American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Equipment Failure Due to Mis-use, West Virginia, New River Gorge, Kaymoor

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2011

FALL ON ROCK, EQUIPMENT FAILURE DUE TO MIS-USE

West Virginia, New River Gorge, Kaymoor

On June 12 Karen Feher (33) and her partner were climbing Rico Suave (5.10a). Upon reaching the anchor, she clipped in. Her setup: She had two thin dyneema slings girth hitched to her harness. At the end of each sling was a locking carabiner held in place with a rubber Petzl keeper (called ‘Petzl Strings’). The “string” is designed to fit on the end of a Petzl runner in order to keep the lower carabiner on a quickdraw in place for easy clipping and to protect the webbing from abrasion.

She clipped a locking carabiner to each bolt and probably called, “Off belay.” It is unclear if she was going to rappel or be lowered. It doesn’t matter. She took a fatal fall about 50 feet to the ground.

The day after the accident, a local climber climbed to the anchor and found a locking carabiner on each bolt with a Petzl String still affixed to each. Both Petzl Strings were torn on the side. It is unclear if the two slings were still attached to her harness, as her harness went with her and EMS, but I am assuming this to be true.

Analysis

How could this happen? This is one of the safest setups for cleaning an anchor. At the top of Rico Suave is a small ledge to stand on and clean. If you’re not fully weighting the system, these rubber strings will hold about 15 pounds before breaking. I’m guessing they were able to hold just enough weight to feign security while she untied to feed, until just enough weight was added to cause the break.

There is some level of speculation, but with the evidence at hand this seems to be the most likely scenario. (Source: Mike Williams, from a post on rockclimbing.com, and http://www.dailymail.com/News)

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