Turkey Boogie 2005

By: Lee Hardesty

The Turkey Boogie in 2005 ended up being the classic case of too many people jumping in a dangerous place. The herd mentality won out and we ended up with 2 jumpers hung up on the wall one right after the other was rescued. The rescues were both done extremely quickly and efficiently, however alot was learned by these accidents and subsequent rescues. Lee Hardesty wrote me this email and I wanted to share it with everyone. He brings up some great points, some which I hadn't thought about. Check it out...

I hope you had fun down south. I've been in Dallas for about a week. Over the last few weeks since Maggot and the other guy hung themselves on the wall I've had some time to think about everything that went on. A lot of things happened that day both good and bad. First off let me say that this is only my point of view. Its just what I saw. Because its from my viewpoint some of the harshest criticism is of me and errors I made during the course of the day. To some degree this is all old news. We'd all like to just sweep it under the rug and forget it. I'm afraid that might not be a good idea. My fear is that this sort of thing will happen again. I don't think we are done pulling people off walls. The sport is growing. There's no way around it. Whether it's next week or next year this is going to happen again.

So here are just some thoughts. I think we can all agree that we lucked out this year. We had some good people and fate smiled on us and forgave our foolishness. A lot of what we did seemed to be improvised to one degree or another and I'd like to see it evolve in to a clearer doctrine on how to deal with this. I like the idea of a high angle rescue course this Spring. I think that what happened this Fall was a good learning experience and the lessons from it should be passed on in the course.

It's been a few weeks and it's nice in some ways to have that perspective. Before all the details are lost I think it would be a good idea for everyone involved to sit down and write down there own evaluation of what happened. Best that they all do it on their own and in there own words before reading this or any thing else. Then I think copies should be circulated so we can each see the actions but more importantly the thought process that went into each of the decisions that were made.

What follows is the story from my point of view. Mostly I'm going to concentrate on what I saw and the thought process that went into my actions at the time. I'll be trying to point out errors and mistakes I made or observed during the course of the day. I hope people will not be overly offended. In the end all was well. I'm doing this mainly for my self and decided to share it with you in hopes of contributing to the course your teaching this spring.

I'd been going pretty hard for several days hanging rope on the King Fisher. I'd found my self to be very out of shape and I was looking forward to a nice relaxed day of riding the Unimog and not having to jug anything. I stopped in town that morning at Pagan and bought a 9.5mm 60m static rope. All my line was hanging on the tower. I wanted to drop over the edge and shoot some stills of the exiting. Maybe some video if some one would loan me a camera. I was just tired of the same old angles. In particular I wanted to film a “roll over” from directly below if I could find some one stupid enough to do one off a cliff. I had in mind the knob that sticks out the wall on the opposite side of the finger from Mari's Gash. A little over hang and I could be back against the wall out of the way. Little did I know the show we were going to have that day. I was just a little too late to film it.

Pagan was a little late opening. So I wasn't setting any speed records getting out there. I packed up a rig and wondered out to the main exit point. Once I got out to the cliff band I dropped all my stuff and went looking for a place to set up. I was just walking along the edge when I met some one headed in the other direction. There were a couple of them I don't remember what they said but it sounded like trouble. I ask them if any thing was wrong and they said some one was on the wall. This was in fact some thing I'd been dreading for a while. Ok, here's my first error.

1. I should have identified my self as a climber and sent them back with directions to my car to get more gear. And given him directions on whom else to look for that might be able to help with a high angle rescue. I was too passive and failed to step forward hoping that some one else would take the responsibility.

2. I should have backtracked right now and retrieved the gear I had dropped. I had every thing I needed to secure him right there. I ran along the ledge and found the vultures already lined up on the ledge. There were only two or three there so far. I was on the Camera Ledge. At this point I could see where he was hanging. I saw that he was underneath the over hang and quickly realized the problems we were in for. The people there were calling down to him I did not hear him answer. At this time I did not see him move. Ok, here are a whole string of errors.

3. I did not take the time to properly evaluate the situation. I did not ask the other people there his condition. I went on what I saw from only a few moments observation. I assumed he was more badly injured and would not be able to assist in his rescue.

4. I did not take the time to evaluate the anchor at the top of the cliff. I should have walked over and examined it. I did not know the bolts were there and assumed I would need to work a natural anchor. Even then I should have done more of an evaluation.

5. At this time I should have gone back along the edge and gotten my stuff and begun the rescue. I could have sent one of the others back to get gear from my car and look for other climbers. I have problems trusting other people with tasks and failed to delegate the work. I went back to my car my self and started gathering up gear. Along the way I looked for the other climbers I knew. Most of them where out at other sites. I didn't recognize any one and was hesitant to involve random people. I started asking around for you and Marta. I started pulling gear out of the car and spotted Brian. I reported what I saw most of which was inaccurate and we headed back out. I gave him my pack and he ran ahead. I was already winded and lagged behind. Out of shape. By now a number of people were headed out there with rope and some gear. We still did not have a real plan of action. When I finally caught up there was already a small crowd. They had found the rope I’d left but not my stuff. The creative rigging had already begun. They had tied the rope through two of the bolts and clipped it with a carabiner. The only one they had? John Long must have been rolling over in his grave. They were trying to throw the rope to him to secure him. Not a bad idea.

6. I'd assumed that he was secure from falling. After all the flake he was hanging on had taken the dynamic load of him falling on it. It didn't occur to me that he might still fall. I was more concerned with his condition. I was very troubled to later learn that lines had been breaking while we were off farting around. I'm not joking when I say things were creative at the anchor. It was frustrating. I didn't want to mess with what was already in use. More rope arrived and I got beaners in the bolts and started to try and equalize things. I was surprised how flustered I felt. This was my first rescue. Normally I don't have to work fast. It's a slow methodical process with me. All the helping hands were more a problem then help some times. It turns out there was another climber there. I remember his comment latter. That he'd wanted to help but had stood back out of the way because there was only room for one mind in some thing like this. There were a lot of things we did that would not normally be considered correct.

7. The biggest mistake was made by me in the anchor. The nice static rope was already tied in and I didn't want to mess with it. I used some guy's old lead line to tie every thing off. It was skinny. We're talking half rope. The way I had it tied every thing we did was all hanging on one line. I just wasn't thinking. I climb with heavier ropes. Later when I looked at it did look like dental floss maybe even a twin. Some one brought another line of it back and tied it off as a back up. That was typical of how we worked the whole thing. There was very little redundancy in the system.

8. I had sent some one back along the ledge with a description of my bag to get the rest of my stuff. He never found it. I should have picked it up my self on the way back out. I don't remember seeing it. I must have taken a slightly different route. I might have walked right past it. All my best beeners and ascenders were in there. So we wound up using unlocked beeners for a lot of things. By now Brian had already rapped down and thrown him the end of the rope. I was trying to figure out a hauling system. We had agreed that we should bring him up if we could. I didn't have quite enough gear to do a z-pulley. When Brian jugged back up only moments later. He was very fast. At least he was panting thank god. The only thing I could come up with was to just space haul him by that one mini traxiom. Not the best system but he wasn't heavy.

9. We should have done something to secure the canopy at this time. We had the white rope there. We could have sent the end down with Brian to be hooked on to the riser. We just were not thinking ahead. I thought the canopy would just lift up with him. I suppose he might have pulled himself over and tried to free it but that's asking a lot of him at that point.

10. Again there was no redundancy in the system we set up. I didn't have another ascender as a back up. Not even a prussic. It would have been better if we'd taken a little more time to work this a little better. We had started in a hurry and never slowed down even when it became clear that time was not a big factor. That's how mistakes are made and many were. Now we got away with a lot of sloppiness but that does not mean that what we did is a good example of how to go about this.

11. We had talked about how to attach the rope to him. Some one said the chest strap, which would probably have worked. I told Brian to try and get the three rings. I wasn't comfterbal trusting the 70101. It's not really meant to be structural. When we hauled him up I realized we had been lifting him from only one three ring. With one beaner. In retrospect it would have been better to have split the two with a runner or tied a double bowline to suspend him from both. He was probable in a hurry. He may have been a little short of rope down there at the bottom. We're lucky there was no spinal injury. It would have been nice to keep him more symmetric if only for comfort.

12. I didn't take the time to really rig or anchor my self properly I just stepped down on two slings to give me a little length. I was short on gear and had not taken the time to make the best use of what I had. This limited my movement and kept me from being as effective in the hauling. Most of the work was left to Brian.

13. Once we had him up close I called up asking if they could secure the end of the brown rope a little better and pass a loop down. This was probably not very clear and a bad idea to have them messing with what was already there. They clipped the end of the thin white rope and I tried to get a little wall hauler pulley on him to haul him over the edge. I should have had that ready before I even stepped down. In the end I don't know how much good it did any ways. They seemed to just mussel him up at that point. Good thing he didn't weigh much.

Once he was up they seemed to have things well in hand. The guys there seemed to know what they were doing. Even now I don't know who they are. Were they EMT or First Responders? I don't know. I wish I had a better idea of people's skill level. After checking him out they carried him off and my part in that affair was done. We decided to go ahead and get the canopy. Brian stepped back up to the plate again that day and rapped down to it. He took along some gear top try and get in above it. I remember the look on his face when he was looking up at me from the bottom edge of the cap rock just before he made the big swing. To this day I don't know how he got in there.

14. When he was getting ready Brian noticed that there was no knot in the end of the rope. He stopped to pull it up and tie a nice big one before he made his big whizzing decent. A very good idea. The scary thing is we almost missed that. He got a peace in above the canopy. I don't know what or how he did it. If we had a line to that canopy we could have skipped that drama. This was all pretty casual. He even took a camera down with him and was stopping to take pictures of people jumping. Now, strike two. I couldn't fucking believe it. I wonted to laugh. I wanted to cry. It soon became a lot more serious as we realized he was probably hurt pretty bad. We sent the end of the brown line down to him on a biner and tossed the rest after. He tied them off and passed the knot to rapelled on down to where he hit.

15. Some where in this he pulled the piece that he had above the canopy. I don't know why he did this. It made getting back to the canopy rather difficult.

16. I was getting ready to rap down to join him but the people coming up from the bottom were already there. I wasn't needed and would have just been in the way. Some one had given me a cervical collar(neck brace) I'd planned to take it down with me but Brian wound up having to do without it. We should have clipped it to the rope when we sent it down to him. From here on I was mostly a spectator. We had a couple of radios there at the exit point. I had a chance to lessen to a lot of the traffic. I have to tell you that there was a lot of confusion. Many of the messages were unclear. I don't think there was good contact between the parking lot and the bottom. I tried to relay a few of the messages but in the end I gave up not wanting to add to the confusion.

17. There are some very standard and well-established protocols for radio communications. Part of the trick is knowing what they are going to say before hand. If you know the script or at least an out line it's much easier to follow. First, announce whom you are addressing. Second, state who you are and where you are. Third, give the message. Forth, restate whom it is for. When you receive a message, acknowledge it and read it back to make sure it is clear. It hasn't gone through until you have a confirmation on the read back. As an example Tri County traffic, Cessna 61326, approaching from the North-east for landing, Tri County

This is a point where things seemed to break down a bit. It may have been clear to the other people involved but I found it confusing. There were messages for the unimog driver but which one? Where did they need him to be? Who was it that had the good radio/ cell phone that would reach the town for the ambulance? Did he have to turn around to go back up to make the call? There were calls relaying his condition as they carried him down.

Finally there was a decision made to fly him out from the bottom. I’ve herd a lot of criticism of that especially with the time involved in getting the chopper there. I was not down there so I can’t say. I can see them being unwilling to risk a bumpy ride with a fractured pelvis. It doesn’t take much movement to damage blood vessels. On the other hand he was just carried down a mountain. I think he would have done better waiting in the hospital. But that’s just me. I wasn’t there and it wasn’t my call. It seemed on the radio that he was getting a lot of flack down at the bottom on this. When he came on he was demanding a chopper. I’m not inclined to question decisions made under fire. You have to pick a plan and follow it. It may not be the best choice but that’s not the time to debate it.

I got bored and decided to take a look at the canopy. At this point it would be very nice to have a line to it or at least have the ropes running through that piece. First I just rapped down. I was looking down and I thought I’d be able to reach out and touch this corner. No way I wound up trapped in space with it 18in out of reach. Shit. One long jug later I was ready to try again. I got as big of a push as I could. I should have taken even longer slides. I was too timid and could not maintain the energy of the swing. One problem was I was using an ATC. I had it backed up with a sort of prussic on the break line to free my hands. This didn’t let me really free fall it. And frankly I was being a pussy. I wound up in the same place not able to get bouncing. After that second free hanging jug I’d had it. I was ready to give it up for the night. Enough flailing in front of the cameras for one day. Later I heard the chopper finally arrive and that put an end to all the excitement.

On the whole I think both rescues went well. At least they were successful with no one else getting hurt. Always a good thing. For a bunch of people who didn’t know each other just throwing this together on the spot it ran amazingly smooth. I’d just like to see all of us learn from this. If you’re going to teach a course this spring what happened was a fine case study for them to examine. I don’t know if this will be helpful to you at all. I did it mainly to sort things out in my own head. Perhaps it will bring something to light or dispel some of the mystery of what went on.

I've been thinking a little on what you might teach in the curriculum. I’ll do a little more research and try and get back to you on that. Until then have fun and take care of your self.




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