Date of Incident

01/06/2012

Country

England

Route

Incident

A year or two into my climbing career, I'd only done a dozen or so abseil retreats. For all but one of them, the decisions I made were the right ones, and I did as much as could to keep myself and my partners safe. For the one which didn't go quite so well, I made one bad decision: I chose to trust a single anchor without properly testing it in order to save some time (retreat from first stance of multipitch route, lowered partner from belay then abseils off a single thread). This was the result of that bad decision:

The rock thread snapped. I fell ~5 metres vertically, landed on my feet on a small grass ledge, crumpled and rolled off the ledge and then proceeded to tumble are over teacup down a steep heather/rock/scree slope. My partner managed to grab hold of a rope to help slow me down, and then secure me to an anchor, but not before I’d fallen 15-20 metres down the slope and took a 2-3m fall, landing head first (luckily with a helmet still on).

While I sustained a few injuries, (two sprained ankles, some torn ligaments, cuts bruises a mild concussion and a damaged vertebrae) the main damage was to my confidence when on a rope. Something which took years to regain.

As a perpetual optimist, I'm thankful I got away with such minor injuries. Had it not been for my helmet, remembering how to break roll and the quick actions of my climbing partner, things could have been a lot worse. It’s no exaggeration to say I used up at least one of my nine lives that day.

Lessons

Wear a helmet. Don’t take shortcuts when abseiling: Knot your ropes. Use an auto-block. Make sure you check your rig and test your anchors.

Activity

Trad rock climbing

When

Descending

Injury

Serious injury requiring medical treatment

Causes

Abseil or rappel failure or error

Anonymous?

Yes

Reported By

Participant

Wearing Helmets?

Yes

Rescue Services Involved?

A&E visit. Mountain Rescue was considered but not used: There was no mobile reception at the crag We climbed a Mod to get back to the main path above the crag (with me essentially being pulled up), with the initial intention of leaving me on the main path whilst my partner went for help. Once there, the adrenaline hadn’t worn off, so with my partner carrying my bag, rucksack supports as a makeshift splint, walking poles for support, and a healthy dose of painkillers we started off back towards the road. Again with the aim of leaving me somewhere easier to rescue, or stopping once we had cell reception. In the end, we were only a mile away from the car when we got reception by which point the painkillers were doing their job so we made it back to the car, without needing to call Mountain Rescue.

Helmet damage

Bruising from torn ligament

Fall