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BMC Near-Miss and Incident Reporting (Read 6151 times)

Will Hunt

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Andy's definitely right with that. According to the account, things weren't going great but it sounds like they could easily have spent the night on the ledge and made better decisions in the morning when they were hopefully calmer and had better visibility. You can see that Don becomes panicked by the idea of a night out (maybe with good reason, I've no idea just how cold it can get there in spring) and then it just seems that any sort of rationality goes out of the window. The decision to abseil into unknown territory, wearing those stupid swami things, with no means to get back up the rope and no gear to make a belay is just crazy but by that point they've decided that they just have to get off and they just career into it, desperate to get down somehow, anyhow.

The scary thing about it is that between the pair of them they were probably technically competent to sort the situation out, but the panic just crippled their capacity to make reasoned decisions. And panic is a thing that feeds itself and gets bigger and bigger and is hard to quell and put back in its box. They were almost doomed from the very moment that Don started to lose his nerve. You know that feeling where you've come through something scary and then you're ready for it to be done but you've got three pitches to go? "I've done my stint! Where's the fucking ice-cream van?"

SA Chris

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in these situations it's easy restrict your yourself by cutting off safe escape options until you spiral towards where disaster is the only possible outcome. There is a name for the safety model, can't think of it right now. Reverse of the Swiss Cheese Model.

duncan

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That Yosemite tale is utterly grim. I got benighted in the Verdon in a very similar way early in my career. Neither of us were very experienced, we were totally out of our depth, but fortunately we didn't panic. We sat out the night on a ledge, suffered (it gets cold in March) but survived.

I did the classic pre-climbing wall progression of hill walking to scrambling to roped climbing. I was mostly self-taught except for two or three days with school teachers. No-one had any qualifications of course. My first ever roped climb, with one of the teachers, was Wrinkle in the pass. None of this easing-in with single pitch top-roping nonsense!

A group of us schoolkids were hooked. We started buying gear piece-by-piece and going out on our own almost immediately. Iíd memorised Blackshaw, and, bizarrely, our local library had a copies of Basic and Advanced Rockcraft so our ropework was probably not completely lethal. I could have prusiked up a rope and successfully tested this a couple of years later, in the dark, on the top pitch of Luna Bong (on a different occasion on the same Verdon trip!). We mostly climbed at Cheddar and Brean Down as they were accessible by public transport. Pre-bolts, these were exciting places for an inexperienced leader but I started as soon as the gear pool seemed adequate, on our third or fourth day out. The more gung-ho of the teachers also encouraged me to solo things like Cave Chimney at Uphill Quarry (now HVS). He found our bog-standard comprehensive in Weston a bit safe and soon left for somewhere a bit more challenging in inner-city Bristol. Probably a good move for both of us.

Even as beginners, the risks on vegetated limestone choss and crumbling sea cliffs were pretty obvious. I was scared on nearly every route but recognised or nurtured an aptitude for remaining composed despite this. I donít recall any near-misses. Perhaps we were lucky but we were pretty aware of our inexperience, proceeded cautiously, not climbing anything harder than Severe for two years. I was a lot more dangerous once I started to think I was any good.

Iím a bit surprised now how relaxed our parents were about all this. Perhaps they correctly surmised we were a lot safer than if weíd been riding motorbikes, sniffing glue, or necking 8% scrumpy (from plastic gallon flasks, direct off the farm), the main leisure activities in 1970s rural Somerset.




andy popp

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Whew - I thought people my think I was being overly judgemental. Of course, the problem is that Don didn't know he was going to panic until he did. Perhaps he'd never been in a comparable situation before? Maybe he had and had been fine - I've witnessed a very good and experienced climber lose his nerve (at 20,000+ feet in the Himalayas no less)? But once he had the situation spiralled out of control. I believe a lot of this ability is innate, but it can clearly be developed and strengthened.

Duncan, my start in climbing was incredibly similar to yours, even down to the time and the place. I'll try and write a little about that later.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2019, 04:57:01 pm by andy popp »

Paul B

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I've become aware that for me, remaining rational and composed is very dependent on my energy levels. If I don't consistently force myself to eat (I've given up trying to be healthy ,refined sugar hits the spot) the slightest thing can tip me over the edge and once I'm gone, getting back to being rational takes an age.

I've always worried about the 'what if' (look back at my self-rescue thread for instance) scenarios climbing with my Wife who has been climbing for a significant number of years less than me and expresses far less interest in consuming information on the subject (especially rope work  :whip:). However, when I got myself in a mess climbing in ridiculous heat on the south face of El Cap when it was far too hot (the valley was literally on fire and had been closed to visitors; climbed and hauled 7 pitches, didn't drink very much etc.) she completely took the lead on getting us, and the significant amount of kit down safely (I couldn't stand up, was dry-heaving etc.). Since then I've worried less.

Oldmanmatt

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The one time I lost it, I was frost bitten, snow blind and pretty sure we were  already dead anyway; so a little deranged screaming into the wind seemed a minor indulgence.

I go all logical and stoney faced, when tíshite hits tíwindmill, only to have an epic meltdown, shortly after the pressure is removed. I have been sworn at for being a ďcold hearted cunt!Ē as the person in question put it. Not without cause.

If Iím lucky, Iíll make it somewhere private, before breaking. But I always break.

Thatís not some sort of bravery thing, though. Itís just what happens when I concentrate, as anyone who ever tried to get my attention whilst Iím reading, can attest. Also, the stoney face does not reflect the voice at the back of my head, who has a very low opinion of both me and every decision Iíve ever made, and just wonít shut up about it.

petejh

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Grim tale. But the threat of something like it happening is part of what makes the adventurous genres of climbing what they are.
I'm usually naturally cautious on adventurous stuff and have always been cynical about partners until they've proven to be trustworthy. But still I've stupidly climbed a grade IX winter route in the cairngorms and topped out to my partner belaying me just sitting in the snow on the top, when better option were available. Stupid complacent twat. A moral of the story seems to be - choose your partners well and be cautious even when out with the best ones. Sounds like the author didn't know enough to choose well and got lucky not to be killed as a result.