|Submitted by Tom Evans on Tue, 05/21/2013 - 03:16|
ElCap Report 5/20/13
By Tom Evans
Yo… another day of perfect climbing weather but due to recent circumstances the cliff is very vacant. The action these days is on the three most popular routes on ElCap. Of course, those routes are, the Nose, the Salathe, and Zodiac. So I am going to share the action with you. At the end of this report is an analysis of yesterday's accident, as told to me my Marc Venery, the surviving member of the team.
Today’s ElCap Report ….written just for you …unique in all the world!
Zodiac: Joe Shultz was seen working up the third pitch this afternoon after hauling kit to the top of the 2nd pitch. He talked about blasting tomorrow, when I spoke to him a few days ago… we will see!
Nose: The Nose was the busiest route on the rock today and that isn’t saying much! The most visible team was a team of two Spanish climbers who I watched do the King Swing with determination, if not beta! They got it done after a time and were last spotted climbing into Camp 4.
1) Spanish team leader climbing the corner up to Camp 4, one lousy bivy for sure!
Lower down a couple of teams were seen working on the lower section of the route.
2) A team of climbers working the Stoveleg (aka “Legs”) crack this afternoon.
Higher up the three person team of Lea, Vicky, and Hamik, are making excellent time up the route and were, unfortunately, overshadowed by yesterdays events. They have been moving right along and should have topped out by dark this evening.
3) The team, at the finish of the “Changing Corners” pitch.
Salathe: The Salathe team from yesterday climbed to the Block this afternoon and I think they just might stay put there tonight.
4) The “Block”, one of several bivy ledges on this mega classic route.
In other news: I talked with Marc Venery, the surviving climber, from the accident yesterday, this morning and he told me about the events that befell them. Mason Robison was leading around the big, blocky overhang, just above the bivy, at the start of the final 700ft dihedral. He was about 20ft above the belay, when a piece of gear he placed (a camming unit) caused a large flake to fall upon him, as the gear pulled out of the rock. He fell backwards and outwards, past Marc. As he fell, the flake severed his climbing rope, a couple of feet from his tie-in to his seat harness.
With his climbing rope cut, he continued falling a distance of about 230ft, until the haul and tag ropes, (ropes not used to climb on, but to haul bags and gear) came tight. The haul rope was a “Static Line”, which does not stretch to absorb a falling climbers energy, and thus produces a bone breaking force on the climber, if it is his only rope when falling. Static lines are never, intentionally, used for actual climbing, as they are not made for that purpose, but hauling bags instead. His tag line was a dynamic rope and was attached to his chest harness.
His static line was attached to his seat harness, but the ropes were all tangled in the fall and when the impact came onto him, he was killed instantly. Since static ropes don’t stretch, they are ideal for pulling up bags, as the energy a climber uses on the rope when hauling bags, will not be lost due to stretching of the rope.
However, many climbers don’t use static ropes to haul bags, even though they are more energy efficient. It is just with this kind of accident in mind, that climbers will use a dynamic rope (one made to stretch and absorb a falling climber’s energy) to haul bags with, just in case the climbing rope gets cut. Then, they have a chance to be saved by the haul line, if it is tied into their harness. Whether or not Mason would have been saved by having a dynamic hauling line is uncertain…but with a static line, he never had a chance.
As you know, I have done many rescue reports, including pictures and comprehensive write ups. However, these rescues were not fatal ones and ultimately had good outcomes. I don’t feel it is appropriate for me to do such a report this time, even though there was much heroic work done by the YOSAR team, especially the men, Jack and Ed, who were lowered, on ropes, to get to the victims. I did take many shots of the events and have given them to the NPS to use in analyzing their operations, and making future recommendations to improve climber safety.
Those of you, who know me, know how this terrible accident has impacted me. I am dealing with it by keeping busy and doing positive things. My heartfelt condolences go out to all of Mason’s friends and family. He was a fine man and a very experienced climber, who I enjoyed shooting on many of his ElCap climbs. He will be missed by all who had any contact with him.
So that’s the way it is, for this Monday, the 20th day of May, 2013.