What Would You Do? Solving Realistic Canyon Scenarios. Stuck Rope: Part 2
WFR scenarios are medical scenarios in the backcountry that anyone who has taken a wilderness medical course is familiar with. In Part 1 we invented a contrived scenario that involved getting a rope unrecoverably stuck, and not having enough rope to continue down canyon.
We appreciated all the responses that community members came up with. Many of them were creative, and great advice.
We would like to offer our solution to this problem, and dive deeper into the true danger of the situation, our own sense of pride and ego.
The Temptation to Avoid Asking for Help in Canyoneering
As a canyoneer, you know the value of pushing your limits in challenging environments. One of the primary values of canyoneering is self-sufficiency and problem solving.
You may pride yourself on your experience and reputation in the community, and you’ve learned to navigate dangerous situations with skill and confidence.
But what happens when the unexpected occurs? What happens when you make mistakes that lead you into a precarious situation, one that you can’t escape from without help?
The ONLY SOLUTION IS Asking for Help.
Let’s say you’ve found yourself in this situation, and you’re tempted to avoid asking for help. Perhaps you’re embarrassed or ashamed that you’ve made mistakes that led you here. Maybe you feel like you should be able to rescue yourself, given your experience and reputation.
But here’s the truth: the temptation to avoid asking for help can be deadly. You should be better prepared, but you aren’t. Where you are now requires rescue. So you need to prepare yourself and your group to wait for rescue. More on that in Part 3.
the dangerous temptation:
In this contrived scenario, you’ve gotten your rope stuck and don’t have control of both ends of the rope, only the pull strand.
Unbeknownst to you, the pull strand has set on top of the rap strand and pinched the rap strand between itself and a rock protrusion.
The harder you pull down on the pull strand the harder it pinches the rap strand. And because of the vagaries of the loss in efficiency caused by factors beyond your control you cannot overcome this imbalance through force or changing the angle of your pull.
Your rope is stuck and, from your current position, there is nothing you can do to get it unstuck.
The temptation is to ascend the pull strand. You may tell yourself that since it won’t pull, and it holds your weight that you can ascend up the pull strand and fix the problem.
However, this is a trap that can put you into mortal danger. If you attempt to ascend the pull rope it will hold your weight initially.
You will be able to ascend the rope higher and higher. This may lead to you thinking that you are safe, but you are putting yourself into an increasing level of danger the higher you climb.
As you approach the spot where the pinch occurs the angle of the pull strand will change, causing the rope to lift off the rap strand and leaving you to fall down at free-fall. You risk severe injury and death.
The DIFFICULT CHOICE
It’s easy to beat yourself up for not avoiding this situation earlier. There are so many things that you could have done to avoid this situation from happening. You could have brought extra rope that would have allowed you to continue descending. But in this moment, what matters most is taking responsibility for your mistakes and accepting that you need help to get out of this dangerous situation. File away your regret and save it for later.
Your first priority is you
Your family and friends would much rather see you alive than risking your life to avoid asking for help.
There is tremendous value in planning ahead to avoid the need for rescue. This blog is our attempt to arm people with tactics to increase their ability to be self-sufficient in canyons. We highly encourage everyone to seek professional instruction in the techniques required for safe progression in canyons.
However, it requires a certain form of bravery to overcome the egos’ temptation and recognize that you have made mistakes and as a result require rescue. The shame would be in putting yourself at mortal danger to avoid asking for help.
In situations like this, the priority should always be on avoiding further risks and getting help as quickly and safely as possible.
Resist the temptation to avoid asking for help, and remember that your well-being is more important than your reputation. Experienced canyoneers have died from this scenario, and their loved ones are left to pick up the pieces. They are left with a void in their life where once there was light.
In conclusion, we want to encourage the canyoning community to prioritize safety and responsibility over pride and reputation. Don’t let the fear of judgment or shame prevent you from getting the help you need in a dangerous situation. Remember that we all make mistakes, the most important thing is not to expose yourself and your group to additional risk so that you can eventually go home and hug those that are most important to you. A blow to your pride is temporary, death is final.
“Still, the last sad memory hovers round, and sometimes drifts across like floating mist, cutting off sunshine and chilling the remembrance of happier times. There have been joys too great to be described in words, and there have been griefs upon which I have not dared to dwell; and with these in mind I say: Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”
Edward Whymper, Scrambles Amongst The Alps