Toby Whitley's photograph of his friend Dean Dorrell coming off Capitaine Courageux IV+ in the Fournel Valley, France won Photo of The Week three times at UKClimbing.com. This is the story behind the fall and includes the rest of the shots including an animated gif of the sequence.
We climbed Capitaine Courageux in mid February - I came off at exaxtly the same level, though I was climbing closer to the wall. I wasn't leading at the time, so I just swung into the hollow on the left. Tony was climbing after me, and made it as far as the top cave, before he too came off, after the ice broke off. Francois (who was leading) was going to set a belay at the cave, but the ice was fairly crap, so he continued up to the top.
Until my weeks climbing, I was very much in the leashed axes is best camp. However, after a week of wonderful ice, where my leashes just slowed me down, and my fairly stright axes were harder to place, I'm a complete comvert to leashes, curved axes.
By the way it was my first ever 'slip' on ice. The climb was great though, and my favouite of the week.
Dean has been climbing leashless for a few years now and we're probably all comfy on about 5+, 6 would be a challange but doable on a brave day.
Dean said his hands just go too tired and he couldn't hang on.
He gave a super demonstration of all the grip possibilities on a leashless axe in the moments before falling.
The new axes really did have very thin blades and I struggled to get them out afterwards. The last thing you need is to be hanging awkwardly trying to get an axe out on on steep new ice.
Anders had a mare a few years ago on a 5 when he used a new pair of gloves instead of mitts for the first time, que dropped gear and fumbled leashes (nothing new there).
I'm sure you'd get used to them and adjust your swing with time but on the first day you get caught out on a steep awkward bit with a stuck axe it only takes seconds to come undone.
I'm very lucky to have a few great climbing partners and am just as relieved not to have had one damaged!!
I think flash pump is exactly the right phrase. I felt pretty comfortable, then lost my feet a little, then all the weight was on my arms.
I have to say compared to the previous year when I we climbed the same route, my training had gone a lot better and I was feeling pretty strong. Like Toby says, we are all quite comfortable on 5/5+ and I have led 6, so it wasn't out of the ordinary to be on the route. However, we all know that routes can change from day to day, let alone year to year - and it felt bloody hard this time round!
I'd always wondered what it would be like to take a leader fall and for a screw to blow - now I know!
I guess I do have an ability to fall well - rugby must have taught me that, but I'm sure it's more luck. I learnt a lot that day - especially to keep your camera handy!
No not at all - think it would still have been dangling there now!
What I would change is to add a bit of tat to the head of the axe to be able to clip if a similar situation arose - a small rest off the axe (totally non-ethical of course) would have given me time to stick another screw in and hang off that. Better that than take a big fall like I did.
> What I would change is to add a bit of tat to the head of the axe to be able to clip if a similar situation arose - a small rest off the axe
Did you see the pics of Davie (I am the god...) in action in Scotland with his reactors: http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=231981&v=1#3410955 he's using the spring leash. I bought one really cheap last winter but never used it this year thinking I'd use it if I got up to Norway to do some big routes. At home when all the routes are 25 mtrs or less there didn't seem much need. Drop an axe and your mate can probably throw it back up to you! This logic remained in my head until I fell off... Then it seemed like a much better idea
In reply to Dean: I have successfully used the following trick to help when feeling pumped/nervous: I plant an axe very firmly, put the rope over it and call my belayer to hold tight. Then you can fiddle to get a better anchor with a quickdraw.
Andy K reports he has fallen onto his springy leashes 3 times without a problem. I haven't, but feel confident they would be fine if I was to do so.
Certain quarters seem to feel that lanyards such as these are cheating in some way. I disagree. They are long enough that you have to be physically well below the tools to get a rest on the leash. Until you ever resorted to this you are free climbing holding on to the handles. Modern wrist leashes are so supportive that to be honest, I feel they are more akin to aid than the springers. <cue a strom of protest>
If purity is a real issue folk should be climbing with neither springers nor trad leashes/ clippers IMO. Many folk do, but personally I am happy I am free climbing leashless- but without the worry about a dropped tool.
There are very slight tangle issues with the springers, but they are so easily remedied it is not a problem.
In reply to TobyA: I have been using spring leashes for years. Tried hanging on them but then you are too far away from your axes and you have to climb on the rope to get back to your axes! Not easy with big gloves and slinky thin ice rope. The leashes did take my weight but as a rest not a fall.
I like my daisy chain and fifi hook - step up a bit to clip the fifi strainght into the axe, or if lower, daisy chain into the axe, then fifi. I'm a coward, BTW. Do the same if not too happy placing a screw.
Hi Francoise - I have heard of the trick of putting the rope over an axe but I think that I'm always worried that the rope will get damaged near the sharp stuff and that when you are that pumped it takes a lot of effort to pick the rope up and reach up and get it over the axe. It could make it worse as you fall off with extra slack that would shock load the screws and lead to a longer fall - I managed to rip one screw and fall 12 or 13 meters as it was!
The spring leashes are good for not losing an axe but I've only ever done that once - this time falling off. I still the best thing would be a small bit of tat through the head or the bottom of the axe and a good cowstail on your harness. In trouble? Axe well planted? Reach down for the cowstail, clip, RELAX! Beats what I went through for 30 seconds. That feeling of knowing you're coming off is indescribable - especially as I knew what had happened to Toby falling off less than half that distance......
I have tried having something tied to the axe, but I found it was waving around when you wield the axe. Taking a fifi hook could be an idea. I might try it next week. Putting the rope over the axe, is not something I do often. Indeed it is not the most secure, but it is very fast, and I don't plant the axe very high (being a weakling).
The spring leashes are in my opinion very useful in mixed climbing situation when you alternate using your axe and your hand. I just let my axes drag behind me. 2 weeks ago I was in Cogne on a waterfall with lots of small columns and alternated getting my arm behind them and using my axe. That was a perfect use of the spring leashes.
THe fifi hook is the same principle as the bulldog. I used one when I lost it when climbing Louise Falls out of condition. On a well travelled route they are great - just hook into a previous pick hold and hang off it.
I did the rope over the axe head when I had my accident in La Grave and was struggling to remain conscious. Again it worked, but I am 5 feet 9 ounces and not the human Humvee like Dean.
I'll answer that one. We were climbing as a three so I was free to take photos as I pleased otherwise there may not have been a photo.
I'll add, what value a photo? To most it's a good picture of an incredible event. To Dean I hope it's priceless. How many good pictures of yourself do you have? I have very few, two of me cycling in races, none of me climbing. I love more but they are hard to get. (Maybe why taking photos is fun)