• Climber Dies in Fall From El Cap's East Ledges
  • Fatal Unroped Fall On Easy Terrain - Bear Creek Spire, California
  • Simul-Rappel Goes Tragically Wrong - Reed’s Pinnacle, Yosemite
  • Dropped Haulbag Strikes Climber in Yosemite
  • Rappel Knot Fails, Climber Falls to Death on the Goat Wall
  • Climber Loses Finger Tips in Crack
  • Climber Grabs Draw, Skins Finger
  • Gear Pulls, Climber Decks at Indian Creek
  • Climber Dropped at Instructional Clinic
  • Euro-Death Knot (Flat Figure-8) Mysteriously Fails
  • Mark Davis Dies in Tragic Rappelling Accident at Indian Creek
  • Climber Dies In Fall From Moonlight Buttress, Zion
  • Ice Climber Falls 100 Feet in Banff National Park
  • Ice Climber Falls 100 Feet on Screw and Climaxe
  • Diablo Canyon Climber Dies in 170-foot Fall
  • Climber Breaks Ankle and Back After Fall in the Palisades, California
  • Rockfall Knocks Out Belayer, She Never Lets Go
  • North Carolina Climber Dies in 50-foot Fall
  • Lightning Strikes Twice - Rockfall on the Cassin, Cima Piccolissima
  • Climber Dropped When Lowered in Autoblock Mode
  • Climber Dies in a Fall at Dishman Hills, Washington
  • Climber Falls 200 Feet on the Nose
  • Danger Zones: The Nose - Accidents On El Cap's Most Popular Route
  • Rappelling Accident Leaves Climber Shattered
  • Gunks Climber Raps Off End of Rope
  • Inattentive Spot Leads to Broken Arm
  • Man Survives Fifty-Foot Ground Fall
  • Bolt Breaks, Climber Falls to Death
  • Climber Falls to Death, Apparent Bolt Failure
  • Tragedy on Infinite Bliss - Rappelling Claims Climber
  • Gear Rips, Leading Climber Critical
  • Impaled by a Quickdraw
  • Two Carabiners Break on Leaning Tower
  • Climber Fined For Obstructing Rescue
  • Climber Triggers Rockfall, Kills Two on El Cap
  • Gear Pulls: Grounder at White Rock, New Mexico
  • Death on Capitol Peak
  • Respected Climber Falls 50 Feet and Dies at Cathedral Ledge
  • NPS Chops Bolts: Man Dies Descending Forbidden Peak
  • Not Again: Eldo Climber Raps Off End Of Rope
  • Flake Breaks, Leader Falls, Hits Belayer
  • BUNGLED!: Autoblock Belay Device Misused
  • Fatal Gym Accident
  • Solo Ice Climber Dies in Fall
  • Three Killed in Cairngorms
  • Ice Climber Killed
  • Despite Warnings, Three Injured in Mount Washington Avalanche
  • Four Dead in Scottish Highlands
  • Bolt Pulls Out in the New River Gorge
  • Belayer Drops Climber 70 Feet to Ground
  • Rope Cuts, Climber Dies in Eldorado
  • Belayer Pulls Leader Off Ice Climb
  • Fifty-Footer Rips Three Screws
  • Rope Chopped by Carabiner
  • Climber Falls 140 Feet and Lives
  • Todd Skinner Killed on Leaning Tower Rappel
  • Climbing's Insidious Danger: Rockfall
  • Top Rope Slips Off
  • Rappel Knot Fails, Climber Falls 300 Feet to Death
  • Ice Cave Collapses, Kills Hari Berger
  • Climber Unclips From Anchor, Falls to Death
  • Counterweight Rappel Failure
  • Back Cleaning Results in 150-foot Fall
  • Climber Dies When Rappels Off End of Rope
  • Mouse Attacks
  • Hold Breaks, 60-foot Fall
  • Avalanche Kills Six In Alps
  • Autoblock Belay Failure Causes Fall
  • Rappel Swing Goes Awry, Climber Injured and Rescued
  • Ice Climber Falls Entire Pitch, Dies
  • Climber Comes Unclipped, Falls 140 Feet at Red Rocks
  • Ice climber rides Vail's famous Fang 100 feet when the pillar collapses
  • Two Bolt Hangers Break, Climber Falls
  • Nose-hooked Carabiner Breaks, Causing Ground Fall
  • Bowline Comes Untied, Climber Falls to Ground
  • Rope Burns Through Lowering Sling, Climber Falls to Ground
  • Gear Rips, Leader Hits Ledge
  • 600-foot Ice Climbing Fall
  • Ice Climber Unropes, Slips, Falls 60 Feet
  • Ice Climber Dislodges Ice, Belayer Hit and Seriously Injured
  • Belayer Drops Leader Due to Miscommunication
  • Climber Rappels Off Rope, Dies
  • Leader Rips 10 Pieces on El Cap, Falls 80 Feet
  • Leader Falls, Gear Rips, Belay Fails
  • Video Spotlight
    FOREVER – It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over
    FOREVER – It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: Near Groundfall at Stanage North, U.K.
    Weekend Whipper: Near Groundfall at Stanage North, U.K.
     



    Euro-Death Knot (Flat Figure-8) Mysteriously Fails

    By

    The figure-8 version of the Euro-Death Knot (EDK), far left, might seem more reliable than the overhand EDK, but when the knot is loaded as it would be when it joins two rappel ropes or is tied to make a sling, the load pulls the knot apart (right) causing it to roll or “capsize.” Potentially, the EDK could continue rolling until the knot spills off the end of the ropes.In January, two Colorado ice climbers (who wish to remain anonymous) started up their second first ascent of the day in a secluded and relatively unknown canyon high in the Raggeds Wilderness of Western Colorado. After 25 feet, the leader found the ice too thin for a screw, but continued and found one good screw placement at 75 feet. He got no other pro for the remainder of the 230-foot pitch. With no anchor in sight and out of rope, he had the belayer take him off belay, and the leader continued climbing.

    Desperate for an anchor, the leader spied a stack of shaky looking granite rocks that might be slung. He climbed to it and tested the rock pile by whacking it with a tool, then by tugging. Finding it sound if still suspect, he tossed a 10-foot-long piece of supple 6mm cord around it and tied the ends together with a flat figure-8 knot, a variation of the Euro Death Knot (EDK). He then clipped a carabiner to the sling and clipped the rope through it, intending mostly to down climb and weight the anchor as little as possible

    When he leaned back and weighted the rope (unavoidable for the first 10 feet because of the steepness), he plummeted.

    “I figured the anchor had failed,” he says, “and I was dead.”

    Miraculously, he landed upside-down 15 feet below, in a strip of soft snow pasted into a dihedral. He was uninjured except for two deep vampire-like crampon punctures in a thigh. He climbed back up expecting to find that the rock stack had toppled, but found it still standing. The rappel cord had instead come untied.

    He retied the cord using a figure-8 bend. This time the knot held, and he was able to down climb/lower to the screw, pull the rope and rig a rappel off the screw to the ground.

     
    Analysis

    Many climbers use and love the EDK, believing that it is the best knot for tying two ropes together because of its ease of tying and its low profile, which makes it less likely to snag when pulled down the wall during a rappelrope retrieval. The knot can, however, flip and roll down the rope (known as “capsizing”), and if the knot tails aren’t sufficiently long, the EDK can roll all the way out, coming completely untied.

    While the figure-8 version of the EDK, the one used in this accident, might seem safer than the standard overhand EDK, it is in fact more, not less, likely to roll and untie itself.

    Still, it seems practically impossible that a correctly tied EDK of any kind could fail under body weight. The reasonable conclusion is that the knot in this accident was tied incorrectly. However, the climber says that, “I’m more likely to misspell my name than tie the EDK wrong.” He also says he inspected the knot, and it looked fine and that it was tied the same way as he has done hundreds of times, “with six inches to a foot of tail, depending on the circumstances.”

    At least four accidents (in Zion in 2002; Grand Teton National Park in 1997; Big Cottonwood Canyon in 1995; and Seneca Rock in 1994) with three fatalities have been attributed to EDK failure. Three of these accidents involved the figure-8 version of the EDK; one involved a flat overhand. If indeed this recent accident was caused by an EDK untying itself, it may be a rare instance where the climber survived to tell the tale. The issue warrants more research into the reliability of the EDK.

     
    Prevention

    Every climbing knot has to be tied perfectly every time. There is no margin for error! The EDK in this case may have rolled and continued rolling until the knot was undone, but this is unlikely. Even if this is what happened, the accident was avoidable simply by using a more reliable knot such as a figure-8 bend, which the climber ultimately used.

    Many climbers use the EDK and its figure-8 variation to join rappel ropes. If you use the EDK, use the overhand version, and tie two EDKs in a series on the rope and leave foot-long tails. Even so, there is no reason to use the EDK to tie slings or for rigging a rappel anchor, since just about any other knot is less likely to untie.

    No doubt some climbers will continue to favor the EDK , believing that it is a safe knot if properly tied and dressed, and if left with long tails and backed up. Still, qualifying a knot this way is, to quote one post about the EDK on a canyoneering site, like saying, “The street is safe as long as you wear a bulletproof vest and carry a machine gun.”

    Regardless of the knot, the climber made a fundamental mistake by trusting just one sling with one biner. He had enough cord to cut into two slings, and sling the anchor twice. Even if one knot had come undone, sling redundancy could have prevented the accident. No matter your level of experience, make redundancy a habit. Don’t rely on guardian angels and snowpatches. 

     

    This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 233 (April 2016).

     


     
    FIND MORE ACCIDENT REPORTS HERE

    Reader's Commentary:

    Don't want to use Facebook, but still want to comment? We have you covered:

    Add Your Comments to this article:
    STEPHEN CLAYTON commented on 08-Apr-2016 12:06 PM3 out of 5 stars
    Calling this an EDK failure is misleading and potentially dangerous. I was was climbing last weekend with a friend who, when we joined ropes to rappel the route, tied a flat eight. I asked him about it and he said that he had recently heard about EDK failures and so would use a different knot. Having already read this article myself -likely the same one he had only skimmed or heard about second hand - I tried to explain that the failure was with the flat eight variation and not the EDK. He wouldn't have it and rapped the route. I watched as the knot looked closer and closer to rolling out; I tied a backup above the eight. I fear that this article might lead to further incidents like this and spread misunderstanding which may lead to more failures and accidents.
     
     
     
    Hello