Date of Incident
While sport lead climbing on a steep route my shoe heel loop (for assisting putting on shoe) somehow clipped itself into the quickdraw next to it (i.e. the last draw I had clipped). I was unable to continue ascending due to my foot being held in place, yet neither could i downclimb for the same reason and due to the significantly steeper than vertical rock. I had just climbed through the crux which was near limit climbing for me (i had fallen off here on my previous attempt) and thus was very pumped and fatigued, but was not yet able to reach any big jug holds where I could recover. I could just reach the quickdraw above me with my body fully stretched out, which I grabbed with both hands. My memory is somewhat hazy, but I remember feeling that clipping the rope in it was out of the question, probably since I was too pumped to take one of my hands off the draw for long enough, or because of the position I was in, fully stretched out over a steep bulge. The quickdraw was a slim trad style draw which did not offer a good grip given how pumped I was, and with my last reserves rapidly dwindling, I was facing a fall in which I would inverse, pivoting around my trapped foot which could not move, crashing head first into the rock. I was extremely fortunate that another british climber, with whom I had previously made acquaintance, was climbing just above me on the route next door. I shouted for help and she immediately swung down off the rock to remove the quick draw to which my foot was attached from the bolt, and I was able to safely fall. I had previously learned that she worked at a climbing centre, and I credit her and her partner with saving me from a potentially very nasty fall, by reacting so impressively quickly and adeptly to the situation.
Hard to know what concrete lessons can be learned from this. I spent 20 mins afterwards holding my shoe and the draw, trying to clip the loop in without directly pressing it and it felt impossible. I'm very curious to know how often this same incident is known to have occurred, but I imagine it must be pretty rare. A helmet would have certainly made the risk of injury much reduced, however I do not imagine that the possibility of this situation is enough to persuade the vast majority of people who do not habitually wear helmets for sport climbing change their minds - including myself. If the loops were stitched on weakly, so that they could be pulled off with a sharp tug if needs be that would have enabled me to free my foot, but their entire purpose is to be tugged hard to put the shoe on. I have personally taken to tapping the loop shut so that it cannot be clipped, so another solution would be to have tags which are a single ribbon rather than a loop.
Sport rock climbing
Rescue Services Involved?
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.