Author Topic: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)  (Read 3021 times)

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Offline scotto

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My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« on: August 25, 2011, 10:18:41 am »
So, I'm a wall gumby. I mean, I reasonably know what I'm doing in that I was a competent trad climber and have several years of high angle rope rescue experience, but when it comes to actually doing a big wall, I only had about 30 pitches of aid under my belt before driving out to Yosemite from North Carolina at the start of this summer. I had been to the valley once before, but it was part of an ill-conceived plan to climb Zodiac that ended with a friend and I bailing on the second day.

Unfortunately, this summer I couldn't come up with a partner. The Yosemite vet who taught me to aid was busy in his first year as both a doctor and a dad, and I just don't know that many other serious aid climbers in North Carolina. So, I bought a shitload of used crabs off MP.com and learned the basics of aid soloing, thanks in large part to you guys. I'm really grateful for all the help you gave. I got sick and chased off the wall by a hailstorm when I tried to practice, but I was reasonably sure that I could figure it out when I got to Yosemite if I had to.

Luckily I met another partnerless climber named Jack who had a similar number of aid pitches under his belt and the good fortune of doing nothing but climbing for the past 8 months. Our first target was the South Face of Washington Column, which I guess is just about everyone's first big wall. It was really fun and really easy. Our first day was blisteringly hot, but we were making such good time that we spent about four hours lounging in the shade of the only tree on the Dinner Ledge during the heat of the day before continuing up the Kor Roof.



We fixed to the top of pitch 5, then slept on dinner ledge with the plan to blast off from there and rap the route to retrieve the pig. Everything went great the next day, and the climbing was easy. The only complication was that I had caught a gastrointestinal bug from my girlfriend and REALLY had to take a shit during the final four pitches of climbing. The last pitch was supposed to be mine, but I asked Jack to lead it on the grounds that I really couldn't focus on anything but the need to poop, and the poop tube was with the pig on Dinner Ledge. I reached the top at a dead sprint for the treeline so that I could use nature's facilities.


Summit photo

Anyway, we rapped down to spend the night on Dinner Ledge with a couple of kids from Oklahoma who had climbed up behind us and planned to summit the next day.  After a rest day, we made plans to climb Royal Arches. I spent about half an hour copying the topo, until one of us suggested, "screw it, let's just do Leaning Tower." I scrapped the hand-drawn topo. I really didn't feel like drawing out another topo, so I walked over to the Ahwahnee, figuring that fortune favors the bold. The manager at the Ahwahnee was nice (or taken aback) enough to photocopy the LT topo for us, and we set about packing for another wall. Somewhere in there, Jack suggested Lurking Fear instead. I had just promised my girlfriend that I'd come see her in LA in three days, so I knew this meant trouble for me. Eventually I said to hell with the woman and threw my ledge into our gear pile.

Of course, there was a slight hitch in our plans. We hiked our pigs to the base of Lurking Fear only to find another party about to ascend their fixed line to the top of pitch 1 and continue their climb. Given my limited remaining time in the valley, we opted to hike all our stuff to the base of Leaning Tower that day.

I led the first pitch and decided to link the first two. However, 15 feet from the pitch two anchors, Jack shouted up at me, "The haul line is too short! I don't think you have enough rope to make it!" We had already budgeted pretty tightly on the amount of water we brought. Screwing around for another hour because the haul line was too short would run us even more thin. I made it to the anchor, but Jack was lifting our pig above his head, trying to give me every inch of possible rope. I extended my haul anchor to reach as low as I possibly could, said a quick prayer, and managed to rig the haul line into my new anchor with about three inches to spare. I haven't actually measured it yet, but I'm pretty sure I got shorted on the "60m" haul line, because my lead line had plenty of rope.

The rest of the way to the Ahwahnee ledge was without incident. The route was really fun, and the scenery was spectacular. I led the pitch traversing up and to the right off the ledge. We only had a single set of cams in the range of 00-0 mastercams, and I found myself seriously wishing for more. I did the pendulum from the bolt off the belay, but I back cleaned all the gear getting to the thin rising traverse, because I was afraid of rope drag. Once I got to the traverse, I found that our single pieces in the 00-0 MC sizes were almost the only thing that would fit, forcing me to backclean further to continue upward progress. At some point, I got in a micro nut, followed by a 0/1 offset master cam that I intended to leave as my first piece of clipped pro after the bolt. After that, I got in a visually bomber #1 mastercam, and it appeared that I'd be getting some more good pieces in soon. Needless to say, I was pretty relieved after a surprising runout. I was standing in my aiders on the yellow mastercam, trying to select my next piece, when *chink* *chink*    *BAM*   *BAM*

Evidently, the yellow mastercam was not so bomber. My daisy then ripped the offset out of the rock,, and the next instant I was hanging way below the belay and screaming in pain. "Talk to me, Scott! Talk to me!" I knew I should respond, but I just kind of screamed for what he describes as nearly minute, but which felt like only a few seconds to me.

I had taken about a 15 foot headfirst freefall onto a sloping column of rock. Then, as the rope came taut on the bolt now above and to the left of me, I took a pendulum swing into another column of rock 10 feet left.

Eventually I composed myself enough to shout back the obviously untrue statement "I'm OK," as I somehow managed to rig my ascenders to climb the rope back up to his position. After a few feet, I felt a sticky sensation on my neck. I reached back and inspected my hand. I shouted up, "I think my head is bleeding." A few moments later, "I can't shut my jaw!" I was increasingly noticing the pain and climbed faster in case I passed out or stopped being able to move. I was still pretty shaken and not sure what all hurt. I made it back up to Guano ledge and rigged myself into the fixed lines to traverse back to the Ahwahnee.


Taking stock

Fortunately, I'm an EMT, and Jack is a WFR, so we both had relevant training. A quick survey revealed nothing major other than a gash on my head from where the helmet broke and sliced my scalp and the inability to shut my jaw. Lots of scapes and sore spots, but no breaks. I did pull fragments of a headlamp that had smashed against my hip out of my right pocket (that hurt for weeks). I never lost consciousness, remembered the whole fall (sort of... it was fast), and was never too confused to rig stuff or answer orientation questions, which Jack had started asking almost immediately. So, no concussion, but the broken helmet had me really worried about a closed head injury that might develop. Obviously the ledge was not a good place to be with that, and I'd be a huge liability if I developed symptoms on rappel. It was getting late in the day, and if we started rapping then, it would be dark by the time we got to the ground. Whether or not to call YOSAR was on my mind. I didn't want rescue if I wasn't showing head injury symptoms, but I kept thinking that maybe I'd just apprise them of the situation so that they could get moving faster if I got worse.

Ultimately, I decided to call my ER doc/wall climber friend for advice. We settled on a plan of neuro checks every hour for for hours and going to sleep if they all checked out fine, since I had been OK to this point. We decided not to bother YOSAR. My exams checked out, and Jack got some sleep while I pretty much just hurt no matter what position I tried. Jack led the rappels in the morning, and I rode the pig. We actually managed to booty bail gear from a party that climbed up behind us and bailed but couldn't clean all of their stuff from the overhang.

I ended up being alright. The clinic said they would've stitched the gash, but I was outside the window for sterile closure. My jaw hurt like hell for a week, and I had to get by on a soft diet. My hip hurt like hell for a couple weeks. I went to a medical conference in Colorado for a week to recover and then did a bunch of free climbing in RMNP and the Flatirons.





Anyway... what I'm really interested in is the stuff leading up to the fall. I made a series of bad decisions and paid for them.

1) We had more small cams, but they stayed in the car. We figured the route was "easy" and took a light rack. Being able to leave a 0 or 00 clipped for pro would've solved the problem.

2) Still, more gear isn't always the answer. More mileage probably would've opened my eyes to some good placements that I just didn't see. Even though the micro nut wasn't likely to hold a fall, it (and everything prior) had been thoroughly bounce tested. I had a screamer and should've left that for pro. Bad pro is better than no pro.

3) Speaking of bounce testing, I had been vigorously bounce testing everything on the traverse up until the yellow mastercam. I didn't bounce test that because it was "visually bomber." I guess not. Still, if I had bounce tested it, my daisy still would've likely ripped the offset cam before it, sending me to a huge fall. Does anyone have any thoughts here? Had I been bounce testing in a situation that was not appropriate?

4) I worried too much about whether Jack would have a hard time cleaning pieces because of my backcleaning the traverse. Most of the placements were the 0 or 00 that I had to backclean, but I did get a bomber yellow TCU early on. I pulled it because I didn't see anything but 0 and 00 placements for 8 feet. My fall could've been a lot worse if I'd hit even slightly differently. A TCU is cheaper than a hospital stay. I probably should've left it and trusted that he could get it back. I prioritized my own safety less than gear, and that's probably the biggest mistake I made. It's certainly one I will try not to make again.


Thoughts, anyone? This was the worst fall I've ever been a party to, and I want to learn as much as I can from it. I got really lucky.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2011, 10:41:46 am by scotto »

Offline lambone

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2011, 10:35:31 am »
dude...glad yer more or less ok. thx for the report.

Offline Mike.

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2011, 01:35:05 pm »
Good job getting out on your own.


RE your technique:

Usually bounce testing cams only serves to move them into an orientation or position you don't want. I might do it if the rock was loose or a flake suspect. Or if that mineral deposit crap appears to be lining the crack. Care is needed on traverses b/c the direction of pull changes with weighting/moving and of course taking a fall.

I almost never fully get on a piece and start bouncing away trying to make myself fall. If it's a traverse and you have no choice, unclip your daisy from and clip the rope into the piece behind you so that piece has a fighting chance of stopping a fall. Runner it well. Sometimes the ease-through-it method is best if you think the gear is suspect and you know there's good gear coming up.

That's a tricky spot and has been the traditional crux pitch, tho other sections come in and out of shape and take on/lose fixed gear.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2011, 01:39:01 pm by Mike. »
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Offline Chad

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2011, 02:13:29 pm »
Scott,

If I have this right, you were standing on a purple/blue offset (Not sure if you tested it) and had moved up on a yellow master cam that you had not tested. One thing that would have been helpful is to have unclipped your daisy/aider from the previous piece 0/1 and docked it on your gear loop, or wherever, before starting to look for the next piece, while standing on the yellow cam. At least that way, the rope might catch you and you won't be taking a daisy fall and putting a lot of static force on you or the piece. Maybe the 0/1 piece wouldn't have ripped out if the rope was clipped and the daisy not. In either case, I would have tested the 0/1. Failing to test puts you in an awkward position of not knowing how much you can trust the piece you are standing on. Still worse would be standing on a cam hook and not being able to test a sketchy placement above.

Testing is a spectrum. Leg testing seems most efficient and can kind of be integrated into your progression. But when the climbing gets real, I think daisy testing is where it's at. When the climbing is scary, you want to test low, so that means climbing up, placing the piece, down climbing in your ladders to maybe the 4th step and testing the upper piece hard. If the upper piece fails the test, you should still be stable in your lower aiders, regroup, and try to get something else to stick.

Of course it is possible to carry the testing too far and unnecessarily stress your gear and take too long. But recently, I leg tested a 1.0 Friend cam in a sort of expando flake, and I was glad I did. It moved down like 5 inches and then caught again. I put it up higher again, gave it a few more bodyweight plus bounces and continued.

Glad you are okay and had an excellent trip up Washington Column.

« Last Edit: August 25, 2011, 02:16:15 pm by Chad »

Offline scotto

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2011, 03:32:14 pm »
Chad, that's pretty much the scenario. I had tested the offset.

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2011, 06:38:24 pm »
First, Scotto....Nice gore shot, man! Glad you're not dead.
My biggest fall, like yours, was the result of shortchanging myself, leaving stuff I knew damn well I'd need. I think that, like me, you'll think twice about leaving stuff in yer rig when it could save yer ass on the Wall. You should see the goon rack I carry, man. Seriously, though, you want to leave options for yourself. If you've got it, you can use it.
I don't bounce test cams, for the reasons posted above, but I'll bounce the Hell out of a pin or head.
So, are ya gonna have a cool scar? Chicks dig scars.

Offline scotto

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2011, 07:01:22 pm »
I actually haven't seen the back of my head to know. I can certainly feel the scar, and I'm sure it will be visible the next time I get a haircut. Screw pickup lines. I'm just going to walk into bars and point at the scar. They'll want me.

Offline Didder

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2011, 10:30:31 pm »
Gnarly... That pitch always has my attention. Sounds like a good learning experience and worth the bit of pain... I bet the rack on your next wall will not be lackIng. Nice effort on back to back walls.

Offline offset

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2011, 11:28:41 pm »
i ripped an offset alien on that traverse...  deployed a screamer and everything.   

glad you're ok and wicked blood pics.  hope the chicks dig it!!


Offline *Mucci*

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2011, 08:33:40 pm »
I have seen that section spit many a climber off.

Mike, when you were doing a night push with 3, I remember your leader took a ripper there as you guys were eating pizza!

on other trips I saw 2 others come screaming off there.

Bad place to fall, probably the worst on the whole route.

For some reason, that is the one pitch I have not lead on that route in 3 trips.  Guess I am gonna have to see what it is all about :)

Glad you are ok, and self rescued!

Thanks for the TR, and keep the psych!

Offline scotto

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2011, 11:10:23 am »
So, I don't know if this is a topic that is dead and buried, but I remember there being some discussion when mastercams came out. I was playing with them at the crag yesterday and began to wonder if loading the mastercams over the edge of the more horizontal than vertical crack in question might have retracted the lobes and caused the piece to blow after I had been standing on it.

Offline Mike.

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2011, 12:31:40 pm »
Ah, you were there with Clancie, yes?? I never met Chuck, just talked on the phone. I recognized his voice but even after "meeting" him on the route, still had no idea what he looked like b/c of darkness. Somehow I expected him to look more like you!

Yea, I've peeled out of that diag crack spot too, the only place on the route.
Say no to limbers, excavators and retro-bolters. No matter how much he smiles.

Offline Garbonzo

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2011, 03:46:32 pm »
Yowza.

Trade Route does not mean Gimme Route.

The first trip up that thing I had a #1 TCU pop and take out the next offset alien below it, in the exact same spot from the sounds of it.  Even well traveled that route has sections of less than bomber gear due to funky pin scars, and changing loads due to traversing moves.

The last time I went up it I had a ~6 lb chunk break off getting over the roof of P9.  Even a #2 camalot turned out not to be bomber (thankfully the orange alien I was still daisied in short to held).  The thing landed between my feet, which was REALLY lucky as there were some aussies down below at the base that would have gotten nailed.  So we managed to tag up a sack and give the rock a ride to the summit.

When in doubt, sew it up.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2011, 05:18:36 pm by Garbonzo »

Offline johnmac

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2011, 08:24:22 pm »
Glad to hear that you are okay after that nasty full. Shit happens!

Getting off the daisy before you move and commit to the upper piece is the way to go. More chance for the rope to work as designed.

Offline Wmorris

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2011, 10:24:24 am »
I fell right around the same area, but pend back onto my lower piece, as I was still clipped to it.  I had placed a #3 MC into a scar and thought it was fine, but it wasnt.  Fall wasnt bad, used an offset the second time around and learned not to take shortcuts!

Good Job, I've tried the SFWC two times only to be spit off two times.  First time was issues with my partner and our water exploding in the haul bag...long story.  Second time tried to do it in a one day push in Early March and just ran out of time.

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: My Gumby Adventure (and big fall)
« Reply #15 on: September 06, 2011, 06:45:11 pm »
Quote
give the rock a ride to the summit.

rock taxi service

how much for 6'1" guy, willing to drink your beer for you?