On Thursday, March 24, a climber fell 40 feet to the ground while using a Rose Redpoint Descender auto-belay device in the Boulder Rock Club in Boulder, Colo. Eyewitness reports indicate that the device failed as soon as the climber reached the top and let go. Normally, the Rose Redpoint Descender lowers the climber to the ground at 6-feet per second. The victim was reportedly in severe pain and was taken by ambulance to the hospital shortly after the fall; no word on his condition.
Sold by Eldorado Wall Company, the $1,800 device was originally designed for industrial applications (protecting workers). It is manufactured by Rose Manufacturing of Englewood, Colorado, which is owned by MSA (Mine Safety Appliance Company; NYSE symbol MSA). The auto-belay devices have become very popular with commercial rock gyms since a climber can show up without having to bring a belayer or trusting someone they don't know.
The Rose Redpoint Descender uses 1-inch flat webbing and has a superb record of reliability. This is, as far as we know, the only accident resulting from a possible failure of the unit to date. The Rose Redpoint Descender is in no way similar to the auto-belay device that failed due to a snapped wire cable resulting from poor maintenance in a Kansas climbing wall accident three years ago.
For industrial use, Rose offers the Automatic Dynescape Descender, which is essentially the same but uses steel cable. Due to a potential for litigation, nobody was willing to discuss the accident on the record with SNEWSÂ®. Pending the outcome of an investigation, the Boulder Rock Club has removed the failed device and the other five working units the gym owns â€œuntil further notice.â€
SNEWSÂ® View: Our reporter on the scene has relied on this very same auto-belay device countless times over the past few years. It gets heavily used since it is in a high-traffic area (moderate to hard climbs) of the Boulder Rock Club. Whether the descender was somehow improperly serviced, improperly set up, or simply failed as a result of some bizarre quirk, we trust that an investigation will quickly pinpoint the cause and bring a satisfactory resolution to questions that currently cloud the devices' use.