Carabiner snapped in a fall

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Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby lena_chita » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:58 am

This past Friday, I was climbing Mercy, the Huff. At the 8th bolt, which is, for those who have done the route, right at the lip of the little black rooflet, I made the long move to a crimp, attempted to make another move, and fell. The bolt-side carabiner on the draw had snapped in the fall, and I took a much longer and scarier ride than I was expecting.
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Luckily, with a good belayer, and being high up on the route with nothing but air to hit, I was not hurt, other than getting a really big scare.
We have taken some pictures and I think have re-created what happened pretty accurately.

This is how the draw was hanging on the bolt. You can’t see it very well in this picture, but the rock is overhanging enough so that the top biner is not touching the rock in any way. I do know that the draw was hanging straight and not snagged on the bolt, because I was shaking out on the jugs right below it for about a minute after I clipped it, so it was definitely not a desperate clip-and-go-without-noticing-that-the-draw-was-snagged scenario. Besides, it is a key-lock biner, the snagged nose usually happens with notched biners.
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These are the marks on the biner that suggest how the biner was positioned on the hanger when it snapped:
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Using these marks and a spare bolt hanger, we recreated the likely scenario—in these next three pictures:
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My best guess is that I had kicked/snagged the draw as I was making the next long move, because the move does take me directly in front of the draw, and I have to stay close to the wall when making the reach. And then, when I fell, the biner snapped, because it is not meant to be loaded this way.
I have heard of biners breaking in such fashion, and have been aware of the dangers of the biner being snagged/rotated/cross-loaded on the hanger. What really surprised me is how little force is needed to snap the draw this way. When I fell, the bolt was barely a foot below my tie-in knot. I was at the 8th bolt of an ~80ft route, so there was probably ~75 feet of rope out. With slack and soft catch (yes, it was a soft catch, belayer jumped) I would have expected to fall maybe 7-8 feet. The draw was newish, had only been climbed on a handful of times, and was not notched or burred. The rope—also newish, brand-new last fall, and only had maybe 12-14 days of climbing on it, because the owner lives in Florida. There were no falls or takes on the rope in the 3 days prior to this fall, so you can’t even say that the rope was stretched out from too many subsequent falls in a short period of time, and was thus less dynamic that optimal. I weigh 105 lb. Somebody else can try and calculate the forces, but in terms of climbing falls, this is as light as it gets.

What can be learned from this, and how this could have been prevented? Obviously, in general terms, you have to be very aware of the position of your quickdraw, and you should avoid kicking your draws when you climb past them. But in this particular case on this particular bolt and particular moves —I am not sure.

I went back to send this route on the next go, and even though I was obviously HYPER-aware of that draw, I STILL couldn’t avoid snagging and shifting it with my body as I made the move. I cannot stop and adjust the draw mid-move. The first time I can reach down to make an adjustment is after I reach the next jug. But in that case, if I had reached the next jug, there is no falling, and I can make another move and clip the next bolt, anyway.
I have been on this route before, have made the move before, and have fallen there before, without any incident. Considering that this is a redpoint crux of the route for many people, there have been probably 1000s of falls there, and as far as I know biners are not broken right-and-left in this spot, even though I am pretty sure a lot of people do the move the same way I do, and thus have the same potential of getting the draw snagged.
I am thinking that a trad draw might have been good in that spot, because even if I snagged/pulled the rope-side biner, the bolt-side biner would probably not have shifted. But who climbs Mercy with trad biners?  Having a short stainless chain to extend down, so the draw is clipped below the little roof might be helpful, as would be a permadraw, but this is at the Left Flank, no fixed gear, so it’s a moot point.

Opinions, suggestions, and analysis are welcome.

My partner who owned this draw contacted Petzl, but at this point there is no reason to think that this was a defective biner.

The general take-home message for me is to:
-double-check your draws, to make sure they are hanging properly and not snagged or twisted
-avoid kicking or shifting your draws as you climb past them
-look down and double-check that you haven’t kicked them
-be mindful of the fact that you really aren’t out of the “danger zone” when sport climbing until you are fairly high up
-avoid falling when you have only one draw clipped.  None of us have ever fallen on the first draw, right?
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Re: Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby dustonian » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:24 pm

Scary. Had the biner ever been dropped from height as far as you know?
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Re: Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby lena_chita » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:33 pm

dustonian wrote:Scary. Had the biner ever been dropped from height as far as you know?


Not as far as I know. These draws belong to my friends/partners, who are very experienced climbers and who take good care of their gear and are not in a habit of randomly dropping it from heights (you know them, they happen to own a cabin in the same place you do, I believe). The draws have been purchased about 1.5-2 years ago, but due to their current location and circumstances they do not do a lot of outside climbing, so the draws have seen only a handful of climbing days since they have been purchased.
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Re: Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby Cocoapuffs1000 » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:36 pm

It looks like it's too late, but if possible do not touch the broken surfaces back together - the manufacturer will want them undisturbed when they analize the break (I assume you will be sending it back to them)
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Re: Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby Brentucky » Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:02 pm

Glad you are okay. That is some crazy stuff. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby lena_chita » Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:41 pm

Cocoapuffs1000 wrote:It looks like it's too late, but if possible do not touch the broken surfaces back together - the manufacturer will want them undisturbed when they analize the break (I assume you will be sending it back to them)


Yes, too late for not touching, because the first impulse of everyone on the scene was to stick them together and make a variety of comments that very all a variation of the same basic concept, e.i. "HOLLY SHIT!!!!" And obviously, the broken-off piece went flying and fell into the dirt, too...

But yes, Petzl was contacted, and the draw owner will send it in, and do whatever else they ask.
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Re: Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby gravitycoach » Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:20 pm

Only one suggestion/comment - hang the draw with the gate facing away from your direction of intended travel. The moves past that bolt are up and right so the gate should be facing left. May or may not have had any impact on the outcome though. That's a bit freaky for sure! :shock:
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Re: Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby mike_doyle » Mon Apr 01, 2013 4:43 pm

gravitycoach wrote:Only one suggestion/comment - hang the draw with the gate facing away from your direction of intended travel. The moves past that bolt are up and right so the gate should be facing left. May or may not have had any impact on the outcome though. That's a bit freaky for sure! :shock:


Exactly. Most people know to hang the draw with the bent gate facing opposite the direction of travel (so the rope doesn't fall over the gate and open in the event of a fall) but when sport climbing and clipping bolts you also want the straight gate (bolt end) of the quickdraw to face opposite the direction of travel. That way, as you move, the bolt will stay in the top of the carabiner. Having the straight gate facing with the direction of travel can cause the bolt the get caught right where the gate attaches and crossload the biner, resulting in the break you experiences. I'm not positive that is what happened in your case but it's a good idea to have both gates facing the same direction, and opposite the direction of travel. Glad you're ok.
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Re: Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby dustonian » Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:01 pm

Interesting point, but from the description it sounds like the gate of the upper biner was facing right and she was moving left. Unfortunately there is no silver bullet when it comes to that small but omnipresent background risk when trusting your hide to a single piece of gear, especially the non-locking aluminum variety. Just glad she was high on the route!
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Re: Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby RachelEatsAvocados » Mon Apr 01, 2013 6:07 pm

I could be wrong, Dustin, but Im pretty sure she would have been moving up and RIGHT, if I remember the route correctly, just like Mike was describing. Either way... GREAT POST and writing Lena. I'm very glad to hear that everything turned out OK.
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Re: Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby lena_chita » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:09 pm

dustonian wrote:Interesting point, but from the description it sounds like the gate of the upper biner was facing right and she was moving left. Unfortunately there is no silver bullet when it comes to that small but omnipresent background risk when trusting your hide to a single piece of gear, especially the non-locking aluminum variety. Just glad she was high on the route!


The gate on the bolt side was indeed facing right. The draw on the ROPE end was facing left. I would have hung the draw with the bolt-side biner facing left, too, because my draws have both top and bottom biners oriented the same way, and because I prefer to have the biner spine to the bolt (it is a little less likely to unclip from the bolt in that position), but my friend hung it this way, her draws had the gates on top and bottom biners facing opposite-- exactly as shown in that picture. And I admit I was not concerned about it, because the biner on the bolt was not touching the rock, so I was not worried about it.

Also, the moves in that section are straight up, not left, not right. I make the move with the 8th draw being squarely in the center of my torso. You do go right after you clip the next draw (the 9th, which is the last one on the route), but the 8th and the 9th draws are straight in a vertical line, one above the other.

Here's a picture I didn't have earlier. Some people have misunderstood my description to mean that I thought that the nose of the 'biner got stuck between the hanger and the bolt. I do not think this is the case at all. There are no scratches on the side of the nose indicating that it was wedged against anything there. However, there are scratches on the outside of the top portion of the draw, which make me believe that, once the biner rotated to position that he markings on the inside suggest, it was caught/wedged against the rock.

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Petzl will be looking at the draw, and I am sure they are much better at deduction of this kind than I am.
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Re: Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby old_east_coaster » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:45 pm

Interesting...I'll add this to the fray.
In 1996 I was belaying a climber on Possom Lips, I had hung draws, they were leading.
Leader fell up high, hard to say exactly where, but somewhere up high.
The biner on the bolt end of the draw that caught the fall was pinned, in a different manner than described here on Mercy the Huff.
It was pinned in a way that the biner collapsed in on itself. It didn't break but it was very difficult to clean off of the bolt.
I was happy that the biner bent and did not break. Perhaps we were extremely lucky.

Anyway, that's just my experience, hoping to confirm that I have seen a biner get pinned between the bolt hanger and the bolt head, just in our case it had different results.
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Re: Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby rawhuman » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:54 pm

Freak accident, but I have a pal who did the same thing twice. The culprit: opposed biners on quickdraws!

Basically look at the trashed biner, there is a snag scar a few cm from the nose. The bolt likely snagged the biner here, its not a proper angle where its load-rated, so it probably broke when the fall weight hit.

When gates are opposed on quickdraws and when we climb away from the rope end gate (as well all learn along the way...), the bolt end turns and the gate and nose faces up, always. In this case, gravity, route direction, rock features, fall angle/force, Jupiter not aligned with your lucky star, etc, conspired against you. I didnt believe ever that this was an issue, I used to do it. Then I met a guy who explained this all to me after he broke two draws doing it, I changed my ways, it hasn't happened to me, yet.

Dont oppose gates on a biner and the bolt end will most of the time sit in the nice rated basket part of the biner. Oppose the biners and the bolt end gate will always face up when you climb away from the gate, and sometimes creep close to the biner nose. I'll wait for the Petzl jury (in their catalog the biners face both ways, but no comment on why they do this..) but thats my two cents.
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Re: Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby lena_chita » Tue Apr 02, 2013 10:35 am

rawhuman wrote:Freak accident, but I have a pal who did the same thing twice. The culprit: opposed biners on quickdraws!

Basically look at the trashed biner, there is a snag scar a few cm from the nose. The bolt likely snagged the biner here, its not a proper angle where its load-rated, so it probably broke when the fall weight hit.

When gates are opposed on quickdraws and when we climb away from the rope end gate (as well all learn along the way...), the bolt end turns and the gate and nose faces up, always. In this case, gravity, route direction, rock features, fall angle/force, Jupiter not aligned with your lucky star, etc, conspired against you. I didnt believe ever that this was an issue, I used to do it. Then I met a guy who explained this all to me after he broke two draws doing it, I changed my ways, it hasn't happened to me, yet.

Dont oppose gates on a biner and the bolt end will most of the time sit in the nice rated basket part of the biner. Oppose the biners and the bolt end gate will always face up when you climb away from the gate, and sometimes creep close to the biner nose. I'll wait for the Petzl jury (in their catalog the biners face both ways, but no comment on why they do this..) but thats my two cents.


Interesting.

I am with you in the fact that I prefer my draws with both biners facing the same direction, but I don't think you really can make a blanket rule out of it, because sometimes you don't want the biner rotating so the gate is facing down towards the rock, for example. And also, I can come up with scenarios where direction of travel and orientation of the bolt hanger make it more beneficial to have the top and bottom facing the opposite way.

Petzl guys responded quickly and were very helpful. They think my scenario is very likely, but obviously can't say more based on just the pictures. The biner will go to them for analysis.
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Re: Carabiner snapped in a fall

Postby THB » Sat Apr 06, 2013 11:24 pm

lena_chita wrote:There were no falls or takes on the rope in the 3 days prior to this fall, so you can’t even say that the rope was stretched out from too many subsequent falls in a short period of time, and was thus less dynamic that optimal. I weigh 105 lb. Somebody else can try and calculate the forces, but in terms of climbing falls, this is as light as it gets.


All in all, yes, I agree with you when you say, "this is as light as it gets"... but I bet you still generated somewhere around 3kN-4kN in force on that biner. It doesn't take much to make the force applied to an anchor (and by anchor in this sense, I don't mean like anchors at the top of a route, I mean any piece in between you and the ground that keeps you off the ground) to jump up to around 2kN pretty quickly. Pretty easy to get up to about 5kN-7kN without much rope out and with a hard catch. Pretty hard to get realistic climber scenarios to generate forces more than about 8kN, however... unless you climb on a static rope, don't have a lot of rope out, have a hard catch, weigh more than the average climber, do everything wrong, etc...

The scenario that you laid out in the pictures in your original post seemed to make sense, and in that case, it doesn't take much (around 3kN would be enough I would think) to snap a carabiner. Much like if the nose of a non-key-lock biner is hung up on the bolt-hanger. The biner gets torqued in either of these 2 scenarios and shit breaks, because like has already been said, that's not how the gear is designed to be used.

Glad you are safe. Hopefully we can all learn a little something about this!
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