Kanangra Main Incident 23-11-19

Sharing details when things go wrong to make canyoning safer.
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Kanangra Main Incident 23-11-19

Post by Flynny » 26 Nov 2019, 18:36

On the weekend we found ourselves involved ina rescue of another party at Kanangra Main.

I wish the injured person a speedy recovery and hope his party members are not too traumatised. I know it would have shook me up something terrible.

I haven’t put any details of the incident into this my write up as yet. The reason for that is even though we were close by and assisting a lot of it is hearsay and some of the stuff reported on social media already isn’t right. And to be honest it’s not my story to tell. The gist is one of their party took a nasty fall onto the ledge at the bottom of pitch 1

Hopefully when the people involved recover they will be comfortable enough to share the facts as I think there are some good learnings to be had from it. For now I’m just thankful it was a rescue and not a body retrieval and I’m in total awe of the response from the rescue crews

If you want to read my full report on our experience you can do so here https://sleepwhenwearedead.net/2019/11/ ... -expected/

here is so thoughts on things from my perspective about how our group responded

1. Practising self and assisted rescue techniques is essential. Knowing how to do stuff is very different from being able to do it when the pressures on. Being well practised means that when the heat is on things become second nature. Certainly helps keep you calm

2. Stay calm and talk through options before committing yourselves to a course of action that might not be the best one. Your first priority is making sure you are not putting your self in danger or making things more complicated for rescuers. We very nearly committed ourselves to the next abseil. Jamie’s paramedics training and my experience as a workplace responder meant we were able to pull back to discuss our plan and make the much better choice of ascending and approaching from above.

3. PLBs are great but if you can get reception and make a call as well it gives the rescue teams a far better chance of mobilising exactly what they need from the start. (Consider getting a SpoteXe or Inreach between your group of friends). Both our group and the other set off PLBs, interestingly responders stated having 2 units go off at the same location gave them confirmation the situation was urgent and not just someone lost. This somewhat contradicts advice I had previously that you should only set off 1 as 2 is unnecessary and may confuse matters

4. Having a spare safety rope/pull cord/ fiddle stick set up. is a “very good idea”.

5. I’ve always tended to lead abseils on the trips I do, for what ever reason people put their trust in me going first. In the continuing debrief our group is going throu it was suggested by one member that while several of our party are just as proficient at setting anchors and abseiling when it came to rigging haul systems they all turned to me. And so perhaps it would have been better for me to be the safety guy at the top. I had full faith in the people behind me but its definitely something each group should consider. Whose skill set best suits what role in the party?

6. The rescue personnel are bloody awesome

Stay safe out there people. And dig into your pockets or consider donating your time to our awesome rescue teams, SES, VRA as well as the professional services from Police and Ambulance Rescue.

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Re: Kanangra Main Incident 23-11-19

Post by T2 » 23 Feb 2020, 13:08

Flynny has written the following report about this incident, covering details of what took place and lessons that other canyoners can learn from it.


A group of 3 were descending Kanangra Main Canyon via the main wall. After successfully reaching the small ledge at the bottom of the usual R1 they attempted to retrieve their ropes. However, as the tail of the rope passed up through the anchor and began to fall it has become tangled and caught up above them. This ledge is approximately 55m down the 150m cliff face.

The decision was made by one of the party to ascend and attempt to free the tangle so the rope could be retrieved. Approximately 10m up he has fallen back down to the ledge, hitting one of the other party members and taking them both towards the edge. The other party member was clipped to a safety and had her friend on a belay at the time so managed to prevent them both going over the edge.

The person who fell suffered injuries including a fractured ankle, broken ribs and a punctured lung. To add insult to injury he was then bitten by a wasp.

Hearing the calls for help a nearby party assessed the situation and set off their PLB. Not realising this the original party also set off their PLB and a rescue was effected involving Toll Air, Blue Mt Police and Ambulance rescue and Oberon SES

Contributing Factors:
  • None of the party had visited this canyon before.
  • While a third rope was available they decided not to take it with them.
  • There may have been subconscious pressure to stay in front of a larger party who were entering via the Slot.
  • Ascending to free a stuck rope where the other end is no longer controlled is a huge risk and should be last option.
Commendable practices:
  • PLBs were available and used.
  • A member of the other party recognised where the nearest mobile phone reception was and made his way out to contact emergency personnel directly. This allowed for essential information to be passed on to rescue crews such as the exact location and nature of the incident.
  • Parties should carry enough rope to cover 3 x the longest abseil. Either a double-length rope plus a safety backup. Or a single-length rope and pull cord plus safety backup.
  • When working close to edges canyoners should clip into a safety with a dynamic cows-tail type lanyard. This is especially pertinent on multi-pitch.
  • Static style lanyards are fine for preventing falls however if there is a chance you could fall past the anchor the forces generated in arresting the fall are enough to cause serious injury or even melt the lanyard. Lanyards made from dynamic rope help to absorb much of that force.
  • Even if a person is belayed and protected, a fall onto static rope is going to be nasty.
  • Ascending to retrieve a stuck rope where the end is no longer in your control (ie both ends are not still reachable from the ground) should not be considered and all other options of pulling the rope should be exhausted including setting up Z hauls from various angles to attempt to break or free the tangle or cutting the rope where you can and leaving the stuck bit behind.
  • All parties should carry at least 1 PLB. Consideration should be given to devices that also give direct communication capabilities when out of mobile service range. eg. SPOT-X, Garmin Inreach etc.
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User avatar
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Posts: 352
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Re: Kanangra Main Incident 23-11-19

Post by T2 » 23 Feb 2020, 13:21

And just in case you aren't suitably aware of just how lucky the injured canyoner was, here are some xrays showing the large amount of hardware used to screw his broken bones back together.
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