Incident:Abrasions and Lacerations in Deimos Canyon 2018/02/17

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Incident:Abrasions and Lacerations in Deimos Canyon 2018/02/17
Date 2018/02/17
Location Deimos Canyon
Severity No loss
Canyoneering-related Yes
SAR involvement No
Navigation problem No
Environmental problem No
Communication problem Yes
Planning problem No
Skills problem Yes
Body movement problem No
Rigging problem No
Rappel problem Yes
Insufficient gear Yes
Gear failure No


Beginner canyoneer lost control of the rappel by letting go of brake hand falling 60'.

  • Mechanism of Injury: 60' fall, softened by hitting a small ledge partway down and landing on backpack
  • Injuries Sustained: Contusions, small lacerations, abrasions, and swelling to the person's legs, arms, stomach, and head. No major/obvious injury reported.
  • Services/Medical Attention Rendered: Self-administered OTC NSAIDs(unknown dosage) person had brought. Person was able to complete the canyon with no additional medical attention required, but was assisted on downclimbs and significant use of fireman belay on rappel.

Critical Failure: Friction device and method used was not suitable to person's size and stature. Failure of team members to provide fireman belay.

Group dynamics- 1 expert, 1 advanced, 4 intermediate, 1 beginner. Accident occurred with the beginner on Rappel #3-95'. Beginner was approximately late 30's male of larger stature and new to rappelling. Male was not known to the trip leader and a 'friend of an intermediate friend' described as being an avid hiker/backpacker, new to canyoneering, and friend thought Deimos would be a suitable canyon for this person.

Male successfully completed the first 2 shorter rappels of the canyon. On rappel #3, 2 lower-intermediate members rappelled first, then continued to move down canyon- unbeknownst to the rest of the party. Male was using an ATC-XP as a friction device and showed apprehension about having adequate friction on this larger rappel. It was discussed to let him borrow a different device or use alternate friction modes like leg loop carabiner re-direct or z-rig, but it was decided that it might be too complicated for him to try to learn on this larger rappel. The decision was for him to use the ATC-XP with 2 carabiners, a method of giving additional friction to this type of device.

Male was nervous when he started the rappel, and the top team attempted to walk him through it to calm his nerves, but rappeller was out of eye sight quickly. It is unknown whether the rappeller truly did not have adequate friction or if it was a symptom of a newbie not trusting the gear, but male was seen and heard to be exerting significant effort to rappel. About 30' down rappel, male is heard by the top party asking for a fireman belay urgently, with labored breathing. Intermediate group member at the bottom of the rappel attempted to run back to give belay, but could not reach the rope in time and observed the rappeller fall down the rope, bouncing off a small ledge on the way down and landing on his back on his backpack. Rappeller had let go of the rope in exhaustion from effort, possible due to lack of friction or perceived lack of friction. Rappeller suffered abrasions and swelling from the impact on the rock, but otherwise okay. Continued to complete the canyon with assistance on rappels via changing friction device and controlled fireman belay lowering.