My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis

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My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis Chris Harmston 7/16/99 12:00 AM

I think it is time I spoke up publicly.  I have reviewed Dano's rope in
some detail.  My findings and theory support those published by Kevin
Worrall in Climbing (No 183, March 1999, Pg 90).

This statement is mine personally and NOT that of Black Diamond Equipment!
This is obvious as you read below.
 
Irrelevant Background:  
I am a Materials Engineer with BS degrees in Physics and Materials
Engineering and a ME in Materials Engineering (I nearly finished a PhD but
bailed once I learned I did not enjoy being a scientist any longer).  I
know lots about atomic layer semiconductor crystal growth.  I have been
the Quality Assurance Manager for Black Diamond Equipment for 6 years.  My
primary responsibility is the testing and analysis of climbing equipment,
among other stuff.  I have been involved in the ASTM climbing and
mountaineering standards development for the last 4 years.  I investigate
all accidents I hear of involving equipment failure, whether they are BD's
or not.  I review rec.climbing every day looking specifically for posts
related to accidents, gear, misuses of gear, issues about BD, etc.  I, and
others at BD, go out of our way on this news group to publish information
above and beyond what is required by the standards that climbing gear is
designed to (see the recent lame thread on "Gear Safety" which I will not
respond to specifically.  See Karl Lew's web site.  Search under my name
on dejanews for examples).  I do not post to this news group as a general
rule unless I think that posts from various people are specifically wrong
or misleading, as is the current case (in fact I try to avoid posting
because of commercial conflict of interest).  I respond to individuals on
this news group constantly and my comments to these people come back into
this group (see the current RP thread on soldering cable fatigue).  I
respond in detail to individuals who ask me questions, even when they do
not like what BD is about (see recent Camalot threads and failure analysis
associated with this thread).  

Even more irrelevant background:
I have been rock climbing since 1981, and am primarily a trad climber.  I
am a risk taker because I climb.  Climbing IS dangerous and anyone who
thinks otherwise if fooling themselves.  Anyone who climbs is a risk taker
in my opinion.  I climb 5.12 on any rock type (that I have been on) and
style (except offwidth, so far) and have onsighted up to 12c/d.  I climb
WI6 and possibly harder (ice is either hard or easy to me and is my
primary passion).  I climb M8.   I establish new rock, ice and mixed
routes ground up with and without bolts.  I have no aid or alpine
experience.  I weight 190 lbs and take upside-down 40 to 60 footers
without my helmet on.  I have nearly killed myself several times due to
falling off 5.8.  I am a climber, climbing eventually involves falling,
which may very well kill or maim me.  Most people, including myself, would
consider me to be reckless because of how I climb.  I climb for my own
reasons and no one else's.  I don't care what people think about me in
general.  Why Dano jumped off cliffs is his own personal choice that
nobody has a right to argue against, even if he had children in my
opinion.  I certainly have no right to judge his reasons for doing what he
did.  I respect Dano for pushing the limits way way beyond where they had
been previously.  I met Dano twice but did not know him.  I know many of
his friends.

Relevant Background:
My expertise in the analysis of broken climbing ropes is very limited.
This is due to the fact that climbing ropes very rarely break or cut in
actual use.  The only previous experience I have with rope failure
analysis was that of Matt Baxter who died on El Cap several years ago when
his rope was cut by a flake after a carabiner had broken (see dejanews for
more info on this, send a Freedom of Information Request to the NPS-I
recommend you do it for the Dano accident as well and then you can have a
copy of my official report, or look at ANAM).  I have also reviewed
several ropes with sheaths shredded due to the open back regular carabiner
gates in minor axis.  This lack of experience could indicate that my
findings are incorrect or suspect.

I first became involved in Dano's accident when news of Dano's death
spread across this news group with the associated rumors that the NPS
might have purposely cut his rope.  On December 9, 1998 I sent an email to
John Dill (YOSAR director) letting him know of these rumors on this news
group and offered my assistance in the analysis of Dano's equipment.  John
responded back that Yosemite Law Enforcement (YLE) was investigating the
accident and that they had to finish their investigation before I might be
able to see the ropes (they too knew of the rumors of murder and were
investigating this as well I suspect).  As you all should know Dan's ropes
stayed on the wall for over a month and YLE was unable to recover them.
Given the rumors of tampering by the NPS a climber took matters into his
own hands.  He recovered the ropes and sent them directly to BD.  As soon
as I received the ropes I contacted YLE because I was in possession of
stolen federal evidence from an active investigation.  I was told to
return the ropes immediately and reveal the name of the person who sent me
the ropes.  While on the phone with the lead investigator another phone
call came into BD from "someone within YLE" stating that the FBI would be
at BD to arrest me if I did not send the ropes back the next day.  I was
freaking out to say the least.  Meanwhile I looked at the rope in some
detail.  It was melted through.  It looked as if there were the
possibility that someone had hot cut the rope.  When I called YLE back and
told them this they wanted me to conduct my full investigation and allowed
me to keep the rope for two weeks.  No FBI showed up to haul me away.

Analysis:

I only saw the one section of rope that was cut down and contained the
failure point.  I did not see the rigging, retrieval rope, or the section
that was attached to Dan directly.  

Everything I did was visual examination.  I did not untie any knot or
tamper with the rope in any way other than prying the knots to see inside.
With some insight from Doug Heinrich I concluded that the failure of Dan's
rope was not due to tensile overload or from being tampered with.  I
strongly believe that Dan did miscalculate on his last jump.   For some
reason he moved his jump site.  In doing so he crossed the ropes (either
on the retrieval line or on the main jump line).  When he jumped the first
knot above the one he was tied in with slid down a section of rope several
lengths up.  The sheath was heavily melted and removed in several sections
on this upper part of the rope.  The knot that slid down the rope was
melted in multiple locations and was melted nearly completely through,
deep inside the knot.  This knot was not tight, yet others in the system
were (this is the one open question that is unresolved as far as I know).
It is my conclusion that Dan's rope was cut by his own rope sliding
against itself.  Use of a magnifying glass indicated to me that the cut
surface was due to sliding action in one direction.  There was no evidence
of hot cutting with a knife or other type of instrument.  I conducted
further experiments in my lab to see if tensile overload could have caused
this failure.  The samples I tested were significantly different in that
they were heavily frayed and tattered.  My analysis of Dan's ropes in
general was that they were in great condition.  There was no evidence to
me of damage due to previous falls, uv exposure, or weather.  I would have
climbed on these ropes without any hesitation had they not been from this
accident.  I do not believe that the condition of the ropes had anything
at all to do with the failure of the ropes.  Nor do I believe that Dan's
basic shock absorbing setup was incorrect.  Crossing the ropes was the
problem.

I was asked by YLE not to make my findings public until they had finished
their criminal investigation.  They forced me to tell them who sent me the
rope and they pressed charges against this individual (I will have to live
with the fact that I was unable to keep this information confidential).  I
still have not heard back from YLE about closure of this accident and
decided to make my findings public now due to the vast numbers of
misinformed posts relative to this subject.  Maybe my analysis will stop
some of the useless bickering many of you are currently engaged in.  


Conclusions:
What is to be learned from this accident?  NEVER LET NYLON SLIDE AGAINST
NYLON!  You should already know this.

I also know that Dano's rigging setup was reviewed by more than a couple
of technically competent people.  I also know that he tested it multiple
times.  I personally do not think that what Dan was doing (when done
properly as he had done on earlier jumps) was any more dangerous than
modern ice climbers doing hard thin ice routes (like in Maple Canyon and
elsewhere), in fact his setup was most likely safer in my personal
opinion.  Dan's death was a tragedy and an accident.  

Again, this summary is mine personally and not that of Black Diamond.


Chris Harmston (chr...@bdel.com).
Quality Assurance Manager. Materials Engineer BS, ME.
Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.
2084 East 3900 South, SLC, UT 84124    phone: 801-278-5552

DISCLAIMER: Unless otherwise indicated, this correspondence is personal
opinion and NOT an official statement of Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.


My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis Mike Farris 7/16/99 12:00 AM

Chris Harmston wrote:

> I think it is time I spoke up publicly.  I have reviewed Dano's rope in
> some detail.  My findings and theory support those published by Kevin
> Worrall in Climbing (No 183, March 1999, Pg 90).
> <SNIP>

Chris,
Thanks for presenting your analysis and your history of involvement in this
tragedy. This shows how useful rec.climbing can be when used properly.

Mike
mfa...@piper.hamline.edu

My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis Inez Drixelius 7/16/99 12:00 AM
In article <Pine.A41.4.10.9907161012420.40310-100000@blkdia.bdel.com>,
Chris Harmston <chr...@bdel.com> wrote:

> I think it is time I spoke up publicly.


Thank you very much.  Let us hope that this will put an end to mindless
silly bickering, indeed.

Sincerely,

--
Inez Drixelius
Berkeley, California

My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis Undercling 7/16/99 12:00 AM
Dear Chris;
I am sure everyone thanks you very much for your work and for this posting.  It
comes like a warm rain <g>.  

So we now know that accidents can happen to anyone, even those of us safely
tucked away at home.  We know Dan's death had nothing to do with Dan, but the
accidental nature of Life.  And thus, we  know also that he might well have
gone on for years, being D.O., igniting some of us, repelling others,
nonetheless carrying the flame a little further for us all.  

Those of us who have taken the opportunity to psychologize this accident, are
now "found out" for the shallow opportunists they are.  Those of us who opined
Dan's rigging was ignorant, are also now exposed.  And lastly, those who did
not like this Osman style, can go on not liking it, but all of us climbers,
regardless, are surely a little bit better off because Dan Osman was with us
for awhile.

Peter Haan
The Undercling

My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis Elizabeth Anne Sim 7/16/99 12:00 AM
All I want to know is how they are able to make the new super light single
ropes which are thinner than alot of the old  1/2 ropes out there.  

                                                          ,,,,,,,,
                                            .:::.     .;''      '``;.
    ....                                    :::::    ::    ::  ::    ::
  ,;' .;:                ()  ..:            `:::'   ::     ::  ::     ::
  ::.      ..:,:;.,:;.    .   ::   .::::.    `:'    :: .:' ::  :: `:. ::
   '''::,   ::  ::  ::  `::   ::  ;:   .::    :     ::  :          :  ::
 ,:';  ::;  ::  ::  ::   ::   ::  ::,::''.    .      :: `:.      .:' ::
 `:,,,,;;' ,;; ,;;, ;;, ,;;, ,;;, `:,,,,:'   :;:      `;..``::::''..;'
                                                        ``::,,,,::''
                                                                           

My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis Tom Rogers 7/16/99 12:00 AM
Chris, nice response to Dan's rope.

I understand that you thought some of my comments were lame.  I was only
trying to speak generally w/r/t the sources of information that I have
been exposed to there general released information and from a source who
tests gear they sell.  As is obvious I have bought some criticism upon
myself and others.  I should watch my comments more carefully.  

I hope that you did not think I have said anything on rec.climbing which
was gleaned from our correspondence because it wasn't.  My comments were
those of mine and from discussions which fellow climbers and co-workers
and the one testing guy for the gear.

Unfortunately, I do not have enough time to voice a detailed argument to
the group as this form of discourse is very limited in time during the
day.  My experiences here at work are indeed not specifically related to
testing of climbing gear, but my job does involve a great amount of
analysis/planning/setup of complex systems which range from space travel
to fighter aircraft to braking materials in extreme conditions which
after several years one can begin to see weaknesses in "systems" from
abroad without to much detailed review.  This is about the only comment
I would make concerning my initial comments regarding my poorly and
hastly written words to the group at large. I do not mean to suggest
that your company has any weaknesses, only that from my perspective I
have questions which are probalby covered somewhere in some hidden test
report.

Let me further say that I would like to get on the same page, at least
standards wise, with the rope and gear testing community.  I am very
familar with ASME and other standards but, as you know it can be a very
wide and very specific course to cover. If you could suggest to me the
most efficient method of obtaining copies of the most applicable
standards the vendors use in the construction of their climbing gear, I
would greatly appreciate it.  I would also be interested in any tests
which are conducted  outside of the prescribed limit. I understand that
large amounts of testing has been done but unless it is available for
review, people such as myself may tend to speak out of place.  

If there are other standards which are also used but you believe are
weak and overly conservative I would be interested in speaking with you
if you do not mind.

Sorry about the headache to your company I may have inadvertently caused
and to the community at large.

As for my grammar and mis spellings it's just the way it is.

My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis Ken Leiden 7/16/99 12:00 AM

Stefan Axelsson wrote:
>would you (who
>obviously have a grasp of the geometry of the rigging) be willing to
>conclude that it would be very unlikely for a similar scenario as that
>which lead to the subsequent cutting of the rope, to arise when climbing?


My take, fwiw:

The knot slid against the upper rope, generating a great amount of friction
concentrated at the knot.  If he was jumping with one continuous piece of
rope rather than several ropes tied together, it would be very unlikely that
this failure would have occurred as any friction between 2 sections of rope
would have only lasted for a fraction of a second, too short of a time to
cause melting.

So unless your climbing with knots between you & your belayer ...

--Ken


My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis grantm 7/16/99 12:00 AM
Chris, you rock!  Thanks for setting the record straight.  G
My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis Stefan Axelsson 7/17/99 12:00 AM
In article <Pine.A41.4.10.9907161012420.40310-100000@blkdia.bdel.com>,
Chris Harmston  <chr...@bdel.com> wrote:

Kudos Chris, as always. But you know that we expect nothing less from
you... ;-)

>It is my conclusion that Dan's rope was cut by his own rope sliding
>against itself.  

And I really should leave well enough alone, but always eager to
learn; I don't recall a picture in the referenced article (and I don't
have it), and to tell you the truth, I'm having trouble visualizing
the setup. I thought I had an understanding of the rigging involved,
up until that last statement, but alas, now it's seems to have eluded
me.

So not to drag this on any further, but could some kind soul draw a
simple ASCII picture of the setup, especially the "rope sliding
against itself," part? That could be worth a lot of words.

>Conclusions:
>What is to be learned from this accident?  NEVER LET NYLON SLIDE AGAINST
>NYLON!  You should already know this.

Well, since I've indicated that I didn't *think* that there was much
to be learned from this accident, from a climbing perspective, (albeit
with my flawed understanding of the rigging involved) would you (who


obviously have a grasp of the geometry of the rigging) be willing to
conclude that it would be very unlikely for a similar scenario as that
which lead to the subsequent cutting of the rope, to arise when climbing?

Stefan,
--
Stefan Axelsson                         Chalmers University of Technology
s...@rmovt.rply.ce.chalmers.se           Dept. of Computer Engineering
(Remove "rmovt.rply" to send mail.)

My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis (Legal Defense Fund) Ralph Lindenfeld 7/18/99 12:00 AM
Chris-

Have you established a legal defense fund for the guy you narc'ed on?

--
Sincerely,

Ralph Lindenfeld
Ralph Lindenfeld Photography
Phone: (505) 262-2793
Pager: (505) 790-8499
Email: Ralph.C.Li...@alum.dartmouth.org
http://www.unm.edu/~slindenf/ralph

My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis (Legal Defense Fund) Paul Davidson 7/18/99 12:00 AM
> Have you established a legal defense fund for the guy you narc'ed on?

Now that's a low blow.  Given the federal pressure on Chris
and the high profile of his job, did he really have any other choice ?

I nominate Ralph for treasurer of the fund he has proposed
and further motion that he contribute the first $50,000.00

--
  Paul Davidson


My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis Paul Davidson 7/18/99 12:00 AM
Inez wrote:

> Thank you very much.  Let us hope that this will put an end to
> silly bickering, indeed.

Ahhh, Inez, you have to much faith in your fellow wrecks.climbing.

When have facts ever stopped a good flame war ?  The only
solution is to abandon the ng when one's bs quota has been reached.

BTW - out curiousity, regarding your recent post of personalities...
why the fixation with nice tits ?  Not that I'm one to complain
over nice anatomy, visual pleasures are always a treat.
Generally safe, no commitment, no jealousy (if one keeps ones
inner thoughts, inner).

--
  Paul Davidson


My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis (Legal Defense Fund) Michael Riches 7/18/99 12:00 AM
In article <379185...@sprintmail.com> , Paul Davidson
<em...@sprintmail.com>  wrote:


I'll nominate him for asshole of the month........I feel sorry for the dude
that clipped the rope, but his actions were his alone and had nothing to do
with Chris. His actions very well could have implicated Chris in a serious
crime and the consequences could have very well turned out quite a bit
different then they did......Ralph, go screw yourself.....

The Rockrat


My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis (Legal Defense Fund) grantm 7/18/99 12:00 AM
Gee Ralph, what a fine example of humanity you present to us here.  And
thank you for adding all of your personal information to the end of your
post.  I'm sure you'll get some interesting phone calls soon.
Dartmouth, eh?  I see the stereotype is true...  Now why don't you go
back to alt.kiddieporn and leave your idiotic trolls off this n.g.

Get Bent!  Sincerely, G

Ralph Lindenfeld wrote:

<moronic troll deleted>

>
> Sincerely,
>
> Ralph Lindenfeld
> Ralph Lindenfeld Photography
> Phone: (505) 262-2793
> Pager: (505) 790-8499
> Email: Ralph.C.Li...@alum.dartmouth.org


My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis (Legal Defense Fund) Undercling 7/18/99 12:00 AM
Ralph;

re: your <<Have you established a legal defense fund for the guy you narc'ed
on?>>

What a banal fool you are and what a pitiful turkey of a website you have!  Go
back to lurking, if you still feel you must join this NG, as your contribution
is senseless and trite.

The Undercling

My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis JKVawter 7/18/99 12:00 AM
Undercling wrote:

> Dear Chris;
> I am sure everyone thanks you very much for your work and for this posting.  It
> comes like a warm rain <g>.
>
> So we now know that accidents can happen to anyone, even those of us safely
> tucked away at home.

This is not news.

> We know Dan's death had nothing to do with Dan, but the
> accidental nature of Life.

Nothing to do with Dan?? You're suggesting that no matter what he did, this would
have happened.

> And thus, we  know also that he might well have
> gone on for years, being D.O., igniting some of us, repelling others,
> nonetheless carrying the flame a little further for us all.

Now you're saying that he might just as well lived to ripe old age.

> Those of us who have taken the opportunity to psychologize this accident, are
> now "found out" for the shallow opportunists they are.  Those of us who opined
> Dan's rigging was ignorant, are also now exposed.  And lastly, those who did
> not like this Osman style, can go on not liking it, but all of us climbers,
> regardless, are surely a little bit better off because Dan Osman was with us
> for awhile.
>
> Peter Haan
> The Undercling

You're all over the fucking map here. Try summing up your own feelings, not those
of the rest of us.

Here's how I feel: I believed his jumps involved more risk than "normal" climbing.
But after reading this thread, I'm not so sure anymore. I am sure that I'm in no
position to judge him, and I apologize for the personal remarks I made about Dan in
an earlier thread.

JKVawter


My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis (Legal Defense Fund) Robert Fonda 7/18/99 12:00 AM
Yeah, that was rather un-cool. Chris is a highly respected member our
community. If he felt he had no choice, I'm sure he did what he felt he had
to do.

--
r.f

"Gravity is a harsh mistress!" The Tic


My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis Undercling 7/19/99 12:00 AM
JK Vawter wrote earlier:

"I'm not so sure anymore. I am sure that I'm in no
position to judge him, and I apologize for the personal remarks I made about
Dan in
an earlier thread"

apologies expected <g>!

The Undercling


My Dan Osman Rope Failure Analysis Mike Garrison 7/19/99 12:00 AM
Thanks for the report, Chris. It's good to know what really
happened.

Chris Harmston wrote:
>
> I was asked by YLE not to make my findings public until they had finished
> their criminal investigation.  They forced me to tell them who sent me the
> rope and they pressed charges against this individual (I will have to live
> with the fact that I was unable to keep this information confidential).

It wasn't your choice to illegally cut down the rope. I
can't see how you could have done anything other than what
you did.

-Mike