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Date of Incident

22/07/2021

Country

Scotland

Incident

My partner and I are both comfortable multi pitch trad climbing at VS, and have climbed long alpine routes at AD+, however most of our climbing is either in the Lake District or the Alps.

Apart from this incident we had an excellent day out climbing Observatory Ridge and descending the CMD arête.

Around half way up Observatory Ridge, while moving together after pitching the first four pitches, two very large blocks gave way beneath my feet. The blocks narrowly missed my second climber and fell down into Zero Gully with a lot of loud crashing and rock dust, alarming climbers on the North East Buttress. Thankfully there were no climbers in Zero Gully or at the base of the route at the time.

I managed to shout out a warning to those below as the rocks fell. The climbers on North East Buttress called over to make sure we were not injured. The blocks fell as I was stepping up and I already had a hand on the very good holds above, so I did not fall. We had two pieces of gear on the 20m of rope between us so hopefully had I fallen I would have been held.

Lessons

1) Warm weather makes rockfall more likely, we heard other smaller falls during the day.

2) Visually inspect suspect sections of rock and test holds before committing your weight to them in areas that may be loose.

We were moving quickly as we had a long day planned, so it is possible I was not paying enough attention to checking loose holds.

This incident could have caused any number of catastrophes:
I could have fallen several meters onto ledges below.
The rocks could have severed our rope.
My second could have been hit and knocked unconscious, injured or even killed.
Had there been climbers below in zero gully or at the base of the gully they could have been severely injured or killed.

Activity

Trad rock climbing

When

Ascending

Injury

No injury

Causes

Falling rock, snow, ice or object, Hold breaking

Anonymous?

No

Reported By

Participant

Wearing Helmets?

Yes

Rescue Services Involved?

Author

Tom Mullen

22 July 2021, 21:25:03

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.