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Date of Incident






On a sunny bank holiday I was photographing my friend climbing at Mother Carey’s from an abseil rope. The tide was coming in rapidly and quite a few groups were on the face finishing their routes. A climber in the cave which is an optional belay on one of the routes shouted to me asking if, from my vantage point, I could communicate with his second- a combination of the sound of the sea and the angle of the rock meant that he was unable to let her know that he’d reached the cave and was going to belay from it. Matters were complicated by rope drag which meant that he could not tell how much rope he had pulled in.

At first I could only see the ropes leading down and out of view but soon I was able to let him know that his partner was climbing the pitch and was actually not too far from reaching his stance. He did not receive this news as cheerfully as I expected and the reason became clear as I saw him hurriedly attach his belay device to the rope- he had not anticipated that his second would have started climbing and, unbeknown to her, she had effectively soloed the pitch!


On multi pitch routes it is vital that you both agree on and practice a form of non-verbal communication with your partner, ie. pulls on the rope, for when you cannot see or hear them. In the case of rope drag making this difficult, always err on the side of caution in terms of having them on belay.


Trad rock climbing




No injury


Communication error



Reported By


Wearing Helmets?


Rescue Services Involved?


27 January 2021 at 08:40:31

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. 

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