of concentration or risk management might fail to counter. 

That's why I always teach people to keep placing gear on 'easy' ground, you never know when a hold's going to snap.

 

Southvillain - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

Thanks for that. A sobering read!

 

 

Bogwalloper - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Toerag:

> >

> That's why I always teach people to keep placing gear on 'easy' ground, you never know when a hold's going to snap.

Exactly! But if you want to do Salathé in a day you have to solo the 5:7 stuff because you don't have time to lace it up.
So, even though it wasn't a Nose in 2 hours attempt it was still a "speed" ascent whatever Offwidth says.

W
 

 

jon on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

> Eroica64 sees the accident police when I see climbers urging a little distance on things like the Exeter tragedy for the sake of the family and the business involved, and to ensure we discuss real facts rather than speculation.

I'm beginning to agree with you having just had a look at the supertopo thread which has now spiralled completely out of control and is now at the personal insult stage. Just about the most unpleasant thread I've ever seen - despite excellent contributions from people such as Largo and rgold. Must be said it would never have been allowed to get to that stage on UKC.

 

Post edited at 13:58
eroica64 - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to jon:

You're right to point this out. Thank you.

 

jon on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to eroica64:

Looks like the worst offender has been moderated out. About time, it had got really nasty.

rgold - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to jon:

> I'm beginning to agree with you having just had a look at the supertopo thread which has now spiralled completely out of control and is now at the personal insult stage. Just about the most unpleasant thread I've ever seen - despite excellent contributions from people such as Largo and rgold. Must be said it would never have been allowed to get to that stage on UKC.


Sadly, you are right about this, and it is always a potential danger of such discussions. The internet seems to bring out both the best and the worst in people.

Offwidth - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Toerag:

On El Cap though, as a high performance climber, taking hours extra as a result ? In some senses speed is a good thing on big walls as it reduces objective risk. Having taken 12 days from sweltering heat, through an intermediate storm and a big summit storm (with snow) and bits of rock and gear flying past from time to time (as we were under The Nose) I found the objective risks pretty obvious and rather spooky at times. Its very different from what you would do moving fast on a 5 pitch mountain route with a loose finish in the UK. I think the message I take from YOSAR analysis about El Cap is more about staying focussed on easier terrain,  than not moving together.

Post edited at 18:42
rgold - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

Let's not get too bogged town in semantics.  If you do the Salathe in a day, using the techniques required to break speed records---short fixing, simulclimbing, extremely limited protection on easier pitches, then it is neither unreasonable nor misleading to call it a speed ascent as a shorthand for both the techniques and philosophy of the endeavor. 

It is beyond argument that these techniques shave down the margin of error, in some cases to nothing.  True, the increased risk from the speeding up an ascent can be offset by reduced exposure to objective dangers, with a net positive result for safety.  Surely two or three days on a wall is going to be less exposed to weather and falling rock than ten days in the same locale.  But I think the speed is safety (along with light is right) approaches have been overhyped well past the benefits conferred in many situations, with a net negative result for safety, which then becomes part of the accepted risk.  The el cap climbers weren't trying to enhance their safety, they wanted to get up in under a day, were super experienced and competent at all the things they were doing, but died anyway.

I think it is a pointless and facile endeavor to criticize them for this or that choice, and I think a lot of such criticism is little more than an attempt by the criticizer to reassure themselves that they will not be subject to the same fate, thereby extracting what I see as an empty sense of superiority.  The el cap climbers knew exactly what they were doing and embraced the risks of doing it---except that no one who does such things ever thinks the odds will actually catch up with them. None of us do, if we are honest about it.  If an oracle proclaimed "you will die on the rock today," we'd opt for a bracing game of tiddlywinks and put off our climb for another day when the oracle is busy with other things.

So why discuss at all?  I think the main point is to deepen the understanding that we are not and can never be in total control.  Beyond that, "elite" techniques invariably seem to work their way down the "food chain," being increasing adopted by climbers who may not have the skills and experience but most importantly, may not fully recognize the increased risks they are signing on for.  Successfully avoiding the consequences of risk, over and over again, has a way of desensitizing us to whatever constitutes reality.  Discussions have the potential to perform a useful reset.

As the SuperTopo thread illustrates, there is no way to guarantee that the discussions will not be polluted with personal animus.  In discussing there are risks too, namely the breakdown of common decency, and unlike climbing, the worst-case scenarios aren't uncommon, even if they are frequently driven by just one or two people.  But even there I think the thread sprung back to life after a sad decline.

Offwidth - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to rgold:

I get what you say about speed but I still prefer to think of it as fast alpinism. The crucial difference with risk compared to a speed ascent (trying to go as fast as possible) is mistakes may be a lot more likely as you really push to shave time. On a fast ascent you can slow a bit more at times if required. You also don't take someone for a ride on a speed ascent. Others much more experienced than I made the same point on the supertopo thread...they said its common to simulclimb pretty fast on such pitches. If speed attempts are being singled out for criticism then the distinction is important. If not, how fast is fast as it will change a lot depending on skills, so really fast times for a slower party may be much more risky than slow times for a faster party with a faster overall  ascent time. We were at grey ledges when a leader on a NIAD was struggling on lead on the last section of 5.10a looking  moves to reach our belay, with a fairly  serious looking fall in prospect... you have to wonder how and why someone gets themselves into such a situation in such a serious place. Most NAID parties were much more fluent (there were quite a lot given the bad weather and forecast had seemingly cleared the normal slower queue). In contrast to the guy struggling, Brad and Jim passed our portaledges just after dawn under the Great Roof, on a practice run, and we watched them moving really fast with confidence, care and skill. We'd also heard the first big rockfall at night (debris below the Waterfall Route) that no-one seemed to talk about and that heralded the much bigger sequences a week later. Makes you think. Its a truely amazing place to climb but full of hazards.

Post edited at 23:07
Offwidth - on 07 Jun 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

Duncan on the same subject on t'other channel:

"It's too early to draw conclusions about the Freeblast accident since the details reported so far are unclear and, in some details, contradictory. 

What is known is the the two pitches below Mammoth ledge where it happened are mostly VS in difficulty with, perhaps, a move of UK5a.  Linking the two pitches with a little simul.-climbing is a very common practice and hardly constitutes “speed climbing”. That’s not assuming this is what they were actually doing.

The known uncertainties have hasn’t stopped many people, some of whom should know a lot better, from immediately making the link to the ultra-fast ascents of The Nose. In this respect, tomtom has some very exalted company. 

Whatever the final conclusions, it’s a desperately tragic accident to two people with young families."

 

 

 

paul mitchell - on 07 Jun 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

Educational.Either a gear failure or an attention failure.

Offwidth - on 07 Jun 2018
In reply to paul mitchell:

Or a rock failure, or hit by something or a combination of factors or something else. Let the YOSAR guys work on the cause, they are pretty good at it and produce excellent, if grim, informative reports. Lets think about them too, often the bodies they recover in horrible and sometimes risky circumstances are friends.

paul mitchell - on 09 Jun 2018
In reply to MJAngry:

As is often said on UKC,always place gear on easy ground.Holds do snap ,and gear does rip,placements can explode.


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