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Stewart Green

Italian Climbing Child Prodigy Dies in French Accident

By July 6, 2013

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Tito Traversa, a 12-year-old Italian climbing prodigy, died Friday, July 5, from severe injuries sustained in a ground fall three days before at Orpierre, a limestone climbing area in southern France. Traversa had just led a 5.10d or 6b route at the Sectuer Belleric as a warm-up and was lowering back down the route when eight of the dozen quickdraws failed, dropping him 85 feet to the ground. Tito was rushed to Grenoble University Hospital and put into a drug-induced coma because of a head injury.

The accident and tragic death of Tito Traversa has shocked the European climbing community. The Italian website Planet Mountain called him "a young boy with a boundless joy, passion and talent for climbing." Tito's dedication to climbing was amazing. At age 8 he climbed a 5.13b (8a) route, then a 5.13d (8b) at age 9, followed his first 5.14a (8b+) when he was 10. He has since climbed several more 5.14 routes and had a bright future as a climbing superstar.

The accident happened because Tito used some new quickdraws purchased by another in the group of Italian climbers. The quickdraws were, however, incorrectly put together so that the clipping carabiner on the bottom of the draw was attached only to a rubber keeper loop, what Petzl calls the "string," instead of the sewn full-strength loop. Petzl notes on their website,"The STRING serves two functions: it holds the rope end carabiner in place on the rope end of a quickdraw or sling and it protects a relatively high-wear area of the sling." It is not known at this time who manufactured the failed quickdraws.

Traversa led the route with the new quickdraws, placing four properly assembled ones on the first bolts and then the improper quickdraws on the upper bolts and anchors. No one noticed that the carabiners were not attached to the sewn sling. When Traversa reached the bolt anchors at the top of the sport pitch, he began lowering and the carabiners snapped off the rubber loops on each quickdraw after the anchor draws failed, dropping him to the ground.

Photograph above: Tito Traversa climbing "Je est un autre" at Castillon. Photograph courtesy arch Tito Traversa.


July 7, 2013 at 10:41 am
(1) Rick Thompson says:

Stew, thanks for the details on this very sad accident, the details of which are very disturbing. Jana and I just tried to replicate how the “string” can be attached to the ‘biner, yet not through the end of the quickdraw loop. We couldn’t get the string to stay snugged onto the end of the quickdraw with any amount of force at all, so I have a hard time imagining a rope running through 8 quickdraws and the strings all staying in place at the pitch was lead. I suppose it’s possible, but it sure seems like there might be something else going on here.


July 7, 2013 at 12:53 pm
(2) Joseph Grossman says:

Such enormous sadness. Yet perhaps this terrible tragedy can help to save lives of other young climbers by providing inceased motivation to emphasize safety and an inceased willingness of young climbers to follow caution. For example, perhaps this would be a time to get broader acceptance of helmet use by young climbers who might otherwise be resistant to the idea and to get coaches to more uniformly insist on helmet use.
May the memory of this young light stay with us.

July 7, 2013 at 6:31 pm
(3) Blake Lewis says:

Huge tragedy – so sad.
I’m with J GRossmann about increased safety not just for young climbers but for all. Often when sport climbing, the bottom of the route is a social zone – a focused pre-climb gear inspection protocol (wtih climber & belayer) could help minimize some of these incidents.

July 8, 2013 at 5:52 am
(4) Razvan Badea says:

It is truly a tragedy and my heart goes to all of his close ones. This should never happen.

I imagine maybe it’s a new type of g-string that combines this – http://www.needlesports.com/imagecache/9855a286-7987-4ebd-9489-9f8d00aacff0_500x500.jpg – with the string at the end.

Such a design could conceal the fact that the biner is put only through the string.
I’ve never seen such a string, but i imagine some companies might think of it…

Problems like this have existed with long dynema quickdraws and the rubber rings.

July 8, 2013 at 7:33 pm
(5) Evan B. says:


Here is a good video that could explain the failure above.


July 15, 2013 at 2:56 am
(6) Carol Orth says:

He wasn’t wearing a helmet ? I just read the article in Climbing about the use of helmets.

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