No contamination on Skinner’s harness

An investigation of the climbing harness that failed and sent Lander, Wyo. climber Todd Skinner plunging to his death in Yosemite National Park last October found no signs of contamination that might have weakened the safety webbing.

The report by Yosemite ranger M. Faherty has been awaited by climbers worldwide who were stunned by the death of Skinner, a well-known pioneer, and the unusual failure of his safety gear. The Jackson Hole News and Guide obtained a copy of the report Friday through the Freedom of Information Act.

Climbers know that a critical part of the nylon webbing harness, a belay loop, broke and caused Skinner, 47, to fall 800 feet from the overhanging wall of Leaning Tower. At the time of his death, Skinner was descending the face after a day of climbing, sliding down a rope using a friction device linked to the belay loop.

Climbers also know that Skinner's harness was worn, that his climbing partner, James Hewitt, commented on its poor condition, and that Skinner agreed the harness needed replacing.

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20 Sep, 2007
No. There was some speculation that the harness may have been contaminated accidently, for example by storing it in the back of a truck or in the boot of a car. Further speculation: "Skinner’s partner reiterated in interviews with rangers that he observed the loop “had been about 20 percent worn through three days prior,” to the accident. Faherty wrote that he, too, “also observed that the harness was extremely frayed and worn where the belay loop should run through the ‘swami belt’ and the leg loops.” “The belay loop appeared worn near where it was torn,” Faherty wrote. “The actual torn section appeared frayed. I could see no fusing of Nylon fibers suggestive of a shock load...” Faherty also found a sling girth-hitched to the broken belay loop, which Hewitt believed had been in place for some time and prevented the belay loop from rotating and absorbing wear evenly. “Also broken was the keeper strap on the leg loops,” ranger Faherty wrote. Loss of the keeper strap would free the leg loops to saw against belay loop, often in the same spot, given Skinner’s harness set-up. Those observations support climber Will Gadd’s theory, published in a recent issue of Outside magazine, that the sawing leg loops contributed to the belay loop’s failure."
20 Sep, 2007
Exactly. They checked just to see if it had been contaminated. People often keep chemicals in the back of their cars: anti-freeze, oil, leaky old batteries etc They had to check if it had been exposed to chemicals that may have weakend the harness. That test came back negative, so they have a faily good idea what caused the harness failure - see above.
20 Sep, 2007
Petrol, Oil, Brake Fluid, Antifreeze, Window wash. Any one of these could potentially contain things that may damage nylon given long term exposure.
20 Sep, 2007
Not so true - my sleeping bag's stuff bag is coated in patches of oil from the other half's boot - fortunately the sleeping bag is not.
20 Sep, 2007
This incident and a conversation with a friend in the trade has prompted me to replace my 10-yr-old harness that now seems laughably tattered. All of a sudden I feel much more comfortable whilst abbing on sea cliffs....
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