Mike is a NYC firefighter and a dedicated surfer, so he knows about calculated risks. We do these things anyway- because we love it, and believe that we can manage much (but not all) of the hazards. So we climb with a plan for appropriate actions to mitigate our exposure, and we prepare for the potential rescue consequences.
But what if that ice had shattered his glasses and gone into his eyes? Or broken his collarbone or hand? What if we were 3 pitches up, on steep and traversing terrain, he was leading, and more than half a rope-length out, over a roof or around a corner?
It is a worst-case scenario...but seriously ask yourself, what exactly might you do?
Accidents like this can and do happen. Here's a KSL News story from summer 2018 that's actually pretty similar. A climber, high on a multi-pitch route, fell and ended up hanging and broken, out from the belay. The belayer held on, and fortunately some very skilled local climbers who were nearby were able to eventually access and upright the injured. Ultimately the Utah Department of Public Safety inserted a tactical flight officer who hoisted off with the injured climber. Without that assist- they would likely have had to stabilize the injuries as best as possible, and then descend several pitches, probably with the injured rigged in tandem off a rescuer's descender, so the rescuer could lead the descent, provide some support and negotiate obstacles.
This is probably something good to practice before doing with an injured partner in serious pain.
Certified AMGA Rock & Alpine Guides and Licensed IFMGA Mountain Guides are required to perform a variety of rescue scenarios on rock and ice terrain- with a competency assessment, in a limited amount of time, and with limited resources. Continuing professional development means practicing these skills regularly. For more info, check out amga.com
Like avalanche education, but for climbing.
There's not many places in North America where you have a large urban, metropolitan area with almost a million people, literally right at the foot of a mountain range that is bisected with canyons of just about every rock type. And for the thousands of climbers and skiers that live here, Salt Lake City presents a great balance of hip urban amenities, but with 'easy' access to mountains and predominantly favorable weather and conditions. There's a little compromise at both ends of the urban and alpine spectrum, but that huge overlapping spot is a great place to be, and includes an average 500" of high quality snow.
With those blessings- and an abundance of rippers and hardpeople that live here- someone is always getting after something. I'm continually impressed by the Utah Avalanche Center - whose staff do an incredible job educating and managing the hazard presented by a concentration of infrastructure, recreation economy and serious skier use.
Likewise I think that much of the skier/rider community is actually pretty savvy. At the UAC's annual Snow and Avalanche Workshop I'm always impressed at how many attendees are there in both professional and recreational sessions. The room is full of very experienced skiers and riders. In the avalanche community, it's considered 'pro show' to have an informed plan, and the skills to execute it. Competency is an important part of the backcountry culture.
Eventually this past season's 620 inches of snowfall will melt, and many of those athletes will (have long since) switched gears into climbing. Which got my friends at Prival - a local sustainable design and education collective here in SLC- thinking:
Why don't we have a similar culture of planning and preparation for partner climbing rescue, as we do in avalanche education?
So with Cloudsplitter's technical collaboration- we developed the Prival Partner Rescue Series
Tony and Mark Colton practice lowers, belays and transitions in between, using a self-blocking belay device, like the Petzl Reverso, directly off the anchor. Note the use of either a secondary belay or backup line on the exposed partner while practicing in a training environment.
Last year, we ran a few of these intensive courses with a mix of motivated local climbers, professional photographers and athletes who all welcomed an opportunity for applied training, several with the support of employers and sponsors. The course is designed to build skills progressively in each session and in preparation for a final leader rescue scenario. Skills are presented in the context of logical situations for leaders and belayers.
Mark Colton practices taking over a loaded belay from Doug, using a simple friction-hitch on an extended sling.
This is a practical course in realistic terrain, and we manage the training 'at height' hazard with secondary belays or backup fall protection, and close supervision.
In counterbalance, Tony ascends (or descends) to Parker and either transfers him onto an anchor, or onto a shared descender/belay device. Matt is managing an orange secondary belay line from above for the training exercise. Mark is getting the 'money shots' on the other rope, practicing many of the same RAD (Rapid Ascent/Descent) skills to get into position.
This year, we've broken the course into a modular format- allowing people to progress over several shorter evening or combined day sessions. For venues, we use outdoor areas (through a use permit) here in the Wasatch National Forest, as well as local climbing facilities when available.
Prival Partner Rock Rescue Series (link to course info & reg)
Session #1: Self-rescue Primer: Plan ahead & prepare (3 hr)
Session #2: Ropes, knots, hitches and devices for rescue (3 hr)
(session 1 & 2 = one full day)
Session #3: Rope ascent, descent & lowers (3 hr)
Session #4: Load transfers and hauling systems (3 hr)
(session 3 & 4 = one full day)
(session 5 & 6) = one full day
Mark descended to MC on a counterbalance rappel, connected to him with a lanyard, and is rebalancing the slack between their strands before descending further.
The Salt Lake Climbers' Alliance
If skiers & riders have the UAC to focus their community efforts, for climbers, it's the Salt Lake Climber's Alliance. The non-proft SLCA represents the local climbing community and initiatives on advocacy, stewardship and education.
So we've welcomed the opportunity to connect the partner rock rescue series into the Salt Lake Climbers Festival on Saturday & Sunday August 24-25 and are offering the first and second modules- with an overview of efficient rope handling, belay management and a simple belay escape scenario- for the Saturday 8/24 clinic of the festival, up at Brighton Resort.
The follow-up modules (#3-7) are offered directly by Prival in weekly sessions through the following month of September. (Click on the 'Utah' menu to see the additional dates and calendar view.)
Register here for the Salt Lake Climber's Festival and Prival Partner Rescue Clinic (module 1 & 2) on August 24
'Saturday Steeze' keeps practice fun.
Prival and Cloudsplitter can also run this course as a private team workshop- over 5 evenings and 1 full day, 2 evenings and 2 full days, or 3 full days- for teams of 2 to 8 experienced climbers (and professional athletes, photo/videographers, outdoor industrialists, backcountry rescuers, rope technicians, operators) looking for a continuing education opportunity with a (non-industrial) partner rescue curriculum specifically qualified for climbers.
The full course is actually less than what most climbers may spend on their gear rack. It's a worthwhile investment in perfecting how to use the gear efficiently, and a well-managed opportunity to realistically test and practice skills and readiness, before they are needed in an emergency.
For more information on the Prival Rescue Series - firstname.lastname@example.org