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  1. #1
    Trail Master
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    Rap accident in Rubio Canyon; 60' fall



    On Thalehaha Falls in Rubio Canyon, Altadena, CA, my buddy rigged his autoblock incorrectly. When he slipped on the mossy face, he sadly instinctively let go of the brake line. He fell 60'. It was miraculous that he walked away with nothing but deep bruises. Credit the shallow pool, slight slope of the face, landing on his butt, and the redirection the autoblock created which contributed some friction.

    I actually haven't rappelled first in ages, always the leader now and checking others' rigging. But he wanted me to get pics and video of his coming down. He has done about 25 rappels total in his canyoneering career, including the 100/120' Leontine falls in the same canyon. I was concerned, I cautioned him, but he insisted. So I went down.

    His mistake, as verified by still from the video, was that he didn't clip his autoblock 'biner into the leg loop. Rather it was above the leg loop. Of course it slid up and couldn't cinch the brake line.

    In hindsight, a fireman's belay would have prevented this. Such is the risk of a 2 man descent and the desire to get video/pics. I don't know if I should have insisted on going last, or forgone the pics and done a fireman's belay, or done like I did and granted that a canyoneer is responsible for themselves at some point in their career.

    Thankfully his ego is the most bruised of all.

    Edit:

    Below is the moment of head impact, complete with spark off the rock from one of the helmet's rear rivets.
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    Below is the autoblock rigging, where we see the 'biner (C) clipped not at the block's girth (A) but beyond the leg loop buckle (B).
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  3. #2
    Thanks for sharing this video. I think it contributes something to the whole autoblock vs no autoblock debate. The excited utterances in the video are completely excusable. Thank goodness your friend is ok. Wow. As Tom says: Don't F-up. But it happens and we all need to learn from these situations.

    Ken

  4. #3
    Outdoorsman ghawk's Avatar
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    - Gavin

  5. #4
    Bogley BigShot oldno7's Avatar
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    Glad he's o.k.

    Nothing is more slippery than San Gabriel Granite.

    Lots of mistakes here

  6. #5
    Z-Crew Deathcricket's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing this video! It's a good reminder to all of us that little unexpected things can always happen. I am really glad your friend is ok! I'm still shocked he let go of that rope hehe. And now that we know he's ok, I really enjoyed the slo-mo Shiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!.......... portions.
    Your safety is not my responsibility.

  7. #6
    Canyon Wrangler canyoncaver's Avatar
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    Wow. Thanks for sharing so that we may all learn from it.

    Obviously, as you stated he shouldn't have let go of the brake line, autoblock or no. But after he did, I would like to point out that your buddy's leather gloves likely saved him from serious injury. No gloves or even rubber gloves and he might have had to let go when his hands started burning. His "glove rappel" slowed him down more than "no rappel."

    The vocal anti-helmet crowd would do well to study this one as well.

    Thanks again and glad it all worked out.

  8. #7
    Trail Master Audilard's Avatar
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    Wow is right. That's a spooky fall. Very glad he is okay.
    Darin

  9. #8
    Wow...

    Uhh, his mistake had nothing to do with how he rigged his autoblock, IMHO. In flow, my bet is most folks don't use an autoblock. In high flow, stuck in a waterfall, or, in a pool, an autoblock can be bad.

    He let go. Ugh. Maybe use two hands? Maybe use both strands for additional friction and control? Maybe rig for more friction?

    His brake hand position is maybe a bit off? I take the brake strand in my hand down below and around my hip, not that close to my rap device.

    Could also rig the rappel device on a sling above the harness, which, puts it in a spot that is easier to control.

    Back to the autoblock, which, maybe shouldn't be used in flow, biners on the leg loop for an autoblock, where the rap device is directly off the belay loop, are notoriously unreliable. You need to get more space between them!

    An autoblock is a really poor back up for bad technique. They don't always work, and, they require a fair amount of skill and experience to rig them properly. And, you only find out they don't work when you screw up. Didn't look like the autoblock contributed anything to his slowing down at all.

    If your friend's instinct is to let go of the rope with any slip on a rappel...then...ugh...maybe a top belay and not a fireman's would be more appropriate.

    Single rope, pack on back, slick rock...

    Relying on gloves to make up for poor technique and skill and too little friction...never a good idear. Maybe a bunch of rappels without them would help gain some insight into rigging properly? If you "need" them, then, you're not doing it right.

    Scary.
    Last edited by Brian in SLC; 02-21-2012 at 09:02 AM. Reason: and replaced by with

  10. #9
    Bottom Tier Superhero Iceaxe's Avatar
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    ^^^ THIS ^^^

  11. #10
    Canyon Wrangler canyoncaver's Avatar
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    Just to clarify my post, I am not advocating "relying" on leather gloves. Just that they were a helpful contingency in this situation. Much more helpful than the autoblock.

    Maintaining control of the brake line is the real solution. I find that reaching over with the left hand for two hands on the brake line works really well on skinny fast rope.

  12. #11
    Trail Master
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    C R A Z Y........ L U C K Y ! ! ! !

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  14. #13
    Adventurer Slot Machine's Avatar
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    Wow, I thought people only stood up from falls like that in movies and video games. I'm really glad he is ok.

    After cleaning out my shorts and watching the video again, the slowed down profanity is really funny. I thought DC was evil for just a second-

    I'm going to change my phone's incoming text sound to "Shiiiiiiiiii" right now.

    Really, that was scary and your video is a great chance for everyone to learn. Serious question, why not use both strands on that rappel?

    Thanks for sharing,

    Bob

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by canyoncaver View Post
    Just to clarify my post, I am not advocating "relying" on leather gloves. Just that they were a helpful contingency in this situation. Much more helpful than the autoblock.
    I dunno. Maybe this is a case where gloves actually contributed to the near miss?

    I like the tactile feel of the rope in my hand. Mentally, it help reinforces that my life is literally in my hands. When you have a glove on, you're one step away from that. And, I wonder if its easier to forget, in an instant, what's in your hand.

    Gloved hand above the rap device...one below and right under the belay loop...easy on a slip to reach out for balance with that brake hand. The brake hand is right there, in play, to provide balance for a slip. And maybe the quick thought that a gloved hand above might be adequate for a catch? Dunno. Got to get that brake hand out of play which is why I like mine well below and around the back of my hip, almost behind me. I get additional friction if need be, and, its just not that available for balance should I slip. And, we all slip on slick, mossy rock.

    Using both hands below as brakes and relying on balance and footwork might help, too, but, I do like a hand free to guide me on especially a slick, lower angle rappel.

    Also, really appreciate folks sharing videos like this. The arm chair quarterbacking and criticism can be withering, but, it does provide good learning banter for everyone to enjoy.

    Thanks!

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  17. #15
    Trail Master
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    re: helmet. What on Earth is the argument against? I've seen a friend nearly get killed by falling rock when he wasn't wearing one. Not to mention merely slipping/tripping while scrambling in a canyon. Not to mention hitting your head like in this video.

    re: double line. Two reasons. 1, I always rig a contingency anchor when leading. It was for me, in this case, as he knows how to release and lower. 2, I wanted the option to ascend and be able to get all the way to the top if needed. Combined with his desire to go single line, we were both happy with the setup.

    re: autoblock. I hear you about flow and would not use one in substantive flow myself. Although this flow was minor.

    re: pack. I'm a proponent of keeping minor packs on as cushion for accidents. My heavy lead pack is a different story.

    Note on my reaction: laughing is my nervous coping mechanism for stress. I'm notorious for it and I've had people get mad at me over the years about it. But we both were overcome in the hour it took to finish the canyon. Matt had a good cry in the car driving home and I was really shaken up that night at home.

  18. #16
    Trail Master skiclimb3287's Avatar
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    Glad he is OK! Definitely a scary situation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian in SLC View Post
    He let go. Ugh. Maybe use two hands?
    This is the funny thing about autoblocks, isn't it? When rappelling, you should never let go with your brake hand, but when you have an autoblock rigged below the rap device (well always), you need to let go of the autoblock to allow it to engage. If you are not using two hands (which I find downright awkward in this type of setup), then you need to consciously make the decision to let go of the rope. For this reason, I am not a fan of autoblocks, it goes against good habit.

    YMMV

  19. #17
    Trail Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian in SLC View Post
    He let go. Ugh. Maybe use two hands?
    He had been talking to me that day about how he had transitioned to two hands on the brake line since we last went together in August. But obviously he didn't here.

    The mentality that life hinges on that brake line has to be so deeply ingrained!

  20. #18
    Z-Crew Deathcricket's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dsr70 View Post
    re: helmet. What on Earth is the argument against? I've seen a friend nearly get killed by falling rock when he wasn't wearing one. Not to mention merely slipping/tripping while scrambling in a canyon. Not to mention hitting your head like in this video.
    There isn't an argument against helmets per se, there is an argument about jumping all over noobs and criticizing them to the point where they don't feel welcome to post because they didn't wear a helmet their first few times out, or didn't wear one for whatever reason. Everyone agrees helmets are a GOOD thing. But being hostile towards others who choose not to wear one is what the argument is about, trying to be welcoming to everyone, etc. Similar to not wearing one on a motorcycle IMO. In this case it clearly saved your buddies life IMO.

    re: Your reaction. I think mine would be exactly the same. I don't think the laughing and nervousness makes light of the situation at all. I think had I been in your shoes my reaction would be exactly the same.

    Once again, thanks for sharing. Brian is totally right. It's hard to take critiques from armchair quarterbacks, but this is an awesome experience for us all to learn from and hopefully prevent another occurrence. And it's an amazing video to watch. I've watched it like 5 times and put it on my facebook page, hehe.
    Your safety is not my responsibility.

  21. #19
    Trail Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deathcricket View Post
    There isn't an argument against helmets per se, there is an argument about jumping all over noobs
    I see, I didn't know that dynamic existed. Funny too, we saw a group of two descending that day. A guy taking a new-ish girlfriend down on her first ever descent. He was loaded with top notch ICG pack, ICG rope silo, good assorted gear, technora rope, Ecrin helmet, had done Imlay, Mystery, Spry, Death Valley cyns, etc.... but she wasn't wearing a helmet. I was shocked.

    In this case it clearly saved your buddies life IMO.
    You know I didn't think much about the helmet at that moment as it didn't seem determinative. But when I got home and edited the video, wow. He clearly whacked the back of his head hard on the way down. It may very well have saved him.

  22. #20
    Z-Crew Deathcricket's Avatar
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    He could have been like this only reversed
    Your safety is not my responsibility.

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