Date of Incident

13/07/2017

Country

Wales

Incident

Swinging leads on Tennis Shoe, my partner dropped a carabiner of nuts from the top pitch, and its landing was not observed. We climb with a double set of nuts, and so we were still sufficiently equipped after this error, that we continued up Lazarus to extend the climb. During this climb, I slipped off while seconding, and minorly strained one ankle which slowed me down a little for the rest of the day. Having gotten back down to our packs with plenty of daylight, and wishing to attempt to retrieve the dropped gear, we also climbed Heather Wall as it would place us at the top of Tennis shoe, from where we could abseil to look for the carabiner of nuts. It was a very slow climb, even for us. Finishing this, we set up the abseil and began our search on the grassy ledges below (the rope was threaded around the tennis shoe boulder, and backed up by nuts on the wall behind). I abseiled, with my partner waiting at the top so as to clean the anchor after I was off the rope. I was unable to locate the dropped gear, and my partner then had a *great* deal of trouble with freeing the rope, spending what felt like an eternity trying. By this point it was getting late in the day, and so I returned to our packs below Heather Wall to retrieve warm jackets and headtorches, and make my way up the 'usual descent' route to assist. While I was doing so, the rope was freed and dropped. As the light was fading, my partner felt uncomfortable with attempting to find their own way off so, I continued up around the descent route to find them, eventually needing the headlamp. I found my partner quite shaken up, a bit cold and lonely, and very glad to see me. We made our way back down to our packs and out to the car by around midnight and home without further ado.

Lessons

This reminds me of The Swiss Cheese concept, an article I read last year... https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/news/the-swiss-cheese/0018025/ where there were a succession of minor incidents, accidents, or just factors which slowly accumulate to lead to an epic, close call, or rescue or worse. For instance:
This climbing partnership didn't move especially fast, one of us is much more experienced at trad climbing and multipitching than the other.
One dropped nut or carabiner wouldn't have inspired the effort to retrieve the larger bundle we lost.
If we had spotted the landing of the gear, we would certainly? have attempted to retrieve it immediately, rather than hunting around later in the day.
A minor ankle injury slowed us down even further.
Headtorches probably saved a call to Mountain Rescue. If we didn't have headtorches (it was the middle of summer when the days are plenty long, who needs a headtorch on a day trip then?), we would have been in trouble. The descent involves scrambling and downclimbing, not easy without light, not much easier if you try to do it holding a mobile phone to light the way. We may have made different decisions if we didn't have headtorches, but it didn't seem like we were going to be pushing the daylight until there was trouble with the abseil rope...
If we didn't have two-way radios, communication would have been difficult or at times impossible, these were also a real life-saver, maybe not just figuratively. We were able to talk through what was happening, and what we wanted to do next, even when completely out of earshot. Luckily, it wasn't windy where we were as wind has the potential to render radios all but useless.

Activity

Trad rock climbing

When

Descending

Injury

No injury

Causes

Darkness, Dropped gear

Anonymous?

Yes

Reported By

Participant

Wearing Helmets?

Yes

Rescue Services Involved?