Arrow Final: Accident Analysis and safety improvement.

What your instructor never taught you. Continuing your education and learning from others. Climbing safety topics and accident/incident discussions.
Post Reply
SNORT
Posts: 1349
Joined: Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:53 am
Real Name: Charles Edelstein
Location: Cape Town

Arrow Final: Accident Analysis and safety improvement.

Post by SNORT »

I have been acutely concerned about Arrow Final as a “route-to-do” for as long as I can remember and there are several posts and threads relating to the objective dangers of climbing this route on the www.climb.co.za website. I first alluded to it in 2006 when I rated it as a severity 3 or 4 or “X” and “R” rated route which if accepted as such should be considered a death trap for climbers which it has proven to be. There are many trails closed around TM from time to time as they are considered to be too dangerous and yet Arrow remains unconsidered in that way.

By any objective measure it is the most dangerous route of its kind anywhere in the world – at least that I know of - and rock fall in particular is unavoidable and inevitable from time to time.

I have inspected the accident scene twice now and from the objective evidence I am 99.9% sure that Ian stood on a large block that gave way under his feet leaving some debris behind that I cleared away and stabilized in a crack on Sunday.

This is what the debris looked like:
Debris.jpg


Where the yellow outline is there is a “stain” against the rock face and there was a large rock or boulder there before. I have been aware of it for years and avoided standing on it. However to do so required quite tricky feet. Bear in mind that Ian had both ankles fused that would make smearing difficult for him and thus standing on a block that has been there “forever” would have come naturally.

My analysis is as follows, that Ian being taller than me was also aware of this block and he placed gear in the crack above as can be inferred from the position of the ropes in the photo taken from above. Something like this perhaps?
Gear.JPG


However, unless you have a hand jamb in the crack, and the gear placement would interfere with this, there are no positive hand holds and no positive feet to prevent a fall if the block gave way.

As a result Ian took a leader fall and the block struck his belayer resulting in his fall not being arrested. On discussion with Dion Tromp he confirmed that this is a most likely scenario.


On Sunday I found a lot of unstable debris that was left behind and I carefully moved it by wedging it in the crack at the back and using small stones to lock the rocks in.

The ledge after I cleared it as much as possible looking down. You can see the sandy or dried mud “bed” where the now missing rock was positioned.



The thing is that the whole route is a crap-shoot with literally hundreds of stones rock and even boulders precariously positioned to be knocked off by inexperienced and even experienced climbers and rope drag.

The only way to mitigate this risk is to belay away from the fall line of rocks and to using locking devices when belaying the leader like a Grigri, Alpine Up or Edelrid Joule.

However this does not protect climbers below from rock fall and this route often has multiple parties on it.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.


SNORT
Posts: 1349
Joined: Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:53 am
Real Name: Charles Edelstein
Location: Cape Town

Re: Arrow Final: Accident Analysis and safety improvement.

Post by SNORT »

Anyway, I spent several hours getting rid of the most obvious loose rock and stones yesterday. Below is what it looked like all over the place.
Crap shoot.JPG
I made two fixed permanent belays off to the right away from the fall line of rocks and debris.

One is where the clients were belaying and there is a scar from a rock strike.
Scar.JPG
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
SNORT
Posts: 1349
Joined: Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:53 am
Real Name: Charles Edelstein
Location: Cape Town

Re: Arrow Final: Accident Analysis and safety improvement.

Post by SNORT »

Belay point 1.JPG
The other at the next ledge at the start of the last pitch of Africa Edge where there is indeed and old gnarly peg in situ
Belay point 2.JPG
Both stances would require removal of the pegs to remove the hex and nut respectively. I shall improve the stances soon by replacing the rope with mailons and chain.

I am fully cognizant of the merits and de-merits of making fixed stances but in this instance I feel it is justified and my conscience dictates that this is the best compromise. Fixed belay stances is the norm in the developed climbing world and there are, in any case, very many fixed bolted and trad stances on Table Mountain already.

These include the following trad stances and bolted lower offs for those that do not know them.
1. Uber Huber
2.. Oddshouters Outing
3. Africa Lunch and Out to Lunch
4. No Longer at Ease
5. Cock'nBull Buttress
6. Sanitarium
7. Magnetic Wall
8. Jeopardy
9. Myrrh
10. Don't Squeeze I'll Laugh and Boltergeist
11. Bombay Duck


Both these new fixed stances are "bomber" but nevertheless should always be backed up with cam or nut placements to the right and the belay position must be at or further right of these placements out of the fall line of rocks. The main reason for building these placements is to invite or entice climbers off to right out of the strike zone of falling rocks at least when they are belaying. These stances will not and cannot prevent rock fall from occurring when actually climbing the route and Arrow Final will remain a very dangerous route to climb.

I also very strongly advise that Arrow Final is avoided if there are already climbers on it.

Adhering to this protocol will go a long way to improve the safety of climbing Arrow Final.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
GeorgeHorn
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 9:07 pm

Re: Arrow Final: Accident Analysis and safety improvement.

Post by GeorgeHorn »

Thank you Snort!
mokganjetsi
Posts: 1750
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2006 12:32 pm
Real Name: Willem Boshoff
Location: Cape Town

Re: Arrow Final: Accident Analysis and safety improvement.

Post by mokganjetsi »

thanks for the comprehensive analysis!
I climbed the scramble above Atlantic Crag to the ab anchors this last weekend. much cleaner than Arrow Final but also a few big blocks standing on ledges - much more aware of the danger these present!
Last edited by mokganjetsi on Tue Jan 16, 2018 6:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
gollum
Posts: 97
Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 2:52 pm
Real Name: Lukas Malan
Location: Cape Town

Re: Arrow Final: Accident Analysis and safety improvement.

Post by gollum »

Thanks for the effort Snort.

Here is a video that must have been taken seconds before the accident happened:
https://youtu.be/uy4YSRHXLNM

It might support the analysis given above.

Safe climbing
Lukas
"I have no more friends, and my nuts are too small!"
SNORT
Posts: 1349
Joined: Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:53 am
Real Name: Charles Edelstein
Location: Cape Town

Re: Arrow Final: Accident Analysis and safety improvement.

Post by SNORT »

It does thanks...
robin1
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2018 5:35 pm

Re: Arrow Final: Accident Analysis and safety improvement.

Post by robin1 »

Thank you for this very clear analysis. I may have missed it in your text but I believe that part of the problem with Arrow Final is the shattering of rock arising from blasting when they enlarged the cable cars.

I entirely endorse the proposal to put in bolts at belay points on a route like this which has become a trade route. My recollection is that there was at least one very long run out with little protection. I do not consider that there is anything unethical in using bolts in those circumstances. They merely make a technically easy climb safe. They do not make it easier.

I have to say that I have climbed on far more dangerous rock elsewhere. We are spoiled by the general excellence of TM quartzite!
SNORT
Posts: 1349
Joined: Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:53 am
Real Name: Charles Edelstein
Location: Cape Town

Re: Arrow Final: Accident Analysis and safety improvement.

Post by SNORT »

The shattering of the rock on the upper exit ledge is only a small part of the problem and this is not what resulted in this particular accident. That ledge has been loose for years and years even before the upgrade of the cable car. All the ledges, and there are a huge amount from bottom to top of Arrow are strewn with rocks and stones no different to ledges elsewhere on TM. The problem is that the ledges on Arrow are mostly small and some are down sloping and do not allow safe packing of the rocks away from the edges.

On Sunday last after engineering Arrow I was at the tea cave where Oddshouters starts and two very experienced climbers knocked off a large rock when abseiling and it landed exactly where people approach the tea cave or often even sit if the tea cave is crowded or too cold. So rock fall is always a danger on TM and especially so below the 4 bolted abseil points that are all above where people often walk, sit and or climb. They all involve approaches down ledges with loose debris.
Guardian
Posts: 46
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2015 3:20 pm
Real Name: Andre Theron
Location: Stellenbosch
Contact:

Re: Arrow Final: Accident Analysis and safety improvement.

Post by Guardian »

I have wondered about this.
If you dislodge a rock that strikes a hiker on the paths below, could the climber be held liable?
There is nothing more beautiful than a well dressed alpine butterfly.
User avatar
justin
Posts: 3924
Joined: Sat Apr 30, 2005 8:31 am
Real Name: Justin Lawson
Location: Montagu/Cape Town
Contact:

Re: Arrow Final: Accident Analysis and safety improvement.

Post by justin »

Circumstances depending... the answer is yes.

Some guys in the USA trundled a few blocks that killed someone and they were found guilty in court.
justin@CapeTownClimbing.com
User avatar
Nic Le Maitre
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:40 am
Real Name: Nic Le Maitre
Location: Stellenbosch

Re: Arrow Final: Accident Analysis and safety improvement.

Post by Nic Le Maitre »

Came down the Magnetic Wall abseil on Sunday and looking at the collection of blocks perched in the corner it makes wonder how long before those go too. Right above the Venster-Fountain path too.

We need a close the paths, trundle blocks day in winter after heavy rains or something.
Happy climbing
Nic
Post Reply