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Racing freehanded up a cliff face
November 23, 2005 7:16 PM   Subscribe

Short film of climber Dan Osman scaling Lover's Leap in California without ropes, racing over 400 vertical feet in just under four & a half minutes. Link goes to direct wmv download. Having never heard of Osman before, I was shocked to find out that his daredevil ways led to an early death when a rope snapped while Osman was performing a modfied form of bungie jumping in Yosemite back in 1999.
posted by jonson (79 comments total)

 
I want to know how much cocaine was involved, and if he was told his next fix was at the top? Just crazy!
posted by parallax7d at 7:19 PM on November 23, 2005


Free soloists are people I simultaneously admire greatly, and assume are completely insane.

5.7 is a hike, though, especially to a guy like Osman. If I could get my mind in the right place, I could solo a 5.7 (except my wife would kill me if I didn't fall).

Now, when these guys solo 5.12 or 13, that's much more impressive. (And Ossman has climbed that route 100's of times).

Cool to watch, nonetheless (aside from the dorky music).
posted by teece at 7:21 PM on November 23, 2005


Yeah, sorry for the no warning about the terrible music. Say, as a complete noob to the subject, can you (or someone) explain to me what a "5.7" means in this context, when compared to a "5.12" or 13?
posted by jonson at 7:30 PM on November 23, 2005


Heh I dont know from 5.7 but thanks for posting the link to the article. I'd seen the video clip but didnt have the back story.
posted by mikojava at 7:36 PM on November 23, 2005


Here ya go, jonson.

Fall of the Phantom Lord is Andrew Todhunter's book about Osman and climbing. He describes Osman's last jump....and ends with a wish that in the lightning realization of death's imminence, acceptance, and not fear, flashed for that which could no longer be dodged.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 7:38 PM on November 23, 2005


Wow. That video makes my palms sweat profusely.
posted by zardoz at 7:39 PM on November 23, 2005


Um, okay. That is definitely more dangerous than softball.
posted by billysumday at 7:42 PM on November 23, 2005


5.7 or not, that guy lept up in the air on a rock wall, grabbing with two hands for a flake. 250 feet in the air, after 2.5 minutes of incredibly strenuous climbing, with no rope. That's freakin nuts.
posted by Nelson at 7:58 PM on November 23, 2005


I am amazed. I had no idea people did this sort of thing outside of the movies.
posted by tellurian at 8:01 PM on November 23, 2005


5.7 climbing involves moves that an average person could probably perform after a few weeks/months of practice. Guys like Alain Roberts can free-solo climbs in the 5.13 range. This is orders of magnitude more difficult than 5.7 and it's likely that some people are genetically incapable of climbing at this level.

Nevertheless, 400 ft of ropeless 5.7 climbing is damn impressive. Try climbing 400 ft of stairs in 4 minutes and see how you do.

Interestingly, since free-soloists are self-selected, it's statistically safe:

Between 1970 and 1990, a National Park Service study found that 14 climbers were killed and two critically injured while unroped - although none of those accidents involved true free-soloists. Climbers who temporarily unroped on easy terrain during long, roped climbs accounted for most of the unroped accidents.
posted by driveler at 8:04 PM on November 23, 2005


For the record, a 5.7 is a pretty easy climb. You can probably do one on your first or second attempt at climbing *ever*. Seriously, it's not much harder than climbing a ladder. Still, to go after it with such reckless abandon, sans rope, is pretty awesome. Check out the double-dyno at 1:12!!

/ I genuinely suck at climbing; I just don't have the technique for it. I think my best ever was a 5.10a.
posted by LordSludge at 8:05 PM on November 23, 2005


5.13 is like climbing a glass wall with occasional dimes glued to it. Inhuman.
posted by LordSludge at 8:07 PM on November 23, 2005


MetaGoogleVideoFilter...

(Amazing but the guy is now dead after a rope he was leaping from one day stretched a bit too much and he went splat)
posted by zeoslap at 8:11 PM on November 23, 2005


Had I actually read more than the first couple of words I'd have seen his death was reported in the y'know FPP. Ah well. Still MetaGVFilter though :)
posted by zeoslap at 8:12 PM on November 23, 2005


That shit was NICE, yo.
posted by vito90 at 8:15 PM on November 23, 2005


Q: What happens if you don't manage to grab that ledge @ 1:15?



A: You die.
posted by Firas at 8:23 PM on November 23, 2005 [1 favorite]


The one thing you can't tell in the video is how sheer the wall is, because all the camera shots only show wall, climber, and sky.
posted by smackfu at 8:28 PM on November 23, 2005


GAHHH! Tub Girl!
posted by undule at 8:34 PM on November 23, 2005


Great line from the Outside article, another climber who didn't follow Osman into rope-falls as sport: "It's against my nature to let go of the rock."
posted by dhartung at 8:39 PM on November 23, 2005


Still MetaGVFilter though :)

Except that it isn't.
posted by jonson at 8:42 PM on November 23, 2005


Yes... I think the 5.7 being "easy" comments must be placed in context of this being done unroped, and the speed at which it was done. By those measures, this 5.7 was nuts!
posted by Elpoca at 8:47 PM on November 23, 2005


Still MetaGVFilter though :)

One could come up with flippant labels to respectively dismiss every type of post made to MetaFilter.

When a post acquaints me with something I would have never encountered without MeFi, as this one did, I consider it a success.

Undule posted to the wrong thread, BTW.

The leap in Firas's screencap really shows how insane this feat is. I'm with the climber who said "It's against my nature to let go of the rock." In fact, it's rather against my nature not to have at least some of the rock under my feet rather than in front of my face. :-)
posted by musicinmybrain at 9:06 PM on November 23, 2005


I did this climbing route when I was at Lover's Leap this past weekend. And while I wish I could say I solo'd it and completed it in 4 minutes, I didn't. We roped up and it took about 2 hours. It is roughly 3 pitches (rope lengths) long and is quite vertical (80-90 degrees) in some sections...there is also a very slight/quick overhang (more than 90 degrees vert) in one very tiny section (that can be avoided really) and many parts that are less than vertical. The crux of the route (the hardest part and the reason it's a 5.7) is the what gives the route it's name is the "The Bear's Reach" which is the part in the video where you see him dyno (jump off the wall in one dynamic motion) to the flake...however, in the video he is doing this mostly for showmanship - I'm 5'9" and I was able to just barely do a quick hop to this hold. The top-out is rather easy (and it looks like he modified the general route for the 3rd pitch?) and the area is setup as a nice walk-off...he could be down the trail in 5 minutes and ascending the climb again and again.

So, while I agree this is no 5.12 or 5.13 and I know how "easy" the climb is personally the video is really really impressive mostly because of the speed at which he goes. Also, to be noted is the safety measure of this climb - if for some reason he does fall (and doesn't die) this area is very close to a large highway (Highway 50). He could be airlifted to Sacramento or Reno in a relatively quick time.

Too bad he died later doing stunts. He was a great climber. Left a 13yo daughter behind too.

.
posted by rlef98 at 9:08 PM on November 23, 2005


Climbs are graded (in the US) as:

Third class, scrambling: hiking where, every now and again, you need to use your hands a bit on a big boulder.

Fourth class: climbing that is very easy, but where a fall won't stop quickly, so death is a possibility. Nobody actually uses this rating anymore. Usually climbed un-roped.

Fifth class: technical climbing, fall results in death. Roped climbing.

In the beginning, all "hard" climbing (think cliffs) were to be rated fifth class. As it turns out, that's way too simplistic. So decades ago they decided to divide fifth class into 10 categories:

5.0, 5.1, 5.2 ..., 5.9

Well, climbs had been rated 5.9, which was supposed to be the hardest route around. But, next thing you know, somebody climbed something harder. Rather than re-grading everything, they just made the next hardest 5.10, 5.11, in spite of the numerical oddity.

Now, 5.10 and above are also divided further, 5.10a to 5.10d. The hardest climb ever done is 5.14d or 5.15a, currently. That is hard-core, olympic calibre, years of training type of physical exertion. The angle of the cliff is almost always beyond vertical, the hold are tiny, and it may take months of practice to be able to climb a route without falling at this level.

5.6 or 5.7 is the point that anyone in decent shape and not terrified of heights could do on their first day, with modern gear and on top-rope. Around 5.10 is where you really need to start practicing. I struggled my way up a 5.9 the first time I climbed -- I've done 5.12a a few times, back when I was in shape. I can only lead 5.10+.

For a seasoned veteran, 5.7 is very easy. Climbing as fast as Osman did, though, implies a certain amount of insanity. The guy has nerves of steel.

/more than you needed to know.
posted by teece at 9:13 PM on November 23, 2005 [1 favorite]


Not to diminish the guy's talent, but the only remarkable thing (as implied by the opening shot of him setting his watch) is the speed with which he did the climb. That doesn't look like difficult climbing to me (hint: despite the dramatic slow-mo instant replay, any handhold you can leap onto and grasp with 8 fingers is one easy bucket). It's obvious he'd done the route many times and it was all well marked with chalk. More impressive than climbing some stairs rapidly, but not much more impressive than scaling a ladder rapidly.
posted by scarabic at 9:17 PM on November 23, 2005


Anyhow, the technical rating of the wall doesn't take into account the "exposure". While this 5.7 (approximately a 4b in UK terminology) is a cakewalk on in a training situation, at 400ft with no rope, it rapidly moves into the "E" category ("Extreme"), leapfrogging (literally, as has been pointed out) Severe, Hard Severe, Very Severe and (my favourite), HVS - "Hard Very Severe"...
posted by benzo8 at 9:18 PM on November 23, 2005


ignore me - I defer to rlef98
posted by scarabic at 9:21 PM on November 23, 2005


I didn't bother to click the links as I read about Osman when he died taking a selfish and illegal leap off of a cliff. If I remember correctly, he left behind a little girl and a wife with no means to support his daughter. Osman was a moron. Too bad he had to procreate before taking that last jump. (No disrespect meant to his offspring, but it angers me that idiots like this have such fucked up priorities.)
posted by Manhasset at 11:01 PM on November 23, 2005


Manhasset, that's a pretty ridiculous thing you just said.
posted by ORthey at 11:12 PM on November 23, 2005


I don't know anything about climbing, so I can't judge, but my brother-in-law free-climbed quite a bit. But this summer, when we were all together at our annual family get-together in the mountains in northern New Mexico, he climbed a vertical rock face that was only about 30 high, or so. But he fell, just short of the top, about 25 feet. I wasn't there because I can't get around much, but my sister (his wife) can get around pretty well with her two shiny new hips, and she was there. But she'd gone up the trail to be at the top where Stephen would come over, and so she didn't see the fall. My mom was at the base of cliff watching. She later had some nightmares and flashbacks of watching his fall.

Stephen wasn't killed or anything, but his left ankle was basically destroyed. The joint destroyed, compound fractures breaking through the skin—his foot was dangling from the end of his leg, the wound was dirty. My mom's an RN so she took charge of things.

The point is, though, for a while there it wasn't clear whether he'd lose his foot from infection. Today, four months later, it's not clear if he'll be able to walk normally on it, or even certain that he'll be able to walk on it at all. Plus, it's still possible that even after a year or so the foot will have to come off.

He'd been climbing all day and he was tired. He shouldn't have done that climb and my sister even tried to discourage him. So she thinks she should have been more forceful. And she thinks he was trying to impress her. He's about 26, by the way.

Really, beyond a certain height, a fall is very dangerous whether it's 30 feet of 200 feet. Isn't that the case?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:23 PM on November 23, 2005


I don't like to judge: go ahead, ride a bike without a helmet, run with scissors. But Osman seems less like a fun-loving guy pushing the boundaries of his sport and more like a chronic gambler who has to have action at any price. As the author says:
I couldn't shake the feeling that he was trapped in a reach for limits he was most likely to find only in a death fall.
Given that he had a wife and daughter, yeah, I'm with Manhasset. I wouldn't put it that bluntly, but I don't think it's ridiculous at all. Even Osman didn't seem to think it was ridiculous:
"By dying," Osman said, "I would be letting everybody down—my family, my friends ... My daughter will manage, she'll be okay ... but I'd be robbing her."
posted by zanni at 11:44 PM on November 23, 2005


Manhasset, that's a pretty ridiculous thing you just said.

Well, there's no arguing with that kind of logic!

How is it ridiculous to suggest that people should be responsible for their partners and children and not choose an adrenaline rush over their family's future well being?

I would hope that people with children would do whatever's in their power to minimize the danger they put themselves in. Yeah, you can get killed crossing the street on your way to work--however, I would hope that if you did, it would be because of the driver, not because you decided to play chicken with a car because that's how you got your kicks.

You wanna be a daredevil? Be a daredevil. But don't be surprised if some people are disgusted with your lack of regard for responsibilities you have because of choices made previously in your life.
posted by Manhasset at 11:45 PM on November 23, 2005


How is it ridiculous...

Manhasset, what's ridiculous in your statement is that you don't wish for Osman to have been a better or more responsible person, or for him to have gotten lucky & lived, but rather you wish his daughter out of existence, and anyone she met, any joy life brought her, any good she ever afforded another person or animal or place to be gone along with her.

Before you respond, go back and re-read your original statement. You carry an almost personal level of vitriol into this discussion of a sad man with an obvious death wish, who unfortunately for all involved got his wish fulfilled six years ago.
posted by jonson at 11:53 PM on November 23, 2005


If was angry at your comment, Manhasset, I'd make some witty comment about you being an asshat but I'm not so I won't.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:02 AM on November 24, 2005


Not to nitpick, but Manhasset: It says in the article that the stunt was *not* illegal -- BASE jumping at Yosemite is, but as he was tethered it was legal:

Yosemite authorities, not surprisingly, cast a jaundiced eye on Osman's activities. They had outlawed BASE jumping in the park years earlier, and though what Osman was doing was not illegal, the rangers clearly worried about adding him to their already long list of potential search-and-rescue victims.

It doesn't make him any less irresponsible, but your comment was not just crass, it's also inaccurate.
posted by wolftrouble at 12:16 AM on November 24, 2005


Really, beyond a certain height, a fall is very dangerous whether it's 30 feet of 200 feet. Isn't that the case?

EB, anything beyond 25-30 feet, if you fall and don't die, it's a miracle. 40 or more feet, it is irrelevant how high you are -- expect death if you fall. Getting away with "merely" a destroyed ankle from 25 feet is lucky. It only takes a few seconds to hit something like 80% of terminal velocity.

I have a friend that likes to dick around that way, and it really bothers me. He fell about 10 feet onto rocks while we were climbing one day, though (he was screwing around, un-roped, but only 10 feet was enough to have him limping and hurting for weeks); he seems to have been sobered up by the pain that inflicted on his body.

Free soloists don't offend me. I understand why they do it. I have a hard time being cool with a free soloing speed climber though, but it was Osman's life. That's a little bit crazy. But I have friends that have free soloed a thousand foot 5.4: soloing is not necessarily a daredevil thing.

Me, I always climb roped (unless I'm bouldering, but I don't like high-ball bouldering, so that's close to the ground). I also think that, if you have a wife and kids, you need to leave the crazy, death-wish type of soloing behind.
posted by teece at 12:20 AM on November 24, 2005


Looks like someone ripped the video from Masters of Stone 4. One of the best climbing videos ever. Far more impressive than this free-solo is his solo of an unfrozen waterfall with ice tools. Now thats crazy.

Osman's death was not due to a rope snapping or stretching, but rather to a mistake with the rigging that caused his rope to slide against itself, the friction generating enough heat to slice through the rope like a hot knife.

I've soloed up to 5.9, but certainly not at this speed, and no dynoes, thank you very much. That ain't no ladder, which would be something like 4th class (4.0) at worst. Osman was not a great technical climber in the grand scheme of things, but his greatness came from inventiveness, a willingness to push the boundaries of experience and the joy he brought to the sport.

Regarding the cretinous comments above, suffice to say that for some people these activities are integral to life. Others get their kicks tapdancing on graves and wishing other people out of existence. To each his own I suppose, but I admire and regret the passing of people like Osman. Not so much the second kind.
posted by Manjusri at 12:45 AM on November 24, 2005


"EB, anything beyond 25-30 feet, if you fall and don't die, it's a miracle. 40 or more feet, it is irrelevant how high you are -- expect death if you fall."

I'm not so sure about this. Seems like it would be difficult to acquire empirical data. Anecdotally, a soloist fell from near the top of Intersection Rock in Joshua Tree a year or so ago. Had to be at least a 50 foot fall. He was pretty wrecked but is still living.

Lynn Hill, perhaps the greatest female climber, took a 60 foot fall after failing to tie in to the rope properly. I believe she walked away from that one. Landed in a tree IIRC, which attests to the truth of the saying "Its not the fall that kills you, its the landing".

Another thing about the video, in the outtakes of Masters of Stone 4 it shows Osman making a one handed dyno on this climb and missing. He still has a jug with his left hand which he falls back on. May have been staged, Osman had a penchant for such things, definitely planned at least as a fallback, but still interesting.
posted by Manjusri at 1:18 AM on November 24, 2005


I did the bear's reach two years ago (I wasn't leading.) 5.7 is slightly harder than climbing a latter though (exposure changes everything.)

Still at Lover's Leap, I took my first hardfall on Deception Direct (I was leading.) I still have the scars to prove it...
posted by NewBornHippy at 3:42 AM on November 24, 2005


And if you like that sort of things, my personal hero when I was a kid was Patrick Edlinger


How many pull-ups can you do? One one arm? On one finger? The pinkie? On a rope? This guy could do a couple... If you like 70s free climbing, check this guy out and the classics like Opera Vertical...
posted by NewBornHippy at 3:55 AM on November 24, 2005


"Osman's death was not due to a rope snapping or stretching, but rather to a mistake with the rigging that caused his rope to slide against itself, the friction generating enough heat to slice through the rope like a hot knife. "

There's a strong tendency to pick apart every death and find the One Mistake that the person made. It's perversely comforting, because it makes most deadly accidents seem preventable. But Osman was just wired wrong, and couldn't/didn't figure out what was driving him to take risks.

I wonder how many of us have done something potentially lethal when driving--passing a car at a bad spot, speeding in bad weather, or what have you. I recall reading in a Wolverine comic (featuring ninjas!) an evil crime boss discussing a new drug that would provide transcendent ecstasy but kill the user an hour or so later. When one of his minions argued that nobody would ever take it, he replied,

"Perhaps. But look at how many people smoke, or eat unsaturated fats, knowing it could lead to a prolonged and horrific death."

My father goes in for a quintuple bypass next week. They're going to saw his breastbone open. Why are his dietary choices any different from Osman flinging himself off a cliff with a badly-rigged rope?

/had fried chicken for dinner last night.
posted by craniac at 5:55 AM on November 24, 2005


Great post, nice discussion. This is the sort of thing I come to MeFi for.
posted by you just lost the game at 6:03 AM on November 24, 2005


I was shocked to find out...

so, each morning do you nearly die from surprise when the sun comes up again?
posted by andrew cooke at 6:10 AM on November 24, 2005


There are a lot of risk takers that get away with it.

/reaches for leftover fried chicken
posted by craniac at 6:17 AM on November 24, 2005


posted by Manjusri: Osman was not a great technical climber in the grand scheme of things

I couldn't find the date of the first ascent off hand, but his route 'Slayer' at Cave Rock would have been pretty cutting edge in the 80s in the US. Osman's capacity as a standards-pushing technical climber certainly seems to have been overshadowed by the soloing and rope jumping. From memory, I think he might have also soloed Slayer at some stage. 5.13d/14a solo is an impressive effort in anyone's book.

It's inarguable that his death was a tragic and pointless loss for his family. That said, there are far more kids orphaned as a result of their parent getting drunk and driving a car, which on my view of the world is a fair bit more pointless than Osman's death. But dead is dead is dead, I suppose, and no amount of mefi blathering will change that.

This topic was done ad nauseum on rec.climbing back in 1998. Here are some of the threads that concerned the impact of his death on his daughter. Some of the contributors were close friends of his. Makes for interesting reading.
posted by tim_in_oz at 6:28 AM on November 24, 2005 [1 favorite]


"Why are his dietary choices any different from Osman flinging himself off a cliff with a badly-rigged rope?"

Ridiculous statement. I'd comment further but my fried chicken is ready.
posted by j.p. Hung at 6:36 AM on November 24, 2005


Who knew my dietary choices were such an action-packed thrill ride? If Osman had made his leaps while eating a bucket of fried chicken, he might have reached an entirely new plateau of EXXXTREME!!!

/ off to rip it up in the cafeteria
posted by you just lost the game at 6:48 AM on November 24, 2005


ok, some maths.

17,000 people died in alcohol related driving deaths in the usa in 2003. if we assume what, 5% of people drink and drive, that's a risk of 5E-5 per year.

risk from rock climbing is 1 in 320,000 climbs. say someone does 20 climbs a year, that's a risk of 6E-5.

the risk from food poisoning seems to be an order of magnitude lower (and that's for all cases, not just those where you knowingly eat questionable food).

so rock climbing is pretty much similar to drunk driving. and climbing at least kills the person doing it, rather than some innocent bystander.

i'm surprised - i thought it was more risky. so he really is only about as stupid as someone that dedicates their life to drunk driving.... :o/
posted by andrew cooke at 6:49 AM on November 24, 2005


From the article:
Climbing ropes are designed to stretch when fallen on, and Osman always prestretched new ones with a series of short falls to determine their maximum lengths

Climbing ropes are also supposed to be retired after arresting any significant fall. Osman was temping fate. Fate could not resist forever.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:54 AM on November 24, 2005


First chapter of Fall of the Phantom Lord here.
posted by JohnR at 7:11 AM on November 24, 2005


It's astonishing that the people who read Metafilter feel they have the right to judge this man's life.
posted by Nelson at 8:04 AM on November 24, 2005


I'm not so sure about this. Seems like it would be difficult to acquire empirical data. Anecdotally, a soloist fell from near the top of Intersection Rock in Joshua Tree a year or so ago. Had to be at least a 50 foot fall. He was pretty wrecked but is still living.

And those folks were very lucky, Manjsuri. I've also read about the poor chaps that fall 40 feet up at Eldo (every year there's a couple), and die. Beyond a certain point, you're just hoping for a miracle. I'm not exactly sure what point that is (I have actually done the math, but I'm not entirely sure what the drag coefficient of a falling climber should be, so it's fuzzy). At around 80 to 100 feet almost no one lives (I'm not aware of anyone living from that high).

I've read about Lynn Hill's accident, and she is amazingly, extraordinarily lucky. Having contemplated falls from 60 feet before, I can't imagine living, let alone walking away with a bruised ass.

I saw Hill talk at the local Patagonia store after she free climbed the Nose on El Capitan (note free climb != free solo). She is an amazing climber; she's a very boring speaker.
posted by teece at 8:13 AM on November 24, 2005


(I'm not aware of anyone living from that high)

Don't know about climbers as a group, but plenty of people have survived falls from far greater heights. The Free Fall Database is one of the best sources for more information, and even includes this checklist for surviving an 'unplanned' free-fall.

Thanks, teece, for the additional information you've given throughout the thread.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:50 AM on November 24, 2005


Thanks for the links Civil...the film G (a camera dropped out of an airplane at 30,000 feet), which I found on The Free Fall Database, is pretty amazing.
posted by you just lost the game at 9:07 AM on November 24, 2005


"It's astonishing that the people who read Metafilter feel they have the right to judge this man's life."

I don't understand what you're trying to say here. Perhaps you expected a thread full of "." ?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:08 AM on November 24, 2005


That unplanned free fall page is great, Civil_Disobedient. I LOLed.

Their numbers jive with mine, too. 30+ feet is death-more-likely-than-life territory. 15 seconds to terminal velocity. If you model a human as a big baseball, the math says that the first 3-5 seconds gets you almost all of the way to your maximum, 100+ mph speed.

One thing I suspect is a problem in a 30 foot fall is the time. A 30 foot fall is over in a blink of an eye. Thus there is no time to try and land on your feet -- you land how you land, and if it's on your head, you're dead instantly. In most climbing falls, I bet the climber does not contemplate his fall, as it happens pretty fast unless you are at the top of El Capitan or something.
posted by teece at 9:23 AM on November 24, 2005


Ok, I have to sit down now.

[later]

That was freaking amazing I don't care what any of you cynical climbers say. If one could turn that kind of thing into a televised sport you'd make a killing. Does the original hardware video have the complete 5 minutes?

teece writes "note free climb != free solo)."

Explain please.
posted by Mitheral at 9:27 AM on November 24, 2005


> Climbing ropes are also supposed to be retired after
> arresting any significant fall. Osman was temping fate. Fate
> could not resist forever.

Depends on what you mean by "significant". Climbing ropes (NOT static lines used for hauling) are actually designed to withstand several falls, generally around 8-10 of a specific level of rope stress (which is MUCH greater than the 'typical' fall encountered by climbers).

Keep in mind also that long, 'serious' falls are actually easier on the rope than short falls, due to the stretch factor.

I do not believe that there has EVER BEEN a single case of a rope failing in the absence of something cutting or abrading the rope (such as friction with adjacent ropes, sharp edged rock, etc).
posted by spincycle at 9:29 AM on November 24, 2005


> teece writes "note free climb != free solo)."
>
> Explain please.

I'll help out here.

A "free solo" is the act of ascending rock without rope or other protection against falling. So, Osman's climb is clearly a "free solo".

A "free climb" is a climb that is performed using rope as protection, but all upward movement is accomplished using hands and feet on rock, rather than by pulling/standing on artificial supports (such as pitons pounded into seams/cracks, bolts placed into drilled holds, etc).

While pitons, bolts, camming units, nuts, and various other protection devices are commonly used in "free climbing", they are used for protection from falling only, and not for upward progress.

Many climbs on large vertical walls are described using a third term, "aid climbing", which is the practice of using pitons, bolts, camming units, nuts, and various other protection devices both for protection against falling and as a means of making upward progress on terrain that is either too difficult or dangerous to make progress on using traditional "free climbing" techniques.
posted by spincycle at 9:37 AM on November 24, 2005


so, each morning do you nearly die from surprise when the sun comes up again?

LOL, believe it or not, I struggled to find the appropriate descriptor, but I was in fact, a little shocked to find out that the star of the video was dead, EVEN THOUGH I had just finished watching a video of him performing death defying acts. I guess I just expected to find out that the video had been shot last week & he was travelling the world doing crazy shit like this all the time. Finding out I was watching footage of a dead man who died doing something similar to what he was doing in the video caught me off guard. I feel like, btw, the only person in this thread who is unfamiliar with Osman. Glad to see so many knowledgable & articulate people in a discussion, it's what's great about this place.
posted by jonson at 9:44 AM on November 24, 2005


Far more impressive than this free-solo is his solo of an unfrozen waterfall with ice tools. Now thats crazy.

[imagines an unfrozen waterfall. ponders how one climbs liquid water.]
posted by five fresh fish at 9:47 AM on November 24, 2005


Ah, good catch five fresh fish.
posted by teece at 9:55 AM on November 24, 2005


five fresh fish writes "ponders how one climbs liquid water"

By climbing the wetted rocks under the water fall? So not only are you climbing a cliff but the cliff is wet and water is assisting gravity in try to kill you. I could see how that could crank it up a notch.
posted by Mitheral at 9:58 AM on November 24, 2005


Explain please.

In a free-climb, you can still be attached to a line, but you're not using it to aide in the climb. In a free-solo, there are no safety lines.

If you're climbing in a group, the lead climber (the person at the front of the pack) will typically be free-climbing--essentially paving the way for the rest of the group by installing various clasps and hooks and contraptions to the rock crevices that you can thread rope through. If the lead person were to fall, they'd only fall up to the point of the last secured position.

In free-solo, it's just you and your abilities, and that's it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:52 AM on November 24, 2005


Not to nitpick, but Manhasset: It says in the article that the stunt was *not* illegal -- BASE jumping at Yosemite is, but as he was tethered it was legal:
Indeed. I used to rock-climb with a dude who makes a yearly trip to Yosemite to climb it. He's harccor awesome and always did the lead-climbing to set up the ropes.
As many have said, this isn't a particularly hard climb. While I've never done it myself, the hand grips, even from the video, are huge. I didn't even notice his dyno the first time around. Can't decide if it's because it wasn't a very difficuly dyno or because he was climbing so fast it's hard to notice.
/reliving my rock-climbing glory days.
posted by jmd82 at 11:27 AM on November 24, 2005


[ponders how ice tools could possibly be of great assistance when climbing a liquid waterfall]
posted by five fresh fish at 11:31 AM on November 24, 2005


five fresh fish: smash 'em into the back.
posted by Firas at 12:00 PM on November 24, 2005 [1 favorite]


In free-solo, it's just you and your abilities, and that's it.

And your God, should you have one.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:24 PM on November 24, 2005


I remember watching the Masters of Stone video that contains this clip -- and other clips of Osman's stunts. My responses were a bit mixed: from the "whoa" of the speed solo (reasonably safe ... a pretty amazing feat) to the "WTF??" of soloing up the unfrozen waterfall with ice tools. The guy was driven to push the envelope in often completely pointless stunts, actively sought as much exposure and media attention as possible and made a living of it through sponsorship and so forth.

I also remember thinking then, and everytime a climbing mag would report the lastest stunt, that he wasn't destined for a long life on this Earth. When he died jumping off of Leaning Tower I was not the least bit surprised. A lot of people loved the stuff he did, a lot were entertained and were served up a little frisson, but I was always pretty uptight about it, since much of the non-climbing public thinks that climbers are irresponsible jackasses, and this guy was giving them cause.
posted by bumpkin at 12:47 PM on November 24, 2005


I do not believe that there has EVER BEEN a single case of a rope failing in the absence of something cutting or abrading the rope (such as friction with adjacent ropes, sharp edged rock, etc).

Nylon degrades from exposure to chemicals, and even dirt can shorten the life of a rope.

The folks at Bluewater say this: Repeated falls over a karabiner such as commonly occur in sport climbing will also contribute to wearing out a rope.

In On Rope, Bruce Smith writes:

A fatigue failure is caused by repeated tensioning.

Another type of failure is heat related. During each tension/release cycle, energy in the form of heat is generated. This can accumulate to the point at which the fibers degrade dramatically, melt, and then break. It is possible that internal abrasion can be the most significant factor in rope failure. Tension and release cycles move filaments and yarns over each other, and this "nylon-on-nylon" movement damages the rope. Dirty ropes with fine debris trapped inside the weave can receive significant levels of abrasion to the fibers. But, even clean ropes wear out due to the fact that the rope abrades itself over time.

Researchers expected to see very little damage to protected internal fibers, but results showed considerable internal damage. this damage was caused by high pressures and resultant internal friction. This kind of wear can degrade a rope without any outward sign of weakness.


It appears that there have been numerous case of rope failure in the absence of external trauma.


posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:53 PM on November 24, 2005


I think one of you is saying "could" and the other is saying "has." Different things, that.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:28 PM on November 24, 2005


Civil_Disobedient writes "If the lead person were to fall, they'd only fall up to the point of the last secured position."

Actually, they fall twice the distance from their release point to the last piece of equipment that holds... You'll often put in small nuts or friends in a crack knowing they won't hold your weight but that they'll retard the fall someway (and reduce the risk of the rope getting fouled) and it's amazing when you come off with six micro-nuts in a hairline crack below you how suddenly everything slows down and you can count the "pings" as each small piece of equipment gets pulled out again until you get to the big one which (hopefully) holds. If it does, you swing the same length again and get neatly smacked into the wall where you hang while the six micro-nuts wheel, sycamore-like down the rope and end up at your waist...
posted by benzo8 at 2:34 PM on November 24, 2005


Kirth: I'm well aware of those facts about nylon rope. What I am not aware if is a single climber death attributable to rope failure (unless the rope was cut by something, which is hardly a failure of the rope: such is either an act of god or a mistake on the climber's part).

The rope is amazingly over-spec'ed. As well it should be -- it's the only non-redundant piece of gear, along with the harness (assuming you don't climb double-rope on two skinnies, like the Brits).

Amazingly, it seems that Osman did actually climb an unfrozen waterfall. I assumed that was a slip of the tongue. What a lunatic.
posted by teece at 2:47 PM on November 24, 2005


It's astonishing that the people who read Metafilter feel they have the right to judge this man's life.
posted by Nelson at 8:04 AM PST



Not to derail, but ... Nelson are you new here?
posted by j.p. Hung at 6:18 PM on November 24, 2005


teece, are you posting as two people?

And you're changing the question as well. spincycle's allegation was that there hasn't EVER BEEN a single case of a rope failing in the absence of something cutting or abrading the rope. No mention of climber fatality.

Was there an official report on the fall that killed Osman?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:23 PM on November 24, 2005


A fatigue failure is caused by repeated tensioning.

Magic word there -- repeated.

On a sailing ship, the standing rigging lasts far longer than the running rig, despite the fact that the standing rig hold far more tension for a far longer time. Why?

Standing rigging doesn't move -- it takes the load it is run to hold, and it holds it. The running rig gets abused -- one moment, the sheet's holding the full force of the sail, the next, you've tacked, and the former sheet is now alee, lying on the deck, doused in water, or both. The running rig runs -- through block, around cleats and capstans, and gets run over. That line doesn't last. The line holding your mast up, though -- that lasts, because it comes to a set tension, and holds it, with only minor variation.

Pull-slack-pull is what kills lines, because the strands don't all pull and slack at the exact rate. Double this when the line's wet or (worse) dirty. Want to kill a climber? Throw his line onto the sand and stir it around. It'll look fine, but the microgrit in the lay will destroy that line under repeated load. Worse is when you've taken a shock that deforms the lay of the stands -- that's a compromised line, and what you do is you cut it up and make it into spunyarn, or weave it into mats. You don't bet a ship or a life on it.

So, the idea that you jump, and let a line catch you, to pull the strech out is pure insanity. That stretch is the line's strength, and when you've pulled it out, you've pulled out you saftey margin as well. Synthetic lines are even worse for this -- it's trivial to warm strand by friction to the point where they deform permanently. That's a line that's going to fail, and lines never fail when you aren't counting on them.

I'm not happy the guy died -- but I'm also completely not surprised that he did.
posted by eriko at 6:52 PM on November 24, 2005


That's what got me about "Osman always prestretched new ones with a series of short falls to determine their maximum lengths." By stretching the ropes to their maximum lengths (repeatedly), he damaged them. According to Smith, that damage could be undetectable. To me, this looks like an elaborate variation on Russian roulette.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:59 AM on November 25, 2005


Actually, they fall twice the distance from their release point to the last piece of equipment that holds

Good point!

One thing I'm always amazed at seeing is the trust climbers give to bolt-ladders. There's a point when you're moving from one attachment point to the next that you're secured by just a single bolt. At least free-soloists can judge their body's limits... with bolts you're acting on faith alone.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:43 AM on November 25, 2005


i checked out Alain Roberts's site but all the video links are dead. does anyone have a link to any internet videos of someone doing a solo 5.12 or 5.13? i will read this thread again later to get some dvd recs. if none have been mentioned, any would be appreciated :)
posted by jcruelty at 7:23 PM on November 26, 2005


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