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Date of Incident

13/08/2021

Country

Wales

Route

Incident

I was preparing to ab down to Fisherman's Point. When I weighted the rope, it popped out of the device - I had failed to clip it. I had firm hold of the rope with both hands and was able to pull myself back into balance and sort it out. I then descended without incident.

I was shocked because I am very wary of abseiling and usually check everything very carefully. Despite this, I somehow failed to spot this error. I have been trying to work out how this happened. It was the fourth day of the trip so perhaps abbing had become a bit routine, and it wasn't an intimidating ab (although the consequences could have been very serious). I think that despite my paranoia about abbing I had perhaps become complacent, and although I checked my setup maybe I didn't do this in a properly structured way.

Perhaps I was already thinking ahead about how best to get over the edge. Also, I use a self-locking krab with a retainer to prevent cross-loading - this had become twisted in the sling and I had to sort this out, which perhaps distracted me from checking the whole set-up properly. Being self-locking also meant I didn't need to check the krab again, but if I had I might have noticed the rope wasn't clipped.

Lessons

Never get complacent about abbing. Always check the system and follow a routine, and then check it again. Don't get distracted by others or by thinking about the next step, focus on the matter in hand.

When setting up the ab, ensure there is somewhere to clip into which allows you to weight the rope before removing your back-up. I had been clipped in to set myself up, but had already removed this to start the ab.

Always use a prusik. Had I not been able to hold myself there is just a chance the prusik might have held me.

Self-locking krabs are great but you still need to check them.

Sweating over this in the small hours I came up with a mnemonic RAPS2 (BRAKES covers setting up an abseil from scratch but this is for personal checks when doing multiple abs on an established descent). It follows a logical sequence from the rope down to the harness.

R is for rope: is it captured by the device?
A is for attachments: is the device correctly attached to the harness?
P is for prusik: do you have one, and is this correctly set up ?
S is for screwgates: are they done up?
2 is for twice - check it again.

Don't abseil on Friday 13th.

Activity

Trad rock climbing

When

Descending

Injury

No injury

Causes

Abseil or rappel failure or error

Anonymous?

No

Reported By

Participant

Wearing Helmets?

Yes

Rescue Services Involved?

Author

Howard

16 August 2021, 13:11:29

For more advice and guidance on good practices visit BMC skills

All reports are self-submitted and have not been edited by the BMC in any way, so please keep an open mind regarding the lessons and causes of each incident or near-miss.