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Date of Incident

30/03/2021

Country

England

Incident

A team of 3 climbers were top roping a route at the end of the day as the last climb before dusk fell.

As the climber ascended, the two climbers at the base chatted.

When the first ascender reached the top of the route, visible on the skyline to the two climbers at the base, including the belayer, he gave a 'thumbs-up' signal.

The belayer interpreted this as 'safe' and took the climber off belay. The climber then shouted down 'Why have you taken me off belay'. The belayer put him back on belay and lowered him to the ground.

Lessons

If the climber had weighted the rope after signalling, he would have fallen the entire length of the route, and most likely suffered severe injury. This was a very close near miss.

Things that should have happened, but which did not:
1. The climber and belayer should have discussed if the climber was going to top out or be lowered. Each had made a different assumption. The belayer thought the climber would top out, but the climber intended to return to the base of the route.
2. The belayer should have checked that the climber was safe before taking him off belay, instead of relying on an ambiguous signal.
3. The belayer should have kept safety uppermost in his mind, instead of allowing himself to be distracted by the other climber at the base.

Activity

Trad rock climbing

When

Descending

Injury

No injury

Causes

Belaying failure or error

Anonymous?

Yes

Reported By

Participant

Wearing Helmets?

Yes

Rescue Services Involved?

None

Author

1 April 2021, 06:57:27

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.