Fall on Rock, Rope Severed by Carabiner, Kentucky, Red River Gorge, Midnight Surf Wall

Publication Year: 2011.


Kentucky, Red River Gorge, Midnight Surf Wall

In early September, an experienced climber (age unknown) on Tape Worm (5.12d) took a lead fall from a point between the first and second bolt. His rope ran from his belay, through a quickdraw hanging from the first bolt, to his harness. On this particular route, the first bolt is located high enough that he would not have decked under normal circumstances. Unfortunately, when he fell, his rope was completely severed by the lower carabiner on the quickdraw attached to the first bolt, and he did deck. He sustained head injuries and is on his way to a fall recovery.


The quickdraw in question is comprised of two Trango carabiners marked: “Trango Italy.” The CE 0638 rating on each 'biner is 24 kilo-Newtons in line with the spine and four kilo-Newtons perpendicular to the spine. (This is the older style classic wire 'biner made in Italy—not the newer design made in Korea.) The two 'biners are connected with a Petzl dogbone (strap between the two 'biners) rated at 22 kilo-Newtons. The quickdraw was removed from the first bolt of “Tape Worm” shortly after the accident. It was found to be intact and operable, but the two 'biners were severely worn by the actions of a climbing rope being pulled through the bottom 'biner and the hanger bracket grinding away on the top one. It is not known who hung this quickdraw or when it was hung. The carabiner in question was never intended to be permanently hung on a popular route and expected to withstand numerous leader falls. Sand-laden ropes serve as a very effective abrasive cutting tool and can wear down lightweight aluminum carabiners in a relatively short period of time. Quickdraws have been left hanging on several overhanging routes in the Red, as well as other climbing venues, over the years by developers and climbers. There are no routine inspections of hardware performed on Red routes. Climbing visitors are warned to trust absolutely nothing they find fixed to climbing routes. Check fixed gear before committing to it! If a ’biner is grooved and (most of all) sharp, take it off the route and replace it with a new one!

Follow-up: All quickdraws having aluminum carabiners have been removed from climbs in Muir Valley and new stainless steel PermaDraws (by Climb Tech) have been installed in their places by volunteers. (Source: Rick & Liz Weber, from a post on redriverclimbing.com)