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    • I guess a haul bag from climbers above them fell and they ended up plunging to their deaths. Two wonderful guys, fathers, husbands, and best of friends who loved Yosemite and spent dozens of weekends together climbing. They were highly respected climbers with a great safety record.

      As someone who loves adventure, climbing, and motorcycling, this is so hard to take. Do the voices inside your head haunt you when you're on an adventure? How do your family members feel about it?

    • I’ve been very disturbed by the media’s reporting on this tragic accident. For example, this New York Times article implies that Jason and Tim’s decision to simu-climb was the reason for their death. It’s essentially blaming the death on their risk taking:

      Mr. Robinson said Mr. Wells and Mr. Klein were using a technique called simul-climbing in which both climbers are attached by a rope and move at the same time to go at a faster pace. They were doing this with a third person, a variation on an already rare technique that is “inherently riskier” than regular climbing, Mr. Robinson said.

      There is speculation in both the media and from first hand accounts on Supertopo that a haul bag was dropped, taking out one of the climbers; however, there are no reports of a haul bag being found.

      One eye witness account claims their rope was severed by a rock, resulting in their 1000ft fall.

      The mistakes made resulting in their death could be a combination of these reports or something entirely different. We should wait for the YOSAR report instead of drawing conclusions in the meantime.

      It's common for our climbing community to look for reasons why the accident happened, because we want to assure ourselves that the same fate won't happen to us. We need to learn from the mistakes that happened that day in order for the climbing community to evolve in its safety, but there's no point speculating. We should celebrate those climber's lives first and foremost instead of trying to assign blame.

    • As the wife of a dedicated climber I don’t usually read the news reports of climber’s deaths. I did read this, out loud, to my husband and it had me in tears.

      It’s unbearably tragic when someone dies doing what they have done hundreds of times being totally safe. This is what I fear every time my climber husband goes on a climber trip, especially big walls or alpine climbs, I fear that he will be taking every measure to be safe and a freak accident will happen. I know the same thing can happen driving a car. It just breaks my heart.

      Last year him and his climbing partner went to Alaska, the Revelation Mountains. They were stormed in for 2 weeks. One night while they slept and earthquake hit and all my husband could do was sit and wait in the tent to see if an avalanche would come bury them. No avalanche came, but the thought kills me to think about.

    • Rock or haulbag? Guess we'll have to wait for YOSAR’s report. This is so tragic. Climbers generally cling to any reasonable explanation for accidents like this. It's how we distance ourselves. Understanding the mistake makes us less likely to repeat it.

      The converse is actually true. Take a look at this article in Western Journal of Medicine and you’ll see that climbers get hurt from the same basic decisions over and over again.

      On a personal level, this breaks my heart.

    • It's so incredible. Just a couple days after this heartbreak Honnold & Caldwell set a new speed record up El Cap, the first time anyone has gone sub two hours. I was an amateur climber in my teens and none of us could ever even imagine a day like this would come. Rock & Ice had a really good story about it, although having them list some of the recent heartbreaks was hard.

    • Having just done my first big climb (1200ft), this makes things feel a little more real. It's horrible that it happened, and I'm very curious as to the real cause, since it seems to be pretty unclear at this point. Those guys seemed like they knew what they were doing, which I guess just goes to show that shit happens, and it can happen to anyone regardless of how well prepared you are.

    •  Those guys seemed like they knew what they were doing, which I guess just goes to show that shit happens, and it can happen to anyone regardless of how well prepared you are.

      100% agree. This was not my mentality even on big routes with long run outs and poor protection... until I took a 40ft ground fall (due to a my belayer falling and letting go). Big whippers used to be fun, now I freak out waiting for the rope to catch me. It's hard to accept that there are many risks out of my control when tying into the sharp end.

    • One thing I always wonder is whether we fear the things that don't happen often, but are relaxed around things that happen all the time. We fear plane crashes but sip coffee and text in the car on the way to the airport, completely relaxed.

      It feels like the percent of surfers and swimmers who get attacked by sharks is low, runners who get attacked by mountain lions is low, but that the percent of climbers who suffer serious accidents may be significant. Am I wrong and just misled by the headlines?

    • This is a really good question. I don't have a data-backed answer for you but I'll relay my experience.

      I think climbers get injured at a slightly higher rate relative to other mainstream outdoor sports like running, backpacking, cycling (?).

      I see people get hurt when the complexity of a particular objective outweighs the experience of the climber. I believe, as climbing becomes more mainstream, this will be the prevailing cause of injuries and fatalities.

      However, I have also seen a terrifying phenomenon trending over my 18 years of climbing. I see more reports of highly experienced climbers getting hurt on relatively simple climbing objectives. I read a report of a guy who fell 200' to his death while attempting to rappel. Apparently, he just forgot to feed the rope through his grigri--a task he undoubtedly performed hundreds of times before.

      I think we need to be more aware of those everyday risks. To take them without thinking is perfectly human. It's also perfectly human to hit a cyclist while texting during your daily commute.

      Maybe that's what happened to Klein and Wells.

    • Oh man, cycling... Didn't think about that. I got hit by a truck maybe a decade ago and knocked out cold with a fractured skull and displaced eye socket, among a bunch of other things. A lifeline helicopter landed on the road and flew me to Stanford Emergency. I've always wondered if that brain injury will have lasting effects.

      In the meantime a woman I knew with an 8-year-old son, Joy Covey, the CFO of Amazon, was also hit near there in a similar way and she died. Is this conversation depressing enough?

      I did change my riding habits dramatically to ride much safer roads, including dirt roads not open to cars, but I admit to be terrified of climbing El Cap but not of cycling.

      @VilTri was almost killed a few months ago on his bike. Marni knows him.

    • In climbing certain safety procedures have with zero margin for error. The simplest being tying in. If you screw up your knot and it comes undone, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll be injured or more likely die. You must do this correctly every single time you begin a climb.

      Yes, we fear unavoidable rockfall, but there's so many things that can kill us under our own control. Your gear can rip from bad placements or wet/unstable rock, you can setup a rappel wrong, or just run out too far on something. Climbing has so many failures modes from bad judgement and misuse of gear. Sadly, it's very easy to make a mistake. It's inherently risky.

      I think most climbers do fear accidents that do happen, and that keeps them diligent about their safety. That's why things like the Sharp End Podcast, a podcast that exclusively talks about climbing accidents, are so popular.

    • Wow, I didn’t know the American Alpine Club produced a book every year about accidents in North American climbing. I don’t know if that means climbing accidents are more common than I knew, or climbers do the right thing and buy the books in large enough numbers because they are safety oriented, or the topic so fascinating enough people buy them. Maybe all three?

    • Climbing is a very safety oriented sport. It takes a lot of years of experience just to learn enough to be safe enough to climb big things outside, like El Cap. It takes a certain type of person to stick with it. Climbing naturally weeds out people that don't want learn to be safe, because that's a lot of what climbing is about. You have to enjoy that aspect of climbing -- managing gear and placing pro.

      It seems, at least to me, that the inexperienced are usually too scared out of their minds to make fatal mistakes. It would be so easy to go to REI, buy a rack of cams, and walk up the base of El Cap and start climbing, but as far as I know, no one has done that. There's no gate, no licensing, and no training required to climb it. There are very few accidents on the monolith. That's really amazing, that the climbing community knows how to keep safe without regulation.

    • Cycling is the one sport that comes to mind when I think of dangerous mainstream sports. As for climbing El Cap, like a lot of rock, most things are totally in your control. There's very little rockfall on very stable granite, no avalanches to worry about, cell reception to look out for incoming storms and for emergency communications.

      Cycling is more dangerous in that way. There's an element of control that is lost when sharing the road with cars.

      Climbing accidents more out of our control, like avalanches, lightning, and rockfall, make up a small portion of all the accidents that happen. But even then, could lightning and avalanche conditions be better assessed to further reduce risk? With education, probably.

    • Chris Weidner wrote a powerful story about speed climbing big walls. He said no compelling explanation of the fall has come forward and it may have just been a slip in a no-fall area. He said in speed climbing you trade safety for speed and it’s killing or maiming the best in the sport.

    • It's crazy the risks people are willing take to set new records. It's not talked about as much in the mainstream media. Everyone knows Tommy and Alex broke 2 hrs on the Nose. But did you know Tommy Caldwell fell 100ft in practice? It doesn't seem like he hit anything because he continued, but it's pretty uncommon to hear about no-injury 100ft lead falls. It's more common to hit a ledge or have a very severe impact from a swing, leaving a broken back.