Rescues come in many different colors, sizes, shapes, and durations, basically we never know for sure what we are going to have to deal with, in a positive manner.
My first incident was when an older gentlemen came into the Park Service Visitor Center and said his wife had disappeared while they were visiting a small reservoir a couple of miles up canyon.
I began by gathering information about situation, so we would know how to respond. My gut feeling was off, but I did not know why. He told me that he had been at the reservoir with his wife, and now he could not locate her.
As we were putting together confinement details, PLS (Point Last Seen), etc. . . . I started think about what we might be dealing with, a drowning, a lost person, a medical problem, or . . .
This basic info would aid us as began a hasty search response to help find his wife; so we continued to gather more information. After a few minutes of talking, he told us that he and his wife had a disagreement and were fighting. She left and he expected here to come back and she did not.
Just that little extra information made a big difference. With that new information we started contact his home and neighbors, and found she was home. She had caught a ride down the canyon with someone and was home having a cup of tea . . .
Since then I have learned quite a bit more. Of course that is not saying too much, because back then I did not know that much. I have learned about preplanning for these incidents, which usually start with a response sheet which is used to determine the urgency and type of incident we are dealing with.
All that to say, the more knowledge you can gain, in a variety of skills and in general including specific knowledge, the better off you and your team will ; and it will benefit the subject(s) too.
Also, there is no right way or wrong way, it all depends on the circumstances or situation, your team, and resources.
When I first getting involved I would come home with a pompous attitude, and point that the newspaper stories and Television News reports were wrong.
They would say the cliff was 100 feet high and I would be quick to point out is was only 60 feet high (like it really mattered?). Sure in an official incident report, but was a feet feet that big of a deal?
I have since learned we all have knowledge to assist in various situations and we need to feel important, helpful, or part of the team and once that need is covered, it is easier to step back and determine a good approach.
Here’s a word that I find helpful, “STOP.” In most cases, we have a few moments we can just stop and determine the best approach. Acting in hasted can be fatal. Also STOP works out even better.
S = STOP Stop and just think, what is really going on. Take a breath or two, and decide the best approach. Use the rest of the word to help you there.
T = Think, think about what is occuring, what has caused it, what can be done about it. In the case of cities, counties, Parks, etc. They evaluate the various potential hazards with in their AOR (Area Of Responsibility) and then the put together a pre plan, so they can refer to it, to get detail about the place before or as they respond (rather than react)
O = Observe for changes and other things which will determine how you do your job, and prevent further injury or property damage.
P= Plan how you are going to handle the situation and prevent additional problems. For example, when should you do nothing, or call off the rescue. I know of one rescue where a young man had fallen into a old mine shaft.
After one attempt to lower a rescuer down the shaft, where vectors and possible misunderstanding of how roof jacks could be used, caused a failure where a rescuer fell, but was caught by the ropes. He was injured, but not severely and risks were so high that the commander called off the rescue.
A good call on his behalf. Unfortunately, the shaft the boy fell into was deep enough and the time that had gone by was so long that the possibilities of live recovery was minimal, and the chances of killing a rescuer were high.
From the outside looking in it is easy to jump to conclusions about “what appears to be,” rather than what is. If you think you can help or have an idea, most Operations Leaders will gladly listen to your ideas, or ask you share them with another team member, so they can be pooled with the preplans, and other information to find the best ways to handle the incident.
Always remember the primary priorities: #1. Self; make sure you do not become part of the problem by getting injured, #2. Make sure your companion and family members and friend do not get hurt, or cause additional problems. #3. Is the subject, if number one and number two are covered all other resources can be used to assist the person(s) who is caught in an unfortunate event.
Discipline, Regulation, Order, Control, Restraint, Obeisance, and Authority are synonyms that tend to repel, push us away, or maybe even imprison us. Another approach might be to determine the things we would like to have, and raise those things as goals “We can work towards, build dreams with, and use to improve our lifestyle?”
What if we were able to channel some of our energy, money, and mental powers towards building a better world, rather than spending trillions and trillions our Euros and Dollars, and … into ways to decimate each other?
Sure, I see the need to defend ourselves, but invest a moment into considering how much money goes into “banging heads?” “Winning is not everything, it’s the only thing…?” Well, if that is the way we feel about things, I agree full-heartedly. The only catch I can see is, “How do we include the other 50%, the ones who lose and get decimated?”
I played defensive tackle while in high school, and while practicing one day I heard the coach yell something to one of the players. He said, “There is no “I” in team!” It took me a while but I figured out what he was trying to communicate. I think he meant that the player should focus on blending in with the team’s goals and objectives. Maybe he was even trying to suggest synergy?
As I thought about it more, I realized something interesting. On the surface, it says, “Play as a team,” but underneath it says, “The individual does not matter much.” Maybe there is a way to suggest individually we can create some amazing power and skill. When we combine our skills with our team’s skills, we can create a “Synergy.” Synergy is NOT teamwork—it is much different. It is like teamwork on steroids!
As I thought about it more I came up with a saying on my own, “There may not an “I” in team, BUT, without “U” and “I” we have no team.” I also learned something else that year. One of the other players showed me how to “Punch the opposing team player in the guts as he tried to get by me. He showed me, and for some reason, I decided to try it, and as the team player tried to get by me I made an effort to sock him in the guts; but it did not go so well. It about tore off my arm in the process—I never did it again.
I’ve decided that if I cannot compete and beat the opposing team while they are playing their “A” game, I would rather not win. Otherwise, it is like taking candy from a baby—anyone can do that. I like the kind of game where both sides are busy doing their best, and yet they are watching the other team do their best too. When they may a good play, they are quick to say, “Great move!” or “You guys made that shot shine!”
It shows that you are in a good place to compliment someone else. It makes you look like a player that knows the difference between everyday games, and hot skills. If we recognize those things it makes them feel good, helps you play a better game, and makes you look like someone who knows their stuff!”
 A number most of us can not even begin to comprehend
Learn the ropes from a Vertical Rope Skills Professional. This is the starting point for a progressive and well-structured way to learn Rock Climbing (and Rappelling).
This is a day class focused on Rock Climbing #1 Training. You get to learn fundamentals of Climbing and Rappelling: Equipment, Knots, and Belaying, Rock Climbing, and Rappelling.
At the completion you will have learned the skills required to be part of other rock climbing adventures.
Top Roped Climbing and Rappelling is a great family activity, fun as an excuse to get out and enjoy each other’s company and test your skills.
A student stopping for a picture while on rappel. Having your own personal gear will allow you to join others you meet while at the crags.
Introduction to Rock Climbing :
Introduction to Technical Climbing
Climbing and Rappelling Knots:
*On the Rock Section*
SAFETY!!! INTRODUCTION TO SAFETY IN A VERTICAL ENVIRONMENT
Fundamental Belaying, Belay Calls and Principles:
Fundamental Free “Top Roped” Climbing:
Written and Practical Test for those who want Certificates:
Some of the work I have done with my business called High Angle Technologies. With this company we usually did two commercials, in this case a climbing one on the waterfall cliff along side of the Snake River, and a canoe version on the Salmon River.
Filming and Special Effect (FX) work in the natural environment is exciting and challenging, and scary as hell! I say that because the “Risk Factor and Risk Potential” is out of this world. Of course, with a good knowledgeable, a skilled team, good equipment, and good judgment, we can keep the “Risk Exposure,” reasonable or doable.
Canyons, and Gorges create their own weather. In this case, high winds are created in the Snake River Gorge. In the picture below you can see what the waterfall is like on a nice day.
Since one can alway count on change, I am rebuilding things. It has been quite the roller coaster. I am still doing Consultation and Training, and Specialty Projects. Along with enjoying the out of doors every chance I get.
I have a new book I am rushing to meet the release date for. It will be available as an ebook and in softback. It is called Ropes, Pulleys, Rigging Systems and Avoiding Dangerous Resultants – “Pulley Systems Explained” It is the Pulley section of my bigger text that includes many more things associated with the vertical world —
Just in case anyone is interested.. . . The wind was so intense on the waterfall above the snake river, at times we could hardly work on the TV commercial scene where a couple of climbers are climbing the waterfall and do a good job because they drink LIPOVITAN-D Energy Drink.
Since we are here let’s do another commercial where a couple of canoers end up caught in a log jam. We used ropes, and pulleys, . . . to keep the canoe in position for the filming and to build log jams in the middle of the river.
We had to build a log jam by hand and rope and pulleys, then remove it each night for safety, just incase someone was doing some night canoeing …
Technical Skills can help accomplish many different tasks. As well as building the log jam, we moved personnel and equipment to the other side of the river.
I’ve decided to do something a little strange. I am going to let you watch me write this book. Freelance writing was rather challenging for me. I would leave out words, get too descriptive, forget about my core element, and . . . Generally in writing I have found that “Less is More,” but whether or not I am any good at it you will have to decide.
My first published article was in 1984. It was Published in Summit Magazine–to me that was big! It was three pages long with a full page picture. At first it was hard to make things flow and maintain some type of continuity. I always tried to do it in one sitting, then get frustrated and give up.
Then I heard a quote from a respected author that went something like, “the first draft is shit.” At first it sort-of shocked me, but the more I worked at it the more I realized that if you wanted a good end product you must be willing to invest considerable time. I am not sure if my writing has reached the point that it impresses anyone else, but I believe it has come a long ways.
Something else that was quite an eye opener to me was changing over from just freelance writing, to writing books. My typical freelance articles and papers are several pages long, and contained a few hundred words.
My last book contained hundreds of pages, and over 40,000 words. Trying to organize everything, proof read it it over and over, keep track of what version you are on, maintain continuity, dealing with publishing details (the picture to the right is just one page of details a person has to figure out, and . . . ,
I am going to do this one as an open book, which I will be actively asking for your input and comments. It will be different that my technical books
Everyone knows what a picture is, but the implications are much broader than we realize. No problem, like most things in life, every day we learn more things, science reveals many things we have never imagined. These impact and actually affect our surroundings, our future, and us.
We as humans are full of pictures like; what is work going to be like today, or how will it be next year? What will s/he think, and will s/he lead to the perfect life, and many more.
Still there is another picture of one sort or another. Am I too skinny, or I am way too fat. Our picture of ourselves affects our lives, and our futures too. Each thought that comes to mind, conjures up a picture to go with it; the list goes on and on. . .
These are our pictures of life, and the way we “think” life is or is not, should be or should not be. Is it good to have pictures floating around in our minds? Yes, and No. It depends on “how we use them.” If we paint them in oil, cover them with a protective lacquer, and in-case them in bulletproof cabinets, we will likely attain them, but whether we are happy with them, remains to be seen.
A bookkeeper who assisted me with bookkeeping in my business, said something I have never forgotten. He said, “Beware of what you want, for you will get it.” It sure seems to be the case. If we want something bad enough, there is a good chance we will find ourselves sitting there. It happened to me.
One day, or actually I think it was evening, I found myself sitting inside of my Specialized Mountain Sports Store. I fell in love with a mistress, the mountains, and she has never let me go. It has been good in many ways, and rather challenging in others. It seems to be the case with all pictures; every picture I know of has challenging parts, and fun and rewarding parts. I think the beware part is that is easy to focus on the pleasure side, and forget t he yin and yang of life.
One problem with pictures is we use them as guides, or picture of how things are, or are not, suppose to be. But pictures are things we conjure up, or fabricate in our minds using all of the bits of information we have collected during our lifetimes. If we are different than most people, and have very carefully selected true, good, healthy, productive, positive, real, etc. things to store in our subconscious memory banks; then the pictures are likely to be a more accurate pictures of our past, current, and future circumstances. So the picture we conjure up will likely be more accurate.
BUT beware, pictures work like road signs, leading us this way or that way. If we hold fast to the oil painted, lacquer protected, picture in the bulletproof case, we will be forcing the future, which is often not a good idea. The problem with forcing the future is that, at least consciously, we Do Not have the knowledge and wisdom to know; what is, in fact, the best route for us to follow or pursue. If we force it, we are likely to be less happy, less productive, and we may find ourselves in a less than desirable situation.
On the other hand, if our pictures are used as possible outcomes, goals, or directions we would like to travel, they can work very well for producing a happy, abundant, and fulfilling life. The key is riding in, or making choices in the moment, it is the only thing we actually have any control over.
Maybe you have heard the saying, “Make a plan, then work the plan.” Well, I believe plans put direction to our lives, but since we lack the knowledge and wisdom to predict the future, we must stay in the moment, looking for, feeling, sensing, and determining the best or correct path, or the path with “heart.”
What is “heart?” The path with heart is the one that makes us feel alive, vibrant, healthy, and excited. When we follow that path, it seems our bodies produce a small amount various chemicals, which can reduce stress, help us focus, kill pain, and much more. One such chemical is endorphin. These natural opiates help us live better healthier lives. This is a quote from MedicineNet.com, which seems very close to my understanding of endorphins.
“Endorphins are among the brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which function to transmit electrical signals within the nervous system. At least 20 types of endorphins have been demonstrated in humans. Endorphins can be found in the pituitary gland, in other parts of the brain, or distributed throughout the nervous system. Stress and pain are the two most common factors leading to the release of endorphins.”
Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to help reduce our perception of pain and act similarly to drugs such as morphine and codeine. Although our bodies can only produce a small amount, they still do assist us in normal circumstances. In addition to decreased feelings of pain, secretion of endorphins leads to feelings of euphoria, modulation of appetite, release of sex hormones, and enhancement of the immune response. With high endorphin levels, we feel less pain and fewer negative effects of stress. Endorphins have been suggested as modulators of the so-called “runner’s high” that athletes achieve with prolonged exercise. While the role of endorphins and other compounds as potential triggers of this euphoric response, it has been debated extensively by doctors and scientists, it is at least known that the body does produce endorphins in response to prolonged, continuous exercise.”
It appears that in acute situations these endorphins can help us deal with severe pain, but in situations of chronic pain the body cannot produce enough long term endorphins, and the use of external opiates becomes necessary. Maybe these natural opiates are like traditional opiates in that the body builds a tolerance to them and more becomes needed to create the same effect? In those cases, as long as things are managed well, there is no problem. There is no “high,” but rather a normal effect, which ends up helping the person live a normal life.
If we choose a path without “heart” we are headed for stress, unhappiness, and more. There seems to be an inner knowing that helps us find the best route for “us,” or the route with “heart.” This is ONLY if we are open to it, and willing to “free fall,” and avoid the control freak syndrome. Personally I believe it is our spirit which is able to know, or has knowledge of things our minds don’t. Maybe another way to put that is, “our minds, and bodies are of this world, and our spirits transcend this world and others?”
That may be why people have a sixth sense, or just seem to know things. I must admit, there have been many times in my life where there were no signs or indications something was so, yet, somehow I knew it was, and sure enough, it was. I do not understand the details of why and how, I just know this is what happens. I believe we are able to sense, feel, receive, etc. these promptings, or insights, if we only learn to calm down our tenancies to control everything, and listen to the small inner voice or prompting. I am striving to learn to recognize these situations better, and implement them in a productive way.
The most successful, climbs, business projects, rescues, etc., I have ever participated in were ones where we as a group of individuals were able to flow with the moment, look at the current information and determine where to go from there. The very worse ones, were when individual(s) within the group were control freaks! I remember one expedition in particular.
It was a training climb, while preparing for our upcoming expedition to climb the North Face of Mt Everest. This training climb was on 20,320 foot high, Mt. McKinley, or Denali, “the great one,” as the natives call it. It is considered the “coldest mountain on earth.” Due to its northern latitude, it considered comparable to climbing a 23,000 or 24,000-foot high peak in other parts of the world. I believe it is due to the Coriolis force or effect, which makes the atmosphere thinner at the poles of the earth.
During this climb we had a serious situation which came very close to costing several lives. Up until that point, we as a team had traveled to Switzerland, France, South America, Mexico, and other places for training, and never had anything close to what happened on McKinley. In fact, we were almost always successful in reaching our objectives, and always came back with a good feeling and comradery.
This time is was to be different. At the suggestion of a person who was currently part of my team at Hansen Mountaineering, we had let a new comer join us. We were told he was a strong and skilled climber. Things started to go south, after our fourth or fifth night on the mountain. We had set up camp early in the middle of the Kahiltna glacier due to white out conditions. Conditions where you are in the clouds or fog and you cannot even tell if it is uphill or downhill in front of you. It is often snowing, as you ski, snowshoe, or walk on a white snow pack, with flat light. In those conditions everything around you is white. I have often reached out in front of me with my ski pole, and tapped in on the ground: first, to make sure there was something there, and second to determine how steep the slope was.
One time in particular, I was skiing down, the wind blowing in my face, and I noticed how smooth the snow felt under my skis. Then I questioned the situation, and found out I was not even moving.
Climbers have walked off cornices and died, and fallen into crevasses, due to white outs. Becoming lost it them is a very real and serious problem. In fact, a week or so later we had three Japanese climbers spend three nights with us, because they could not find their way back to their camp. Sometimes it is just too dangerous to navigate a glacier, which is full of hidden and open crevasses.
This was the situation as we climbed up the glacier. We did not want to risk a fall into a crevasse. A fall like that can be fatal. Consequently, we decided to stop and set up camp until conditions changed. We did our best to find a spot safe from avalanches, and away from the chasms and abysses that the riddled the glacier, and were covered over by a layer of snow.
At 23:30 hours (11:30PM) it was still fairly bright (due to the midnight sun). We were laying in our tents, sleeping, or taking care of the evening chores: melting water from ice and snow, preparing and eating the biggest meal of the day, so we could replenish our reserves and strength, and other misc. details; when I was tumbled left and right in my sleeping bag? First, I thought the Glacier had shifted or lurched downward. Glaciers are like slow moving rivers of ice and snow, so it is common for them to move downward, sometimes several feet, or yards a day.
I heard team members starting to talk about what had just happened. Our team physician said, “It felt like his wife had just jumped into the water bed next him?” Someone else said, “They had just heard on the radio there had been an earthquake, which had registered 6.5 on the Richter scale.” As he listened, the radio announcer went on to say, “The epicenter was almost directly under us!”
I crawled out of the tent to look around (it was early summer, and the midnight sun made it so we could see quite well) and noticed a large area on the southwest face of 17,000 Mt. Foraker was covered in clouds. As I looked closer I noticed they were building and growing very dramatically as I watched. Then across the valley I saw an avalanche race (some experts say they can travel as fast as 200 mph!) down the side of one of the tall ridges, next to us. Then it dawned on me, those were not clouds on the southwest face of Foraker, the entire side of the mountain must have released and I was witnessing the dust and snow from a tremendous avalanche release. I was glad we had located our camp in a safe spot away from avalanche run out paths.
The next morning it was clear, cold, about twenty-five below zero on the Fahrenheit scale. We could see the large seracs balanced on the ridges and cliffs of the mountains around us, and the open crevasses in the glacier. We geared up and left camp after the usual, with a light breakfast , some tea and chocolate. We made pretty good time, despite the heightened interest in talking about what the earthquake. “Did it make the mountain more stable or, less stable?” Eventually we arrived at the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, and the bottom of “heart break hill.” This hill was aptly named because of its length, and steepness, which while carrying an expedition load, could be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. Quite a few turned around here and went home to either train harder, plan better, or just let “this” objective or goal fall to the wayside. For us, it was a point where we had to decide as to which route we were going to climb. There were twelve of us total, with skills ranging from expert to advanced novice, so the route we took was important.
The West Rib was the more demanding route, with a steep, sixty to seventy degree ice gulley, over 1,200 feet long. In 1982, myself and the three others had taken this route. I found it to be fairly technical, with avalanche danger, and the lower approach was threatened by large serac caused avalanches. In fact, I included a picture, I had taken from the safety of our high camp, of one avalanche that had come down, and crossed the tracks we had made only hours earlier.
The question was twofold; would the best choice be for the group to continue with the more technical route considering the skill level of the group, and the potential changes the earthquake may or may not have caused; or should we take the standard, West Buttress Route? The more macho climbers referred to the West Buttress as the, “Cow Trail,” because the majority of climbers took that route. But the fact is, climbing Denali by any route, is quite an accomplishment. Now, if ego drives someone, and they think they have the experience and skill to do so, they would surely choose the West Rib. As usual the group was open to the Best choice, except for our new trial member; he was hard set on the West Rib. This became obvious as we listened to his various comments. One comment, which really concerned me, was, “You are going to ruing “MY” climb!”
Woe now, whose climb? I thought to myself. It sounded like this person had a severe case of the “I” syndrome. Just in case you are unfamiliar with this poorly understood malady, the “I” syndrome is a condition in which a person is so worried about and concerned with making sure they get what they want, they actually undermine, or destroy their possibilities of getting it.
Things were heating up and getting rather interesting (my way of saying, rough or challenging, us macho folks can’t admit to being scared or overly challenged, thus “it can become very interesting, at times.”). At times it seems, procrastination is great tool, and since time was on my side, I deferred the decision to the next morning.
The air was thick with contention as I probed the hopeful camp site for hidden crevasses. The new member was quick to suggest that, probing for hidden crevasses was foolish, and just a waste of time. He suggested I didn’t know what I was doing, or was just too scared, and pointed out, “good climbers need to take risks,” wow, another interesting concern?
I like to call my style of leadership, synergistic leadership. My object is to provide direction to the team’s goals and objectives, and assist them in providing the power or ways to get there. I just mold the group into whatever seems to be their best or desired choice, using the various skills each person has, in the places the best fit, and it works quite well, provided you have a group of “team” oriented climbers.
To make a long story shorter, I probably should have used my prerogative, as team leader, to make this decision for the group. Since there was not a clear team consensus, it would have been in the team’s best interest. Interestingly, I actually, I knew the best choice, but like us all, I have my areas I need to work on. I, for whatever reason, like to avoid conflict when I can, maybe too much so. “I like to keep everybody happy.” I don’t recall thinking about it at the time, but now it reminds me of a book I read about a trans-global expedition, called, “To the Ends of the Earth.” The leader of that expedition, which had traversed the entire world, from north to south, pointed this out:
The debate raged on. Eventually, a decision seemed to materialize; we would divide the team into two groups: One group, which included the new member and some of the more technically skilled climbers. They would climb the West Rid; and the other group would go up the West Buttress. It seem to meet the desires of everyone. I felt I needed to stay with the team going up the West Buttress. It seemed to make sense, since I had already climbed the West Rib, and I felt that I would be more valuable there.
On the surface, it seemed like a good choice. It left six climbers for the Rib, and Six climbers for the Buttress. By standards, the team size was good, and the team’s abilities seemed to be appropriate. We decided we would make radio contact with each other when we were at a high enough elevation for the radios to work. We estimated that to be at about the level of our 14,000 foot camps, or we could meet at the 16,500 foot camp, on the rib and continue our climb to the summit.
From there we, the West Buttress team, had planned to traverse up and over to the 17,000-foot high camp on the West Rib, and join the other team; and make our summit bid from there. This would be done by leaving camp at about 03:00 hours (3:00 AM), or so, prepared for a long and hard day climbing the last 4,000 vertical feet, to the 20,320 foot high summit.
Our climb up the West Buttress was rather eventful, we had white out conditions. The first night, above “heart break hill,” We found three Japanese climbers, or more correctly I should say they found us. They had made a carry to their high camp, and had been caught in white out conditions on the way down; and were unable to find their way back to their camp. They had spent the first night shivering in holes they had dug in the snow, and ended up finding us on the next day.
We were sitting in our tent when we heard, “Hello” with an unfamiliar accent. I unzipped the tent door and they explained, in their broken English, what had happen. We were more than glad to help by letting them stay with us until the white out conditions changed. As climbers, we often use wands (bamboo shafts, with little red flags on them) to mark the route around crevasses, and back to camp, just in case a white out sets in.
They had either depended on others to do that, or had failed to do it. There were six of us, divided into three, two-three man rated tents tents. With all of our gear it was rather tight but worked out well. They spent the next two or three nights with us before conditions cleared up. It proved to be a very good experience. As we were sipping hot tea and coffee, I was careful not to burn my tongue. One of our Japanese friends informed me that, “I had a tongue like a cat.” I guess cat’s have tongues that burn easy?
On the West Buttress we camped at 11,200 feet, to prepare for the push to Windy Corner, which was about 14,000 feet in elevation. Two things come to mind regarding this camp. My teammate became quite sick with some type of infection. He seemed O.K. to stay at camp until we returned from meeting the other team mates. There were other climbers camped there too, so he stayed in our tent.
As a team leader, I often second guess various choices. He suggested he would be fine there until we returned. He seemed O.K. and it was a common camping area on the glacier, so if things got out of hand, there were other climbers he could ask for assistance. That ended up being the case, had I known how sick he would end up getting, I may not have continued. The plan was that I would sleep in one of the other 2-3 man tents while climbing higher
The following day we roped up and left camp, just kicking steps in the hard snow. Above the ridge, things changed, the wind was blowing about fifty or sixty mile per hour, the slope had changed from hard snow to thirty degree ice, with patches of loose snow on it. At the bottom of the slope there was a thousand +/- foot cliff that seem to drop off into the eternities, “Wow!”
An unchecked slide would lead to a sweet ride into emptiness and whatever else waited far below. Fortunately, we had ice axes and when used quickly enough and correctly, with good presents of mind, you can arrest a fall.
I was on lead, which was about one hundred feet in front of my partner. Even though we were connected by the rope, it was hard to talk or even yell to each other over the sound of the wind.
As I tried to kick steps up the icy slope my foot slipped a time or two, and eventually I decided I should stop and put on my crampons. My rope partner continued to climb towards me. I yelled, “Stop, put on your crampons, it gets icy up here!”
He kept climbing. The wind must have made it hard to hear, or he felt otherwise. I yelled again, but still he climbed. Then my worst fear appeared, “his foot slipped and he began to sliding and falling towards the emptiness, of the thousand foot drop off, and “I was tied to him!”
I quickly tried to figure out how to save my partner and myself, I was flooded with a thousand pictures of, “What if?” I sorted through them and tried to choose the one that fit this scenario. Considering how hard the ice was, and the short distance to the edge of the cliff, it would be next to impossible to use my ice axe to arrest his fall before we would be pulled over the edge. I saw a large, fifteen to twenty foot boulder on the edge of the cliff and quickly put together another plan.
The only choice I could see was not a great one but the only one. I planned to run, slide, crawl or do whatever it took, to get myself on the opposite side of the boulder. Then I would either wedge myself there, or jump off the edge, while he slid off the other side. It may not be pretty, but it sure as hell seemed better than him dragging me off the edge with him! The last thought I had was, “I hope there are no sharp edges to cut the rope?”
With the adrenaline which only fear and desperation can provide I ran across the icy slope trying to reach the other side of the boulder before he went off the edge. I took one more look at his situation as he slid toward the abyss, luck had saved day. He had hit a soft snow patch and was able to arrest his slide. After I caught my breath, I yelled down to him, “DAMN IT! PUT YOUR CRAMPONS ON!” which he was more than happy to do.
The rest of the climb was not near as exciting for us. The wind blew, our goggles and glasses became so ice covered we could not see. We would lift them up to see a distance in front of us, then, cover our eyes again, as we climbed the route ahead. Eventually we made it to the 14,200 foot camp. This was a big open area on the glacier. The National Park Service had a camp here to monitor the mountain and climbers, and to affect rescues or provide assistance as may be required. There was also a high altitude, cold weather study group there carrying out there tests, and such, along with quite a few climbers from all parts of the world.
We tried to radio the other group with no luck. Eventually we started asking arriving climbers if they had seen them. No one had. Hooker, our team physician, and I made the traverse up to the 17,000-foot high point on the West Rib, carrying supplies and expedition gear. When we arrived we could not see any sign of them. We really began to worry. Leaving the supplies and gear there for them, and when we returned, we climbed back down to the 14,200 foot camp. We again asked around, no one had seen them, but one person assured us that there were so many climbers on the mountain, nothing could happen to them . . .
Wow, it amazed me someone would say and believe a comment like that. Ignorance is bliss. After some discussion, we decided the best thing we could do was climb back down and retrace their route up the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier.
Part way down we started hearing messages from other climbers that had talked to the other team members, as they were leaving the mountain!?!? WHAT!?! By the time we got to the bottom of heart break hill, they had already flown off the mountain with one of the bush pilots, and were aboard a jet gong home! What had happened? Why didn’t they make radio contact? Why on earth were they on a plane going home? Wow, I just didn’t know what to think?
Later we learned that they had been caught in the white out which had caught the Japanese Climbers, and several of them had to spend a few nights in a crevasse, to avoid the cold and wind. They eventually made it to the crux, the 1,200 foot ice gulley. Where there was another team there as well. The other team suggested they join forces and fix lines, or ropes to improve safety and make load carrying easier. Well, from what I was told, this other, new person we had brought with us was now leading the group, and he declined the offer. He chose the more sporting (macho) approach of climbing it without fixed lines, obviously with little or no consideration of the other team members with him.
Now I don’t know all the details, but this is what I was told happened. They began climbing the crux. The icy gulley had about six inches of snow on it which made it easier. About half way up, high winds started to blow, and stripped the slope of any snow on it. Now it was a solid sheet of sixty to seventy degree ice. One of the guys who was in lead, a pretty strong climber generally, had been caught off guard. He didn’t have extra gear with him to cope with the change in weather. The high winds and twenty five below zero temperatures were just too much. He needed help as did other team members.
One climber I know was really strong and likely able to help the others, and maybe this new guy was able to help others down, even if he had no idea how to work with a team. I heard tale of one person even saying to one to one of the climbers who was doing better, “Just get me off here alive, I’ll pay you anything?”
Eventually, they were lucky, and I do mean lucky, enough to make it down and return to the glacier air strip, to be air lifted back to Talkeetna, Alaska. Where they were able to get to Anchorage and catch a flight home. All I can say is I had no idea things would have gone that bad, but again, I should have.
“To err in the mountains is human, but the mountain seldom forgive . . .”
The “Great One” had taught us all a few lessons we are likely to never forget; and yes, I am very thankful the mountain, or whomever, decided to forgive us all. Moral of the Story: Pictures are likely one of the main reasons a number of these things happened. The picture I had in my mind, about avoiding conflict, and trying to please everyone, although logically it made sense, that inner voice in that case, did not agree.
The picture this new guy had, of being, Reinhold Messner (one of the world’s greatest mountaineers), I don’t know this, but obviously, he wasn’t in touch with the real picture. The new person did not seem to understand himself, the people around him, or this climbing environment. Incorrect pictures, not facts, knowledge, wisdom, openness, teamwork, etc. were to blame.
The correct principles interlaced with the correct pictures lead to success. What is the correct picture? Who knows? We won’t know that until we are crossing its threshold. Then if we have prepared well, have filled our souls and minds with correct concepts, ideas, principles, information, etc., we will be able to allow the picture (life) to flow, be changed, and develop into what it can be, what it should be, in that very moment.
Hi Douglas Hansen here,
Heres the intro
Pulley Systems Explained is a promotional book. It contains a sampling of details and information found in the 500 pages plus, master edition, called, “Ropes, Pulleys, Rigging Systems, and Avoiding Dangerous Resultants, 3rd Ed. Pulley Systems Explained, as you might have guessed, focuses primarily is on “Pulleys.” Understanding how they work, the different ways to use them, pros and cons of the different systems, how to identify what pulley advantage they create, how to assemble them, safety, and more.
It will be of particular interest to EMS Professionals, and those who have purchased the ®vRigger Rope Rigging Software Program because I explain and use many examples that you can use on your ®vRigger Training Program. If you are interested in pulleys, rigging, and how to rig them, etc. I believe you are pleased with the useable and versatile information found in these pages.
As well as having lots of charts, diagrams, and drawings, quiz’s, and challenges; it has an Applications Strategies and Tactics section with an assortment of actual pictures of pulleys and other equipment being used in Rescues, On the Job, in Fall Protection, at concerts, using Highlines, Diagonal Highlines, Tripods, Bipods, and many other applications.
Two Editions are currently available: The first edition is rather rough, a B&W interior, packed full of good information. I wanted to test the market. Yep! People are pleased with it, Only 14.95
This, the 2nd Edition of “Pulley Systems Explained is the UPDATED with more pages, more of everything. VERSION 3.0+ in full COLOR and it has more pages, more diagrams, more challenges, and better in-depth explanations and more everything. The color Photos and the color Applications snap to life, making it much easier to see systems, details, and solutions, making it even easier to view and understand. It contains much of what is in the pulley section of the master edition, “Ropes, Pulleys, Rigging Systems, and Avoiding Dangerous Resultants.”
The color printing is well worth the price. Ever wonder why the rich get richer? They buy quality, gain the extra edge, and learn to use it well, maintain it. That is why quality earns and saves us money every time we turn around! These sayings make good sense . . .
Dad says we are too poor to buy cheap things.
We don’t pay extra for quality; it pays us many times over.
The bitterness of poor quality lasts longer than the sweetness of a low price.
Give them quality. That’s the best kind of advertising.
Quality is the best business plan.
Even though quality cannot be defined, you know what quality is.
Quality is free. It’s not a gift, but it’s free. The ‘unquality’ things are what cost money.
I would rather explain the higher price than to apologize for an inferior or poor quality product
The best is the cheapest!
I must say I was pressured into releasing the first edition of Pulley Systems Explained, but I did want to test the market. There is a tremendous amount of good information in it, despite the less than perfect organization and proofing . . . It has helped to convey the value of the 2nd more in-depth color edition, and the Master volume, “R,P,RS,&ADV”.
Reading this book will convey good information that can be used at work, on adventures, in high places, and while performing life-saving activities. It has an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) or Emergency Services (ES), slant on it, because I have a strong background there; but my work at height and high angle engineering background guarantees that it is a good read for anyone interested in “Ropes, Pulleys, Rigging Systems, and Avoiding Dangerous Resultants.”
As EMS Professionals we must have “a board understanding of the world around us.” Why? Because we have no idea how we may have to perform from one day to the next. Our life and the subject’s life are on the line, literally. Sure, a majority of our activities are repetitive, but when that unique situation happens, it will take all the skill and knowledge our teams can muster up. The reward is a life(s) saved, injuries prevented, and property damage minimized, a job well done, time saved, and money saved.
It is my sincere desire to provide you with a valuable tool that you and your teams will appreciate and value. I have devoted a considerable part of my life in gathering the knowledge and skills from many sources in hopes it will help fine-tune and hone us in on the skills, principles, and techniques that will allow us to do our jobs, and activities in the most efficient manner possible. Douglas S. Hansen
My family, friends, neighbors, community, and the fine people who have shared in making it possible for me to develop a career as a Professional Mountaineer, Search and Rescue Professional, High Angle Engineer, EMS Professional, Freelance Writer and Author.
I am looking forward to building on my past career as a High Angle Engineer, Mountain Rescue Captain and Ops Leader, Army Medic, and Professional Fireman, National Park Ranger … to develop how my third career will look. THANKS SO MUCH for your support!
These specialty areas have put me in a unique position to teach, consult and do specialty projects. I plan to use this text and the Master text to give to those who attend my classes and seminars. I have 40 years of experience under my belt. Thank You. It has been a real opportunity to work and train with you.
I look forward to another 20-30 years. I have no plans to sit on a porch in a rocking chair; I will be doing this sort of thing until I take my final breath. My father just finished up his 25th as a Ski Instructor and my mom is still going strong, so if my genes hold true there is a good chance I will be able to work with, and train with you in the future.
It kind of surprises me that I remember the exact place I was when I decided this would be my lifelong pursuit. There have been some ups and downs, but for the better part, it has been much like this quote from one of Carlos Castaneda’s books.
“For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length–and there I travel looking, looking breathlessly.”
Hansen and Iverson Climbing Lost Arrow Spire, Yosemite National
Photo by Unknown backpacker.
I left my camera on the rim, wanted to focus on climbing, I saw a backpacker and told him I was leaving it, and asked him if he was going to be around, could he click a few pictures? He stayed there all day long and clicked a half a dozen pictures. This is one of them . . . in turn; we tied a seat harness for him and his friend and let them make the coveted Tyrolean Traverse to the Arrow Tip and back.
Sometime after my near-death experience while learning to rappel I found I loved the out of doors, and the technical pursuits of climbing.
I was working as a National Park Ranger and teaching mountaineering and rescue. The mountains, teaching, and people made for a great combination, but something was missing. It took a while to figure it out.
I believe there are three fundamental parts to life: physical, mental, and spiritual. I felt I should expand on the spiritual component. Since I strive to be true to my inner self, I must admit that I believe there is a force or power beyond our human abilities, “What it is?”
I can’t say for sure, but I can say for sure “It makes good sense for us to promote the “Good Living Principles.” Consequently, I have made it a lifetime goal to promote things like “Respecting one another” “Taking care of our planet and the creatures on it.” “Showing empathy” “Assisting each other.” and …
That was the part that was missing. Adding it made the adventure (work is an adventure) worthwhile. I decided to actively mention positive ideas in my teaching, during work, while writing, etc. That was the part that was missing. Adding it made the adventure worthwhile. I found that
“I am most happy when I am in pursuit of a worthwhile goal.”
It works for me; I hope you find your paths with the heart; maybe we can share those some of those paths and values.
Yes, I believe there is more to life than an end, where we sleep eternally. There is a force or power; I believe it has a lot to do with love. Love is the most powerful thing in the Universe. It can build communities, save lives, breakthrough emotional walls, and much more. As far as I know, God is Love? Could it be so?
Maybe God is love, and maybe much more. The way I figure it is, if I live good, strive to love my fellow persons (it just makes sense), and then someday I wake up on the other side and I am greeted by God, his feelings won’t be hurt too bad,
“What higher compliment can a person give, than to say someone is all about love?”
Now you may think I am a little strange talking about God. Well, maybe that idea or at least the teachings from the good book is something we could all use. Maybe the pendulum has swung too far away from these principles?
I will add that in 20 or so more years, as I approach the days before my final breath, I may not be doing too many “Grade VII, 5.13 wet, overhanging, friction pitches (Very Hard Climbing Routes).” But I will strive to do as I once read in poem John Muir wrote, which I have changed some . . .
Let’s walk away quietly in any direction tasting the freedom of the mountaineer.
While camping out among the grasses
and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings.
We will climb the mountains to enjoy their good tidings.
and nature’s peace flows into us, as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into us
and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
And, as age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another may recede, “but nature’s sources never fail.”
One of my favorite pictures, early in my climbing career, soloing on “the Stairway to Heaven” — B & W Photo by Kris Radish (Thanks to Kris!)
I fell in love with adventure when I was rather young. It began with climbing to the tops of the tall Cottonwood trees behind my elementary school and continued with traverses underneath the railroad trestle crossing the nearby Provo River. Strange thing, maybe it has to do with being a child? I respected the height and the danger, but it did not scare me?
My mother was a single mom during my early childhood. She said I often frustrated her because I was so inquisitive. She told me I would take clocks apart, doorknobs off, and I was not always able to put them back together. I must have had some kind of deep interest in learning about technical things and the excitement and the challenge of adventure.
I recall my grandfather, an engineer for the U.S. Steel Corporation, accusing me of just coming over to pick his brain, rather than to visit. My inquisitiveness’ even left me with a small scar created from a misjudged adventure while in first grade.
A friend had shown me how to use a rock to deform the back end, or brass section of a shotgun shell, to get the primer out. Then we smashed the primer with the rock to hear it go bang! Kids will be kids; I was too young to grasp the danger.
Well, it was another adventure to pursue–although this one gets chalked up to experience. I have heard it said, that
“Good Judgment depends mostly on experience and experience often comes from poor judgment.”
It played out like this; early one Sunday morning I got some shotgun shells out of the jockey box of my step dad’s car. I wanted to copy what my friend had shown me.
I rode my bicycle to a place near my elementary school, away from any houses, and proceeded to try to get the primers out of the brass.
I was successful on a few and got the reward of hearing it go bang, but I was unable to get one of the primers out of a casing, so I decided to smash the entire brass casing.
Well, it worked and went bang, but after my ears stopped ringing I noticed blood pumping out of a small hole in my arm. I don’t recall being scared, I just put my thumb on the round hole to stop the blood from coming out. I did not know anything about arteries or applying direct pressure which is taught nowadays. It just seemed to make sense.
Then I realized I would not be able to ride my bike and hold pressure on my arm, so I walked to a house and knocked on the door. I’ll bet they were quite surprised to see a young boy standing on the porch, that early on a Sunday morning?
I did not want to get in trouble for messing around like that, so I fabricated what had seemed like a good story. When they answered I asked, “Do you have a Band-Aid I could borrow; I fell on a round piece of glass . . .?”
After they looked at the small hole they decided to give me a ride home. When I arrived home, waking my parents, and showing them “What a round piece of glass had done.” They figured it needed a little more attention than what a Band-Aid could provide. They took me to the hospital and the doctor did his thing, put in a few stitches, and I went home.
Fortunately, over the years of working and adventuring in high-risk environments; I have not had any serious accidents. Although, I have watched a few serious incidents play out, and I have been involved in a number of rescues, including some body recoveries.
Although this type of life, walking that fine line between life and . . . produces its share of interesting stories, I will save them for another day and just say I have put a lot of time into studying, testing, and experiencing these sorts of things.
I believe this has put me in a unique position to talk about and explain what has turned into my life’s pursuit. I have borrowed a few sayings for this book, and came up with a few of my own; like the one on the following picture, of me ice climbing.
A four-line rope bridge I designed for a TV Commercial and Stunt we did over the McCloud River (Page 12) I talk about it later in the book and the stunt pulleys were used in the stunt, to tighten the line (we even started to pull a tree over with our pulley system!
|“Wilderness Citizenship…“ An article taken from the pages of “Living Life Well” a book written by Douglas S. Hansen|
“To Bolt or not To Bolt” The Rambler Magazine, September 2000: Leave No Trace while Climbing, deciding whether or not to leave a bolt.
“Near Death On Mount. McKinley” Summit Magazine, July-August 1995: Surviving and Avoiding the effects of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Testing results of several different stoves and the Carbon Monoxide produced at different altitudes.
“Climbers Beware” Collector’s Edition, On Sight! 1994: Addressed safety problems plaguing the climbing community.
“Avalanche Emergencies” Emergency, the journal of emergency services, November, 1990: How to recognize, evaluate, and handle avalanche emergencies.
“Barotraumas: Under Presser” Emergency the Journal of Emergency Services, April 1989: Barotraumas, an injury caused by changes in the earths atmospheric pressure. The signs, symptoms and treatments to the three different types of Barotraumas.
“Critique for Success” Emergency the Journal of Emergency Survives, November 1989: The Do’s and Don’ts about critiquing and reviewing accident response periodical.
“Mastering the Art of Protecting Yourself Part #1” Summit Magazine, January-April 1988: Lead Climbing and the Art of protecting yourself while climbing or belaying. Part #2” Summit Magazine, January-April 1988: Lead Climbing and the Art of protecting yourself while climbing or belaying.
“Ski Related Knee Injuries” Emergency the Journal of Emergency Services, November 1988: How to recognize and treat a knee injury on the slopes.
“Avalanche” Emergency, the journal of emergency services, February 1987: Avalanche Awareness, Detection, Avoidance, and Rescue.
“Crevasse Self Rescue” Summit Magazine, January-February 1986: The how to and equipment ideas for self-rescue out of a crevasse. Steps in preventing an accident in becoming a fatality.
“Ten Steps to Starting Mountaineering of on the Right Foot” Summit Magazine Jan-Feb 1989 Ideas to make learning mountaineering skills safely.
“Using Avalanche Beacons” Summit Magazine, March-April 1986: Using (then relatively new) avalanche beacons effectively.
“Kings Peak – Utah’s Highest” Summit Magazine, May-June 1985: Pictures, Information, and Tips on climbing Utah’s Highest Mountain, Kings Peak.
“Ice Climbing in Utah” Summit Magazine, January-February 1984: Guide, Tips, Ideas, and Pictures to climbing some of the best ice in Utah.
“There is Nothing Wrong with Gore-Tex” Summit Magazine, July-August 1984: Understanding Gore-Tex and Gaining maximum efficiency from your Gore-Tex type laminates.
“Mind over Mountain” Emergency The Journal of Emergency Services, September 1984: Who rescues the rescuer if he finds himself in trouble? Familiarizing the rescue community with basic gear and knowledge on how to perform the more advanced rescues and self-rescue.
“Minimizing the Risks” Summit Magazine, March-April 1983: Preparing yourself Mentally and Physically to take on the challenges and dangers of the outdoors.
“Boil Your Rope?” Summit Magazine, (cover) May-June 1983: Details about ropes, handling them, caring for them, and when to retire them.
“Sunshine a Subjective Danger” Summit Magazine, July-August 1983: The dangers of over exposure to the sun at altitude and the importance of eye protection.
“How Do You Measure Up To The Limestone Test?” Summit Magazine, March-April 1982: The art of climbing and protecting yourself while climbing limestone.
“Mental Training ?” Summit Magazine, April-May 1980: and Emergency, Journal of Emergency Medicine Tips for a better mental training, and the importance of it.
“Neff’s Cave: a cool change of pace” Summit Magazine August-September 1980: Details concerning permission to enter
“Climbing is an Art” Off Belay The Mountain Magazine, October 1980: Mastering the art and Fundamentals of Rock, Ice, and Mountain Climbing.
“On Water Ice” Off Belay The Mountain Magazine, April 1979: Some Tips on Ice Climbing.
“Roped Solo Climbing” On-sight Magazine, Volume One Issue Two: Things to know about Solo Climbing. Equipment list to consider.
International Technical Rescue Symposium (ITRS)
Rescue Professionals sharing knowledge at the Annual International Technical Rescue Symposium. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to present several subjects to the International Technical Rescue Symposium. Below are a few of the technical papers that may be of interest to you.
Communication During the Technical Rescue
Presenter: Hansen Year: 2006 Unavailable – please contact the author for more information November 1, 2006
· Human Factors
Tags: Training and Education
What is Your Real Safety Margin?
Presenter: Hansen Year: 2005
November 1, 2005
· Human Factors
Tags: Decision Making
A Look at Knot Strength in a Dynamic Situation
Presenter: Hansen Year: 2004
November 1, 2004
· Equipment Testing
Non Committal Rescue
Presenter: Hansen Year: 2003
November 1, 2003
· Rescue Technique
Fall Recovery? The Clip, Snip and Lower System
Presenter: Hansen Year: 2002
November 1, 2002
· Rescue Technique
Pulley System Forces: Angles of Pull
Presenter: Hansen Year: 2001
November 1, 2001
· Equipment Testing
Above are the presentations below are some other links that may be of interest.
JUNE 24, 2019
—choosing a rope “A very serious choice.”
A rope is our second lease on life, literally. A good belayer has saved my tail a time or two. Here’s an example where the belay chain handled an extreme situation, and why the rope/belay combination is so important. This is a story I briefly talk about in one of my books.
A competent belayer, along with a good rope, makes climbing more enjoyable and lowers the risks. My belayer, a good friend and climbing partner, fit that picture. Every time I look at these pictures of him and I climbing the Lost Arrow Spire, it reminds me of the confidence and synergy we experienced.
First, I would like to share a thought. I used to hide anything the may look less than perfect. Obviously, if someone makes a mistake, they are not very good at what they do, right? Well, you can answer that, but I will share this thought with you. Over the past some odd years, I started sharing various incidents I have experienced in my life. Some could quite easily cause someone to paint me or my efforts in a negative way.
I have chosen to do this for two reasons: 1. I would like to help my fellow human being avoid some of these potentially dangerous situations. 2. It is my hope that it will somehow help improve your lives, improve your climbing skills, safety awareness, enjoyment factor, improve your well-being, etc.
The following is a situation where I fell roughly 35-40 feet, with a very small piece of pro (#3 stopper) and was stopped a few feet above the ground. Yes, I made a few calculated choices based on the big picture. I did it consciously, and intuitively. The question might be asked, did I make a mistake, well, yes, but in the big scheme of things I was fortunate or engineered it to ultimately work out, or maybe a little of both.—“You tell me?”
This is a belay hero story. It begins shortly after a great weekend climbing trip to the City of Rocks, near the Utah-Idaho border. I had been using my old EB’s, the magic shoe of the day. They worked well—they had shrunk to fit my foot perfectly.
The uppers were made of a heavy-duty cotton canvas, which, with time shrunk to fit your foot. They fit so well I could stand on a psychological edge. I must admit, when I returned home, I was feeling a little overconfident like I was all that and bag of chips. I had led some hard routes and they felt almost easy.
Now it was time to break-in “new” EB’s. My old ones had served me well, but they were sporting a few holes in the uppers, and the edges of the soles, where they attached to the uppers were rather thin.
EB’s reined for a number of years. Eventually, they gave way to the “Spanish Rubber,” which FIRE introduced. Nowadays, most TRB’s have comparably rubber, but when we moved from EB’s to FIRE’s, it was nothing short of magic. I could not believe how well they stuck to the rock!
Anyway, my climbing addiction called and I needed a partner so I asked Steve to join me on a Traditional climb called the “Green Adjective.” Supposedly, the name was given to it, due to the language used during the first ascent. It is quite popular; and considered one of the area’s classics, so much so it made the cover of Climbing Magazine.
It is a multi-pitch route with a total of three pitches, some climbers rap off after completing the first pitch, but I figure I am just getting warmed up by then.
The direct route is considered a 5.10a, and leads onto a finger jam. This is per Mountain Project, “This is the perfect thin seam crack that runs up the Perhaps Area wall. It starts on top of a nice, sunny, flat perch called the “Sun Deck Boulder”. Start either with a direct 5.10a start (spicy with tricky pro, bring your small stuff. . .)”
Prior to climbing that day, I put on an extra pair of socks, inside my EB’s to fill the space. They had not started to shrink yet. Steve had been a student in several of my rock climbing courses, and he took climbing fairly seriously, we hit it off well. So much so we ended up making a trip to Yosemite Valley to do Lost Arrow Spire. (That’s why I included the pictures)
It has been my experience that the trust bonds a climber with their belayer, it can make a tremendous difference—”I believe a belayer is every bit as important as the lead climber.” Sure a lead climber can gamble it with a mediocre belayer, who may not have the skills most of us would like them to have. I have seen a number of climbers quit climbing because that bond was not there and if freaked them out. Including myself, I quit for a number of months mostly due to noticing my belayer, a casual acquaintance, busy doing other things rather than watching the belay details.
Other things beside safety and climbing confidence come from that kind of synergy—which often leads to really great things. Like when we were setting up on the Valley Rim, and we met a hiker. He may have been there to enjoy Yosemite Falls, which this time of year (fall) did not have much water, I did not ask.
He was a total stranger to us, but we went with the flow, and I am glad we did, “He took some really great photos.”
It was a six-mile hike down from the high country, to the edge of the rim. We had to carry five ropes, a million carabiners, a sizeable selection of pro, slings, technical climbing shoes, plus food, water, the kitchen sink, and a few other things. As we started the hike “I felt like a Pack Mule,” and did not want to carry my camera, even though I was excited about getting some good pictures of it, with my new camera.
I had just returned from active duty, and I had bought a new 35mm SLR camera at the PX. Now, as I looked thousands of feet down to the Valley floor, and considered the exposure and the monumental task of climbing the tip and trying to figure out a way to make a traverse back to the rim, with only two of us—the idea of getting pictures seemed minuscule. I did not want to climb with a camera, nor did I want someone belaying me while trying to take pictures; so I decided to leave it on the Rim.
As I was clipping it into a sling, I noticed a backpacker watching, and I asked him if he happened to be around during the day, “maybe he could click a picture or two of us climbing?” Then I showed him where my new camera was. Well, guess what he did!!! He stayed there all day long and took some really great pictures. He took the picture at the beginning of this article, the one below of us making the tyrolean traverse back to the rim, and a few others.
Over the years I have taken some great pictures, even won some awards for them, because I did carry my camera, but now, my head was too busy considering the great exposure (a long ways above the ground). I did not think he would know how to use my camera, let alone invest time in taking pictures, but I ended up trusting a total stranger with my expensive SLR camera–kind-of crazy? Maybe, but in this case, the risk paid big dividends for him and us.
I thought it was so kind of him, that I offered to tie a seat harness for him and one for his friends and let them make the Tyrolean Traverse to Arrow Tip. While they were hanging on the rope I clicked a few pictures of them, while Steve waited patiently. We got his address and we sent them to him—Trust is worth it.
Anyway, back to the important things about our “second lease on life.” When purchasing a rope here are my priorities: First, and foremost, is rope’s ability to manage shock loading; that’s a rope’s primary function—catching us if we fall, but I think that all too often taken for granted.
The lead section (A) (See Diagram) of the live end of the rope holds the brunt of a fall. Section (B) holds about 65% of that force that ends up making it past the top piece of pro. That means if a leader takes a six-foot fall, and they are stopped quickly, they can develop well over a 1,500 lbs of force (which is easy to do). In this scenario, about 975 lbs is applied to the next section (B) of rope. This means that due to the “pulley” effect, the anchor must hold about 2,475 lbs of force.
Depending on how many pieces of pro the leader has placed, the type of line it is, angles, etc. there can be a number of other sections on the live end. Each section holds a percentage of the force. In some cases, the forces that reach the belayer is “0 lbs.” This is due to the friction created by the various pieces of pro, the angles over the rock, the line, etc.
The belay can end up being static, other than the rope stretch, or the “ropes ability to absorb shock.” This is why a leader sometimes will say they are “sewing the route up.” A good protection line can help prevent this. They are putting it together to pay them their dividends.
Each time you fall on your rope it reduces its ability to hold a fall. With time it will recover much of its dynamic ability. Each rope is different.
Now for an eye-opener, “read this report, Analysis of the accident on Air Guitar, the VantageReport20040530 it is something every climber should read. A word of warning, it appears very technical and it is. It looks like it was written for a group of astrophysics masters. Just breeze past the areas that are over our heads, and see if you can see how the different sections of rope, and the various resultant forces, helped to create this unfortunate accident. “Good training could have prevented this accident.”
Here’s the good news. A skilled leader/belayer combination can keep the risks low, and have a great time doing it. I have a personal example while we were climbing the Green A. I mentioned the Lost Arrow climb because while climbing with Steve I never gave a second thought to whether my belayer would take care of me. I can’t remember if we climbed Lost Arrow before or after this fall on the Green Adjective story occurred, but I was feeling a little cocky, and he, like a good teammate, tactfully helped to cover my error.
My error was twofold, one was I that I was feeling a little overconfident. Confidence is needed but too much is not needed. The other error was my “Situational Awareness” was down. I should have adjusted things back some and climbed some 5.6 climbs while my boots were shrinking. Early in my climbing career, I used to begin the new climbing season, by trying to climb routes I had ended the previous season on—I scared myself silly a few times. I knew better, but I had not learned it yet. “We don’t do what we know; we do what we have learned.” With time I learned to start the new seasons conservatively and to work up to the harder routes.
At the base of the Green A, I was put on two pair of rather thick socks so my foot would not slop around in my technical boot. I tied in with my usual, one-one half fisherman knot, as Steve was finishing setting up a good directional anchor (the Stick man in the picture) for his hip belay. I checked my rack, and my slings, and asked, “On Belay?” He replied, “Belay on.” The 5.10a move is close to the ground and I was fresh so I moved past it and was up about 20 or 30 feet and stopped to place a small #3 stopper (lower arrow) and added a full-length sling to prevent the rope drag from lifting it out of the crack.
Then I yelled, “Climbing,” and Steve yelled up to me, “Don’t you think you should put another piece in?” He was right, a #3 was rather small, especially since it was my only anchor. I put another small stopper firmly in the crack, a couple of feet higher. Then I added another full-length sling.
Slings or runners help prevent rope drag from lifting pieces out of the crack or help prevent misalignment. I strive to place anchors so they stay in place, rather than to fall on . . . If a climber places an anchor to fall on, the may avoid adding the extra length of a sling, which adds a couple of feet to their fall.
I yelled, “Climbing,” this time Steve gave me a “Climb On,” reply. I climbed above the pro and noticed my feet were next to useless. The sloppy fit was worse than I figured, but by then I was five or ten feet above my pro. Since climbing down is about three times harder, I decided to hunker down and go for it, and I did. I had climbed it a few times before, so I did what we sometimes we must, while on lead. We make the choice between trying to hang on, and put a piece in and maybe fall, or use what strength we have left to push on to a better place—I pushed on.
Had I tried to downclimb or get a piece in, I would almost surely have fallen, but I would have been closer to my last piece? Sticking my fingers deeper in the crack I climbed on. After some grunting and groaning, I finally reached a familiar place where the angle backed off and the handholds were better (Top Red Arrow)–then I popped.
I remember being well aware of the fact I was air-born, and then my heel hit a small edge. A nice thing about a good hip belay is the belayer can actually take in a good amount of rope, fairly quickly, thus reducing the length of the fall. Next thing I recall is Steve apologizing for not letting me slide further. He said, “The ground was coming up! Then he finished lowering me to the ground, I untied and took a needed rest.
It must have been pretty a pretty impressive fall. I remember hearing the climber who happened to be using my camera to take the opening photo, yell, almost at the top of his lungs, “That’s the longest fall I have ever seen!!!” Can’t remember his name, be he had joined us a few times while we were in the canyon.
After a short rest and some chit chat, Steve and I traded leads, , and finished the lead. I cleaned the route, as he belayed me up to the bolts that served as a belay stance. We decided to rap off and call it a day.
As I look back at this situation several things come to mind. One, confidence is good, but overconfidence is not. That balance can be tricky. Two, Situational Awareness, there is more to a climb than pro, a line, and . . . There is the weather, a team, equipment, and many other things that come into play.
While breaking my shoes in, I should have been on top-rope, or may on a 5.6 or 5.7 lead climb. If you have not attended “Situational Awareness and Risk Exposure Training,” it would be a good idea.
Steve did me well. His belay was near perfect, he performed an excellent dynamic hip belay. Hip belays, when rigged properly and executed properly, minimize impact force, and in Trad climbing, sometimes anchors are less the bomb-proof, so a good belay is essential. Had Steve been using a mechanical belay device, I am about 90% positive I would have cratered.
Edges are a big concern. Knots act like edges, reduce the strength of a rope from 20% to 50%, depending on the knot. A tight radius occurs when we put a knot in the rope when it travels over a biner, and over other types of edges. I have never heard of a rope breaking in normal use, but I have heard of many ropes being cut while on edges.
♦For more in-depth information on knot strength.
Protect your rope from edges, this is very important.
Impact force increases cutting potential, and a belayer can control shock absorption to a good degree, and of course, the rope does too. Here’s something to note. Each time you fall on a rope it stretches. With time, it retracts, but repeated falls, over a short time period, will reduce the ropes ability to absorb shock, thus . . . good training will help fill in the other things like working capacity over an edge, initial elongation, Everdry treatments, the advantages and disadvantages of unicore technology
One comment I often hear is “you don’t want to hit a ledge or other hazard. True, but priority wise, if you anchors fail, things go to hell quite quickly. Anchors must be placed well, and they must stay in place.
Of course, a good rope, with a low impact force can help and is part of the combination (especially if you are using mechanical belay devices, but it is the big picture that makes everything work. The leader, belayer, and rope along with the other gear that comes together to make the climbing experience a reasonable and fun pursuit.
I realize there is a lot more to the subject, and varying circumstances, but I hope I have been able to shed some light on the subject. I have added a chart that I have developed over the past years. It may make sense to you, but generally, people are very glad when they attend training.
♦This post was taken from my upcoming book: “Rope, Pulleys, Rigging Systems, and Avoiding Dangerous Resultant 3rd edition”♦