40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica

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5 years 11 months ago #136910 by collapsibletank
Replied by collapsibletank on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
May I please ask people what the BACK check is? It may be a regional thing, but I've not heard of it and cannot successfully Google it. Thanks.

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5 years 11 months ago #136911 by moss
Replied by moss on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica

collapsibletank wrote: May I please ask people what the BACK check is? It may be a regional thing, but I've not heard of it and cannot successfully Google it. Thanks.


It's a standard safety check taught in the TCI Basic Course. When a climber clips into a rope or re-pitches or otherwise changes or attaches to a new system on the ground or in a tree, they should do a BACK check. Belt (check climbing harness), Anchor (verify that the rope is over or attached to a solid anchor point), Carabiner (verify that the climber's attachment from their harness to their rope system is closed and locked), Knot (verify that all life support knots and hitches are tied correctly and are functional).
-AJ

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5 years 11 months ago #136912 by moss
Replied by moss on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
There are additional safety protocols when re-pitching or tying into a new system in a tree, they are not covered by the BACK check.
-AJ
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5 years 11 months ago #136913 by collapsibletank
Replied by collapsibletank on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Thank you! Reassuring I am checking the right things despite my ignorance of the acronym. Could be a HACK check I guess... :)

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5 years 11 months ago - 5 years 11 months ago #136914 by moss
Replied by moss on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica

collapsibletank wrote: Thank you! Reassuring I am checking the right things despite my ignorance of the acronym. Could be a HACK check I guess... :)


Excellent! One protocol not covered clearly by the BACK check is the following:

When switching over to a new tie-in while you are in a tree keep your original tie-in attached. Tighten up your new tie-in and slack off but do not detach your original tie-in. With your first tie-in slacked fully weight your second tie-in and verify that it is sound. Do not detach your first tie-in until you have committed to and fully tested your new tie-in.

Many climbers keep their first tie-in slacked and attached as they continue ascending or descending on a second tie-in. For example if an anchor is weak or otherwise has a hidden flaw, it may take several minutes of climbing before a problem becomes obvious. Keeping the first attachment is nice insurance against making an unexpected trip to the ground!
-AJ
Last edit: 5 years 11 months ago by moss.
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5 years 11 months ago #136915 by patty
Replied by patty on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Guys--the "B" in B.A.C.K. check stands for Belt. Belt, Anchor, Carabiners, Knots.
patty

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5 years 11 months ago #136957 by yoyoman
Replied by yoyoman on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
The goal of these discussions and reviews can help us all learn from this accident and help prevent future occurrences. I applaud Eric in his open aspersion of wanting to learn and improve procedures going forward.
Perhaps a buddy system, where most things are done and checked would have prevented this accident but I’m not convinced this is the case. The cause was very simple and is being misdirected or overlooked in this conversation.

History of events as I saw them:

• At the beginning of this trip a safety meeting was held while programs were outlined.
• On this particular day, I and several others passed directly under Andy just prior to this event, we said hello and left him resting comfortably in his hammock.
• A short time after, I was standing in front of the lodge with Mark and others when a local resident approached speaking in Spanish that one of our climbers had cut himself and was bleeding. Others were notified and Mark and I immediately went to the last place we saw Andy.
• As we approached the area Karen came running to us and reported that Andy was hurt. Mark, being quick and nimble, arrived first and I “soon” after.
• Andy was laying in the sand near the base of the trunk of a large fig tree, just to the side of a large buttress and block of concrete.
• First thing he said to me was, “I thought I was tied in twice”. Andy also mentioned the Yosemite tie off used.
• My first concern with a 40’ fall was obvious spinal injury but mostly internal bleeding.
• I stayed with Karen and Andy while Mark ran to the lodge to get Malina, (a medical doctor and member of the group) and to notify others so that a rescue plan could be implemented.
• Malina and others arrived and James, one of the guides, facilitated the ground rescue activities. First aid was given and Andy was transported from the site to a medical facility.
Observations at the site.
• A cinched canopy anchor was set 60’ in the tree opposite the side used for the hammock and a throw line was attached for removal. The branch was large, approximately 8 inches in diameter.
• At about 40’ hanging in the tree below the primary cinched canopy anchor near the trunk was a cambium saver with an autoblock friction hitch, carabiner and foot loop. The cambium saver was resting on top of the friction hitch. The hitch, carabiner and foot loop were configured for an SRT ascent.
• The tail or other end of the climbing line was next to the trunk, the end about a foot above the ground, with a bowline tied with a very small eye and a short tail was hanging below and pointing downward.
• An approximate 2’ long cambium saver was on this end of the climbing line and located above the bowline which was about a foot off the ground.
• Andy was on the ground on the other side of a large buttress to the dangling climbing line.
• Several substantial limbs were below the suspended friction hitch and carabiner and on the same side of the tree with the climbing line.
Speculation on my part:
• Andy made an SRT ascent to about 40’ using an autoblock friction hitch and foot loop.
• Upon reaching this 40’ point he then used the tail of his 60’ climbing line to set a DdRT line to assist in placing his hammock. (Another autoblock hitch, cambium saver, a bowline with Yosemite tie off were used to attach the working end to a rock climbing type lightweight harness.)
• Possibly when he lifted the other end of his system up into the tree, the bowline and Yosemite tie-off became misconfigured. At this point when Andy clipped into the DdRT system he may have inadvertently connected to the small loop of the Yosemite tie-off and not the loop of the bowline.
• The connection to the Yosemite tie-off could have passed a quick visual inspection and handled being weighted for a short time. Being that the loop of the bowline was so small it only took a little movement in the configuration of the knot to misidentify the tie-off for the actual bowline loop. (I have tested this and suspended my entire weight on the Yosemite tie-off.)
• Andy limb walked using the SRT and DdRT system to set the hammock. Once the hammock was set Andy disconnected the SRT system. After a period of time, Andy returned to the trunk using the DdRT system and limb walking.
• Feeling that he was securely attached after using the DdRT system, (after all he had been using it to set the hammock while the Yosemite loop was holding) he returned to the trunk to reconnect the SRT system for the descent. It was at this point, sitting into the system, the Yosemite tie-off let go with a pop, sending Andy falling to the ground. His descent was slowed by the rope running under his leg as the DdRT system cleared the secondary anchor. Several branches and perhaps Andy holding the now upside-down hitch that was still attached to his saddle and the climbing line also contributed to slowing his descent. In addition, the hitch and Andy finally contacted the top of the cambium saver, now about 3-4’ off the ground. At this point the stretch of the Fly climbing line also provided a little more slowing of the descent.

Some things that could have made a difference:

• I had brought for the group small hand held radios with a 35 mile line of sight range. Perhaps if Andy had one, Karen could have called those at the lodge and saved the 10 minute walks to communicate with others.
• If Andy had not disconnected from the SRT side of his system there may not have been a fall or at least it would have been minimalized.
• The obvious, a very thorough check of the knot. Even if fully weighted, (and it may have been) this Yosemite loop may have passed most, “weight the system” checks.
• Unlike a 3x3 prusik, an autoblock friction hitch (a variant of a Klemheist) is very one directional when in use. It must be reset and dressed to function in the opposite direction. In fact the autoblock is even worse as the carabiner will ride down the top of the inverted hitch making it nearly impossible to offer resistance. Had a 3x3 prusik been used on the standing part of the line, when the Yosemite tie off let go of the working end, the prusik would have stopped the descent.
This would be like setting up a 2:1 lanyard but I can’t think of a good reason to implement this type of friction hitch in a climbing system unless you were planning for the failure of the working end of your line.

In my opinion the thing that would have prevented this accident and has not yet been emphasized.

• Most importantly, I feel that if a cinching knot, such as a scaffold or anchor knot had been used at the termination or working end of the climbing line connecting the carabiner to the climbing harness, this failure would not have occurred. Even if the gate of the carabiner had been opened and stayed open and the strength of the carabiner weakened, the knot would have been in place. Or for example, if the gate became open while using an open configuration such as a Blakes hitch, the cinched knot would still be in place and would not have allowed the line to escape. I know that for professional arborists using ANSI standards a cinching knot to the carabiner or anchor on your saddle is required. I understand that recreational climbing is not bound by this standard but I find it interesting that this concept has not been fully adopted by recreational climbers.
Some things that may not have made a difference:
• Even if a buddy system was in use, I suspect that almost every climber would not have recognized that the carabiner was actually in the Yosemite loop rather than the bowline loop. I pointed this out in a video. I suspect that I could tie this very failed knot, show it to club members and pass a quick inspection.
• Climbing using a modified or very personalized system. Andy, I think the system you implemented, although very task specific, was and can be a safe system. I understand how it works and see the advantages of a lightweight harness, 60’ line and minimal hardware for a short climb to a hammock in a well-structured tree to rest and observe nature and get more of those fantastic pictures you take. I think different friction hitches, a cinching anchor at your harness and perhaps a fig 8 for the descent could be an improvement.
Point is, what you were doing was not dangerous or reckless.


My thoughts and a few observations:

We all know how fortunate Andy was. The actual errors that caused this accident were very subtle and not a reflection on recklessness, lack of training, ill preparation of the guides or lack of monitoring or guidance. It was a well-planned trip designed for adults that are willing to take responsibility for their own actions but yet experience a world of nature, life, friendship and tree climbing.

• When I passed Andy I was with a group returning form a walk along the beach. I don’t remember it being a particular strenuous day as most of us were just enjoying the ocean.
• One concept I think that can lead to a safer group activity is to implement an open exchange and discussion of climbing -- something to keep everyone’s head in the game and to learn from one another. Each climber has the opportunity to teach something to the others, to demonstrate the system they use and particular techniques that they enjoy. Knots, equipment, systems and techniques could be reviewed. Perhaps in an open learning environment methods leading up to an accident such as this could have been prevented.
• Concerning the point of aerial rescue. If a shorter rope was used this accident also would not have happened and no aerial rescue would be needed. Andy would not have been able to reach the climbing line in the first place. Andy had a single, un-obstructed line to the ground for self-rescue. Also a 40’ climb with a 60’ anchor was an easy reach for many climbers in attendance.
• Termination knots as mentioned can impede the function of the friction hitch on a DdRT system. You can avoid this by using spliced tight eyes, or large eyes with banding or tying a suitable termination knot with a large eye and a cinching girth hitch or clove hitch. These solutions provide a good cinching type anchor to your saddle connection. Focus on the termination knot and use of a cinching anchor would have prevented this accident.
• In regards to a safety knot below the hitch of this failed DdRT system. It would simply be a knot above the inverted and descending friction hitch if it were employed in this case and be of no use.
• In the climbing community there can be at times much criticism and defensiveness of systems and programs. Throughout all of this Eric has demonstrated that he is simply trying to understand this incident and to learn from it in order to prevent it from happening again.

Question: Andy, did you set that bowline (tail of your SRT line) with the cambium saver, friction hitch and carabiner in place while on the ground and then pull it up when needed? It would make sense to me then, how it could easily get re-oriented with the bowline bite going tight and leaving the Yosemite tie-off loop more visible.

Eric, you ran a great trip. Well planned programs with some of the normal travel hitches one would expect. The atmosphere was unstressed, climb oriented, and professional. Your leadership was soft spoken but effective. People were treated as adults and it was a fun and a great learning experience for all.
An unfortunate accident happened and could have been avoided but nothing in this thread has yet to address the real failure and how to correct it. In my opinion, it is the use of an effective cinching termination knot.
I think an open discussion, without implications, is most beneficial for all of us.
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5 years 11 months ago #136958 by Tree-D
Replied by Tree-D on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
I hope we can all agree that... after this event, and maybe even before... a bowline is a terrible termination knot. If, during a "first day safety talk," everyone is asked to demonstrate the system they intend to use and then stick to the system they demonstrated, I hope nobody will allow a bowline (or bowline variant) to pass as a termination knot in the future.
In my opinion, a knot must do (at least) three things:
-stay tied when you want it tied
-untie when you are done with it
-be easy to inspect
A bowline is a workhorse, and great for many things, but as a tree climbing termination knot I will never use it, or allow my climbing buddies to use it, by virtue of failing the third test, if nothing else. (Arguably failing the first test as well, as the videos of it capsizing under gentle shaking demonstrate.)

I think F8B's are widely used by rec climbers because they are particularly easy to inspect by both the climber and also by someone else (buddy/guide/instructor). They can also be hauled-up or thrown all around without changing state. And if you have to perform a bridge-cutting arial rescue, the F8B (now backed by the "rescue" stopper) will be totally stable and will do that job. Aren't these all the reasons other cinch-knots have not been adopted by rec climbers? It's not that rec climbers don't know about the ANSI cinch knots, it's just that I don't think there is a cinching alternative that is as stable, as easy to inspect by others (who might even be trying to inspect it via binoculars from 10's of feet away), and also capable of trusting to a bridge-cutting arial rescue.

In my line of work, we talk about safety controls in two categories: engineered (equipment) and administrative (guidelines and procedures). I agree that--in this case--it sounds like the engineered control failure was the termination knot. I think it's worth emphasizing that the administrative control failure was on the selection of that knot... both on climber's part, and also on the part of the group to not force each climber to demonstrate the system they intend to use, and to stick to that system. (In SCUBA, we call that "Plan the dive, and dive the plan.") Maybe you guys did that, and you told Andy that a bowline was ok that day, but--as I said at the beginning of this comment--I hope we can all agree not to use/allow bowlines/bowline-variants in the future.

(I will admit that I'm having trouble visualizing the block-hitch/prussic part of this discussion. It's not clear to me why a B53, even if you wanted to use a split tail, wasn't a better choice in this situation, but I might be missing something.)
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5 years 11 months ago - 5 years 11 months ago #136968 by bradypus
Replied by bradypus on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Thank you Tree-D. Really. Next day after the accident i had a disturbing discussion with a climber because he didn't agree at all the bowline was more dangerous than the figure height and to me that was the point. Plus i looked to him paranoid saying a stopper was crucial even on a F8. And that leads me to two other thoughts.

First we lack standards like ANSI does for professionnal climbing. I say we because it's allmost the same in France, TC instructors have to respect a framework made by our union, but this framework is impossible to get. It is smowhere, waiting to be finished so far as i know, every instructor trainer talk about it and refers to it as the Bible, but it is not possible tu put our hands on it. I know climbers are attached to their habits and their freedom to experiment, telling them what has to be done and what has to be avoid is not an easy thing to do. But in my opinion it defenetly has to be done.

Secondly the argue i had to face was difficult for me and the climber i talked with because we were traumatised. It's been a psychological trauma because it was a violent accident and for most of us it was the first accident we witnessed, a feeling that was enforced because we all love Andy. I feel that if i couldn't live the place and stayed allmost two monthes instead of the week as planned it was for big part because of this trauma. It wasn't ended, i couldn't find the conclusion, i had to stay and work on that. I thank a lot Jonathon, James, Scott and Sarah to have provide the peacefull care and love i needed, and all the people i had the opportunity to initiate to tree climbing. Sharing my security rules, allways pushing about the F8 and arrest knot, was kind of an exorcism. And that's why i really thank you Tree-D for this post, it's a certitude i am looking for since this accident and reading you is a releif as it is the first time somebody else is assuming the same opinion. In a way i was kind of getting crazy to feel being alone thinking it and your words are a soothing.

We lacked this kind of post trauma crisis cells. I don't blame Eric about it, this is not a thing we usually think about when we plan a trip, this is not something we learn to do, and even if we do it is certainly not an easy thing to apply when we are ourself traumatised. But i feel that we greatly missed such an help. None of us complained about that because we were thinking only about Andy's pain and none of our sufferings could be compared to what he was going through. This is why i'm sure dealing with such traumas has to be learned and applyed by organisers, because none of the participants will ask for it without feeling more bad to complain when their friend is way more injured.


In my opinion Richard gives an other proof of that : i remember clearly crossing Malina when i was coming back, but not having seen him, Mark or Karen at that moment, and he doesn't remember that neither. But in the timeline it's just impossible we didn't encounter. I guess it is because we were hypnotised by the most important, Andy on the ground, his injuries, Malina and her medical skills, looking for the boat, carrying Andy on a surf board to the boat... things like that are really clear and strong in my memory, and i guess in Richard's memory too. It was kind of a second state, nothing out of what was really important was getting into our minds.

Beside that i remember quite well too the first night we had in the lapalapa, the huge yoga house. Reunited by Eric and Austin to tell us basic security rules in the forest and above all systems we should use. And it wasn't just talking we had a long workshop to train thanks to the big beams of the house. I don't remember exactly what has been said about knots but i can witness that we had a real security meeting prior to any climb.
Last edit: 5 years 11 months ago by bradypus.

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5 years 11 months ago #136978 by yoyoman
Replied by yoyoman on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Hugues,
Sorry, I did not mean to leave you out, you were part of the group leading and contributing in every step of the way. I was only trying to focus on the events that effected the outcome from where I was. EVERYBODY did a fantastic job, I was only part of a much bigger wheel that got Andy where he needed to be.

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5 years 11 months ago - 5 years 11 months ago #136980 by bradypus
Replied by bradypus on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Oh don't worry Richard, that was not at all what i wanted to mean. I wasn't hurted at all.
Who did what has no importance, our goal was to help and together i felt that we did a good job. It was just to point how touched and focused we were. Maybe i was wrong and you remember crossing me, but personnaly i don't. No offense, i know you where there and doing your best for sure, it only shows me how my brain was making compartments. It strongly engraved particular moments, i can precisly visualize some images like if it was yesterday. And on the other hand droped in the blur other moments, i know it happened, i just can't visualize or even remember them. And it is not like forgeting about the past i feel it more like a tiny partial amnesia because it was like that since it happened.

To me it is a sign of psychological trauma. That's all i wanted to say.

It's not a big deal by the way, it's far from other experiences that can be much more traumatising, but as it haven't been said untill then i felt it could be a good thing to express.
Maybe am i too soft, i don't know.
Last edit: 5 years 11 months ago by bradypus.

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5 years 9 months ago #137086 by patty
Replied by patty on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Hi Eric,

There has been alot of discussion on these Boards about what happened on the last trip, and you wrote "... 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. ...I have thought a lot about the circumstances of this accident and want to do whatever I can to reduce risk on future trips.... This incident had me evaluate myself so I can be more vigilant in the future."

Since you've announced on Facebook that you'll be leading another trip to Costa Rica next year, we think it is fair to ask: What did you learn? What will you do differently to ensure the safest experience possible for your trip participants? For example, will you be following the guidelines and protocols in Tim’s “Wild Tree Climbing and Guiding Others” post (above on this thread)?

We understand that you are not leading a “TCI-sponsored” expedition and don’t owe TCI an answer, but we think it in the best interest of the entire tree climbing community to hear what you are planning. Thanks!

patty

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5 years 9 months ago #137087 by Treewolf
Replied by Treewolf on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
The 2015 Treewolf Costa Rica Adventure has been planned to be an exciting, fun and enriching experience with the best practices to reduce risk. Please check Treewolf.com for information about the trip.
On this trip there will be five experienced climbing guides to oversee the climbing and be ready to assist other climbers. The guides are presented in a link on the web page. Each member in the group will be checked out in terms of equipment, climbing systems and level of experience. They will be asked to agree to climbing guidelines and follow the instructions of the guides. Each site we will visit has access to both smaller tame trees and larger wild trees.
Local guides will inform about site-specific hazards and how best to minimize exposure to these.
There will be means of communication from each climbing site to base camp at the lodge and to outside resources.
There will be evacuation plans specific to each site. Our sites are somewhat remote because we will be going to primary forest in undeveloped areas. However, Costa Rica is a small country with a well developed infrastructure and very good medical facilities. We will be able to provide transport to medical facilities within a few hours.
This trip is for responsible, adventurous adults who are willing to accept some risk in order to have a very special experience in good company. Each person will decide if it is something for them. If you are interested in the trip and have questions about safety (or anything else) please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 510-410-8351. The contact information for the other guides is on the web site.
Happy climbing wherever it may be, Eric Folmer
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4 years 2 months ago #137610 by 9ec5iws
Replied by 9ec5iws on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica
Is this thread aimed at beginners? Honestly speaking, I'm not a professional! But I learned a lot of hints of how to prevent climbing and running injuries! I got it from http://bigessaywriter.com/blog/how-to-prevent-climbing-and-running-injuries . Thanks for your useful thread!

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4 years 2 months ago #137611 by yoyoman
Replied by yoyoman on topic 40 Foot Fall in Costa Rica

9ec5iws wrote: Is this thread aimed at beginners? Honestly speaking, I'm not a professional! But I learned a lot of hints of how to prevent climbing and running injuries! I got it from http://bigessaywriter.com/blog/how-to-prevent-climbing-and-running-injuries . Thanks for your useful thread!

It is intended for anyone that is going to use the bowling.
Here's a link to a follow-up video I did.

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