Date of Incident

28/08/2017

Country

England

Incident

I came off Chien Lunatique (HVS 5C) just over halfway up - perhaps 18-20 metres. In view of the missing chunk of arrete from the original route, I'd top-roped it a couple of weeks ago successfully, though not with ease. I thought I'd have a go at leading it, and headed up - not much protection - but didn't move left from the arrete as early as when I top-roped. I put a couple of small wires (no 2 BD Stopper, and similar DMM nut) in before trying to utch up the "missing chunk" enough to get a foot on it and make a tricky move leftwards to gain the larger recess.


See " www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=237199 " for 2013 illustration of problem ... I should have traversed left with my hands at the level of the photo'd climbers feet (as I did when top-roping) rather than trying to get my feet where his are and then traverse. Unfortunately the right foot failed to find stability or grip on the lip, and off I slipped, left side to the slab ... then I was aware of my left leg suddenly wrenching outwards, and I whipped round to head to ground head first, stopping with my helmet a metre or two above the deck pool. My belayer had been unable to stand immediately at the slab base, due to rock pool etc, and was pulled in to the slab and then up the slab - which gave a good dynamic arrest to the fall. I'd had perhaps a couple of metres out from the last protection, and must have fallen nearly 15 metres before stopping - but delighted that all the protection including highest small wire held.Injuries examination - in particular rope burn/cut at left ankle and calf - suggest my left leg had wrapped on one of the double ropes , turning me and wrenching the left leg with assorted injuries including most tiresomely the Grade 2 tear of the left Medial Collateral Ligament ... but no major fractures, and I didn't deck (which would probably have been fatal) !

Allowing for belayer being stood out from the slab face, there was probably 24m of rope out. As my waist ended up at level of belayer's head (as she'd been pulled into and up the slab a bit) fall must have been some 12m of rope, so Fall Factor 24/12 = 0.5

After the fall, I was “in shock”, cold sweats, pain etc etc. “Adrenaline kicked in” but good decision-making and common sense did not. The tide was incoming. The only way off the beach that we knew was up the abseil rope.
Living nearby, I knew that we had no mobile phone signal on the beach – nor indeed for nearly ½ mile even after cliff ascent – and with no guarantee of being able to attract attention for help from the Hartland Quay car park calling Coastguard was problematic, and my wife/partner was very uncertain about ascending the abseil rope without help.
Ater ten minutes or so lying on a rock, with an incoming tide, I hobbled with a very unstable leg some 50metres to our abseil rope ; ascended with difficulty (using both belayer and self-belay equipment {chest Croll and Rocker in this case} , in case I fainted and fell) ; made way along cliff top to the top of Chien Lunatique, set up rope, lowered partner down route to extract gear and note if all was still securely placed – it was ; partner was not confident at top-rope ascending the route at this point, so she made her way back to the abseil bottom, I to top of it, and brought her up. We then packed all equipment and with considerable difficulty walked 1/3 mile to our car ; then 30 miles to A&E.

Lessons

Some of the Lessons learnt:
What we did right:
Wear helmets!
Good gear, placed as well as could have been, and it held.
Abseil rope in place.
Some ascension and arrest devices with us on the beach (Croll and Rocker, on this occasion)
Had a mobile phone with us on the beach (even though in this case we couldn't use it)

What we could have done better:
If the belayer cannot stand at the bottom of the route or simply get to the bottom of the route in an emergency – due to rock pool in this case – consider not attempting that route.
We should have used the emergency services at some stage – cliff top, even if unable to summon them from the beach.
Leave the gear in the route – the gear recovery activities just added a lot of risk, and possibly worsened injuries.
Made sure that BOTH climbers were WELL TRAINED in safe self-ascent of an abseil rope. You never know who might become unable to climb out of a sea cliff.

Activity

Trad rock climbing

When

Ascending

Injury

Serious injury requiring medical treatment

Causes

Route Selection

Anonymous?

No

Reported By

Partner

Wearing Helmets?

Yes

Rescue Services Involved?

None - until A&E Dept ... See Analysis section

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.