American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock — Ascender Threaded Incorrectly, Dehydration, New Hampshire, Cathedral Ledge, The Prow

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  • Publication Year: 2012

FALL ON ROCK - ASCENDER THREADED INCORRECTLY, DEHYDRATION

New Hampshire, Cathedral Ledge, The Prow

On August 8, a climber (40s) from Center Conway survived a 100-foot fall at Cathedral Ledge.

The Prow ascends the nose directly below the fenced-in viewing area at the top of the cliff. It’s renowned both as a free climb and as a popular aid climb.

The two climbers were there to do the route as an aid climb; both were familiar with that type of climbing. They got several rope-lengths up over the course of the day and were several hundred feet off the ground.

The victim’s partner took between 45 minutes and an hour and a half to climb to the next stance where he anchored the rope. The victim was supposed to ascend the rope, cleaning any gear as he went, but according to Rick Wilcox, head of Mountain Rescue Service (MRS), “He apparently suffered dehydration.” He was having trouble setting up his gear and he fumbled and dropped a crucial ascending device. Without it, he had to rely on a backup device with which he was unfamiliar. “The backup device didn’t work, which he was counting on,” his partner said. The victim was hanging in space when he disconnected himself from the anchor.

“That was the last thing tethering him to the line. He had a 50-foot loop under him, so he fell 100 feet,” Wilcox said.

The rope caught him before he sailed to the ground below. Their rope, it turned out, had taken a beating in the fall. The sheath was singed for 30 or 40 feet. More than half of it was either burned or shredded.

Local climber, guide, and MRS member, Jim Surette rappelled down to the victim, who was once again anchored high on the cliff, but whose condition was quickly getting worse. He wasn’t losing consciousness, Surette said, but he was unable to pick himself up. “He didn’t want a rescue, but he didn’t want to get up.” Surette lowered him to the ground and put in a call for a rescue litter and a backboard, which Wilcox and other team members brought up to the base of the cliff. “We then lowered him straight through the woods 200 feet,” Wilcox said. When ambulance personnel arrived, they put in an IV, and the rescue team continued the carryout. (Source: Edited from an article in the Conway Daily Sun by Erik Eisele)

Analysis

The device is a CAMP lift ascender. Very interesting... I was truly surprised in looking at it with my partner. We both agree that it is entirely possible and quite easy to thread incorrectly resulting in zero friction. The CAMP device can be oriented correctly in your hand and on the rope and even look correct, but still not be. Not at all (what) I expected. The Grigri and Mini-Traxion are far more visually user friendly (and are) not impossible, but far less likely, to be improperly installed. With all that said, I suppose it is always possible I installed it correctly, but on my tie-in side of the rope. A difficult proposition to admit. I only say this because the wear on the devise negligible. (Source: The victim, who wishes to remain anonymous)

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