American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded—Rappel Ropes Frozen, Darkness, Inadequate Equipment, New Hampshire, Cathedral Ledge

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1993

STRANDED—RAPPEL ROPES FROZEN, DARKNESS, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT

New Hampshire, Cathedral Ledge

On January 28, 1992, two ice climbers (early 20s) got to within about 50 feet of the top of Cathedral Ledge. Because of approaching darkness, they rappelled from a tree growing on the ledge just below the final chimney of Remission. When they tried to pull down their rappel ropes, the ropes moved for about 20 feet and then stuck. The climbers still had both ends of the two rope rappel. They tried for an hour and a half to free the rappel and called for help. Two MRS members went to the top of the cliff. One rappelled to free the ropes which seemed to be frozen in place. The climbers could then make another rappel to the ground.

Analysis

The climbers were not carrying headlamps. With a headlamp, one of them might have been able to prusik up to free the rappel, especially since one of their two ropes was dry, having been in the pack until they started down. The rope they had used for the climb would have had some ice on it, but that rope could have been anchored while one of the climbers ascended the dry rope. However, the climbers were tired, so they were wise not to try a prusik ascent in the dark. They might have avoided the stuck ropes by leaving enough slings to move the rappel anchor point out to the edge of the steep ice. (Source: George Hurley)

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