What would you do?

Discuss vertical caving, equipment, & techniques. Also visit the NSS Vertical Section.

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Re: What would you do?

Postby Chads93GT » Feb 16, 2013 10:52 am

LukeM wrote:
Scott McCrea wrote:Pick-offs are risky for the patient and the picker. I don't consider it a good option. It rarely goes as planned.


I hear this sentiment a lot and it's made me curious. Are there many document cases of pick-offs being attempted in rescue situations and if so, what is the success rate? I think I recall hearing about one incident where someone was stuck on rope and another attempted to help with fatal results, but IIRC there were two ropes getting tangled and a waterfall involved. I don't even know if a pick-off was what was intended.

Chads93GT wrote:IF ever there were a problem you rig a rack into the rope, anchor it, undo the high strength tie off and lower her to the ground. You can then figure out how to haul her out after she is on the ground safely and not slowly dying in her harness ;)


How does one rig a rack to a weighted rope? Hauling to release tension? I have rigged to a rack on the surface before on beginner trips and have also rigged tensionless with half the rope on the surface. Nice peace of mind.

As for down-climbing 30-40 feet. That should be possible, though annoying. Maybe practice that some more.


A 14" rack is a lever, once you get the first two bars on, you can pry it downward, snapping on the next bar, and upward, snapping on the next bar. The biggest cavers on rope wont weight more than 250-275 pounds with gear and thats really not that heavy in the grand scheme of things. You can use the 14" rack as a lever to your advantage to rig it in for an emergency lowering to the ground. Try it ;)
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Re: What would you do?

Postby LukeM » Feb 19, 2013 2:46 pm

Just send me a 14" rack and I'll get right on it! :big grin:
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Myrna Attaway » Feb 20, 2013 1:07 am

In this case my answer is what I wouldnt do. With a nod to all those incredable couples that go off and do hardcore caving with just the two of them. I would avoid going vertical caveing with just two people. I prefer foursomes at a minimum, but I am old school. Having more people probably only gives me a sense of more safety. After all harness hang can kill you with a dozen people around if no one knows what to do. I do know my psyche. I would not do well being alone and waiting for a rescue. So I guess what I am saying is I need to pay more attention to this thread. Forgive me for my ramblings.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Mike Hopley » Feb 20, 2013 7:34 am

Myrna Attaway wrote:I prefer foursomes at a minimum, but I am old school.


Yeah, me too. :big grin:
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Stridergdm » Feb 20, 2013 11:17 am

Mike Hopley wrote:
Myrna Attaway wrote:I prefer foursomes at a minimum, but I am old school.


Yeah, me too. :big grin:


I won't bring up the times I've soloed out of a well known cave in the TAG area since I didn't want to wait for others to bounce a particular drop.

Yes, I do know the dangers...
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Myrna Attaway » Feb 22, 2013 10:36 pm

Soloing out is a whole different situation ahead of others. Others are coming behind you and approaching from the bottom. They can climb past you. Ive even done that. Not the same as just two people on a vertical trip. I guess it just boils down to your personality and abilities.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Elvis » Feb 23, 2013 2:20 am

I like this type of thread/scenario /problem. Small party self rescue, whether or not one chooses to utilize the resources of the NCRC. First (one of) my incident experience. 3 cavers on the way out after several days in cave, multiple up-pitches. Got to a spot, looked at the Petzl handled ascender, hmmm, looks like the teeth are a bit clogged with mud, better clean it out when I get to the top (first mistake, since caver #2 had same problem -- safety tip-- see problem, fix). #1 up and on his way, #2 up and slipped ascender due to mud, slips, knocks knee on wall, settles somewhere lower than sitting but not quite a heel hang (using sort of Texas, one upper an one foot attachment)...... solution, #3 (me) climbs up, lowers #2 pack, then extra ascender I always carry to #2 and an on rope boost to level #2 up and continues to climb. Eventually #1 (waiting at top) becomes worried and assists from top. Hobble #2 out of cave. Nobody was behind us, and we were only half way out. All survive to cave again. Hope that is clear enough. You could look it up.

So, what do I take from this? I like the NCRC requirement (for rescue training) of 2 attachments above harness; I changed from Texas to frog for just this reason (and above scenario confirmed). My best excuse to do anything with NCRC training, you will look at caving in a different, probably safer, way. I will reference here many of the previous comments without notation since there are so many good points (one can read the whole thread). I agree with-- cave with 4, 3 at least (yeah, I'm guilty too) (but then as cavers, don't we by nature push the edge a bit?? Just know yourself and your limits, try to determine when help or retreat might be the better choice, ego down deep in the dark can get you killed, and the rest of the world don't give a rat's a**); longer rope to rig a pit should an assist of some kind be neccessary; training changes your direction of thinking re: rigging for rescue; pulleys always increase your recovery options. I like the rack is-a-lever comment, its true, and easier to do than might appear. I like the counterbalance component, very useful, there are several methods, but training and practice is crucial (hear me now and believe me later, had one of those scenarios in-cave too). Rappel on webbing not too difficult, but I have not had any success climbing webbing on a free-hang with rope climbing gear. And if you have to do either, then you need to know how to cross a knot/carabiner/gear kluge. I REALLY enjoyed the webbing/jumar comment and graphic; had to use a form of that once, gonna have to play with it more.

I agree lowering is preferable to pickoff or downclimb (the NCRC week long requires one to downclimb a short distance on first day vertical qualification) but you still then have to deal with the problem, injury or whatever. Agree with harness hang consideration; in all SPSR situations, its always a judgement call as to which maneuver is best, so I think one should endeavor to train for a variety of problems (or multiple, as is usually the reality).

In jeffkruse's scenario, if its a gear issue (slipping ascender, hair caught, etc.) maybe talking (50' in your example not too far away) or climb up from below or downclimb from top will work. If you have brought a longer rope and rigged it as others have described, you can rappel, fix, and cllimb next to her and assist her at the top. Any more serious, lower and proceed from there. Yes you can build a 3:1 system from carabiners, and yes with a weight advantage and a bit of adrenaline you could haul your wife out (note others comments about what to do at the edge). It would kick your a** but at least you would both be out of the cave. Pretty much same with a counterbalance (probably need a bit more gear).

So, after all that, WWED? So, I climb multi-drop caves with a frog (ropewalkers are GREAT in TAG and Mexico). I always carry an extra handled ascender with a sling attached and a few extra carabiners on my harness. I always carry 30' of webbing and a small (2") pulley in my pack. ALWAYS in a vertical cave. Have a simple first aid kit. Refresh myself on various highlights of rescue training and rigging before vertical trips, (just go thru old notes is better than not). In some caves, one in particular, I leave a PMP at the top of the most prominent pit just for the counterbalance scenario. And of course as pretty much everyone else has mentioned, PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE! Practice stupid goofy stuff that would NEVER happen (well, except that when it really does while you are on your favorite trip to your favorite cave with your favorite companions). Practice can be fun because you can put each other (safely) into the most bizzare situations, and you would be surprised at the things you can learn (yeah, plus the snark part).

In PR, there is a NCRC regional rep, Roberto "Bull" Miranada. Look him up. If you are in a grotto, get with them too. Make them folks earn their keep, thats what they signed up for. And if that fails, enter a state of Misery and look up yore ol buddy Elvis and we'll practice together...

Good luck!
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Re: What would you do?

Postby NZcaver » Feb 23, 2013 2:29 am

Hi Elvis. :waving: Long time no see.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Elvis » Feb 23, 2013 2:40 am

A comment about successful pickoffs. My apologies, late and not wanting to dis anyone as I try to follow the comments. OK, anecdotal story. Team in cave, one slips, injured (as it turned out, cracked/broken/injured ribs). Got guy on his way out of cave, on long climb out of pit, he struggled and stopped ~half way up. Little skinny guy, well trained in wilderness EMT and all that, solid experienced vertical caver, climbs up to do a successful pick-off and lower, then they all wait for a ferno and a haul team (others had exited and gone for assistance). Once on surface, injured caver was able to make it to medical help on his own feet. Recovered to cave yet again. :banana_yay: As they say, you could look it up. Was in the mid 90's.

Yo NZ, same to ya! We'll get together somewhere down the road. Beers on me (well, the first few :laughing:
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Tim White » Mar 15, 2013 11:34 am

Mike Hopley wrote:If she is unconscious, she'll be dead in minutes -- about half an hour maximum, but could be much less.


Well maybe so...maybe no. But that is for another thread. But true, unconscious on ropes is an emergence and need to be corrected ASAP.

As others are saying, LOWER and PRACTICE the skills until you have them 100%!
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Mike Hopley » Mar 15, 2013 3:23 pm

Tim White wrote:Well maybe so...maybe no.


Here's a review of the evidence, which as far as I know is the most thorough work on the subject to date.

It's difficult to be exact, partly because even testing this can be extremely hazardous. But all the evidence suggests that, when a person is not moving at all in a harness, unconsciousness follows within a matter of minutes (not hours), and it is expected that death would follow about four -- six minutes afterwards, due to the brain not getting enough oxygen.

Even when people have been "rescued" from this state, many have later died due to the after-effects of orthostatic shock. I believe current thinking is that casualties should not be laid down horizontally at first, but placed on the ground in a "seated" position, with the upper body upright. This may prevent "rescue death".

Anyone who has been rescued from this situation should be hospitalised as soon as possible, even if they seem fine.

It is impossible to know exactly how much time you have, but the situation is absolutely critical and any delay severely jeopardises the casualty's chance of surviving.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Stridergdm » Mar 16, 2013 5:34 am

Mike Hopley wrote:
Tim White wrote:Well maybe so...maybe no.


Here's a review of the evidence, which as far as I know is the most thorough work on the subject to date.

It's difficult to be exact, partly because even testing this can be extremely hazardous. But all the evidence suggests that, when a person is not moving at all in a harness, unconsciousness follows within a matter of minutes (not hours), and it is expected that death would follow about four -- six minutes afterwards, due to the brain not getting enough oxygen.

Even when people have been "rescued" from this state, many have later died due to the after-effects of orthostatic shock. I believe current thinking is that casualties should not be laid down horizontally at first, but placed on the ground in a "seated" position, with the upper body upright. This may prevent "rescue death".

Anyone who has been rescued from this situation should be hospitalised as soon as possible, even if they seem fine.

It is impossible to know exactly how much time you have, but the situation is absolutely critical and any delay severely jeopardises the casualty's chance of surviving.


I posted earlier in the thread but will repost Dr. Mortimer's article on the subject. Not research per a review and educated thought. Specifically he does recommend laying folks down and discusses "rescue death".

I would add my own non-medically trained advice here (to my earlier advice). If for some reason you can't lower them and I had no other options but could get to the patient, I'd find a way to lower their head and raise their feet. Pretty much to get blood back to the brain as quickly as possible.

One more thing, it's been a awhile since I reviewed this thread, but when I started to, it dawned on me, the OP was asking what to do for another partner who it sounds like is smaller than him. He should make sure his caving buddies can do the same for him!
Cavers rescue cavers!
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Re: What would you do?

Postby jeffkruse » Mar 18, 2013 8:21 am

I now rig most drops by rapping the rope around a tree three times and with a figure 8 on a bight and a carabineer clipped back on to the rope. If I can I will leave the rest rope at the top. I carry webbing with me and so does another member of the party. The drops I am willing to do are 50’ or less so we usually have enough rope/webbing to lower someone. Since we haven’t practiced this and the friction of the tree would be variable we would only do this in an extreme emergency.
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Re: What would you do?

Postby Scott McCrea » Mar 18, 2013 9:09 am

Try it. Practice it. But, do it with a belay or back-up. And, understand that it will probably damage the bark on the tree.
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