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.