Friday, October 19, 2012

From Glory to Grace

The well-regarded Canadian climber and athlete, Will Gadd, has one of the most informative climbing and training blogs on the net. Through Gravsports, Gadd brings us an array of tips, techniques, and commentary on the world of climbing.

It was through his blog that we that we became aware of the video, Fall: From Glory to Grace. In this film, we watch a man take a very serious ice climbing fall and then we watch him walk away from it.  The video production is well-done, but the team's assessment of the fall and what lead to it and how to avoid such a situation in the future is poorly thought out.

On Gadd's blog, he analyzes each of the elements that lead to the accident. We have done a round-up of these points below the video.





Here is a breakdown of the mistakes made:

  • --First and foremost, ice climbing is a sport where falling is NOT acceptable.  Sure, it's okay to fall on top-rope, but it is definitely not okay to fall on lead.  In some rock climbing situations, it's okay to fall on lead, but even there one can get hurt.  With twenty-four sharp points on your feet, and five sharp points in your hands, there is a lot that can puncture you or catch on the ice, forcing a limb to bend in a way that it wasn't meant to bend.
  • --The placement of gear in ice climbing is meant to keep you from taking a ground fall.  It is not meant to keep you safe in a small fall.
  • --Leaders should be comfortable on the terrain that they are leading prior to climbing a given pitch.  There is nothing wrong with top-roping at the grade until you're comfortable.  Leading adds a lot of extra stressors.  One has to place screws, think about where the route's going, etc.
  • --Top-roping will also help with technique.  Gadd points out that many of the climber's tool placements are subpar and that his footwork is terrible.
  • --One should practice clipping into the tool.  There are many ways to do this.  At one point in the video, we can see one of the climbers that assisted the injured showing them how to deal with such a situation.  If you can clip into the tool, then you will have the ability to place a screw.  In Gadd's response the video, he writes, "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 does that than gets pumped and falls off. If you're super pumped stop, reset. No "free" pitch is worth getting injured for."
  • --The belayer talks about putting slack in his anchor system so that he can easily move out of the way if there's icefall.  He should have built his belay in a place where there was no icefall to begin with.  In a single pitch setting, this is very easy to do.
  • --The belayer is also belaying the leader with a GiGi. This device is not designed to belay leaders.
  • --The climber is wearing a Black Diamond Bod Harness. It appears that the harness is not double-backed. He is very lucky that he didn't simply slide right out of his harness after the fall.
People make mistakes in the mountains. I've made them and you've made them, too. We all have. But if you're reading this right now, you got away with your mistake. This guy was also able to walk away from his. And indeed, it is likely that this video's existence on the internet will help him to grow as a climber.

I hope that re-posting this will help everyone in their growth and in their self assessment. I think that it is important to look at every day of climbing as a learning experience. There is no doubt that this is a dangerous sport. And it could be argued that the only way to keep playing the game is to constantly self assess and to constantly learn from every mistake, big and small...

--Jason D. Martin

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