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How afraid are you of rock fall ?

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Re: How afraid are you of rock fall ?

Postby mountainsandsound » Thu May 24, 2012 7:11 pm

Too much objective hazard of any type is pretty unsavory to me. I made a little rule of thumb for myself to decrease the chances of hurting myself in the mountains: 1) climb routes well within my abilities 2) at least 3 people on larger, crevassed glaciers 3) climb routes when they are in shape and when objective hazards are lowest 4) avoid routes with lots of objective hazard (lots of loose rock, hanging glaciers, seracs, etc...)

I guess this restricts my options somewhat, but I have other hobbies besides climbing so I'm OK with it. Rockfall does scare me a bit, but I think on most sane routes climber-induced rockfall is probably a bigger worry than spontaneous rockfall. So with that line of thinking, rockfall might not be as objective as it is believed to be. When traveling up a gully I go fast, I have my helmet on, and I'm instinctively looking ahead and to the sides for protected spots in case I hear something coming down. I guess that's the best you can do.
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Re: How afraid are you of rock fall ?

Postby MoapaPk » Thu May 24, 2012 9:48 pm

Very, very, very afraid. Either from having my head bashed in, or from having my footholds suddenly give way. Our local high mountains (11k' to 12k') go through freeze and thaw cycles each spring, and formerly secure holds become "transportable" each spring. The only death in our mountaineering club was due to rockfall. This last weekend a friend nearly got killed when a 400 lb boulder let loose.

I tap on every rock wit my feet and hands. New, bold climbers may not.
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Re: How afraid are you of rock fall ?

Postby CSUMarmot » Fri May 25, 2012 1:17 am

Yesterday I climbed a peak that involved scrambling up a steep rocky face above a major US highway. It rained pretty substantially and on the way back it was wet. I was really worried about dropping a rock down on to the highway, and a few times I kicked one loose I held my breath that it wouldnt end up on the road...or my car not far off.
Dammit kid get off mah lawn!!!
NoCo Chris
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Re: How afraid are you of rock fall ?

Postby Sierra Ledge Rat » Sat May 26, 2012 5:37 pm

I was almost killed by rockfall in 1979, and still have a large scar on my temple from the impact. Ever since I have always worn a helmet.

In that incident, I was free-soloing on Glacier Point Apron when I was hit by a grapefruit-sized rock. I'm lucky that I didn't get knocked out or subsequently lose consciousness from the blood loss.

I have climbed a lot of "loose" routes with a lot of rockfall. The worse of all was the north face of the Hound's Tooth in the Bugaboos. We're talking cannonades of rockfall.

On the summit headwall of Mt. Rainier we experienced a tremendous amount of rockfall. In fact, we took turns climbing and watching. One person stood and watched for rockfall while the other person climbed. I was terrified of looking up and getting a rock right in the face.

Once in the North Cascades we were rapping off a peak at night. The rockfall appeared as streaks of sparks in the black of night. THAT was frightening because you could could hear the rockfall and see the sparks, but you never saw the rocks.

On the Nose I was climbing the black diorite right above Camp 4. There were big loose blocks all over the place, all poised to get knocked off and fall right onto my partner. In addition to placing protection, I ended up tying up a bunch of loose blocks with slings to keep them from falling onto my partner.

On a big wall in Alaska I was just about to climb into an overhanging chimney when a couple of refrigerator-sized blocks came bouncing out of the chimney and skimmed right past me. My partner, who was jugging a free-hanging rope a couple of pitches below me, heard some frantic shouting but couldn't understand what I was saying. Then he, too, saw the big blocks go sailing by.

Once I noted that a big rock sounded like a "falling motorcyle" as it went spinning past you.

And then there is the smell of rockfall. The smell of sulfer?

The smell of death.
Last edited by Sierra Ledge Rat on Sun May 27, 2012 12:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How afraid are you of rock fall ?

Postby kamil » Sat May 26, 2012 11:31 pm

borutbk wrote:How afraid are you of rock fall ?

Very afraid.

"- Bloody fuckin’ hell, a rock like a kitchen sink, it’s gonna fuckin’ fall down!
I hang on the ropes, Seba stands thirty metres right below me. I support the moved rock with my hand. Can’t hold on for too long, it’s too heavy. Too heavy to throw it aside either. If Seba clings tightly to the face, maybe it’s not gonna hit him. It may still damage the ropes.

I can’t stay here and hold it forever. I let it go. It slowly slides a couple centimetres and... stops against a small edge. Our names are not written on it."

The whole story is here, one of the scariest outings of my life altogether.

Gotta live with it sometimes, just try to minimise the risk.
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Re: How afraid are you of rock fall ?

Postby mvs » Sun May 27, 2012 8:27 am

Three weeks ago I got brained by a book-sized rock on the Burschlwand, a multipitch sport climbing area. Certainly those "spring conditions" yall have been talking about had something to do with it. But there were parties above too, so I don't know exactly where to lay the blame. I was following a pitch and just below the anchor WHAM! My helmet has a gash and the foam inside "broke constructively." What a marvel of engineering! I was fine. Without the helmet I would *not* be fine at all.

One week ago on an ice face in Italy I had to be very careful about looking up as we passed through a bottleneck where chunks of ice rained down. My buddy momentarily looked down and got a rude hit of an ice block on his ear. I always remember that Don Whillans quote, something like "you'll go up alright, just further than you think!" I try to keep my head level, not down: I don't want to expose my neck.
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Re: How afraid are you of rock fall ?

Postby Kiefer » Mon May 28, 2012 5:35 am

Actually, doesn't really bother me. In all Colorado, my favourite range is the Elks...not exactly known for it's solid rock or granite.
I love the San Juan's also. And in many respects, they're worse than the Elks in terms of looseness.

I look at choss as an opportunity, a forced opportunity to concentrate on one's diligency and meticulessness in movement.
Whether it's a 5th route or 4th scrambling, being able to tread lightly and gingerly, reading the rocks and develop the quickness
necessary in case you dislodge something, is excellent skill-building.
This REALLY works your agility. There's mild routes on some of the peaks around here that are good for trail-running on choss
and loose shit.
Just gotta be prepared if an ankle twists. Though, it's never happened and loose routes now, don't really bother me. Not like
they used to.
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Re: How afraid are you of rock fall ?

Postby Sierra Ledge Rat » Mon May 28, 2012 4:40 pm

You ought to try talus running

The sport of manly men
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Re: How afraid are you of rock fall ?

Postby mountainsandsound » Mon May 28, 2012 4:45 pm

The mountain doesn't care if you're an expert.

The mountain with lots of choss cares even less.
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Re: How afraid are you of rock fall ?

Postby Kiefer » Mon May 28, 2012 9:46 pm

Sierra Ledge Rat wrote:You ought to try talus running

The sport of manly men


I actually do talus run on occasion.
Though, not sure I'd rank as a manly man, cause I like opera and classical. :shock:
Though Fear Factory and Ministry are pretty cool too! :P
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Re: How afraid are you of rock fall ?

Postby Mountainjeff » Tue May 29, 2012 6:03 am

Climbing in the Olympic Range of the PNW I have gotten pretty used to rock fall, but it still scares me. Even the small stuff can be deadly if enough of it hits you to cause a loss of balance. I ALWAYS wear my helmet and it has enough scars in the plastic to motivate me to put it back on no matter how hot or uncomfortable it is.
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Re: How afraid are you of rock fall ?

Postby DukeJH » Tue May 29, 2012 9:53 pm

Rock fall is an objective hazard that, like all objective hazard, I try to minimize. I always wear a helmet on rock and on routes with a lot of traffic and the potential for rockfall or routes with a history of rockfall. The idiots above me scare me more.

I've been lucky that I haven't been whacked in the vertical world but on Ixta we were off route transitioning from the Ayoloco Glacier route to Las Rodillas in a dense fog when we heard the sound of thunder and saw a recliner sized block tumbling down the slope.

I have a nice scar on my leg from a talus slide I started by stepping on a rocking rock. Sierra granite can be very sharp.

What scares me is ice. In Icehouse Canyon, rime was falling from the trees and whizzing down the slope. I stopped to crampon up and got hit right on the ankle. Luckily it wasn't my face or head.
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Re: How afraid are you of rock fall ?

Postby Kerstin » Wed May 30, 2012 4:08 pm

Extremely. No matter how much you might try to avoid it, you will find yourself dealing with rockfall. It's what I imagine it's like to be shot at with a machine gun. Everything's peaceful, then suddenly rocks are landing all around you and exploding on impact. Afterwards, you think, "How was I not hit?" I have been smacked on my helmet a few times but haven't been injured.

I've been gearing up at the base of a climb and have leaned down to pick up my helmet off the ground only to have a baseball sized rock brush the side of my head and impact the ground next to my foot. I didn't climb very well that day.

In late-July of 1999, I was up at the Palisade Glacier just hanging out and adjusting to the altitude. I heard rockfall and in the next second, a man screaming in pain. This guy got hit while on Starlight Peak. I don't know what happened to him, but I could hear him and his partner yelling to each other all the way from the moraine at the base of the glacier. He got hit on his leg. The next day I was on Mt. Robinson by myself and reached the top of the ridge. I tapped a boulder to check it, and all the rocks on a ten-foot section of the ridge shifted downward a few inches. I downclimbed to get far away from this area.

The worst is hearing the rock coming and not being able to get out of the way. A few years ago I was coming down from Horsetail Falls on the west slope of the Sierra near Tahoe. It was springtime and we were just below a section where there are a few class three moves. We kept hearing a deep grinding sound directly above us that would last a few seconds then stop. A minute or two would go by and we'd hear the grinding noise again. In the terrain we were in, it was not possible to move quickly. It seemed like there was a granite slab above us that had exfoliated and was sliding. From the very deep sound it was making, the slab sounded huge. Every time I'd hear the sound I'd look up to see if I could see it moving, but I never could. We started hearing the grinding noise every thirty seconds, then every fifteen seconds, and attempted to move faster to get out of the way of whatever was going to come down on us. Nothing happened, but it was a strange and frightening experience that I'll never forget!
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