Seren­ity Crack

Off-route rap­pel and stuck rope, strand­ing a party overnight

Climbing - - CLINICS IN SESSION - (5.10d), Royal Arches

Oc­to­ber 2016: A party of three climbed the clas­sic link-up “Seren­ity and Sons”— the three-pitch Seren­ity Crack (5.10d) into Sons of Yes­ter­day, a six-pitch 5.10b. Af­ter a suc­cess­ful as­cent, the trio be­gan to rap Sons with two 70-me­ter ropes. The climbers skipped an in­ter­me­di­ate station, a bolted be­lay on the first pitch of Sons, to try to reach the fi­nal an­chor atop Seren­ity Crack. This forces the climber, once near the ends of her rope, to ten­sion hard right along a blank face to avoid a dan­ger­ous pen­du­lum around a large cor­ner out left. Two of the climbers ten­sioned right and reached the an­chors atop

Seren­ity Crack. How­ever, once the sec­ond ar­rived, clipped in di­rect, and re­moved his de­vice from the rope, he let go of the rope and it swung back in line with the top an­chor—and more im­por­tantly, out of reach.

The third climber, also the least ex­pe­ri­enced of the three, be­gan the rap­pel. Near the bot­tom, he lost his foot­ing, suc­cumbed to the pen­du­lum, and swung around the mas­sive cor­ner. Mul­ti­ple such in­ci­dences have oc­curred at this lo­ca­tion, some­times in­jur­ing the party. For­tu­nately, this climber was un­hurt. Once he’d stopped swing­ing, he de­cided to con­tinue rap­ping—straight down to the near­est ledges where there was an­other an­chor, sep­a­rat­ing him­self from his party out of sight around the cor­ner. He then pulled the ropes; how­ever, the cords got stuck. Un­able to ex­tri­cate them­selves, the climbers first called friends for a res­cue, but they were hes­i­tant to come due to af­ter­noon rain and im­pend­ing dark­ness (nice friends!). Later that evening, the trio con­tacted YOSAR.

Via phone, YOSAR in­structed the third climber to fix one end of the rope, prusik up the other end, un­stick the rope, then rap back to the ledge, un­fix the rope, and as­cend both strands up and around the cor­ner to re­unite with his friends. Due to his in­ex­pe­ri­ence, the dark, and the rain, he was un­will­ing to fix the sit­u­a­tion: He as­cended only a cou­ple feet up the rope be­fore giv­ing up ( see il­lus­tra­tion, pp.

44–45). The fol­low­ing morn­ing, YOSAR ar­rived and found the climbers safe on the ground (the party had not called with an up­date). In the end, their friends had come to help a few hours be­fore YOSAR.

Analysis and Preven­tion

Never let the rope linger out of reach once you clip into an an­chor and go off rap­pel. You can thread one strand—the side with the knot—through the next an­chor to set up for the next rap or clove-hitch a rope end to your­self or the an­chor. This will pre­vent you from get­ting stranded and guide the top climber to you if you’re rap­ping through travers­ing or over­hang­ing ter­rain.

Sit­u­a­tional Aware­ness:

Gather in­for­ma­tion be­fore­hand for best meth­ods of de­scent. Un­der­stand when it might be safer to use an in­ter­me­di­ate an­chor even though the ropes can reach one lower down— more short rappels might be safer than fewer long ones. Also, look at the an­chors you’re at­tempt­ing to reach and as­sess the an­gle you’re about to cre­ate with the ropes: Is it safe? Is it worth the risk? What would hap­pen to you or your ropes if you took the swing?

Self-Res­cue: The num­berone fac­tor pre­vent­ing many climbers from ini­ti­at­ing a sel­f­res­cue is fear. Prac­tic­ing and mas­ter­ing skills be­fore get­ting off the ground is vi­tal. The climber had never prusiked and didn’t feel com­fort­able learn­ing in the dark and in the rain. Although YOSAR in­structed him, he in­stead chose to spend a mis­er­able night out.

Self-res­cue skills to mas­ter be­fore leav­ing the ground: • Es­cape the be­lay • As­cend a rope with prusiks • Buddy rap­pel.

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