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Date of Incident






Trad rock climbing




Minor injury


Background: Only started climbing again recently after 50 years of not (now age 72). I used to lead Severes. My friend Eric (62), a novice, keen second. Had a good day with a professional to learn about modern gear (bowline waist-tie and a couple of slings and crabs back in the dim distant). Studied Libby Peter’s skills book. So far we’d done a few short climbs on Pembs sea cliffs and one multi-pitch on Milestone Buttress.

Started late (waiting for urgent mail) and very slow walking to the crag due to age and weight of ironmongery! Crag rather damp but everything fine until the hand traverse – which, reading about it, people seem to find amusing especially in the rain, though one or two query DIFF? Realised half way across my nervous feet in B2 boots weren’t going to stay on the smallish footholds, so, time getting on, rigged up foot slings hanging from protection cams – okay! I know it’s not an artificial route – but at the far end only a nut possible and still the hardest move to do. Unable to smear, attempted mantelshelf about 3 times but, with aged arms and the weight of the beer-belly and all that gear, fell off. (Diff – the shame!) The nut (and Eric!) held me and I only fell about 12 feet, bruising and grazing knees, and then he lowered me to the shelf below. Second attempt with an added short sling to help the step up was successful. Rest of climb okay in gathering gloom, but hadn’t read the way down properly and went a very long way round. Walked back in the dark fortunately having torches, but got back very late to the alarm of Sue, our walker friend, who came to meet us, without thank goodness getting the Rescue out. (We had left a note of our route for her.) No mobile signal in The Combe.


I had forgotten that remote mountain climbs, even Diffs, can be serious compared to roadside crags. A broken leg or worse an unconscious leader with a novice second with no serious abseil experience would have been bad news. (No-one else on the crag or in The Combe.)

I underestimated the effect of ageing. And the weight of the rack, which feels like nothing on the hips, but did add to the weight to be held up on the hand traverse and pushed up for the mantleshelf.

I didn’t think about the length of the climb and the time available to do it when we got to the start of the climb, or allow for time-consuming mishaps. Maybe should have bailed out then.

I didn’t memorize the route down and had left the Bible-sized Borrowdale guidebook in the sack at the bottom (along with torches, whistle, first-aid kit, water, etc!) Should have taken a small sack of essentials on a relatively long climb, albeit an easy one.

Anyway, what happened to pocket-sized guide-books?? Phwoar pics of hard men on hard climbs belong in coffee table books, I reckon, not bulking out the essential info.


Slip, trip or fall, Inadequate equipment, clothing or footwear, Old Age, Hubris



Reported By


Wearing Helmets?


Rescue Services Involved?



Nick Heath

15 August 2019 at 15:40:09

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