Date of Incident





Cornish Zawn, St. David's Head


What doesn't Kill you ...


Attempting First DWS ascent (second visit to crag for this route). On arrival, we saw there was some swell but worked out an easy escape route up a gully close to the fall zone. Myself and friend had one attempt each, both fell approx. 10m into deep water and climbed out via easy exit point then changed shoes and chalk bags for another go. While changing, swell picked up from 2-3 ft (without us noticing) to 6ft +. I abseiled in to starting ledge and ditched rope and abseil sling/harness. Then noticed swell had picked up to 8ft +. Having committed to abseil, attempted the climb again. Fell off again at about 10m above the water. When trying to climb out, quickly realised that it was impossible to grab a hand hold on the exit point due to extreme water movement so raised a hand as distress signal to my friend who was a lifeguard/surf coach as well as climber. He then had to run around crag from view point, dismantle abseil anchors and move rope to another point approx. 30m across easy slabs. After 10-15 min. He was able to throw a rope to me and eventually, I caught rope and hauled myself out of water and scrambled up to safe point above waves. While waiting for rescue, I had to continually swim into the zawn to fight current taking me out to open sea and also battle with waves breaking over my head every 5-6 seconds. Swell then dropped back to 3ft soon after incident. 2 weeks later, managed to solo the route in calmer conditions (S1 7a).
For photos/video - see vimeo: https://vimeo.com/15525318


1. Check out escape route and back up plan before DWS
2. Dynamic Risk assessment before committing to each attempt
3. Rescue plan and equipment should be in place (e.g. someone with throwline in suitable/secure position in case of difficulty getting out of water (either due to waves or injury)


Deep Water Soloing



No injury




Reported By


Wearing Helmets?

Rescue Services Involved?



Steve Quinton

12 May 2019, 17:30:08

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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.