What can go wrong when a bolt/the rock fails

From: (greg mushial)
Newsgroups: rec.climbing
Subject: Re: Pinnacles Horror Stories
Date: Sat, 29 Jul 2000 16:37:27 GMT

Bill Zaumen wrote:
>I'm not sure if it is true, but the all-time horror story about the
>Pinnacles that I've heard was about the this hapless guy who clipped
>a bolt.  The next bolt was driven into a pretty solid rock embedded
>in the [breccia].  He clipped that, and then put a nut behind a
>loose flake.  He got 5 feet higher when he popped.  The nut pulled
>(no surprise), as did the bolt, but the first bolt held so he
>didn't hit anything.  Unfortunately, the way the second bolt popped
>was that the rock it was driven into came out, so you had a rock
>attached to a bolt attached to a carabiner clipped to the rope.
>It slid down and landed in his lap.  He supposedly woke up 3 weeks
>later with his balls packed in ice!
>
>The medical outcome was no doubt an exaggeration (some climber's idea
>of humor), but when I heard the story, it was almost believable given
>the nature of the rock.
>
>Bill

bill - the story sounds much too familiar: if you skip the nut and flake, set the clock to april 1972 and the location to the east side of the monolith... then that was me... and I'm still climbing (some people never learn).

When the trail used to run along the east side of the monolith, right off the trail there was a 5.6 (??) route to the top: three bolts to a ledge, and then a slot up and left. It was our first route of the day (and last), we were heading up to triple decker or somewhere over on the southwest side of the reservior - just wanted to warm up the fingers before doing something more interesting.

The climb started as a typical climb: clipped bolt 1, 10 ft up, clipped bolt 2 maybe another 10 ft after, and was hanging from a jug with my left hand while unclipping a biner from the rack, which I was going to clip into the last bolt before the ledge. Where I got into trouble was when the gate of the biner got hooked on the webbing I was using to rack my hardware. In the process I became more focused on getting the biner free than noting that my left handhold was loose. Anyway, the net result was that managed to do a "prefect" swandive backwards, still with the jug in my left hand and my right hand still entwinded with the tangled biner. The distance from the 2nd bolt to the third was such that even with a schlock belay from my belayer, the rope went tight about 3-4 ft above the ground, but just close enough that my feet and hands bounced off the ground, before recoiling upward. If the 2nd bolt had held (actually, if the rock that the 2nd bolt was in, had held), then I would have been left hanging 5 ft off the ground, surprised but ok.

Where I got into further trouble was: as I reached the top of the rebound after hitting bottom, the rock the 2nd bolt was into, came loose from its host and followed gravity downward. The net result was that just as I was about to do my post fall inventory, ie, am I ok, where did I end up, and how's my belayer doing etc, I found myself falling again. Albeit only a 5 ft fall, I landed squarely on my butt, totally knocked the wind out of myself; and had just enough time to watch the rock complete with bolt and 30 ft of rope land 1 cm to the left of my left thigh (never touched me).

Afterwards it took a good couple of minutes to feel human again and get up and about, probably much to the entertainment of all the hikers, stepping over me, or having to step around me etc. My first take afterwards was to take the rock home, hell I had earned it - but after my first few steps (very shaky), the rock went into the catacombs beneith the monolith and I headed for the car and parking lot without it.

That was the last time I climbed at pinnacles; it was the last time my belayer climbed, period. Over the next 12 years I climbed mostly in the valley (something like 2000 led pitches); and when the sport thingies (the bolt clippers) redefined climbing into something I had no interest in, I reverted to my roots of snow and ice, and have been there since (personal alt rec now over 25k').

W/re the nuts (not the type which nominally get stuffed into cracks), they are doing just fine, have two climbing young ladies (12 and 14), each with their own pair of double boots, and very capable with their 12 pts and either a long or short "ice stick".

peace to all, and may the landings be not too painful,

greg mushial