40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica

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6 years 5 months ago #136414 by tengu12
Replied by tengu12 on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
….and if it would have been a shorter rope he would have been dangling above the ground and an aerial rescue would have had to have taken place. Another question is how long would it have taken the team to retrieve him if he was stranded, with a busted vertebra, 20' aloft? Since he was climbing alone, was any Rescue Protocol in place?

Keep-Balance
Tim 'tengu' Kovar

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6 years 5 months ago #136415 by moss
Replied by moss on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Good question. Perhaps it is time to define a "Designated Aerial Rescuer" position for group climb events, even a recommended ratio of trained rescuers per number of climb participants. Guessing that exists already in your group/expedition climb protocols Tengu? I imagine the qualification should be the ability to "manage and/or perform aerial rescue for DRT, SRT and multi-pitch climbs in either rope technique in the specific climbing environment (tropical forest, tall conifers, hardwoods etc.".
-AJ

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6 years 5 months ago #136416 by patty
Replied by patty on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Wild Tree Climbing and Guiding Others

(Posted by Patty on behalf of Tim Kovar)

This post has been prompted by the recent accident that happened on Feb. 5th 2014, when a few tree climbers led a group of both novice and experienced tree climbers into the tropical jungle of Costa Rica.

The accident occurred when Andy Anderson, an experienced tree climber, was climbing solo in the tree on a system that he developed. He fell 40’ and was only inches from the ground before his climbing knots caught him. His incident report is posted in this thread, above. A private page on Facebook has also been created (ask the admin for access).

Andy admits he did not follow standard protocol. I talked with him about a week after the accident, and he explained the situation to me in great detail. We agreed that several safety issues were overlooked, some of which may have prevented his fall. It is not my intention to pick apart what went wrong. There is plenty of discussion about that on Facebook and the TCI message board.

I believe that professional Tree Climbing Guides (guides who run tree climbing expeditions as a business venture, with paying clientele) have serious obligations when they take people into wild areas. In addition to having the proper training, they need strong leadership qualities, and need to be prepared for a variety of unique set of circumstances before guiding others into a wilderness environment.

Also, guiding an expedition-style tree climbing adventure requires a different set of rules than facilitated tree climbs. Hosting a facilitated tree climb in a city park is completely different from taking climbers 200 feet up into a coastal redwood or into the trees of a tropical jungle.

I would like to address how Tree Climbing Planet (TCP), with the blessings of Tree Climbers International, conducts tree climbing expeditions into wilderness areas. I have been leading guided tree climbs into tropical environments for 15 years and learn something new on each trip.

The following points are not a replacement for proper training, but are some of TCPs protocols and guidelines for leading group climbs into wild trees.

• All guides have successfully completed the proper training courses (according to the TCP/TCI protocol) and have ample climbing experience in the chosen environment.

• An opening ceremony and safety talk is given at the start of every expedition, and every member of the expedition must be present.

• A ratio of 3 climbers (of any expertise level) to 1 trained TCP guide is mandatory on all expeditions. When novices are aloft in a wild setting, the ratio is 2:1.

• TCP guides will be Rescue Ready at all times.

• All climbing systems will be approved by TCP guides, regardless of the experience level of the climber. (We know that there are a thousand different ways to climb a tree. It is a safety concern.)

• Proper and appropriate tree climbing equipment is mandatory. Helmets, saddles, hardware, PPE and ropes will be inspected by TCP guides. All climbers will also wear closed-toe shoes in wild trees.

• No solo climbing is allowed at any time, day or night. Every tree being climbed will have at least two climbers, and all will respect the buddy climbing system rules.

• Radios and/or whistles are required on every climb. Every climber will have a whistle.

• Evacuation policy is in place. When traveling to remote areas, you may need to arrange an on-call emergency helicopter or speed boat prior to setting out on the expedition.

• When climbing in unfamiliar territory (for example, jungle setting), a local guide is required to help with tree identification and inspection, and who can discuss and prepare the group for possible hazards.

• All climbers will have a small first aid kit on their saddle. A complete and proper first aid kit will be available on every climb.

• A satellite phone with GPS is mandatory when the group is out of cell phone range.

• Primary anchors will be approved by TCP guides prior to climbing.

• Every tree climbed will be inspected by all climbers.

• Ideally, first ascents into a wild tree will have a retrievable anchor in order to rescue the climber from the ground.

• Transfers aloft will be approved by your climbing partner.

• It is highly recommended to have travelers insurance. (see Andy’s statement)

• If traveling to foreign countries, a minimum of one expedition leader must be bi-lingual to communicate to locals.

• Slow methodical climbing is encouraged. No speed climbing around the canopy.

• Communication is a vital part of every expedition. Even novices are encouraged to speak up if they think they see something unsafe. Debriefing after each climb is a great way to pull the expedition team together and bring deeper meaning to everyone’s experience.

As more and more people enter the trees in our world, it is our responsibility as trained guides, facilitators and instructors to offer our students and clients a safe experience led by trustworthy guides and teachers.

Tim Kovar (Tengu)
International Master Tree Climbing Instructor
Tree Climbing Planet
International “Ambassador”, TCI
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6 years 5 months ago #136422 by -Andy-Anderson
Replied by -Andy-Anderson on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Thanks, Tim and Patty. That's a well thought-out set of protocols.

As for the previous questions, Duane, Tim, and Moss had it right. My hitch didn't slip. I had load tested it and had been climbing on it. I think I must have failed to BACK check appropriately.

My guess is that the gate wasn't fully closed. When I was reclined in the hammock and my DRT system was slacked, I opened that biner to clip in my water bottle and helmet. I knew that was an unwise practice to open the biner that was my sole attachment point, but I thought it was unlikely to bite me. When I put my helmet back on and clipped my water bottle back on my harness, it's possible that the gate didn't fully close. That would explain the clink I heard just as I started falling.

Just so you know, it took a while to fail. I used the hitch to climb out of the hammock and then I limb walked for a few minutes before the end knot went zipping away.

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6 years 5 months ago #136423 by patty
Replied by patty on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Thanks for another helpful post, Andy. As for the protocols, they are Tim's. He took the applicable TCI standards to a new environment, adapted them, and then created new standards appropriate to a type of expedition that is unfamiliar to those of us who climb in a temperate forest.

Hope you're healing well from your surgery.

patty

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6 years 5 months ago #136424 by treeman
Replied by treeman on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Andy,
I have heard that your injury carried a $40,000 insured price tag. Is that true? The reason I am bringing up this subject is to stress the importance of having travelers insurance AND the fact that any minor oversight while up in the trees is very expensive.

It all goes back to "Every climb is your first climb." In other words, be a rookie climber for life and live long. If you are experimenting with new techniques or gear, practice low MANY times to get muscle memory first so your mind does not go to sleep while aloft. And of course, BACK check because you are still a rookie.....for life.

Waving from a treetop,
Peter Treeman Jenkins

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6 years 5 months ago #136428 by dogwood
Replied by dogwood on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Speaking of rookie climbers, well, I'm the rookie of the bunch here. But I've been getting up a tree at every available opportunity. I apologize in advance if I seem to be a little dense, but I'm still a little mystified about your climbing system, Andy. It sounds like you've come up with a hybrid system, that you use for SRT and DdRT. I understand how you could use the same line to ascend SRT, and then change it over to a DdRT set up. What I don't get is what kept that knot from flying off the branch, House sleeve and all. What stopped it?

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6 years 5 months ago #136430 by dogwood
Replied by dogwood on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica


Here's a link to a video Richard Mumford did about the bowline as a life support knot.

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6 years 5 months ago #136432 by leo_ttc
Replied by leo_ttc on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Dear friends,

after all, I feel very relieved because Andy is safe at home.

I had the pleasure to met Andy in the Amazon when he took the Tropical Tree Climbing Course in January, 2011.

As a climber and photographer specialized in tropical areas, I need to talk about the importance of being prepared for wild tree climbs.

My first climbing lesson was in 1997 with a major in the Brazilian army whom tried to adapt techniques used in climbing mountain to reach the treetops. Since that time, I became interested in doing something with the gained knowledge from the tree climbing and photography and it was in 1998 that me, my wife Vanessa and 3 children started a new business named Tropical Tree Climbing. When I thought in the serious and big responsibility to bring clients to the tree tops, was immediately connected to the idea to create an strategic alliance with Tim Kovar and TCI. This way I could join the protocols with my long experience in the jungle. However in my first course with Tim I said: brother, I forgot purposely all my knowledge about tree climbing. My cup is empty!

From this moment I decided to start again, without losing enjoyment for me (principally!) and our clients, ensuring the most memorable experiences for many people around the world.

Today, Tropical Tree Climbing has a rigid safety protocol (posted by Patty as Wild Tree Climbing and Guiding Others) that I hope can inspire others.

Andy: Your incident is an excellent lesson for us to be always in alert and check our protocol all the time to minimize fatalities. Thanks for share!

Leo Principe
Facilitator / Professional Photographer
Tropical Tree Climbing
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6 years 5 months ago #136433 by -Andy-Anderson
Replied by -Andy-Anderson on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Peter,

The price tag in Costa Rica was about $44k. Insurance should cover most of it (I hope). Then, in the States, I am paying my deductible plus the cot for all of my meds.

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6 years 5 months ago #136434 by treeman
Replied by treeman on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Andy,

I am so sorry you have had to go through this.

Peter

Waving from a treetop,
Peter Treeman Jenkins

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6 years 4 months ago #136465 by bradypus
Replied by bradypus on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Hi guys, it's ugo.

I was there during the trip and close during the accident as i was walking away from that point to the lodge. If i remember well i had been alerted by a local woman that was in the group that found Andy and told it to Austin, or we were allready together, the memory is blury. We decided fast that Austin would give the alert to the rest of the group and that i would go there to understand the situation and if possible bring back the infos needed to provide the right help. Wich fortunatly thank to his state was more about telling him that we were doing everything to help him and come back. Andy was so calm that first i feared he had a comotion ! But no, he was mentaly clear, incredibly strong and wise. So that tooked like 3mn before being able to come back. The next person i saw was Malina who's medic and was running in our direction. I gived her the details and as she had a little first rescue kit my next task was to go to the lodge and find a more complete one and bring it back. After that i saw what the others saw as i was with them during the rest of the rescue.

As soon as Andy was going away with the rescue boat Richard and i went to see the tree to try to understand what happened. Sorry if this looks cold, but prior to climb i dive, and the education i received is about being cold to have efficient reaction to save then understand so we can fast avoid security weacknesses and maybe save lifes thank to that.

Maybe i'm wrong but here is what i understood about the reason of the accident.

I was lost in the strange configuration of the ropes, i couldn't figure what happened there because of the chaos of ropes, guear placement, friction points... Richard took me back to the ground showing the bowline opened just like he demonstrate it in the video. So to me here was the problem and the solution :
- Don't use a bowline for a harness attachment point. Double eight is awsome.
- Whatever knut you do make a fisher to securise your attachment. No life support knut without a double security. That's way more efficient than a double check (wich is still needed).

Double eight plus fisher, this is what we use here and i don't feel wrong saying that it is a safer system. And here we think that we must change our habits as soon as we find a safer use so i think that it should be done to make this accident a security benefit for all of us.

I thought about an other reason, the "pura vida vacaciones complexo".
Several security weacknesses had been seen during this trip. And i don't blame anyone because there were a bunch of excellent arborists and they all were as the others tooked into that mood. We were in paradise. This factor has to be told because it's a really strong fealing, the place is incredible, the weather was perfect, everything was purely, totaly, fondamentaly, AWSOME. It's one of the best place on the planet to feel completly safe because everything is more than right. And that provocs mistakes because we completly lose our focus.

So the other thing to not forget about this accident in my opinion is that one of the most important security behaviour is to try to feel this kind of moods that make us less focused on security in order to recognise that special mental states, and volontarly come back to reallity as soon as we feel it. Remembering about all our security processes is a good indicator that we are on the right path, but it looks to me also really important to know about how we react, what make us be less focused, present.

Best regards, and big hug Andy, i'm looking forward to see you and Karin this summer.

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6 years 4 months ago #136466 by dogwood
Replied by dogwood on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica

bradypus wrote: Hi guys, it's ugo.


Maybe i'm wrong but here is what i understood about the reason of the accident.

I was lost in the strange configuration of the ropes, i couldn't figure what happened there because of the chaos of ropes, guear placement, friction points... Richard took me back to the ground showing the bowline opened just like he demonstrate it in the video. So to me here was the problem and the solution :
- Don't use a bowline for a harness attachment point. Double eight is awsome.
- Whatever knut you do make a fisher to securise your attachment. No life support knut without a double security. That's way more efficient than a double check (wich is still needed).

Double eight plus fisher, this is what we use here and i don't feel wrong saying that it is a safer system. And here we think that we must change our habits as soon as we find a safer use so i think that it should be done to make this accident a security benefit for all of us.

I thought about an other reason, the "pura vida vacaciones complexo".
Several security weacknesses had been seen during this trip. And i don't blame anyone because there were a bunch of excellent arborists and they all were as the others tooked into that mood. We were in paradise. This factor has to be told because it's a really strong fealing, the place is incredible, the weather was perfect, everything was purely, totaly, fondamentaly, AWSOME. It's one of the best place on the planet to feel completly safe because everything is more than right. And that provocs mistakes because we completly lose our focus.

So the other thing to not forget about this accident in my opinion is that one of the most important security behaviour is to try to feel this kind of moods that make us less focused on security in order to recognise that special mental states, and volontarly come back to reallity as soon as we feel it. Remembering about all our security processes is a good indicator that we are on the right path, but it looks to me also really important to know about how we react, what make us be less focused, present.

Best regards, and big hug Andy, i'm looking forward to see you and Karin this summer.


Hi Ugo, Walter here. I remember you from the Rendezvous! I agree with you on the bowline. I believe it can trick you. Also, your point about one's mental state is SO important, especially in such a beautiful and relaxing place. By the way, for me, the woods where I climb is a beautiful and relaxing place. Being in the present and having complete awareness are vitally important when we are up in the trees.

Please say hello to Malina for me!

Andy, we may not have met, but I feel as if I've met you here. I'm so sorry this happened to you, and wish you a complete recovery! Also, I wish to thank you for sharing your experience, as painful as it is, with us. This wake-up call has been a very important lesson to us all.
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6 years 20 hours ago #136884 by Treewolf
Replied by Treewolf on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Hi All,
I was responsible for organizing this climbing retreat in Costa Rica. This was in no way a TCI event and I apologize if it has reflected badly on TCI.
I feel very bad about Andy's accident and was glad to hear he has been recovering well.
I did not speak up in this forum until now for two reasons: 1) First I did not want to speak for Andy. It was unclear how the fall occurred, I was not in the tree at the time and 2) I did not want to be perceived as defensive about it.
I wanted to learn from it. Word spread quickly around the world and I understand people's the interest in what happened so we can all be safer. We are all part of the rec. climbing community and I hope to attend and guide more climbing events in the future.
I have thought a lot about the circumstances of this accident and want to do whatever I can to reduce risk on future trips. A B.A.C.K. check would have prevented this, a second climber double checking the B.A.C.K. check would be even more of a safeguard as mentioned in Tim's guidelines posted by Patty.
Hugo is right, we had somewhat of a "pura vida vacaciones complexo", no doubt. I personally have been climbing for work for 37 years and trained many professional tree climbers with no accidents. I have guided naturalists and researchers into the canopy in the Brazilian Amazon and in Costa Rica on previous occasions with no accicents. I did have a feeling that as was well in Paradise. This incident had me evaluate myself so I can be more vigilant in the future.
Just for some background information, the tree Andy fell from was near the resort, it had been climbed before, it had no deadwood or vines. It wasn't a wild tree deep in the forest. Andy is well trained and experienced.

Eric Folmer
Treewolf
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5 years 11 months ago #136907 by Tree-D
Replied by Tree-D on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Thank you for your post, Eric. I was about to thank you in a private message, but I want to say publicly that I am very grateful to see you speak up on this thread. I think that an accident report from the organizer of a trip--no matter if they were in the same tree, or working with another group, at the time of an accident--is a very important part of the analysis and follow-up after any incident. It sounds like you wanted to take a little time to decide exactly what you wanted to say as you processed the accident, but I'm glad you logged in here to comment after you thought it through.

-Dennis

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