Ice Climber at Vail Survives Fall Due to Anchor Failure

by Tom Markiewicz on March 30, 2009

A news report about an ice climber falling from the anchors of a Vail ice climb has been making the rounds this morning (@jennfields, SuperTopo)

From the article:

At the top, Boratenski found nylon cords as well as a metal carabiner. He used the nylon instead of the metal as an anchor, something he now knows was a terrible mistake.

I thought this was something all beginning climbers learned, but maybe it should be reiterated. Never run nylon against nylon as an anchor. The friction of the rope running through the sling or cord will create heat which will cause failure.

If there are no rap rings available, then just leave your own biner. For about six dollars, it’s worth your life.

  • TZ

    It sounds like he set up top rope on the cords hanging from the anchor, clearly not a smart idea, but I definitely think that rapping off cords would be fine, since you are not relying on the anchor when pulling the rope(the only time you would be creating significant friction) and you would check to make sure the cords are in good condition before rapping.

  • Ryan

    This is the part that killed me

    At the top, Boratenski found nylon cords as well as a metal carabiner. He used the nylon instead of the metal as an anchor, something he now knows was a terrible mistake.

  • Tom Markiewicz

    TZ, I have to disagree with your statement. While there would be much less friction, I’ve yet to see a rappel where the rope didn’t move at all during the whole process. Those small movements could cause enough friction to melt the slings. This could be especially true if they are old and worn and if the rappel is long.

  • Tom Markiewicz

    Ryan – yeah, that is the real disturbing part. There was actually a better option there and he chose the worse one!

  • Ryan

    I have to agree with you Tom. Under no conditions would I ever have cloth on cloth. Just too much friction in one spot.

  • TZ

    Tom, I stand corrected, I just tried setting up a thin old piece of accessory cord and ran the rope back and forth through it under load, and it wore through surprisingly quickly.

  • Jim Rock

    Even if the anchor didn’t fail, rapping off nylon will dangerously weaken the anchor for the next party. Worse, they won’t know the previopus team has essentially planted a bomb on the anchor until the anchor lands on their heads after they hit the ground…

  • Everyday Explorer

    I have to agree with weakening the cord for the next party. I am always very suspect of trees that have rap cord without a rap ring. Most of the time I just cut the cord and leave my own.

  • Emily

    I saw this on Good Morning America a few days ago. Was he rapping off the anchor or had he top-roped it? They said he had set up a top rope on it, which even worse. Either way, this is basic anchors 101, something a veteran should know better.

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