Category Archives: Accident

Bumble Bee Buttress at Linville Gorge

Bumble Bee Buttress is by far my favorite 5.8 route at Linville Gorge.  The route is 3 pitches of solid 5.8 climbing followed by a relatively breezy 5.5 scramble out.

Like most climbs at Linville Gorge the approach is an adventure in and of itself.  Mostly a third class down scramble with a touch of fourth class to keep you awake.  It took about an hour but that’s mostly because it so gorgeous in the gorge that it is hard to not stop and enjoy the views.

When you get to the base of Bumble Bee Buttress you look up and see an intimidating roof that makes you want to scream “oh God, what have I gotten myself into.”  It took me a while to muster the courage to give it a go but I had faith in my partner Ben and more importantly in Ben’s anchors.

The first pitch is an awesome dihedral that can be tenuous and delicate at times but since the route is obvious it goes pretty quick.  The crux is down low and there isn’t much protection before it.  You definitely want to have a number 3 camalot to slot before you tackle the crux.  Normally I don’t like spewing beta but the crux is almost the mirror opposite of Stone Mountain’s Great Arch only much more balancy.  Have fun.

The first pitch ends right below the roof/nose looking thing.  The guide book doesn’t tell you this but it is a full blown hanging belay on gear.  Somebody before me left a nut at the belay ledge that probably could have been cleaned.  While I was belaying Ben, I decided that they were good Samaritan type people and left it there to help the next party.  After a long pitch there is nothing more relieving than to be able to quickly clip to something solid even if you have no intention of weighting it.  When I cleaned my anchor I left the nut thinking that I’ll need all the Karma I can get.  Note on the anchor: small gear is a must for this anchor.  We found C3s, small C4s and small tricams to be quite handy.

The second pitch is up and around left of the nose/roof thing.  DO NOT go right.  It looks easy but the rock is rotten and it is an all around dirty, nasty line of nastiness.  Hopefully those words were strong enough to discourage you from going that way.

At the top of the second pitch you reach a rather large ledge that is kind of cool to explore if you’re not in a hurry.  Here we had some route finding issues because the route seems to disappear.  It took us a while but Ben figured it out.  Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures but here’s a quick description.

Start from the boulder on the left side of the ledge and trend right towards the left facing block.  Right before the block is your last decent pro for a while so you might want to double up.  Continue trending up and right.  Ben led the pitch and went over the bulge shortly after leaving the block.  On second I took a little more time and traversed five-ish feet further right.  It is a monstrous step/stem but if you can make it the bulge becomes much more manageable.  The route Ben led was much harder than the overall route is graded while the way I took was a solid 5.8.  Either way you go, once you hit the bulge you gotta gun it.

The pro on the third pitch is sparse unless you brought small gear like the .3 & .5 C4s or a trusty pink tricam.

There isn’t much to say about the 5.5 scramble out except it gets dirty and wet and there isn’t a whole lot of pro.

All in all this is a superb climb that I will definitely be repeating.

It wasn’t until the Monday after the climb did I find out that in 2002 Bumble Bee Buttress was featured in Accidents in North American Mountaineering. (link)  I am glad I did not find this out until after the climb.  Climbing is dangerous and demands our full attention.  Have fun and be safe.

New England Maxim Ropes – Poor Quality & Dangerous

New England Ropes just left a comment on a post about their rope recall because I was “misleading the general public”.  A few weeks ago they announced that they had produced some faulty ropes that needed to be recalled because “The climbing lines can break, posing a serious fall hazard for climbers”.  Judging from the comment “Dan” left, the recall was due to a “fiber issue”.

Apparently I was “misleading the public” because I associated my near fatal experience with my New England Maxim 10.2mm rope with the recall of the Maxim Apoge 9.1mm and the 9.5mm Pinnacle.

I have never said that the Maxim 10.2mm rope I was using that fateful day was being recalled.  What I have said in the past and what I am saying now is that New England Ropes (the company) obviously has a quality control problem judging from the recall and in my opinion the New England Maxim 10.2mm is a poorly constructed rope.

The reasons I know that this is a poorly constructed rope:

1) When I took it out of the protective plastic wrap I had to flake the rope 30 or 40 times before it would stop twisting itself into loops.

2) The workability of the rope was almost laughable even after repeated uses.

3) It took a coreshot on terrain that should have just fuzzied the sheath.

4) Terrible customer service and I mean terrible.

After my bad experience with my New England rope I tried to contact them three times and didn’t get any form of reply. No email, no phone call, no nothing.  Now they want to make nice because I am telling people I will never climb with New England ropes again.  Really guys… come on… how pathetic is that.

When I rope up I need to know that my rope is solid.  Your rope is your lifeline and it is just crazy to even have a shadow of doubt about what keeps you alive when the shit hits the fan.

After my bad experience with the Maxim 10.2mm I switched to Mammut’s Genesis 8.5mm doubles and have been thrilled with them.  Granted, they are more expensive but they are worth every penny.

Recall on Maxim Ropes

New England Ropes Recalls Climbing Lines Due to Fall Hazard

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

Name of Product: Maxim Apogee and Maxim Pinnacle Dynamic Climbing Lines/Ropes

Units: About 530

Manufacturer: New England Ropes, of Fall River, Mass.

Hazard: The climbing lines can break, posing a serious fall hazard for climbers.

Incidents/Injuries: None.

Description: Two types of climbing ropes have been included in this recall, the Maxim Apogee 9.1mm and Maxim Pinnacle 9.5mm. The Maxim Apogee 9.1mm is a 48 carrier climbing rope. The colors are yellow and black, and red and yellow. The model numbers are 3411-91 and 3415-91, with date codes 060801 thru 080601. The UPC codes are: 75396312299, 75396312298, 75396312301, and 75396312300. The Maxim Pinnacle 9.5mm is a blue 48 carrier climbing rope. The Model number is 3403-95, with date codes 070201 thru 080601. The UPC codes are 75396312292 and 75396312293. The date codes and the UPC codes are on the original packaging.

Sold at: Retailers nationwide from August 2006 through June 2008 for between $180 and $262.

Manufactured in: United States

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled dynamic climbing lines and contact the manufacturer for a free replacement.

Consumer Contact: For more information, consumers can contact New England Ropes toll-free at (866) 617-9038 anytime or visit the firm’s Web site at

Read my nearly catastrophic run in with New England Maxim ropes. (link)

Peekaboo at Table Rock – North Carolina

The climbing bible of North Carolina describes PeeKaBoo as a one move wonder and without a doubt that one move lives up to the lore. That one move was also the scene of my first climbing scare which made the dangers of climbing ‘real’ instead of ‘potentials’.

There really isn’t all that much to say about the first pitch of the line except that it is long and very exposed to the beating sun. I was unfortunate enough to climb it under a searing mid-September sun without any water. After a full 60m pitch I was out of sweat and was literally baking at the bolted hanging belay.

Soon enough though my partner seconded the route and it was time for the namesake PeeKaBoo move.

The move is a full high step into a swing around. It is 100% committing and just when I made my high step, negative thoughts seeped into my head. I scrambled to find a hand hold that wasn’t there and took my first real fall. Normally a fall on second is no big deal but on this move I can can say without a doubt that it is tremendously more dangerous on second that on lead.

When I fell I had already unclipped the pre-move bolt and because of this I took a vicious pendulum swing. Still, a pendulum fall is normally not that bad but here is the kicker, on the PeeKaBoo move you pendulum around an overhang and the rope drags across the sharp edge of the ledge. So there I was freely hanging on the far side of the a bulge, below an overhang, with a rope that just took a core shot. Yes, I said it, a core shot.

I didn’t have any prussiking gear so my only option was to swing and try to wedge myself in a body width chimney that to my great dismay had no hand holds. I must have swung for ten minutes before I managed to pull an awkward heel hook and find a sloper to hold onto dear life for. With my heart racing I stemmed my way back to the belay and desperately tried to get my head straight. All I wanted to do was to get off that face but my one and only option was to top out.

When I finally got my shit straight I stepped up to the move and found a finger pocket sent from above. I committed and made the step with my Elvis legs at full bore. Cautiously, I swung around with my finger buried in that divine pocket. At the time I wouldn’t have cared if my finger broke in a fall. I was not letting go, period.

The rest of the climb went uneventfully. I didn’t notice the scrapes and bruises I took during the fall, nor did the cotton mouth phase me. The adrenalin coursing through my veins blocked all that. I was singularly focused on getting off that rock.

I know someday I will have to lead this line but right now I am perfectly content with it being at the bottom of my must climb list.

Moral of this story: Protect your second!