Frethawk, I don’t think your interest in what happened and request to discuss is unreasonable at all. Sorry if it may have come across as a hush-hush topic or that you may have offended. Especially, since you say the events play over and over in your head…that must have been hard to be that close to the accident and not have some closure. No doubt others could/would benefit from a discussion regarding accidents of this type (or any type), i.e., things to do different, look out for, etc. I, for one, am sympathetic to your interest especially since you also say you are not much of a climber, suggesting you are relatively new or less experienced and perhaps interested in learning.
I think Rick was correctly suggesting that accident victims’ privacy need to be respected and speculation in the absence of fact to be avoided so as to not unfairly, however innocent or well-intended, malign anyone.
However, I don’t think this forum or any forum is out of bound for a sobering, thoughtful discussion about any and all climbing accidents, if done without, intentionally or unintentionally, indicting or criticizing anyone.
As Rick has stated (if I understand correctly), this particular accident was the direct result of the climber rappelling off the short end of their rope while descending from the anchors of a sport route, removing draws (cleaning) as they descended. The short end obviously was not on the ground and there was no stopper knot in the end of the rope or a knot tied bringing both ends together. The climber had cleaned, the draws off the anchors and the last bolt under the anchors, then rapped off one end of their rope and fell the remaining distance.
There was, what I thought a good discussion on facebook by some experienced climbers who I respect, including Rick, about this accident (not the particular person but some of the facts of the accident) and there was a lot of good comments and points raised. While I read the comments I thought about your request.
I will not attempt to answer any, only highlight some
of the issues raised…
1. What, if any is/are the climbing partner(s)/belayer’s duty/involvement to assist the rappelling climber? Eyes on the ground? None?
2. What should/can experienced climbers offer less experienced climbers in their vicinity? Keep an eye out for them?
3. Should lowering be encouraged as opposed to rappelling off routes?
4. Does knowing there are competent rescue crews available in the area reduce the “sense” of risk in a climber’s minds?
I do not have answers for these questions or presume to say what others should do. I have my preferences, for example, I prefer to be lowered as opposed to rappel. I admit I make mistakes. I know that I take risks, sometimes unnecessary. I personally subscribe to what I call the John Bronaugh rule (from whom I borrowed the following)…100% personal responsibility for all of my climbing decisions, actions and risks, rely on no one for anything, be able to extricate myself in all situations as if I climbed alone. And yet, I try to keep an eye out for ALL other climbers in my vicinity, offering “fireman catches” or telling them if their rope is on the ground to climbers rappelling, watch others thread their gri gri, etc. In other words, expect nothing (from others), offer everything.
Ok, I will shut up and get out of the way and hope others will jump in and add their thoughts.