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How many of us had a pretty good day go fairly bad.
The day started out pretty good. I went out to Paradise Forks to do some rope soloing but wasn't really in in the mood to rope solo. I was going to end up my day just doing photos since its been a while I've just spent a day doing photos. But I ran into some climbers from Utah, and ended up talking to a guy who was friends with my neighbor (who are also friends and incredible climbers). I ended up climbing and relaxing with them. I watch them do "Retards Recess" and I set up "Three Turkeys" for them, and they did fairly well.
The last climb of the day was to be Davidsons Dihedral (which was in the photo spread of the last "Cimbing" magazine). I led it first, getting the crux backwards but down climbed to a point where I could do it again, getting it cleanly. Then my belayer, (my friends, friend who will remain unnamed) went for it on lead. He had done it a couple years before. He had place a piece maybe at 12ft and then at 15ft. The next piece was placed at the start of the crux, but placed fairly low at about 22ft. He moved into the crux with his feet about 2 ft above his last cam, and got the deadpoint to the fingerlock. He hesitated, tried to get another fingerlock, but failed in finding a secure stance. He then tried to place a cam but couldn't get the placement. He then tried to get another fingerlock again, but couldn't do anything with it.
At this point he looked down at me, and said take. I figured 6ft above the gear, no big deal, a 12 to 15 ft fall. The fall seemed to go too long. Only as he hit the ground did the rope take any tension. Incredulous, I look at him, seeing the last piece of gear dangling on the rope. It pulled meaning instead of being 6ft above the last piece of gear, effectively he was 12-13ft above the last piece of gear.
He looked daze, looked at his feet, wiggled them, I check his head for any injuries. Nothing. We take his shirt off and look fr injuries. Nothing except for a NASTY rope burn on his arms. After he relaxes a bit I go back up to finish the route so we could retrieve gear. The piece that pulled as a cam that ws too small.
What went wrong? Sure, the cam pulled. Now, I'm left with doubt. Could have I kept him off the ground? The math was all wrong. If everything went perfect I could have kept him off the ground by a foot or two. If I was to figure the cam was to pull I could have jumped off the ledge and taken in another 5 or 6ft, but he was on the ground.
My job as a belayer was to keep him off the ground but with the circumstances I'll never know if I failed him. He'll be sore tomorrow but for everyone around, the memory will take a while to fade. The couple from Prescott had a view all to perfect, and it will be a while before the images to fade. Sometimes we get reminded the cost of failure, and the cost can be high.
I guess I'll question what I did and was it sufficient. I've talked to climbers in the past who've had it happen to them, but in 35yrs I've been lucky. Sure, I've witnessed it but I've never had to deal with questions. It could have been worse, but it should not have been.
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