Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ice Climbing is NOT rock climbing.




Will Gadd note after the below was posted: Please keep the comments somewhat civil and constructive. There is a lot of good information (harness, gi gi) getting added, let's focus--as most people are--on what can be done differently rather than attacking either the climbers or the video effort. Just for reference, I've personally made a lot of the errors in the video, we all have, the idea is to learn and do better, thanks.

And the two screen capture pictures are of the BD Bod harness that's not doubled back (you can tell because you can see the two silver pieces, shouldn't be able to see 'em both!) and the Kong Gi Gi, which is getting used totally inappropriately. That the harness and the belay both held is pretty amazing to me, I would not have put money on either system holding even a short fall. Thanks to the comments section for noticing both, I didn't until it was pointed out, which kinda scares me...

Fall. from Jeffrey Butler on Vimeo.


One of the biggest problems I see in ice climbing starts with people approaching ice climbing like they do rock climbing. That mindset is totally inappropriate, and leads to really avoidable accidents. A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a video shot Dracula, a one-pitch classic WI 4+ in New Hampshire. The leader gets pumped, struggles to get a screw in, and falls. Skip to 3: 28 to see it go bad, but the whole thing starts to go bad way before that point. I'm going to pick a few key points out of this video that are really serious errors. These errors are unfortunately very common, and they shouldn't be.

Fortunately this video is on Vimeo, where you can load the whole video up then click and hold on the timeline bar below the video to move around the video easily. This video is not, as the narrator suggests, a film about "change." I see and hear very little about "change" in the film, what I see are common errors leading to a completely avoidable accident, and not much mental switch among the climbers in the follow-up footage.

The first and biggest error in the thinking of the climbers is expressed at the end of the film when the belayer says at 14:20, "Falling is very common, it should be expected." No, it isn't. In 30 years of ice climbing I've caught exactly one lead fall (Guy Lacelle of all people), and never fallen on lead. Most of the people I climb with are the same; a few fell off once or maybe twice early in their careers before figuring out it was a really bad idea... Very occasionally things just go bad, but I can count those type of accidents on one hand. I know three people with fused ankles or worse from taking very short falls on ice. Falling is not common and should not be "expected." A major mental reset is called for.

2:00 Apparently the belay is a in place subject to falling ice. The belayer decides the solution to this problem is to have enough slack in the system to move to avoid the falling ice because, "If I get knocked out by a piece of ice what good am I as a belayer?" I'm not making that quote up. A better solution would be to have the belayer not in the line of fire at all. Full stop. I can only remember two belays ever (ironically, one with Mark Twight) where I could not protect the belayer from falling ice, and in retrospect I put the belay in a shit place both times (sorry Mr. Dornian). Do shorter pitches, whatever it takes, but having your belayer in any position where he could be hit by falling ice is flat-out stupid or ignorant. Even the video guy is standing under falling ice at 3:20; Dracula is a one-pitch route for god's sake, move out of the way! If the first rule of ice climbing is don't fall off then surely the second is, "Don't stand where you can get hit with falling ice." This is rock-climbing thinking, where it's abnormal to have falling ice. It is a given that a lot of ice will or can be falling down an ice climb, plan for it.

Lots of shots of the climber swinging tools, etc. This is going to sound harsh, but there needs to be some reality interjected into this film: The climber had absolutely no business being on lead on ice. His sticks were shit (3:17 is a good example of a lousy stick, you can see his tool wobble as he pulls up), his footwork is terrible, and I'm amazed he didn't fall off earlier. I don't say that to be insulting, but because I suspect less-direct commentary would be ineffective given the rest of what is said and done in the film.

Quote, "Yeah, I have great faith in the equipment now, and it gives me even more reason to put pro in." This is just wrong on so many levels, but first of all it misses the entire point that ice climbing isn't about the pro, it's about first not falling off. Have enough pro so when something really surprising happens you don't die (and he did have enough pro in for that), but thinking that, "Hey, the pro works, great, I can fall off more now!" is just wrong. The thinking should be, "Damn, I fell off, and only through incredible luck did I not completely fuck myself up for the rest of my life, I need to re-think my approach to ice climbing."

I want to know what the climbers around 8:50 to 9:20 or so are saying under the voice-over. From my read of it they are saying, "Dude, get better fucking sticks into the ice, like this. And here's how to clip into the pommel or lower hole on your tool to so you don't fall off and nearly die again." These are basic skills the climber should have known, and obviously didn't.

The climber should have stopped way, way before he fell. In rock climbing it's often OK to climb deep into a pump, even to the point of falling. In fact, that's often the point in rock climbing. It is NOT ok to climb super-pumped on ice, the consequences of a fall are simply too high. This guy could have been paralyzed for life, broken both ankles, or died. If you're getting super pumped on ice do what the other climbers suggest at 9:00: CLIP INTO YOUR TOOL and put a screw in. Train doing this on a TR so you're comfortable with it. I have seen a half-dozen screws over the years placed a little into the ice, and then a tool beside the screw, but no climber... Falling off while placing a screw is a common way to fall, but totally needless. So, stop before you get super pumped, put in a good screw, reset, maybe back off if you can't climb the pitch without getting super pumped. Or, climb it in five-foot sections putting in a screw and hanging; I have FAR more respect for someone who doe that than gets pumped and falls off. If you're super pumped stop, reset. No "free" pitch is worth getting injured for.

So what should we do to avoid this accident?

-Climb on toprope more. Many, many laps. Practice putting in screws, climbing with and without crampons, hooking, making placements, etc. I'd bet this climber had done less than 30 pitches total of ice in his life. At least 150 30M laps is the bare minimum to have any sort of understanding of ice.

-Practice clipping into a tool and putting screws in. This normally takes two quickdraws on the harness, or a sling to the belay loop. Lots of ways to do it, practice.

The big problems I see in ice climbing are seldom to do with fitness. Almost always they start with the climber's approach to the sport.

And finally, and this is an intense situation so it's small criticism but something to think about, if I fall off like that please don't lower me head-first back toward the ground. The climber's legs kip over his head at about 9:50. Again, it's an intense situation, but I'd suspect a possible spinal injury with that much force and speed... But a small criticism in the whole picture, and the climber is very lucky to have an ER doc on hand--if the situation were worse that could have made the difference between living and dying.

OK, that about sums it up, lots of other issues, but those are the main ones to me. I'd be happy to offer a free day of instruction with these climbers and their video guy to improve their technique and approach to ice climbing; I don't mean this to be harsh to the individual climbers at all, with any luck I will have caused some thinking among a much wider readership as these errors are way too common, these guys just made a video...

110 comments:

Peter Beal said...

Excellent analysis Will. And to be honest, even rock climbing is not like some people imagine. Any fall has the potential to get out of hand. I can't imagine falling on lead on ice, ever.

Rafal Andronowski said...

I'm still new to the sport, but the one thing that I have had ingrained in my subconscious is "never fall on ice."

I've sat on screws, backed off, downclimbed, etc. Who cares how it's done as long as you stay safe.

Thanks for the analysis and the useful tips, Will. Reading your blog has definitely make me a better - and safer - climber. Thanks!

Chris said...

Wow, those guys are brave to post this video. So many things to say but really you covered them. I'm finishing my 2nd season on ice and just want to echo that " never fall on ice" is still #1 in my mind on every lead.

Erik W said...

"Damn, I fell off, and only through incredible luck did I not completely fuck myself up for the rest of my life, I need to re-think my approach to ice climbing."

Well put, Will... quote of the day.

Also wanted to add that for ledgy climbs, one has to think out their pro placements more thoroughly - if I fall here or there what will I bounce off, will it invert me, if inverted is there another ledge or slope below which I'll then hit head-first....? I'm definitely of the "Leader Must Not Fall" mentality when it comes to ice and alpine, but we also need to think out our pro placements wisely so an unexpected fall is of the shattered ankle, knee cracking variety, not the head splitting vertebrae crushing kind. Big difference. You can tell that ledge up there on Dracula is a flipper from the ground, plug screws accordingly.

Glad the guy's alright.

Doug said...

This stupidity goes far beyond just that one "fall" video. The guy's channel is chocked full of the dumbest things I have seen on ice since the ice-capades.

Will thank you again for the thoughtful post. Your tips and analysis have helped me improve my climbing.

Anonymous said...

Totally and completely agree with the analysis and the advice here. These little videos can sometimes be a useful resource because they're almost like little accident reports that we can all learn from (assuming they're factual, of course).

In the bigger picture it concerns me that participation in so many "extreme sports" has become oversimplified thanks to the marketing efforts of equipment companies and resorts. I don't think it's bad that people want to participate, but that the risks aren't adequately understood or that in a lot of cases the risks are completely glossed over in an effort to sell stuff to people. I'm thinking of surfing and ice climbing and extreme skiing and snowboarding and the like-- sports where all we see are the extreme, over-the-top imagery of people riding massive waves or skiing off of cornices, etc. I don't think there's a solution to this, but I still think it's unfortunate. It has encouraged too many people-- like these guys-- to believe that these activities are less dangerous and more accessible than they really are or should be.

Thanks for the excellent reminders and advice. These are fundamental skills and we can all stand to be reminded of the mindset, process and approach necessary to keep from getting hurt!

-Tim

GR said...

What a dreadful fall. Thanks for the educational post.

Just another point, at 2:23 the belayer shows unsafe belay technique - sliding his hands up the rope.

Toby Gadd said...

Good post, Will. Based on the video at least, those guys need to tone down the macho post-survival drama and think hard about how not to repeat their human water-balloon test. Surviving on dumb luck alone should make us smarter, not cockier. While accidents can unfortunately kill and maim the best out there, you are living proof that critical thinking is the best and most reliable protection. Truly generous of you to offer them a free lesson--hopefully they'll take you up on it.

visualadventures said...

What are you thoughts on falling on ice screws in glacial ice or ice bergs? I was just in Juneau climbing on some icebergs frozen in place in the lake. It was awesome! The ice was crystal clear blue, no aeration, like in your pics. I figured it would be pretty sane to fall on them (although I didn't test this theory) as the route overhung about 20 degrees past vertical and the ice was way more dense then waterfall ice. Seems like the direction you need to go to further the sport if there are no routes like "Spray On" in your neighborhood.

Dan Velker said...

Will,

I'm the climber who tops out on Dracula left in the climb, the "Dan" they're all hollaring for.

Your criticism is accurate and well taken.

We made many errors that day and by shear grace walked out with small injuries.

This video is the first of two, the second one is for the ice climbing community. This one is for the wives and friends.

Incredibly, all of the sound from the post fall analysis video got screwed up, so we're planning to head back up to re-interview Hake and Frode in the near future. But yah, he's saying exactly what you think he's saying, "Clip the damn axe, clip anything, rest without overeaching, whatever, just dont fall!"

I've learned so much from "Accidents in NA Mnteering" that there was never any question we were going to throw this video up for other ice climbers to learn from.

Thank you for calling attention to this video, we really do want all ice climbers to see it.

We will absolutely take you up on the offer to spend a day one the ice with you. So long as part of that day is spent with you on video going over the technical and mental errors we made.

The "change" Jeff is referring to in the video is really an emotional one. An ego getting crushed back to reality. The realization that life almost ended for one of us.

Sobering is a good way to describe that trip.

Thanks again Will. I am a huge fan.
Dan Velker

Chris Simmons said...

My friends and I also noticed around 11:00-12:00 minutes into the film that this fellow is wearing a BD Alpine Bod harness and it IS NOT DOUBLED BACK!!

I don't think this cat has very many lives left...

Chris said...

Thanks for the analysis Will. I think your post is a measured response. I wonder if all will read it as such. I expect you might have had a moment of pause before hitting the 'post' button?

I have never met anyone who treats ice with the casual approach we sometimes do for rock. Thankfully, that attitude has not permeated into our neck of the woods.

Although this reinforces the message that the leader should not fall, it also supports the notion that a screw in quality ice has the potential to hold a violent fall.

Michel said...

Once again, Mr. Gadd is bang on with his comments.

The sad thing is it doesn't seem to me that the climber and his friends really acknowledge how lucky he is to simply be alive.

Hope this turns out to be a lesson for a whole lot of readers.

Climb safely out there !

Jill said...

THANK YOU for posting this, Will. Thanks especially for noting the issue of lowering an injured climber the way this was done. No one in that party had any clue how to handle either the climbing itself or the fall, or the injury afterwards. It was extremely dumb luck to have a doctor present (from a different party, it's important to note). This is exactly why I NEVER go climbing or skiing with random people without knowing their skill level.

I see lots and lots and LOTS of this type of climbing and it's so important for such ineptitude to be exposed. It's the biggest reason why I have such a hard time finding partners - so many people will pretend they know what they're doing when they don't; and I don't like being put at risk by someone who is in over his head.

I'll be really jealous if being idiots gets these guys a day of ice climbing with you, I'm not shy to say. Those of us who know our limits and climb wisely still have to scrape for partners or pay for instruction, you know! I guess the word I want is "unfair,", lol. Oh, to be inept enough to earn a free day of instruction from Will Gadd...

It's really nice of you to be willing to do that, though.

jill@geargals.net said...

Oh, and I just saw in a comment above that the climbers on the video say they'll accept your offer so long as they get to do a video with you. Oh my god. These people COMPLETELY miss the point.

JSH said...

I've caught a fall on Dracula right-of-right, the vertical curtain right of where this guy fell from. That said:

I would absolutely not have *allowed* anyone to tie me down, as a belayer, on the ground. I don't see any reason for it. A six foot extension from screws is still tied down ... I'm willing to hear your thoughts on this, Will, but having stood there (and caught a fall there), that's my stance. The belayer needs to be free to move, especially with another climber on Dracula left.

The camera guy was, from what I can tell, actually in about the best place for protection, a little rock-roofed alcove left of Dracula proper.

The stemming corner he fell from is more awkward than it looks. He may have thought "easy exit" and been surprised.

Last, it looks like he had a total of 3 screws in the route (which is > 100 ft). He was one screw away from the deck. This might be enough for experts; but that's not nearly enough, for me (isn't there some old maxim about having 2 pieces between you and the deck?), and especially for these people who seem to expect falls. My partner had 5 screws, including one at about his knees when he fell.

cabinone said...

Jill, I think you miss the point, actually. I don't know you, so I can't really say, but you kinda come off a bit more like a rock climber than the ice climbers I've met. Just sayin'...

Dan asked for his analysis - of the fall - on camera. As direct as he offered it here, actually. That's the pedagogy that's missing. So, it's precisely the point. It's making this rather significant event more relevant to climbers all over.

I know for certain he didn't mean it to be the only way we'd take his offer - it was Will's idea to include the video guy, which kinda begs the question. He meant it because every single point Will brings up is one he's very aware of. Dan is quite sincere in learning from this as, frankly, are the other climbers involved. Even I am, though you must realize I have trouble climbing out of bed...

Besides, who needs a doctor, the sick or the well?

[PED'AGOGY, n. Instruction in the first rudiments; preparatory discipline.]

Anonymous said...

@Dan: Are you you serious?!? "We will absolutely take you up on the offer to spend a day one the ice with you. So long as part of that day is spent with you on video going over the technical and mental errors we made."
Will, one of the most respected climbers in the world, generously offers his time to help keep you and your buddies safe--and you respond by demanding conditions?!?! Give me a f#(%ing break!

Chris said...

The fact they conditionally accepted your offer makes me brain bleed.

Also the belayer was belaying the leader (the dude who took the fall) with a Kong GiGi which isn't exactly recommended.

Dan Velker said...

Please hear me well. If my tone was off above I apologize.

We post this video knowing full well we made many climbing mistakes. We are in the process of producing a second video which will be intended as a full scale "Learn From My Fail" video, geared towards ice climbers. Our desire would be that every ice climber see that video to see what we clearly did wrong and how we should have done it.

We are not claiming to be professional ice climbers, we know we're hacks. But we are hacks who love ice climbing and want to learn to do it right.

We are willingly airing our dirty laundry here. We want to hear and get feedback.

One of the things that drew us into ice climbing was that we always met wonderful people at the ice. The ice lines always seemed empty of egos. Just friendly people willing to coach and teach and laugh.

Understand that I did not intend my statement on climbing with Will to be "conditional". I only wanted to offer him the opportunity to critique us on video, so that everyone can learn from our mistakes. Why not take that opportunity to make something bigger than all of this. Give back to the climbing community with our fail.

If you're not down with that Will, no problem. The fact that you offered to spend a day with us is very generous. Thank you for that. We truly do appreciate your feedback.

Heavy Bags said...

Lots of great points brought up. I just wanted to reiterate the falling ice dangers in general and on this route in particular. Here is an accident report I wrote for Rock & Ice in April 2009 about a fractured skull on Dracula.

Please be safe everyone,
Pat.

https://picasaweb.google.com/patrick.bagley.10/PublishedWork02#5565397061822830546

[note, zoom in to read text.]

Nick said...

Anybody else notice at 12:10 that he's belaying a leader with a Kong Gi Gi set up like a tubular device? In all the ways to belay with a GiGi, that is the ONE that Kong tells you explicitly not to do! Total ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Glory to grace? WTF???

cabinone said...

@Anonymous Coward It's been said a haughty spirit goes before a fall and pride before destruction. That might be the glory part? In some measure here, perhaps; in general, glory in self seems a rather common thing. The grace part should be apparent.

Doesn't always work out that way.

Anonymous said...

To the climbers in the video who fell. Will is right and very PC about the whole thing this video is only going about spreading miss information and shit.

Goto Kiji and SELL All your gear.

Anonymous said...

Wow, everyone is givin these guys the third degree. Will put together an excellent analysis and really got to the point to make sure it's clear the mistakes they made. Too many people misinterpret that as an opportunity to bash on these climbers, I don't think that's what Will intended. You've made mistakes before, so get off your 'high horse.'

cabinone said...

(previously posted, lost, posted...)
A few quick thoughts, if I may, as the video guy.

First - thanks for chiming in and leading a discussion about this. The pedagogy is not necessarily intentionally missing in the film, but it's pretty much not there; and I knew that when I pushed it live. Dan's right about the missing audio and the wives, as are you about the general gist of the other climbers comments.

And I would say you're right about almost everything else. But I'm not a climber; I'm barely a videographer.

Ethan's comment about falling, though, really wasn't serious...I put it in the outtakes because I found it humorous; not because I believed it. Maybe he does believe that, but I didn't mean for you, the viewer, to however. Valid points, nonetheless.

"Few are the moments"...You're correct here, too - though it's not a film about seeing that change (it could have been?); it was really just a heart felt statement. I was ill-prepared as the video guy for something like this to happen - and I intend to fix that. Being involved with this situation is a moment to which I will look, to which I do look, where I sense a real change. Coming. In me.

A note in that vein, we shot the follow-ups essentially the next day. Not a lot of time for much change; let alone out loud and on camera. He hadn't even been home yet when we shot it, but I expect this to become one of those moments for him. This is not the final chapter.

By the way, I cannot wait to film that day of instruction you mentioned...should your people contact my people?

Anonymous said...

I guess if you hit a ledge or three you reduce the impact force on your screw...

martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brad said...

Ok, again as with all the other comments, I am glad everyone is ok considering. Good job on the absolute microscopic analysis of this by everyone. I am glad how others have pointed out how other climbers have come down on video and it's subjects. We should aim to learn from mistakes, not comedown on those that make them. Yes all climbers have at least some ego, but we can be civil about it can we not? Thanks Will for adding the after note. I just figure I will beat a dead horse.

Ok now for my 2 cents. Will I disagree slightly with your statement about the gear placing. Here is the quote from the video you were address "Yeah, I have great faith in the equipment now, and it gives me even more reason to put pro in." I highly doubt they plan on taking anymore big whips. I Myself have taken a big fall (30-40 feet ) on ice. It was a surprise as my boot broke, folded and the crampons popped out of the ice. Sure I made a stupid mistake as I was placing a screw from a lock of, but this same moment could have happened as I was placing my tool instead of a screw. I think they are bang on with the open honesty of it. You do feel very much encouraged by the fact that this theory of putting metal screws in frozen water actually will stop you from dieing, however once you fall you do not want to go back out and take another one, you do know how lucky you are. Sure one can read about it and see all the tests or maybe see the video of that guy at ouray taking whips for fun, but it is completely convincing once one falls on the screw. I do agree that ice is not rock climbing and one should never fall on ice if it can be avoided, due to the unknown variables of the medium. It just is nice knowing that it may work and is not a waste placing them.

They made many mistakes sure, but hopefully this was a learning experience for them as well as all of us. Will I think if you ever do a 2nd edition to that book of yours you should do a breakdown of many of the accidents you have studied. There has been many examples since 2003. Dan if you and company have a chance and go to the rockies and learn from Will I highly recommend you do it. You can learn much in his backyard.

Brad Winter

Anonymous said...

It looks like a lot of great Places to rest on the route.take some time to shake it out befor you get pumped.Dont or pull up hang on bad sticks.
I once triped when I spiked my pant leg on level Ice I thought I broke my leg. my rule is never fall on Ice with crampons on.

fulton said...

Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called 'Ego.' (Friedrich Nietzsche)

SKI said...

Please-
Don't post another video. Thanks to Gadd's analysis- I think we've all seen enough of your guys' antics for one season.

E9 Climbing said...

Interesting reeding. As Mr. Beal "any fall has the potential to get out of hand".

I had a fall sport climbing in Ceuse last summer where I kind of climbed past the belay and then fell off. I fell about 12 meters, having my foot behind the rope falling head first slamming in to the wall with my back. I ended up 2 days in the hospital.

I have climbed ice since 1986 and never ever held a fall or had a fall. I have climbed with some guys eager to prove there skills when in fact they have been way out on thin ice. I just call it off!

One major issue I see is the the "prestige thing" as will mention. If its to hard just clip in rest and place a screw. No big deal!

Its about having fun being safe and do lots of routes.

Brian A said...

I didn't take the comment about "even more reason to place pro" as sucky at all. He sounds like prior to this he felt the gear so unreliable that placing it might actually lead to unnecessary pump and risk of falling with little to gain. Now that he's learned that that view is false, he's more likely to place more screws more often.

I've made many mistakes over the years that made me realize how close to tragedy I was. Probably many others I'll never know about. Nothing serious ever came of it. I won't call it luck, as I think everyone here has made potentially catastrophic mistakes. Usually, though, whether we like to admit it, those mistakes lead to no big consequences other than what we learn from them. That A terrible way to look at it, but it's true. A very few actually pay dearly for the laws of probability of our recreation. I'm honestly not sure where this mistake falls in that spectrum. The dude is pretty much okay and he'll learn a shit ton from either the actual event or now the Internet Moral Majority.

Brian A said...

Oh, and no one can comment about what these guys did or did not learn from this from the 15 minutes of footage and interviews the videographer decided to include.

Lou Dawson said...

Will, thanks for being bold with your analysis, good example for all bloggers that I trust will save lives and prevent injuries.

Brian C said...

Uh wow? Am I the only one that read "this video is for the wife and families" . Not to belittle the criticism here, nor to oint out the errors which has already been done ad infinitum, but if I posted this video for my wife and she saw how bad I was and how many mistakes I had made, I know she would never let me go ice climbing again!
I can't help but ask, yes the climber was pumped and stopped to place a screw at the very top ( of which I would have protected this route completely different) and someone managed to give him a rope to hold on to with his left hand, the question that begs to be asked is instead of fiddling with dropping both axes , grabbing an anchor line, placing a screw etc; why did he not just climb another meter and top out???? All the wasted energy at the end seems evident that he could have topped out and avoided the fall. ..

Christina said...

@Brian C-

They don't want "the wives" (back on the compound?) to know that they're not very good at this ice climbing stuff that they brag about to inflate their manliness.

Or, in the words of a friend "that the real sexy mountain guy called them idiots."

Toby Gadd said...

I think that a lot of the criticism dished out here is due to the tone of the video. It seems to embrace the machismo of surviving a harrowing experience, rather than focusing on what a group of chastened newbie climbers learned from their self-induced debacle--and specifically how that knowledge will change their behavior in the future.

We've all screwed up to some extent in the mountains, but not many of us strut around and publicly blather on about our manhood afterward. Personally, I generally feel embarrassed and stupid after a close call, and I dissect every decision and action that could have possibly contributed to the situation--in hopes of avoiding something similar, or possibly worse, in the future. In other words, surviving and accident doesn't teach us how tough we are, but how fragile we are--both in mind and body. Only by ruthlessly analyzing our behavior can we hope to become mentally stronger, more capable, and safer.

In the age of "reality" TV, critical thinking doesn't get the same airtime as brutish drama. While the video might titillate the "No Fear" crowd, it comes across as an dangerous display of misplaced bravado to me.

Anonymous said...

I find that one very important point is being ignored in all these comments:

This is very rare footage of an actual serious fall on moderate ice with ledges.

Most ice climbers are intensely aware of the big risks associated with falling on ledges while ice climbing. This video is a powerful reminder of it.

Personally, I'd make it mandatory viewing for anybody starting to lead on ice.

Anonymous said...

+1 on Will's top rope comment.

It the only way to get in a bunch of pitches. Which is the only way to get good or even competent on ice.

This is far more fundamental than "the leader must fall." You can't even entertain the thought of not falling if you are not competent.

Anonymous said...

+1 to Toby Gadd

Marc Lindenbach said...

Cabinone, thanks for this valuable footage, it contains a lot of "what not to do", watching it has resonated with me. It's made me consider my ice climbing goals and how I'll go about reaching them.

Will, thanks for your great analysis of the situation. Your posts are always very relevant and thought provoking. I find myself referencing your websites and book more often than any others when it comes to ice.

Many other commenter, thanks for the armchair quarterback analysis. This only adds to the argument that climbing is best not learned on the internet. It's hard to believe that any of you are regular ice climbers as I've never encountered these types of egos at the crags. You give these guys a hard time? You should hear yourselves!

debs said...

Suggest refocusing this energy on helping educate each other and being open to it ourselves. Sharing experiences and info will make us all safer.
Will already supplies a great free resource with this blog. Let's take responsibility and build on his example. Take advantage of quality name videos and blogs (evaluate 'em). Read! Talk at the crags- check in with somebody who is doing something you don't understand (either you'll learn, or they will. I'd rather take somebody's guff for checking in than their kids tears explaining why I didn't.) Start local google groups for gear and trip report discussions, pool money for an instruction day with a guide, ask your local gear shop to get a rep to come in and talk.... This was preventable with education. Let's do it!

JIll said...

cabinone -

"Jill, I think you miss the point, actually. I don't know you, so I can't really say, but you kinda come off a bit more like a rock climber than the ice climbers I've met. Just sayin'..."

Well, you don't know me, that's for certain. I just don't even understand what you're trying to get at with the above comment. What a bizarre thing to say.

The attitude displayed in the video and in your party's comments here is so backwards it's hard to be anything but exasperated with you, and I'm clearly not the only one who feels that way.

Toby Gadd's comment really does sum it up well.

Chris said...

@Dan Veller

As far as the second video which everyone is going to hope to learn from. You're not in much position to put out an educational video on the subject.

Specially when such simple things as the harness not being doubled back and the Kong GiGi being used incorrectly.

I'd like you to read about the Four stages of competence:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_competence

In the video you where operating in the Unconscious Incompetence stage.

You're working your way towards the Conscious Incompetence phase.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

Kruger and Dunning proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:

1. tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
2. fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
3. fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
4. recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

cabinone said...

@Toby "I think that a lot of the criticism dished out here is due to the tone of the video...." "...it comes across as an dangerous display of misplaced bravado to me."

I really appreciate the feedback directly on the video, Toby. I bear the burden for the tone; it's good to get feedback on it. I'm not sure how I feel about it bringing some of the low quality human comment talk going on here, but that's hard to avoid I guess - especially when soo many people know everything about us, who we are and what we should or shouldn't be pursuing.

"It seems to embrace the machismo of surviving...rather than...climbers learn[ing] from their self-induced debacle.." I will say that I think it's a pretty accurate video for what it was, but this is exactly the type of producer comments I really need to make this a better film. I don't need to hear about never making another video and selling gear (that's not going to happen). In the two or three days we filmed this I was surprised I had enough footage to make anything with it. I made something that encapsulated an event. Not being a climber, it's hard to know how to place some of the comments; harder still to shoot edit and produce when you can only sorta shoot and edit, but not really produce.

Machoism is not a defining characteristic of these guys and while the film brings up manhood, bonding and even starts out with the "man" word -- that may be exactly what people see. We do cling to every last microfiber of potential that we did something right, don't we? But I don't think this film is everything I want it to be. It's probably always going to be something different to the climbing community.

For now, it's an accurate picture of what happened, not even what went wrong and why. Any producers out there interested in helping me shape this for posterity, don't hesitate to email me - jeff@cabinone.com - I want this to be as good as it can be.

@Marc - appreciated your comments
@Jill - to me you come across really arrogant; calling us idiots, rather than newbies (not intentionally) doing something idiotic; you say no one had a clue about anything - you have an opinion, but you don't know any of us. We put this online to grow from it; not to say this is us, look at how cool we are, we can walk on a broken leg. You then say we completely miss the point without saying what that point is. And you're wrong about that; we do get the point - which is to learn from our mistakes and become better climbers, better people. Not looking to fight with you; just think you wouldn't talk to us in person like you write about us online. How can you be exasperated - all you've tried to teach us is how stupid we are...Am I wrong?
@Chris - It's Velker; and he's not really even in the video; it wasn't his harness or his fall or his belay; his climb on left was solid. What good is instruction to those who don't need it? Everyone in this video admits they need it - that puts us in a perfect position to make it because we have a vested interest in learning and growing.

Ryan Williams said...

First of all, I'm glad the guy is OK. I hope they all learn a lot from the incident, and from the circulation of the video.

Will, I think that this is a very difficult situation to critique. It takes a certain way with words and a great knowledge of your sport to be able to speak so sternly and absolutely without coming off as an arrogant ass. I want to compliment you tremendously for this analysis. It was well thought out, and I think everyone that has read it has learned a lot. Not only about ice climbing, but also about how to approach problems such as the ones you addressed, which seem to occur more and more every day, in all types of climbing.

We all want to help people when they are doing something dangerous, but sometimes we get so angry or full of ourselves that we forget about helping. You have given us an excellent example of how to be honest and realistic without insulting anyone or turning them away from instruction or their passion.

This was the first time I've read your blog (I'm not an ice climber at all) but it will certainly not be the last!

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

As a life long rock climber who is dabbling in ice, (5 TR pitches in my life, in basically fully guided settings) I'm curious to see why ice falls are so much more dangerous than a lead fall on Trad. The obvious answer to me is the sharp tools that are flying around, less effective protection?, and the ledges that were below the leader when he fell. Aside from ice tools, a lot of these hazards seem like they could show up on rock, too. What is an experienced ice climbers opinion?

BFW said...

Forgive the naivety, but why is falling on ice so much more dangerous than falling on rock?

Nice writeup.

StaceyMJHughes said...

Will, your analysis is bang on - thank you for posting your thoughts on the blog.

Your feedback is very precise and informative without personal attacks.

Your offer to teach/guide these climbers on better practices is wonderful...and I hope things work out that you can help them out.

Cabin One said...

@Toby "I think that a lot of the criticism dished out here is due to the tone of the video...." "...it comes across as an dangerous display of misplaced bravado to me."

I really appreciate the feedback directly on the video, Toby. I bear the burden for the tone; it's good to get feedback on it. I'm not sure how I feel about it bringing some of the low quality human comment talk going on here, but that's hard to avoid I guess - especially when soo many people know everything about us, who we are and what we should or shouldn't be pursuing.

"It seems to embrace the machismo of surviving...rather than...climbers learn[ing] from their self-induced debacle.." I will say that I think it's a pretty accurate video for what it was, but this is exactly the type of producer comments I really need to make this a better film. I don't need to hear about never making another video and selling gear (that's not going to happen). In the two or three days we filmed this I was surprised I had enough footage to make anything with it. I made something that encapsulated an event. Not being a climber, it's hard to know how to place some of the comments; harder still to shoot, edit and produce when you can only sorta shoot and edit, but not really produce.

Machoism is not a defining characteristic of these guys and while the film brings up manhood, bonding and even starts out with the "man" word -- that may be exactly what people see. We do cling to every last microfiber of potential that we did something right, don't we? But this film isn't everything I want it to be. It's probably always going to be something different to the climbing community.

For now, it's an accurate picture of what happened, not even what went wrong and why. Any producers out there interested in helping me shape this for posterity, don't hesitate to email me - jeff@cabinone.com - I want this to be as good as it can be.

@Marc - appreciated your comments
@Jill - to me you come across really arrogant; calling us idiots, rather than newbies doing something idiotic (and that not intentionally); you say no one had a clue about anything - you have an opinion, but you don't know any of us. We put this online to grow from it; not to say this is us, look at how cool we are, we can walk on a broken leg. You then say we completely miss the point without saying what that point is. And you're wrong about that; we do get the point - which is to learn from our mistakes and become better climbers, better people. Not looking to fight with you; just think you wouldn't talk to us in person like you write about us online. How can you be exasperated - all you've tried to teach us is how stupid we are...Am I wrong?
@Chris - It's Velker; and he's not really even in the video; it wasn't his harness or his fall or his belay; his climb on left was solid. What good is instruction to those who don't need it? Everyone in this video admits they need it - that puts us in a perfect position to make it because we have a vested interest in learning and growing.

Will Gadd said...

I'm glad people are getting something useful out of this, and each other's comments. Some very good ones here, thanks for that.

Why falling on ice is more dangerous than falling rock climbing:

-Crampons tend to catch on the ice. Even a very short (less than three feet while bouldering) can create enough energy to break ankles and legs. A friend of mine was bouldering three feet off the deck over flat ground and jumped off mostly in control, compound lower leg fracture...

-If the crampons do catch they tend to flip the climber upside down very fast, as happens in this video to some extent.

-Ice climbs tend to be much more run out that most rock climbs, resulting in longer falls.

-Ice climbs are less steep in general than rock climbs, with more features to hit. Falling off sport or even trad climbing with good gear is often acceptable; the outcomes on ice are often bad. Modern gear often holds well, it's the falling part that sucks on ice.

-What would be a "no big deal" on a rock climb can be fatal ice climbing due to the cold temperatures, isolation, and difficult access for rescue.

-I can barely watch the guy slam back into the wall with his back over a sort of "ice curb" in the video. If that had of been a slightly sharper edge, or a little faster impact, well, hello wheelchair best-case if the spleen or something else didn't blow out.

-Oh, and you can stab yourself with the ice tools too, but I actually haven't seen that done too many times. I've done it twice without even falling off...

HTH, and hopefully the discussion will continue to be half-civil and respectful as it generally has been.

Will Gadd said...

@visual adventures--

Falling on ice screws in overhanging glacial ice is probably OK, as long as all the glacial ice stays put. I've done a bunch of this in Europe, but I'm a little less enthusiastic about it in general than I once was due to some sketchy situations I didn't see coming at all, and couldn't confidently predict. But what you're doing sounds cool, just be heads up and learn fast!

Jonathan Ward said...

Falling on ice is dangerous because of your crampons, not your ice tools. Your crampons make any little nubbin seem like a huge ledge. Rock climbers primarily get injured when they fall onto ledges. With ice climbing, even the most vertical climb can cause lifelong injury because the crampons will catch on the ice while the body continues to fall. Ankles are pretty fragile and it is common to devastatingly destroy them in an ice climbing fall.

Jill said...

"Cabin One" - I definitely would speak to you exactly the same way IRL.

It's clear to me from Will's posts that he's hoping the comments section doesn't degenerate into personal arguments. I've left my email address attached to my comment above; if you would like to say anything further I'd advise using it. I really don't care if you email me or not; but I'm not going to converse with you any more here per Will's request.

Will Gadd said...

@Chris--thanks for the links, cool stuff I'll use in my shows.

@Jill/Jeff: appreciated.

@Toby: Nice writing.

@Dan: Good job helping, looking forward to the day out.

@Heavy Bags: Can you use Tinyurl or something to make that link shorter? Can't make it work, thx.

This bone had a lot more interesting meat on it than I thought it did, cool to read and learn from everyone's comments. I flat-out missed two potentially fatal errors (the harness and the belay device). I think that shows that there is luckily a lot of slop in our systems.

Thanks also to Jeff and the guys in the video for seeing the benefit in all of this. Cool.

RyanTetz said...

Huge mistakes here particularly the harness fastening. I really can't imagine having the strength to hold on to the ice long enough for my buddy to rig a rope from the summit and lower it to me with a loop, but not enough strength to place some kind of pro during that period of time. I also can't see how you could lose that rope once in hand. Loop your elbow through it, bite it with your teeth whatever, even if your are totally beyond gassed you got something left to clip a quickdraw from you to that anchor and sit down. You weren't ready for the lead here in my strong opinion. Top Rope more and climb lots of WI2's and 3's on lead. There is plenty of that within an hour drive around New Hampshire.


*That being said. Jill comes off like a total ass hat here that leaves a bad taste in a Steve Grossman shitting on ropes on Wings of Steel kind of way. These guys don't deserve that.

Anonymous said...

Despite the resulting shitstorm of negative comments, I for one am glad this video was created and posted for all to see and learn from. Had Will Gadd not promoted it with an excellent analysis, many of us would not have seen it.

I have been climbing ice for thirty years and while I feel I am competent and safe now, I know there was a point in my earlier experiences where I made these very same mistakes and luckily, never encountered a tumble the lead climber in the video took.

To those of you who spent time here only to spew and degrade the climbers and videographer, I can't wait to see your perfect form, that is, if you even climb ice at all.

- Estes Park Alpinist

Cabin One said...

@all My public apologies for tangling with the negative comments; again. It's more personal for me than I expected seeing some of them; but as the guy that took the fall just reminded me, "The truth and learning/growth for us, for them, for climbers comes with time."

I'm good with it all. Sling away, good or bad. I'm going to edit on something not frozen for a while. But you haven't seen the last of me... :)

Anonymous said...

Not that it matters at this point, but in the Alpine Bod photo, is the climbing rope tied to a single locker that is clipped to the leg and waist loops?

Chris said...

@Cabin One...

The belayer was using a GiGi which is wrong.

The climber (faller) failed to double back his harness.

This is what I was refering to and why I fail to understand how you plan on producing a video that shows how to do it right. You shouldn't have even left the ground like that. Someone should have known enough that a GiGi can't be used like that and a harness check should have been. Those aren't ice climbing skills they're just "climbing skills"

Chris said...

@will

Here's another model I really like
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreyfus_model_of_skill_acquisition

I'm no expert in the area but I really enjoying learning how I learn.

Anonymous said...

@will

here's heavybag's link again, and it relates to what you said about avoiding ice fall. Sometimes shit happens even after precautions are taken, though it seems none were taken in this video...

If it's not clickable, it should be able to copy and paste even it doesn't all appear there

https://picasaweb.google.com/patrick.bagley.10/PublishedWork02#5565397061822830546

Thanks for the detailed analysis and inspirational climbing over the past many years. Nice metal detector work this winter...

-ben

Anonymous said...

This guy needs to go back and read and put into practice some old Chouinard, Lowe and Forrest practices and techniques. There may not be such a thing as a old bold climber but there sure are allot of young dumb dead climbers. This guy skated for some reason with a whole bunch of mistakes that could fill up a book. Man have fun but learn you shit first or to paraphrase Lowe from The Ice Experience, build you fires or experience in the mountains with twigs, sticks then logs and not with paper that will flame out and not keep you through the night. The lesson here is go slow and be sure you know what you know and you know it some more. In the high mountains this was dead.
Old alive rock, ice and mountaineer

Anonymous said...

From the SuperTopo review of the Gigi...

"So why possibly haven't you heard of a GiGi? Well, it does have one huge factor going against it: it can't belay a leader."

The Court Jester said...

The video is also a reminder that ALL climbers should take a wilderness first aid course. We don't see much of the initial response to the injury. What little is shown before the doctor is an incorrect way to deal with someone after a 60ft. fall. Always stabilize the head till you have confirmed no spinal injury (which is what you see the doctor doing).

Nick Harvey said...

Thanks Will. Good discussion and useful reminders.

A debate inspired by this post is going on this side of the pond if people are interested:

http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?n=451957

Aleksey said...

This fall is very typical. A beginner or intermediate leader gets pumped by the end of a steep pitch, his placement is not solid, he places both tools and removes one hand from the leash to place an ice
screw, unable to finish (because he is very pumped), starts panicking, shifts his only active tool or crampons, it pulls out and the climber falls. I observed and heard this scenario at least couple
dozens times in ice climbing arena here in New England during the last 15 years.

There is a simple solution for beginner or intermediate ice climber to prevent this - TETHERS - a pair of slings that connects tools to a harness.

We all agree with Will that fall on ice is not an option and should be prevented by all means.

When an ice climber has his tools attached to his harness:

- he can hang on the tools at any time, rest and place protection
- tethers can catch an unexpected fall if the ice breaks or a small/medium avalanche hits (happened to me on Mt.Washington three years ago, saved an 80ft. fall, yes I was run out..)
- prevents dropping tools, which is very important on multipitch ice climbs

There four major points against using tethers:
- Bad style
- Inconvenience
- Shock load
- Why tethers, if you can just clip in to your tools if you are in trouble.

1. Bad style. Use of tethers is recommended to beginner or intermediate level ice climbers until they get their techniques polished. Expert climbers have enough skills and experience to decide if they need it or not and go with whatever style they want. Beginner and intermediate climbers still have to make it to expert level in terms of safely and tethers can help. BTW one can attach tools to his
harness and never put any weight on them.

2. Inconvenience. Yes, it is inconvenient to use tethers for the first three or five times and then you get used to it and tethers stop bothering you. Those who want to go for bigger ice climbs should
invest their time into learning climbing with tethers at least for the purpose of not dropping the tools. There is nothing more stupid than finding yourself on vertical ice several pitches off the ground without one tool...

3. Shock load. I’ve been teaching tethers to beginners and intermediate climbers for years both on top rope and lead and never observed shock load when they put weight on them, even when suddenly taking a short (1ft. fall). Of course one should try his best to weight tethers as gentle as possible.
4. Why tethers, not just clip in? Tethers can work much faster. When a beginner gets really pumped, he simply may not have the strength to hang on one arm and do the job, plus panicking is a big factor of not doing the job fast and precise. With tethers one just puts his weight on them whenever.


I believe, that everyone who is teaching ice climbing has responsibility of teaching how to use tethers. Surprisingly many have no idea and never tried the technique. Once the the students have the knowledge, they can decide for themselves whether they want to use tethers or not.

Chief Warlock said...

Fellow Warlocks @cabinone and @Dan Velker! Who are these tiny, ugly people to criticize you and point out your unbuckled harnesses, improperly positioned belayer,
inability to use a belay device, inability to stabilize an injured climber, failure to place proper protection and staunch advocacy of FALLING OFF ICE CLIMBS??!!!

And then to criticize your utterly transparent desire to capitalize on your injury filled adventure by trying to con this Will Gadd fellow into doing a video for you???

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?

I'll tell you who they are! LOSERS!!!

That is my torpedo of truth to you!!! @cabinone and @dan velker!

You are clearly, duh, WINNING!!!!

YES, when you have almost no knowledge of a subject, and a demonstrated ability to
nearly kill yourselves pursuing it, and the best ice climber in the world freely offers you
some expertly delivered and tactfully phrased feedback, OF COURSE THE NEXT STEP IS
TO CON this Will Gadd dude into TO MAKING A HOW-TO VIDEO that you can put your name on!!!

It's GENIUS how you attempt to capitalize on this!! GENIUS!!!!!!!!

DUH, WINNING!!!!!!!!!

I think you need to join this show!!!

http://www.ticketmaster.com/Charlie-Sheen-tickets/artist/1568566

This is what ICE CLIMBING IS ALL ABOUT!!! I SUPPORT YOU FULLY MY WARLOCKS!

Let us spill our TIGER BLOOD together, On film!


It PAYS! OH YES, IT PAYS!!!

Signed,

Chief Warlock
(and all around new ringmaster in the Circus of "It's all about ME and how I can 'leverage' people's kindness in the
face of my own screw ups!")

P.S. Humility has NO PLACE in the sport of ice climbing, or in life! NO! The only thing that counts is the ability to think, "How can I leverage this to my own benefit?"
Remember that!!!!!!!!!

P.P.S WINNING!

Anonymous said...

I’m trying to figure out the sequence of events right before the fall. At ~5:30 his right hand is out of the leash as he is putting in a screw. Just before he falls you can see that he got the screw in but did not clip it. Why not? Wouldn’t think that was because he was too pumped as he was back in the leash when fell. If you can fiddle around with a leash while you wait for someone to rig you an anchor you should be able to clip a screw, no? Bad ice? Bad enough that you would not trust it to hold a 19-22 cm screw while you found some other protection?

Will Gadd said...

Aleksey--I see your comments come through on my emails from Blogger, but they're obviously not posting for some reason. I'm not moderating them. This has been a problem with Blogger before. Do you have a Google account to log in with? Google's software is beyond me unfortunately. I'll post your comments under my own log-in if you can't figure out a fix. Thx.

-WG

Will Gadd said...

Posting this for Aleksey, not from me, just a "forward" as he's having an issue with his comment.

Thank you Will. Yes, could you please post the following for me?
Thank you!
-Aleksey

This type of accident could be prevented.

This fall is very typical. A beginner or intermediate leader gets pumped by the end of a steep pitch, his placement is not solid, he places both tools and removes one hand from the leash to place an ice
screw, unable to finish (because he is very pumped), starts panicking, shifts his only active tool or crampons, it pulls out and the climber falls. I observed and heard this scenario at least couple
dozens times in ice climbing arena here in New England during the last 15 years.

There is a simple solution for beginner or intermediate ice climber to prevent this - TETHERS - a pair of slings that connects tools to a harness.

We all agree with Will that fall on ice is not an option and should be prevented by all means.

When an ice climber has his tools attached to his harness:

- he can hang on the tools at any time, rest and place protection
- tethers can catch an unexpected fall if the ice breaks or a small/medium avalanche hits (happened to me on Mt.Washington three years ago, saved an 80ft. fall, yes I was run out..)
- prevents dropping tools, which is very important on multipitch ice climbs

There four major points against using tethers:
- Bad style
- Inconvenience
- Shock load
- Why tethers, if you can just clip in to your tools if you are in trouble.

1. Bad style. Use of tethers is recommended to beginner or intermediate level ice climbers until they get their techniques polished. Expert climbers have enough skills and experience to decide if they need it or not and go with whatever style they want. Beginner and intermediate climbers still have to make it to expert level in terms of safely and tethers can help. BTW one can attach tools to his
harness and never put any weight on them.

2. Inconvenience. Yes, it is inconvenient to use tethers for the first three or five times and then you get used to it and tethers stop bothering you. Those who want to go for bigger ice climbs should
invest their time into learning climbing with tethers at least for the purpose of not dropping the tools. There is nothing more stupid than finding yourself on vertical ice several pitches off the ground without one tool...

3. Shock load. I’ve been teaching tethers to beginners and intermediate climbers for years both on top rope and lead and never observed shock load when they put weight on them, even when suddenly taking a short (1ft. fall). Of course one should try his best to weight tethers as gentle as possible.
4. Why tethers, not just clip in? Tethers can work much faster. When a beginner gets really pumped, he simply may not have the strength to hang on one arm and do the job, plus panicking is a big factor of not doing the job fast and precise. With tethers one just puts his weight on them whenever.


I believe, that everyone who is teaching ice climbing has responsibility of teaching how to use tethers. Surprisingly many have no idea and never tried the technique. Once the the students have the knowledge, they can decide for themselves whether they want to use tethers or not.



Posted by Aleksey to gravsports at 11:38 AM

Cabin One said...

Per Will's request re the comments: If you're using two different log ins - one for gmail and one for blogger, then you may experience the disappearing post. Once I changed my blogger setup to match my mail settings I had no issues...

gg said...

Thanks for the great analysis - people should not watch this video without reading your comments. In ways the video editing of this sequence is the most disturbing aspect of it. But I must say - to be climbing for 2 years and not know how to belt a harness or use a belay device properly seems really bad (i am self editing here!) My understanding of a Gigi (which seems to be confirmed by reading Kong's literature on the device) is that it is to be used for belaying seconds, rappelling, and as an autolock for ascending a top rope, not for belaying a leader. Am I wrong about this?
I hope the second video that comes out includes these errors as well as the ones mentioned by Will and on this site. It would be appropriate to pull this one off the air when that goes out.

shoo said...

Worth noting that the dihedral that he is climbing through is often difficult to get good pro into. There is a constant stream of water down it, resulting in highly featured ice that just isn't solid enough to place screws into. If it's late season and there hasn't been much re-freeze recently, the good spots can be so full of previous holes (most of which aren't even worth reboring) as to make it near impossible to place where you have decent stances.

I have climbed that route a few times, and have run it out just as much at least once when the pro was too crappy to bother with.

Anonymous said...

A similar idea to tethers, but also applicable to rock climbing, is to use a "chicken sling" or PAS - a length (ideally, adjustable) of sling already attached to your harness and with a biner on the distal end. It is easier to clip a screw (or the emergency rope sent from above, in this case) with a sling that is clipped to your harness, than to reach for the rope, which is usually below and behind you, and may be subject to drag. Chicken slings are also useful at belay anchors, preparing to rap, or anytime you want a redundant connection from your harness to your pro.
I don't mean to imply that chicken slings are a panacea when lead climbing and getting pumped. Better to place and clip a screw *before* you get pumped, not thirty feet above the last one.

Toby Gadd said...

Watching this video again, it occurred to to me that we are probably going to see a lot more like it. It used to be that making a mountain-adventure film required obscure & expensive equipment and talented climbers who could also wield cameras. The complexity of execution pretty much guaranteed a professional product in the end. But technology has made it possible for newbie climbers to strap on cheap, but very high quality, cameras--so now we end up with newbies attempting to make high-quality videos before they even know how to safely wear their harnesses. Further, the guy behind the camera doesn't even have to understand the subject matter from a participant's perspective--yet he can easily use inexpensive software to produce dramatic visual effects and the like that results in a video which appears, at first blush, to be as authentic as a professional effort.

Combined with the hype and sensationalism of mindless reality TV, the net result is a focus on image over substance. In their vain efforts to emulate the accomplishments of their heroes, image-conscious newbies will produce many monsters that lack souls. Stories that are told with false and borrowed wisdom, with little awareness of their own ignorance and superficiality.

This doesn't mean that I think everyone should leave their cameras at home. I grew up inspired by my father's slide shows that documented his early mountain adventures, and I have taken my share of photos too. But there's a huge leap from documenting an experience for yourself (and a handful of friends), and attempting to "tell a story" to the world.

My advice to the climbers and videographer: leave the grandiose pretenses, and possibly even the cameras, at home. Focus on the experience, as it matters to YOU--not to some hypothetical audience that demands slick production standards. In other words, stop trying to emulate the images of your heroes, and instead live for your own moments. You may never become extraordinary, as few do, but you will transcend the mundane--and the mountains will set you free.

Cabin One said...

So Jill and I have been making up on a side street of the internets. She asked me what the point of the video was in the first place. She suggested I post my answer to her here. So in the spirit that this home video was ever meant to be offered, let's continue the tradition. Gentlemen, I am publicly taking the advice of a woman. A professional, out of doors, honest to God woman, who could out climb me blind; may you all continue to learn from my life. ...

I wasn't trying to make a movie. I was trying to get my fat ass out of the chair and into the air. Pretty simple. I don't climb, I sit; I can do the practice slab on Cathedral Ledge, but that's about it. Just getting to the base of these climbs (and back) pushes my limits. But I shoot these guys for two simple reasons. I know them and I need to shoot something. I think it's a good bet that I shoot/shot/shit for the same reasons anyone climbs. To push, to test, to learn. This was just exercise for me; but even in the simplest act I struggle to find life purpose.

I live in Virginia where there's ice for a week, maybe. My wife and I have 6 kids; adopted from Vietnam. Figuring out what to do with my life is tough; I run my own video business; have a big family. I do have some skills; I try to use them to provide for my brood. This 3rd getaway with the guys already had me wondering wth I was doing there. It's awesome to be around real winter, but I'm soo ridiculously out of shape that it begs the question.

So, kinda silly, but if I can get my butt up the hill, there's amazing beauty out there to be seen, heard...felt. Taking a good shot or some video of someone or something beautiful feels like a little life purpose. All I have to do is show up. I change many diapers; there's lots of life purpose in those, actually - but professionally, how can I grow while pushing my normal life, too? By filming my idiot friends.

(You asked) So, getting to Dracula was exhilarating and depleting. I was having a difficult time shooting any of them for the two days we were there. Why? What am I shooting this for? Some stupid 16 min video with my friends? Again??? How many of these do I have to do before it matters or makes a difference? Do I really love getting the same shots? Is this video crap for me or should I dig ditches? Don't hate me for actually giving you a link to another video - but this is all I wanted to shoot. Again. Then the guy fell off. It was the most traumatic thing I've ever been involved with. Don't really care who's prepared or not; what's double-backed or who's over climbing what - the video is my personal journal entry; it's me working through having this happen - to me.

The link was to Melt; you can look it up.

Jill said...

"Gentlemen, I am publicly taking the advice of a woman. A professional, out of doors, honest to God woman, who could out climb me blind; may you all continue to learn from my life. ..."

LMAO. For the record I didn't suggest he post THAT part. Still, Jeff, you've already clued into what Fredston, Fesler, and Tremper have been saying for years. Maybe this outdoors thing is for you after all! ;)

Anonymous said...

I agree with one of the original comments: Don't post another video. No more antics from these guys.

rp said...

shit happens. props to them for sharing that fact....

Matthew Wikswo said...

Obviously, these guys understand the importance of not making errors (such as not doubling back a harness)--otherwise they would have died before they'd even spent just two years doing this.

So there are really two questions: 1) how could they make a mistake when they didn't know better (e.g., not knowing what a good stick feels like)? and 2) how could they make a mistake when they did know better?

The answer to 1) is obvious: they didn't seek proper instruction first. Which is easy to criticize when someone is operating within a well-understood field--but what about the guys who died while pioneering climbing when it was not yet well understood? None of us faults them for having taken their lives into their own hands and spent them contributing to our body of knowledge.

The answer to 2) is perhaps less obvious: they were in over their heads, probably overstimulated, and distracted, and they made errors that they would have recognized immediately if they had just noticed them. And I submit that most of us have done the same thing at some point, and unless we never climb outside the very center of our comfort zone--in which case, these guys may be dumb but have much larger bollocks, because they were way out of their comfort zone--then we are prone to making the exact same kind of error, until we acquire enough experience to know better, which is only the same thing these guys were doing. (Plus they were brave enough to go public and allow themselves to get schooled.)

The point of which is, only when we have the empathy to understand how they could have got into this situation can we have either the tools to protect ourselves from the same errors or to help them learn to protect themselves.

Anonymous said...

@Wikswo Thanks. Humility is never, ever, a bad character trait.

@ Toby, regarding proliferation of vids: this guy appears to be a professional (or at least trying to be one). The video is imho, actually quite good and the story-telling above average. If the attitudes or technical shortcomings offend, that's another story - unrelated to the validity of his wanting to make a video of his friends.

@ all who have posted constructive criticism - thanks! I've learned a few things from this dialogue and will definitely be a better climber for it.

Cheers...

Rob said...

What would you suggest rather than lowering him down, out of interest?

I accept that there would be some risk in aggravating any spinal injury but I would argue that getting him quickly to a position where he can be easily assessed (bearing in mind that he also might not have been breathing) trumps that.

joel.loughead said...

Very, very educational analysis, Will, thanks for sharing it in such a straightforward and non-arrogant way.

I would like to say, though, that this video doesn't come off to me as so ignorant or machismo as some are making out-- I think there is an air of humility about it. Many, many mistakes were made, but everybody's luckily alright and it does seem that all of those involved in the accident have learned an indelible lesson, as has the wider climbing community, thanks to this blog and the wonder that is modern social networking.
I for one would like to see /more/ videos of these guys' climbing antics: a new one, next season, demonstrating all that they've learned and a newfound respect for the danger of their undertaking. Thanks again, Will, for making it clear that to do this, they'll need to take a hard look at their approach to ice climbing.

Anonymous said...

@Wikswo Then there's the issue of the camera. How much of the decision making was influenced by being filmed?

KenC said...

I have to agree with what Rob said in regards to the lowering of the climber after the fall. I think they made the right decision at the time based on the circumstances they were presented with. I would like Will and others who disagree with the decision to not just say it was wrong but say what they would have done instead.

Will Gadd said...

In an ideal world, which this situation isn't as I noted and qualified carefully, I'd like to see a little bit of spine stabilization for the last ten feet of the lower. Nothing fancy, just keep major flopping motions from going on. The fallen climber is breathing etc, an extra 30 seconds to scramble up to him and just keep his feet from kipping over etc. would be a good thing. As soon as he's on the ground it looks like there's an effort made to do that. But again, as I noted, this is an intense situation, who knows what I or anyone would have done. Something to think about. I'm used to working on paragliding crashes where it's critical to control the spine as best as possible right away, perhaps this is different. Again, solid job by everyone working there, I just hated watching the legs flop over and the neck move around as it did, that seems not so good to me with my background.

Someone with more experience can maybe chime in here on what the "ideal" sequence would have been?

Anonymous said...

Did anybody else in a totally strange way get really inspired to ice climb from that clip?. Must have been the song.

Anonymous said...

so many familar names on here posting

i'll be the first to say that its easy to sit on your arse and type what a bunch of idiots boo to them

in no way am i supporting anything they or you do. so dont act like your shit doesnt stink and you've never had a situation occur.

i can use most fingers on both hands with the names on here and list dangerous and "stupid" behaviour.

leading a 20M pitch with 5 screws in and none of which would hold a body weight placement and then bagging the guy who couldnt lead it after you. pity you and your ego

so lets keep it to a constructive level (which has mostly been covered) and before you type think back to when you started climbing and those times were you "fucked up" and type accordingly.

the community and this blog doesnt need more "what a retard so useless when i climbed the WI4 bit of rogans gully i was way more gooder than him"

Jake said...

If you are going to be involved in potentially dangerous sports you should have at least a basic first aid course. As you progress, so should your first aid skill. Also exposure to rescue techniques and a basic course in rope rescue can go a long way in providing care for the injured. I agree with Will. Once the fall is stopped rescue should beging from that point. To say the correct progression of care depends on the situation. A vocal response will confirm ABC's. Airway, Breathing, Circulation and level of Responsiveness. There is no time to waste so be careful and efficient.You cannot injure yourself or cause further injury. In this case he was close to the ground so immediate contact would have only taken moments. Valuable moments,which could decide the difference between climbing again or being fed and cleaned by friends and family. Once you make physical contact you can evaluate the extent and level of injuries then send a team, with that knowledge for additioinal assistance if required. If injured critically take the necessary steps to stabilize and monitor the injured and treat for shock, till more assistance arrives. Again you won't know how to do any of this without some training and skill. Remaing calm and controlled is paramont. The most knowledgeable should take charge and manage the scene. A simple first aid pack will handle many scenerios in traind hands. (Ask a Ski Patroller whats in their pac.)I have heard suggested that Rescue Climbing is a style of its own. I believe that to be true. Care enough to be able to help others in need. To be able to do so effectively and efficently can and will help you make a difference when a situatioin falls apart. Check for, OEC, (Outdoor Emergency Care,) courses. You never know, you might have to help yourself.

MarkN said...

@ Will -- In an ideal world, ...

Someone with more experience can maybe chime in here on what the "ideal" sequence would have been?


Will, here are some overall thoughts I have.

The important thing to realize is that this is not an ideal situation and not a clinical setting. I don't have a problem with the quick lowering off the screw in this terrain, it gets the injured climber to the ground with the least amount of risk to everyone else involved.

One thing to notice is the terrain transition from ice to snow at the ground. At that point is where the climber self-corrected with a roll out. More than likely due to his airway getting shut down.

When coming into a lowering transition like that and the climber is inverted, I'd prefer not to just grab his head due to the possibility of levering is neck against the movement of his main body. What I'd look for is lowering like they did but stop just off that snow, support him, and transition for a sit-up position. Or, you could work to get him laying flat, keeping the climber supported.

You won't be able to fully immobilize him in a buddy rescue but can address the importance of airway & breathing. This is why rapid extrication is called for. I like the sit-up position here as it creates the least amount of levers on his body going from inverted to the final resting point on the ground which doesn't look entirely flat. You should also plan on some hypothermia protection and insulate him from the snow and cold air as best you can.

Do the best you can not to do more harm, but also realize a vertical ice wall is no place to keep a climber suspended in an inverted position when you can simply get him on the deck in a few seconds to better support his airway and breathing as well as getting a better assessment performed to see if organized rescue needs to be an option.

Let's also keep in mind as to a spinal clearance discussion that a higher medical has the education and experience to make decisions that a normal everyday climber can't.

Jake said...

If you are going to participate in any outdoor activity that could be considered dangerous you should have at least basic first aid skills. As skill difficulty increases your FA skills should as well. I've heard mentioned that Rescue Climbing could be a seperate disipline. I agree. Rescue has become part of the equation in some cases. "Somebody will come." You should also include a basic rope rescue course. Although sport rescue and fire company rescue differ slightly, because the truck carries the gear, the techniques are related. I agree with Will that as soon as the fall was arrested the switch to rescue should have started. A quick shout to the climber could reveal much. ABC's. Airway, Breathing, Circulation. Also the level of Responsiveness. This close to the ground he could be reached in a few critical moments, secured and evaluated for any additional injuries that may complicate additional movement. This could make the difference between climbing again or having friends and family feed and clean you the rest of your life. Get a pulse. Once you have determined the extent of the injuries you send out help with that information so incoming rescue comes prepared. In this case there were some more experienced climbers to direct in lowering or stabilizing. You can improvise cervical collars, splints, and even backboards if necessary. But you won't be aware if you don't have the knowledge. What would I have done? Can't say. Situation dictates the treatment. OEC, (Outdoor Emergency Care,) is much different than being in a clinical situation where you can turn, reach out your hand and get everything you need out of an ambulance. You need knowledge, a cool head, and you can make a difference. Check with the Red Cross. They offer basic and advanced first aid and CPR. Get in touch with your local Fire Dept. They're always training for rescue in assorted venues. Stop in to your local Ski Resort and speak with the Ski Patrol. There's knowledge out there. Think about it. Be able to make a difference. Knowledge never hurt anyone.

Cat said...

As a relative newbie to ice-climbing (a handfull of seconded routes, and all with much more experienced and competent climbers) I've already internalised the "never fall on ice" mantra. While I've taken a lot from the video and all the commentary, I think the most useful thing has simply been the chance to see quite how dramatic and brutal a whipper on ice can be. The nature of falling on ice is so different from rock (my more "natural" medium!) and even more humbling. Thanks for this Will, a valuable collection of lessons to be learnt.

Anonymous said...

Good gear does not compensate for a lack of skill.

Murrs said...

I am also a very novice ice climber (though I've been on rock for about a decade now). This year I didn't climb at all b/c I couldn't find someone I trusted to climb with... My previous climbing partner wrecked his knee right as the season had started.

Honestly, Some of the comments are over the top. As a novice ice climber all I take away from the video itself is the how easily things can go wrong when you're under prepared, under skilled, naive and ignorant. I welcome any videos that will scare the shit out of me like this one did. It reinforces the need for proper education, preparation, through analysis of self and thorough analysis of the conditions prior to setting up a "safe" climbing experience.

In the end I'd love to see a more thorough analysis of each point at which these guys f'd up from someone as experienced as Will. It would simply serve as very real education for the uneducated.

No, I don't agree with the general tone of the first video, but it looks like these guys have been humbled and like Dan said, are willing to have themselves be used as an example for the rest of us to learn from. I feel that they are doing their best to combat the very misinformation and egos that resulted in their terrible series of mistakes and I commend them for it.

Remember... they could have just pretended it never happened due to embarrassment and shame... then none of us would have been able to analyze the video(s).

Thank you for being brave enough to subject yourselves to justified and valuable criticism, despite some ridiculous personal attacks.

Anonymous said...

I think it is funny when people think their extreme sport is reserved only for them. How does one become extreme? Experience, and this video has taught a lot. Thank you for the vid it was done very nicely.

David said...

Whoo... A confused, and therefore confusing,film. I question the whole "putting your embarassment aside and coming clean about your mistakes" premise that some are lauding as a good reason for making this joint. Don't advertise bad practice. Particularly don't advertise bad practice with such an over-the-top soundtrack - I wanted to laugh. Next lesson to learn - don't put films about the lessons you've learned on the internet. It might just show that you haven't.

Ah... alright. Never mind. I watch heaps of bad video, beginning, and by no means ending, with "America's Funniest...". And I enjoy it. I've known guys who wear their helmet cam while brushing their teeth, just in case something interesting happens. Things like this are like posting your kids' crayonings on the fridge door. We swim in a sea of amateur efforts. It's the world we live in.

Mark said...

Will, your comments need to be heard by every climber, including myself.

I have been ice climbing for about 8 years and luckily learned very early that falling on ice is NOT OK. My first season out I fell top-roping on Kid falls (WI4) which scared me enough to not ever want to let it happen again. Since then, I have had 7 successful and enjoyable seasons gradually ticking off as many of the Canadian Rockies classics as I've had time to, including about a dozen or so WI6 routes. Earlier this season, I was traversing the ice at the base of a route trying to warm up my hands while one friend belayed the other up the first pitch...... and I fell. Luckily I was only a few feet off the snow, and I wasn't hurt, but I was rattled. I consider myself a very safe and conscientious ice climber, but I made the simple mistake of trusting a pick placement I shouldn't have. That is an easy mistake to criticize.

There is no question that many things were done wrong in this video, but Will is right, we all make mistakes. I have seen very intelligent and experienced people make stupid mistakes..... I know a well-educated 5.14 climber and climbing instructor who once forgot to finish tying his knot and only through luck, it jammed in his harness when he fell on it. I know he has a habit of having his partner check him before he climbs, but this time he forgot. Todd Skinner was not a dumb, or inexperienced climber but he made the simple mistake of trusting his gear past it's usable life, which cost him his.

I don't ever want to lose a friend in the mountains. I hope that rather than using this video to criticize, we use it as an opportunity to educate others and to reflect on ourselves and our own habits. We all have room for improvement.

Anonymous said...

There is inexperience and then there is stupidity. We can gain experience but you can't fix stupid. Things like not knowing how to properly use your equipment ie harness, belay device etc is stupid, standing where you will get hit by ice is stupid. You can't fix that sort of thing with experience. This sounds harsh but some people simply don't have what it takes to be a safe climber. Common sense just isn't that common.

Anonymous said...

Didn't anyone mention putting ice screws closer? Hard to judge from the video, and I havn't climbed this particular climb, however ice looks of sufficient quality. That is a long fall.

Bang said...

What is the music played in the video?

Ty Gittins said...

wow...I thought I was an ice gumby. these jokers make me look like Guy Lacalle. the worst part about it all is them making it into an epic mini movie. terrible

Anonymous said...

That was scary from where I am, I can only imagine what it must have been like to take that fall. It brings reality right home to you. As a skydiver, the thought of the sudden stop at earth is always in the back of your mind. I'm so happy this ended much better than it could have. It's like "Victory!" when things go bad and we are able to walk away from it. Even more so than the sea, altitude is unforgiving of those who would error. Live long guy. Tell your grandchildren about this one day.

Coexist! said...

Thanks for the great video guys. You are brave to air your mistakes for all the internet climbing and non climbing world to critique. I thought the movie was well made, and your compassion shows through. The music, the scenes, everything, really well done video. Kudos to you for having the guts to show your stuff on camera. Most climbing mistakes do not get made where the world can see them, and most climbers have made mistakes at one point in their careers. The fact is, your buddy fell leading something maybe above his ability, he made some mistakes, and he survived to tell the tale. That's the best part of the movie! How many of us know friends who have died? Raise your hand. This happy ending, and inspiring movie is an awesome teaching tool for the rest of us. Let he who is without blame throw the first stone. Or better yet, how about throwing no stones and just complementing the filmakers and climbers for a job well done, a good rescue, and a good friend who didn't die that day on the ice. An ER doc was already there, how wonderful is that! The Divine Plan is at work in the mountains. I was thrilled with the movie and I hope you make another one. By the way, I no longer climb ice, but I am a rock climber, a former EMT/firefighter, a ski patroller on a snowboard, a cyclist, a farmer, a writer. Every day I take risks for my sports and for my reputation. In all of these pursuits, I have learned from the mistakes of myself and others. I can enjoy this well made video rather than trash the guys who were brave enough to show us their errors. What is the take away from this video, for me? I'm taking with me the great relief and happiness and joy you all felt when you realized your friend survived. I'm taking away the thrill of that last piece holding tight, your friend walking away, the happiness you all felt when you realized he was conscious and breathing. I actually shed a few tears as you lowered your friend and the ER doc checked him out. The music, the scenery, the action. Wow! Thanks again guys, for the rush and the thrill and the joy.

You made my day.

photonicgirl (aka Jules Harrell)

Anonymous said...

Dracula fall
Looks like the pick is loose on the tool .At 1:17
What do you think?