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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lessons from Todd's Death

Here it is: The first round of my Todd Skinner Memorial Gear Dump. After Todd's death from harness failure last week, I started going through my old gear with a newly suspicious eye. I know for a fact that the slings on those Friends are 20 years old! I almost never use them—they're third- or fourth-string units for Indian Creek cracks—but why take chances? (And no, I'm not dumping the old cams, just the slings. Some things are just too hard for a Scotch Yankee to do.) Some of those quickdraws are probably 15 to 20 years old. One of the daisy chains is probably pretty good, but the other was retired a long time ago; I just use it as a dog leash now and then, but we've got plenty of other leashes—what if someone mistakenly assumed this was safe to use for climbing? That beater harness is really embarassing: We kept it around to loan to friends who might not have a harness! With friends like us...

I'm sure most of this stuff would be just fine. Kolin Powick, quality assurance manager at Black Diamond, did an amazing series of tests on "distressed" belay loops following Todd's death. You've got to see this. He found that loops sliced 50 percent and even 75 percent of the way through retained much of their strength. He cut bar tacks and abraded the stitching and webbing so seriously that most climbers would immediately junk their harnesses if they looked this bad. The result? Still strong. Makes me think something (chemicals? UV damage?) must have seriously compromised Todd's belay loop, maybe even the day before his fatal rappel. Likely it was a combination of age, wear, and some mystery factor. The loop was found at the scene and no doubt will be analyzed. Meanwhile, I figure, why risk it? This junk is just cluttering up my gear room anyway, and I'm sure I'll find more like this when I dig deeper into the boxes. Today's trash day on my street, and it's time to toss this pile.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do mine eyes deceive me, or are those original Wired Bliss cams?