Date of Incident

11/07/2020

Country

England

Incident

The incident happened in the afternoon at Sea Walls at Avon Gorge and involved a drone. 2 teams were climbing on Morpheus and 1 team on sleep walk. 1 team (us) were waiting at the bottom to start the route once there was sufficient space. Two members of the public were watching the climbing and flying a drone. The drone had been seen previously flying at Main Wall. The drone was piloted to above the belay for pitch 3, circa 60m off the ground, around 10m from the wall. It was my partner on the ground who shouted ‘below’ as the only one who able to see the incident unfolding. The pilot then lost control of the drone and it flew straight into the wall narrowly missing the belayer at pitch 3 (this belayer was very clearly a novice and would not have had the skills required to rescue her leader should he have needed it). The drone, having lost two of its four propellers then fell again narrowly missing a leader on pitch 2 and her belayer. Finally it landed no further than 2m from where I was waiting. One of the leaders was hit by falling debris; no injuries were sustained. The two operating the drone appeared to be oblivious of the seriousness of what could have occurred if the drone had seriously injured any of the climbers.

Lessons

1. All participants were wearing helmets which would have significantly reduced the injuries should it have occurred. This must be continuously reinforced as good practice.
2. Flying of drones should be restricted, but not banned, in the vicinity of crags; licensing and training of pilots is essential.
3. No consent had been given by the climbers to be filmed or have a drone flown close to them; signage at Crags reinforcing this must be considered, especially where public access is easy or common.
4. Drone pilots must have public liability insurance in order to fly drones. (Climbers should have public liability insurance for Cheddar Gorge for example).
5. All climbers involved remained calm throughout, which ultimately portrays our community in a good light.
6. It is widely accepted that novices are taken on multi pitch routes, and that the leader or guide is the only competent person on the route able to solve problems. But the incident highlighted the level of literature or instruction that is available to be a ‘Good Second’ is lacking, and would make me re-consider how I instruct novices on multi pitch routes in the future. Is there space in the BMC’s information videos for the ‘good second’? The Climbing Qualification progression before MIA does not include significant levels of instruction on seconding; conversely Military Qualifications do have a seconding / multi pitch element prior to the equivalent MIA qualification can be reached. Food for thought maybe?
7. Queuing. Teams must be aware of the risks of busy routes and queuing and be content with the additional risk that this exposes you to.

Activity

Trad rock climbing

When

Ascending

Injury

No injury

Causes

Falling rock, snow, ice or object

Anonymous?

Yes

Reported By

Participant

Wearing Helmets?

Yes

Rescue Services Involved?

None

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.