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Safety Committee

                                                             Motto: " There are no accidents. "

The Calgary Section Safety Committee operates within the Calgary Section of the Alpine Club of Canada, and is therefore committed in general to the principles of the ACC (ie., the 'Main Club' ), and it's Safety Committee.  It's Objectives and Responsibilities are similar to those of the Safety Committee of the Alpine Club of Canada.

Purpose: "To Promote Safety in Alpinism with particular attention to matters of special or additional interest to the Calgary Section and the Calgary mountaineering community."

The Calgary Section Safety Committee reports to the Board of Directors of the Calgary Section and may act either or both at the request of the Board or independently in cases of no specific request.

Work: The work of the Calgary Section Safety Committee includes:

1. to receive reports and information regarding accidents or dangerous incidents, and potentially dangerous practices and equipment, involving Section members and also non-members, and

2. to discuss and analyze each case, and

3. to make recommendations to promote safe mountaineering by preventing future related or similar dangerous practices and incidents, and the use (if any) of such equipment. Its recommendations may be given in the form of a report or advice to the Board, or notices in the Section communications media, including the website, or other forms as the Committee considers appropriate in each case.

4. Other activities may be undertaken by the Safety Committee as part of its work.  A wide range of means may be considered and used by the Committee in order to fulfil its Purpose.

5. The Safety Committee will cooperate with the Board of the Calgary Section and all its Committees as much as possible, especially Training and Leadership, Skiing, and Climbing, which are most likely to have interests in its work and communications.

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The current (2015 - 2016) Safety Committee consists of Orvel Miskiw (Chairman), Casey Blais, and David Roe; with 'interested contributors' being Robbie Chmelyk, Chris Girard, Tyler Kirkland, and Tobias Link.

A review of our First Case was completed early in 2015 -- Here is the result of that, followed by later findings or comments on other subjects:

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May 31, 2015  CAUTION Extending Tripled-Up Alpine Sling Runners

This concerns a very popular device that has been known for likely at least 30 years – YOU know it and most likely use it, but do you know ALL about it?  It results from a method of shortening long slings for convenient racking as well as for use as a quickdraw.  This is now in use by most climbers, but has an associated safety issue that may still be widely unknown.

The method of shortening starts with typically an 'alpine-length' loop sling, extended and with 2 carabiners clipped on, one at each end.  Such a sling is often called "shoulder-length" as it's a loop with a perimeter of about 1.5meters, that can conveniently be carried slung over the climber's head and one arm from the far shoulder.

The method consists of passing one carabiner through the other -- generally the 'bottom' crab through the 'top' one -- then pulling the first one down level with the twin loop now hanging from the top one, and clipping it on to both of those loops.

This convenient technique quickly creates a runner of one-third the length of the original (extended) sling, and so I refer to it descriptively as a "tripled-up alpine sling runner" in the absence of a common term.  This is a convenient length for racking or clipping on to harness gear-loops, similar to quickdraws, but has the advantage over sport-climbing quickdraws, of being extendable to either the full alpine length or half of it for any of the various purposes that come up in climbing.

BUT a HAZARD occurs when extending such a runner by unclipping a loop of the sling from either carabiner in order to lengthen it, for example to straighten the line of the rope on a climb, or for use as a tie-in at a belay station, especially when it's inconvenient for the climber to check the resulting extension.  In this ‘tripled-up sling runner’, each carabiner holds 3 loops of the sling, and they seem generally identical to a casual view: but in fact they are all unique, and one loop of the three on each carabiner is a ‘deadly’ loop, as it’s the 'original' loop which was on the carabiner before the sling was shortened, and if unclipped, it results in the sling pulling through and disconnecting completely from that carabiner.  Another loop is 'safe', as its two strands go to the other carabiner from opposite sides, and so collapse on to that crab in a tight loop if dropped; and the third loop on each carabiner may be either 'safe' or ‘deadly’, depending on exactly how the sling was originally shortened.

A recent accident in Colorado (Wayne Crill, Aug. 9, 2014 in Eldorado Canyon) resulted in a serious-injury groundfall after two of the climber's highest runners disconnected from the carabiners on the rope when he fell.  The circumstances and the victim's acquaintances suggest strongly that tripled-up alpine slings had been incorrectly extended without checking, in a section of difficult climbing just before the climber fell.  The coincidence of that happening with two pieces in sequence is remarkable, but could indicate a meticulous technician who knew exactly what he was doing, but got it wrong.  It's possible that he knew which loop to unclip so that the carabiner came away clean from the sling, in order to make it easier and neater to reclip at the length he wanted, except that in this case his attention was distracted from that final step, by his precarious position:  he unclipped the deadly loop but did not reclip the sling.

We bring this up to alert or remind climbers of this danger, since it would be awkward and completely impractical to analyze the loops on every such runner during lengthening while climbing.

I addressed this concern in the November 2008 issue of the Chinook, which can be accessed through this site and includes some sketches.  At that time I advised against using the 'tripling-up' method of shortening alpine-length slings, but that method has become so popular that we now offer 2 alternative suggestions for safe extension of tripled-up alpine sling runners as well as the option of using the triple-loop configuration of shortening:

1. Verify every sling immediately upon extending it, if possible, OR

2. If it's not possible, always UNCLIP TWO of the three loops from one carabiner -- never only one loop;  ie., always LEAVE only ONE LOOP clipped on to the carabiner,  as any one loop is secure by definition.  That results in a full and safe extension of the sling, which may then be 'doubled up' easily instead, if you like; OR

3. Use the classic triple-loop method of shortening alpine slings, instead of the pull-through-and-clip-the-hanging-loops method. In that configuration the shortened sling comprises 3 coils in a continuous helix, with both carabiners clipped through all of them in parallel, and either one or two coils may be unclipped from either carabiner without creating a dangerous condition of the runner.

Orvel Miskiw

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Dec. 10, 2015 CAUTION Regarding Twigs and Branches While Bushwhacking

INCIDENT:  On Dec. 6 while a group of Section climbers were returning at dusk through brush and deadfall after a day of climbing in the YaHa Tinda area, one person pushed past a branch, which then snapped back and hit a following companion in the face.  It caused a small but deep puncture in her upper cheek and just below her eye, with considerable bleeding.  With good care the wound is healing well, but obviously the injury could have been a lot more serious if the eye had been hit instead.

Bushwhacking to, from, and during climbs is a common situation for most climbers in this area, so we can only emphasize that you should be alert to hazards and take precautions while moving through brush and forest:

1. While being followed, you should control branches that could snap back at anyone following you.                       

2. If following someone in the bush, keep your distance from them and also be alert to what they're doing, in case they move poles or branches, or cause flying pieces that could hit you or get in your way.

3. Even a person ahead or traveling alone faces the hazard of protruding branches and twigs, especially at face-level, as the face is usually not protected by clothing.

4. Dim light should be a cause for extra care, when hazards are harder to notice.

Just some things to keep in mind ....

Orvel

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Dec. 18, 2015  CONSIDER the complication caused by Skis on the Victim in a Crevasse Rescue

An experienced member and leader has raised a question of how a crevasse rescue situation could be different if the victim has skis on, vs. no skis.  Few people have much experience with any kind of crevasse rescues and so little direct knowledge to draw on, so we expect to start with sensible speculation on various situations, and ask members with any knowledge or insight to contact the Safety Committee at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to contribute to the discussion........................................................................................................................

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Dec. 20, 2015  CAUTION Regarding Quickdraws with Keepers.

A number of accidents have been reported in the last couple of years involving the incorrect assembly or use of quickdraws or other slings with rubber keepers, and the same could apply as well to home-made keepers. Keepers are of course intended and suitable only to hold a sling  or a quickdraw snug on a carabiner, but in these cases the keepers were put in positions of holding typical climbing loads of body weight or greater, and failed with disastrous results.

Here are two links to articles relating what happened in some such cases:

http://www.dpmclimbing.com/articles/view/tito-traversa-seriously-injured-climbing-fall

 and:

http://www.dpmclimbing.com/articles/view/three-will-face-trial-death-tito-traversa

Unbelievable as it may seem that anyone could think a quickdraw would hold any load if assembled the way that most of Tito Traversa's draws were, that's what caused him to fall to his death.

I recommend that if it's necessary to use keepers on your runners but you have any doubt whether the result is safe, just visualize it without the keeper, and the answer should be obvious.  In Tito's case, the nylon sling is completely separate from one carabiner; in the Williams photos, the sling loop is in the carabiner but with both strands coming out on the same side -- ie.,  not connected to the carabiner at all.

Orvel

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