UKC

/ Abseiling mistake

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harold walmsley - on 07 Jan 2019

I was abseiling yesterday to check out a slightly diagonal new route. About halfway down I placed a runner to hold the rope more in line. I was a bit too engrossed in checking the route and didn't notice that I had clipped the runner to the abseil rope between the autoblock and the abseil device. I carried on down. The abseil still seemed to be going smoothly but fortunately, after a few metres, I looked up and noticed that the rope was running oddly: from the top of the crag straight down to the ab device then back up to the runner and back down to the autoblock. As a result, if the runner had come out and my hands were focused too much on feeding the rope through the autoblock, I could have lost control of the abseil device and fallen twice the height of the loop as it slid back down to the autoblock. This might have meant a groundfall. Worse, I knew that the cliff was less than a rope length high and had not tied a knot in the end of the rope. When I looked down, the extra loop had already caused the end of the rope to be lifted some way up from the ground. If I had not noticed the error I could have abseiled off the end. Fortunately the runner was perfect and, having noticed the mistake, it was easy to go back up and sort things out.

It was a salutary lesson that however much you do it you should not be complacent about abseiling. I was too focused on the route. It was an unusual situation in that having an autoblock introduced a danger.

Post edited at 21:08
Michael Gordon - on 08 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

Not heard of this happening before, thanks for mentioning it. I tend to ab in as normal using belay device and prussik, then switch to the shunt at the point I want to start climbing. Can't envisage this happening with that method.

Andy Hemsted - on 08 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

Thanks for the warning, and good luck with the route.

I've never heard of this happening before, but that's probably because it's quite unusual to place gear while abseiling. However, I've had to do this several times when I've wanted to shunt a route that's not vertical ... most memorably at the Blue Grotto on Malta. Such a mistake there could have landed me in the sea, or on top of a boatful of tourists...

BrendanO - on 08 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

Glad you spotted it. Extra points (51 likes so far!) for admitting it on UKC and exposing yourself to the "the mercy of the mob".

mark hounslea - on 08 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

Good post H. Complacency needs guarding against!

harold walmsley - on 08 Jan 2019
In reply to BrendanO:

So far everyone has been remarkably kind. I did enough swearing at myself when it happened though!

Pekkie - on 08 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley: Good post, Harold. 63 likes and no dislikes must be a UKC record! Shame Sloper was banned - he'd have disliked it.

 

Misha - on 08 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

Did you have the belay device on a short sling off the belay loop or on the belay loop itself? I assume it was on a sling as otherwise there would be little space between the belay device and the prusik to clip the gear. I’m not saying one way is better than the other (both have pros and cons), just wondering. 

John Stainforth - on 09 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

Glad you have learnt from your mistake. Abseiling mistakes can be very costly!

nikoid - on 09 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

How intriguing! I'm struggling to visualize this, I can't get beyond thinking something would have jammed up preventing you continuing on down. What was the nature and position of the back up device? Eg shunt above abseil device or prussik on leg loop below? I'm thinking it's more likely the back up was above the abseil device but Iike I say I can't work it out at the moment.

harold walmsley - on 09 Jan 2019
In reply to Misha and nikoid:

Abseil device (small DMM Mantis) was above the autoblock (shunt) with a gap. I clipped the runner to the rope in the gap.

Andy Johnson on 09 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

> Abseil device (small DMM Mantis) was above the autoblock (shunt) with a gap. I clipped the runner to the rope in the gap.

So the mantis was extended on a sling and the shunt was on you belay (or leg?) loop? If so I can see how it could happen.

Glad you're ok and thanks for posting this as a warning.

Post edited at 12:39
Luke90 on 09 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

So was one hand holding the abseil device locked off while the other hand paid slack through the backup? Or was the rope running upwards out of the device and effectively putting the full load on the backup? (Because the device wouldn't be locked off if the rope was coming upwards out of it. Depends on which side of the gear your two hands each were.)

Offwidth - on 09 Jan 2019
In reply to Pekkie:

I should imagine knowing him that he would regard dislikes as a cheap shit and watered down beer given he was a connoisseur who preferred well-aged, classic,  single-malt style, crafted insults. I'm glad he's stopped being a professional troll though...can't be good for anyone. He got the most negative karma on t'other channel as well.

Thanks for sharing Harold... it's new to me as well.

Post edited at 14:46
Inhambane - on 09 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

How did you get back up ? 

harold walmsley - on 09 Jan 2019
In reply to Luke90:

I can't remember where my hands were but I don't think I could have been locking off the abseil device independently of the shunt: I think I must have been controlling the descent entirely with the feed through the shunt. The reason for thinking this is that to lock off the Mantis independently of the shunt after passing the runner I would have had to have one hand between the Mantis and the runner. I couldn't have done this or I would have felt that part of the rope running upwards as soon as I passed the runner. One hand must clearly have been controlling the feed through the shunt. The other must have been either just above the shunt on the rope to the runner or just above the Mantis on the rope to the top. 

harold walmsley - on 09 Jan 2019
In reply to Inhambane:

Used rock footholds and pulled slack through the runner (some mechanical advantage with the Mantis acting like a sticky pulley) to raise myself a move and secured progress by pulling the slack through the shunt during/after each move. Without the rock footholds I would have put a prussik below the shunt for a foot loop.

Luke90 on 09 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

So as well as the perils of rope length and gear popping, you were effectively abseiling on a shunt. I've never tried it but I'm told that's pretty death-y. Guess the friction from the two direction changes was helping almost like a belay device.

harold walmsley - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to Luke90:

> So as well as the perils of rope length and gear popping, you were effectively abseiling on a shunt. I've never tried it but I'm told that's pretty death-y. Guess the friction from the two direction changes was helping almost like a belay device.

No, it was not a matter of the sharp release you get if trying to down with just a shunt. Just the slight pull or push on the shunt you need to keep it sliding down whilst holding the rope as when backing up a normal abseil.  The Mantis was still loaded and doing most, if not all,  of the braking. 

 

 

Post edited at 00:18
barry donovan - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

I can’t work it out - how about a diagram ?  

Michael Gordon - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to Luke90:

Could be wrong, but I thought abseiling was what shunts were originally designed for? They weren't meant to be solo (as in on your own) climbing devices, it was just a happy thing that they turned out to be perfect for that!

payney1973 - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

Great to hear you're okay and you noticed the problem before anything bad happened.

My point I'm going to make has been covered before and I'm not trying to start a new thread but I think your scenario highlights why knotting the end of the rope is always a good idea, irrespective of rope length v crag height etc.

It literally takes seconds and could've given you a final safety net if you hadn't heave noticed your problem.

deepsoup - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> Could be wrong, but I thought abseiling was what shunts were originally designed for?

They were but as a back up for a belay plate or a figure-8, like a mechanical prusik.  Trying to abseil on a shunt on its own is indeed a bit death-y.

 

Luke90 on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

> The Mantis was still loaded and doing most, if not all,  of the braking.

If I'm picturing the situation correctly, I don't understand how it could have been. Surely the dead rope was going close to vertically upwards out of the device?

I think it must have been friction at the two 180 degree angle changes that acted in place of the belay device.

Snyggapa - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to Luke90:

I am guessing (simplified)

Intended setup:

http://i64.tinypic.com/25hzh43.jpg

Actual setup:

http://i65.tinypic.com/2j0atqv.jpg

Where the actual setup was eating the dead rope twice as fast as he was descending. With no knot in the end, a nasty outcome was narrowly avoided...

--edit-- don't know if those tinypic links are working or not, if anyone has a better solution I'm all ears...

Post edited at 12:50
Luke90 on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to Snyggapa:

The second link works for me but not the first. The second seems to be what I was picturing, with both ropes coming out of the belay device almost vertical and parallel. I can't see how the belay device would be contributing much in that configuration.

John Stainforth - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

Congrats on your fantastic "like" score and no "dislikes"!

dunc56 - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to John Stainforth:

> Congrats on your fantastic "like" score and no "dislikes"!

Is it a record ?

SteveSBlake - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

All this means is that there are 101 ways of killing yourself while abseiling..........

Steve

 

Rick Graham on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to SteveSBlake:

> All this means is that there are 101 ways of killing yourself while abseiling..........

> Steve

You may be right but I thought at least 102 ways, there is always at least one way nobody has managed to find yet.

elsewhere on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to Snyggapa:

Excellent pictures, looking at the first I thought "not a major problem" looking at the second I thought "oh cr#p, huge problem".

The tinypic links worked consistently when right clicking to open in incognito/private/pron mode.

Michael Gordon - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to deepsoup:

> They were but as a back up for a belay plate or a figure-8, like a mechanical prusik.  Trying to abseil on a shunt on its own is indeed a bit death-y.

OK thanks

Michael Gordon - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to Snyggapa:

> Actual setup:

Thankfully it sounds as though he wasn't quite THAT close to the end of the rope!

barry donovan - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

Blimey no expense spared on the diagram !  Last time I saw one  like that it was in a cave of stone age hunters chucking spears at a buffalo - put a go pro on your list for Santa in 2019   

harold walmsley - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to deepsoup:

>Trying to abseil on a shunt on its own is indeed a bit death-y.

But is not what I was doing!

 

Post edited at 20:18
harold walmsley - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to Snyggapa:

> --edit-- don't know if those tinypic links are working or not, if anyone has a better solution I'm all ears...

The second one worked for me. It correctly shows the situation

deepsoup - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to harold walmsley:

> But is not what I was doing!

No, I see that. I was just answering Michael's question.

harold walmsley - on 10 Jan 2019
In reply to Luke90:

> I think it must have been friction at the two 180 degree angle changes that acted in place of the belay device.

The 3:1 mechanical advantage of the accidental pulley system will have helped as well. It honestly felt just like a normal ab despite the bad angle of the rope at the Mantis (I didn't even notice that the rope was going through the shunt three times faster than through the Mantis).

Offwidth - on 11 Jan 2019
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Shunts are not abseil devices and are being used against the recommendation of the manufacturers  as solo devices. Petzl have explicit warnings on that use (see below). They are usable for that by people that understand the limitations and risks. I'd advise having a back-up for a shunt for anyone unsure of these (some climbers ape others without fully understanding the devices)

https://www.petzl.com/GB/en/Sport/FAQ/can-i-use-the-shunt-to-self-belay

https://www.petzl.com/GB/en/Sport/General-principles-for-solo-climbing-with-a-fixed-belay-rope?sfdcIFrameOrigin=null

 

Post edited at 10:46
Michael Gordon - on 11 Jan 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> Shunts... are being used against the recommendation of the manufacturers  as solo devices. Petzl have explicit warnings on that use (see below). They are usable for that by people that understand the limitations and risks. I'd advise having a back-up for a shunt for anyone unsure of these (some climbers ape others without fully understanding the devices)

Thanks. No system is infallible. The trouble is, as I understand it, if one takes safety recommendations to their limit it starts to get difficult to actually do the thing you want to do. For instance, two different devices on two separate ropes (the only way of doing it really) on two different anchors so the two systems don't come into contact with one another, is presumably going to often make it harder to move freely while climbing?

Offwidth - on 12 Jan 2019
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Part of the advice is both devices need to move pretty equally freely, so yes it can get complicated.


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