North Carolina, Table Rock

Publication Year: 1974.

North Carolina, Table Rock. On December 3rd Steve Longenecker (age 33) and Robert Watts (27) were doing a short rock climb at Table Rock. Longenecker customarily climbed in a seat harness made of one-inch nylon webbing. Having forgotten his own, he borrowed one that Watts had worn on two previous outings. The webbing was approximately twelve feet long and had a piece of tape about midway. When Longenecker fell on the lead, the webbing parted at the tape, letting him drop 62 feet to the ground, where he landed on his left side, sustaining a broken rib, several bruised muscles, and a brain contusion. He was wearing a Joe Brown hard hat that was not scratched in the fall. (Source: Longenecker.)

Analysis: Both leader and belayer assumed that the tape marked the middle of the webbing. Not so. The webbing consisted of two separate pieces that had been taped together before Watts purchased it. Manufacturers may splice webbing with tape so as to sell it in reels of exact length. Other climbers have purchased spliced webbing, including one who used it as a running belay sling. Obviously, climbing equipment shops should put an end to this custom. Climbers have an equal responsibility to inspect their gear closely, which means that no working length of rope or webbing should be covered with tape.

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