Date of Incident

30/06/2019

Country

England

Incident

A family team consisting of a man in his late forties, 19 year old son and daughter who was perhaps a year or two older, arrived beside myself and my climbing partner towards the end of the day.

They selected a route where the top out conflicted with mine. I was already on route and didn't notice until the son was equally high up his route. I didn't say anything as he was looking fairly tired and pumped, and I had a place to step easily to the left and wait until he'd sorted himself out.

He told his father that the last cam he had placed was poor, then slipped and took a small fall onto the cam, which held. He then rested on the gear and gave the next move another attempt. He worked his way a metre or so above his gear before completely losing steam and pumping out, before warning his belayer (his father) that he was going to fall, then falling.

The cam ripped out and he fell roughly 10-12ft directly onto his back onto a boulder. He was conscious and immediately tried to stand but he was clearly in a lot of pain and was moving around in a very uncoordinated way. I knew my gear was solid, so I got my belayer to lower me off my last piece and then phoned an ambulance. He didn't appear to have broken any bones but was very bruised and complaining of back and stomach pain. The father said he was an A&E consultant, so I let him take the lead, but was surprised at his insistence at walking him off the crag. His justification seemed to be that he was concerned that his son had internal bleeding from his liver and that speedy extraction was the priority over spinal injury prevention . I encouraged them to stay put but to no avail. My climbing partner went on ahead to meet the ambulance, and I followed with bags while the father and sister supported the casualty.

The ambulance arrived in the car park at the same time as the injured climber. All three of them went off in the ambulance.

Lessons

1. I don't believe they were very comfortable using the guide book. They were referring to central groove HS as being harder than the one they were attempting due to it being a multi pitch. They also selected a route that overlapped with mine, which if I'm being generous was down to the fact that they hadn't looked at the guide properly. I wonder if they had perhaps got the grading system wrong?

2. The fact that he took a small fall on the bad gear may have given him false confidence in the quality of his placement, despite the fact he had previously warned his belayer that it was bad.

3. Climber appeared to have the 'red mist' in terms of being determined to complete the route, didn't seem to be making good decisions in terms of improving the placement or considering backing off, despite appearing very tired.

4. The belayer seemed reluctant to wait for extraction once I'd called the ambulance. I deferred to him because of his profession , but in retrospect I think he was in a bit of shock. My normal response would have been to then also call dartmoor rescue and wait for extraction.


I think a series of errors contributed to the climber having a ground fall. One factor which would have been hard for them to take in to account without local knowledge is that that route is fairly notoriously hard for the grade and pump y to place gear. Although the gear is apparently good (if you place it).

Activity

Trad rock climbing

When

Ascending

Injury

Serious injury requiring medical treatment

Causes

Route selection and poor gear placement, followed by a fall

Anonymous?

Yes

Reported By

Observer, then called an ambulance and assisted with extraction.

Wearing Helmets?

Yes

Rescue Services Involved?

Ambulance took him to the hospital from shaugh Bridge car park.