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Date of Incident

04/04/2022

Country

Malaysia

Incident

We, three, went to climb Freebird on the East Face of the South Dragon’s Horns. The route is a long multi pitch trad route on well creatures granite. The first pitch lies within the jungle canopy and is frequently greasy especially after rain. The first pitch climbs a short steep wall with a crack before gaining a long corner for 15m leading to a short leftwards traverse and the belay. There is a new bolted route being developed on the slabs to the right of the route. The route involves a fair degree of route finding as it’s not climbed very often.

The route is graded at (F) 6a+ for the first pitch and easier after that. All members of the group were well able to lead this grade.

I set off up the first pitch and place a series of runners before making the moves to enter the upper corner. As the rock was greasy I did all I could to dry the holds with chalk and ensure that the top gear placements were solid. The first attempt to enter the corner resulted in a short 2-3m fall onto the gear, which held, though I hit the deltoid bone of my ankle against the rock. My second attempt saw me get up and into the corner, but the rock was greasier than expected and it became a race between getting some gear in or the jam I was using sliding out of the corner. Unfortunately gravity won and I took another 3m fall onto the gear which held. I hit the outside of my ankle again but while it was sore and a ‘bit crunchy’ wasn’t painful. We decided to stick clip one of the adjacent rote’s bolts, using a 5m bamboo pole and I proceeded to climb the slab for 3 bolts before traversing back to the top of the corner. By this time my ankle was becoming noticeably sore and while able to move it up and down, any twisting movements were painful and very crunchy. After climbing another few metres to reach a bolt I decided to lower off as I couldn’t trust my ankle for moves that involved any twisting movements and that we were on the first pitch.

By the time that I reached the ground, the ankle was really swelling up and bruising appearing on the inside and outside of the ankle. We strapped my ankle up to minimise any lateral or twisting movements and shared the gear out between the two other people.

The walk out took 2.5 hours downhill through the jungle, I had 1 hour to sort my kit out ready for a water taxi back to the ferry stop, 3 hours to wait for the ferry, a 2 hour ferry ride and then 30mins drive with one of the group to the local A and E department and finally a 15 min wait to see a doctor. The X-rays there showed no breaks or fractures, but the ankle had swollen by 15cm compared to the other one.

It took 2 weeks to reduce the swelling before any physio could start. After 6 months of physio and exercise I could just start climbing again; 9 months later the ankle is back to ‘normal’ but after heavy exercise still swells slightly and is stiff the next day.

Lessons

Learn how to jam better on greasy rock!
Improved first aid techniques might have secured the ankle better for the walk down.
A slightly larger first aid kit to include better compression bandages and broader sports tape- the thin finger tape is ok for finger joints but not for securing an ankle.

We did have a small first aid kit with us which helped tremendously. We were also aware that any accident would probably require self rescue because the rescue services are non existent and given the location of the accident (close to the base of the cliff, within the jungle canopy), helicopter evacuation (if feasible), would not have been possible.

Activity

Trad rock climbing

When

Ascending

Injury

Serious injury requiring medical treatment

Causes

Slip, trip or fall

Anonymous?

No

Reported By

Participant

Wearing Helmets?

Yes

Rescue Services Involved?

None

Author

Gordon Scott

26 January 2023 at 11:33:49

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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