Date of Incident

01/01/2020

Country

Spain

Incident

It was a simple mistake that should not have happened. The route was longer than it appeared, we had cut 10m off the rope to remove a worn area. We had climbed a lot on the crag and were experienced climbers. My belayer was using a new belay device that she was struggling with a bit and there was no knot in the end of the rope. We normally check it but it was missed. Lowered off the end of the rope fell 10 to 15 m onto rocks. Apparently I flipped at the last moment and landed head first. I don't think I free fell the whole distance the bottom of the route slabs out a bit, so would have slowed me down a bit.
Damage done six broken ribs and three hairline cracks in my lumber vertebra. Unconscious for a few seconds. Cut to my head where the helmet cracked. Airlifted to a hospital in Alicante where I spent three days in intensive care and another six days on a general ward.
I am six month later climbing but the incident set me back. I am getting my climbing head back but it is taking time to get over the mental hurdles. Physically I am surprised at how well I have healed with my ribs causing little pain and only slight stiffness in my back.

Lessons

There is one key point that is made time and time again: Always tie a knot, even just an overhand knot, in the end of your rope. Problems on how to get down if the rope is too short can be sorted out but only if you don't get lowered off the end.
Wear a helmet, mine saved my life.
All the other contributing factors would have been dealt with but hitting the ground is really painful.

Activity

Sport rock climbing

When

Descending

Injury

Serious injury requiring medical treatment

Causes

Belaying failure or error

Anonymous?

Yes

Reported By

Participant

Wearing Helmets?

Yes

Rescue Services Involved?

Alicante Fire Brigade Helicopter. People at the crag who helped organise the rescue.

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.