top of page



Date of Incident







East face couloir


On our final abseil, after two days of abseiling, an abalakov thread pulled through. We had overlooked clipping in the back-up screw with the result that Simon fell about 100m breaking 5 ribs and crushing 2 vertebrae.

We are both very experienced and tiredness/exhaustion was the underlying cause of the accident. Normal tiredness was much exacerbated by us poisoning ourselves on gone-off freeze-dried food during the climb. At the time of the accident we had been on half rations for 4 days and were on our third day with no food at all.

Our 22cm abalakov screw had broken earlier in the trip and we were using a 16cm screw to make the threads. This meant they were thinner than we would have liked. Also we had used up all our abseil tape and were using thin prussic loop cord which probably increased strain on the thread. We had tested the thread with a strong outward pull but that obviously wasn’t a good enough test. That said the ice was rather wet and that should have alerted us to possible weakness. Not clipping the back-up screw into the thread can only be put down to tiredness/exhaustion brought on by lack of food.


The root cause of our problems was food shortage caused by much of our freeze dried food having gone-off. Lessons are as follows:

* Be wary of relying entirely on freeze-dried food. We started the climb with 12 meals, poisoned ourselves when 2 days out from base camp and subsequently concluded that 8 of our 12 meals had gone off. All were within the sell-by date.

* Be very careful when using abalakov threads (particularly with thin cord) in ice which is wet.

* Double check everything .... and always clip in the back-up screw!






Serious injury requiring medical treatment


Abseil point failure



Reported By


Wearing Helmets?


Rescue Services Involved?

Thanks are due to the Tajikistan Committee of Emergency Situations and the Aga Khan agency for Habitat. A helicopter evacuation was not possible so their members walked up to the base of the mountain with food and equipment and assisted us by carrying our kit on the walk out.


Mick Fowler

16 September 2023 at 18:03:36

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. 

bottom of page