I was climbing on the newly cleaned north buttress in the gorge. We’d done two HVS’s already and the choice was between fitting in another climb in or heading for dinner. I elected to lead Carlos J G, what looked like a short, well protected layback crack. I got one good wire in on the right and then, reluctantly, what I though was a good no.1 cam in a solid hand jam. I managed to place another very dubious small wire in quite a parallel crack (small enough that I had no cams that would fit) and moved up. I then placed another poor wire in a dubious shallow placement and then finally what I thought was a bomber wire slotted rightwards into a crack (so that I could not see it from straight on). I pulled hard to seat the wire but rather than biting into the crack it flew straight out of the bottom depositing me, back first, on the floor with all three of the pieces of gear (excluding the too low first piece) there with me. I managed to hobble home and after a visit to A&E this morning found out luckily that it is just soft tissue damage and nothing is broken.
With hindsight the lessons I learned are fairly obvious. The most obvious to be more careful seating wires, especially those that you cannot see! However this would have been ok had the gear below not failed. This was the result of moving upwards with dubious gear rather than spending the time to improve it or climbing back down. The crack was awkward to use and I was not comfortable enough to place gear easily but I probably could have improved the cam I placed or placed a better wire just above it. I shouldn't have assumed that I could get better gear above or that I would find a more comfortable stance to place gear from.
You need confidence to climb close to your limit and I was pretty confident I could do the moves required but in this case this led to over-confidence as it wasn’t my failure to do the moves which led to my fall. The fact that the route has had few ascents should have led to a degree of extra caution.
One of the parts of this I find most worrying is the cam. As far as I could tell it was a solid placement (albeit in limestone) in the middle of the range in a parallel crack. It was a 3CU which I worry given the large ridges on the cam lobes give a poor surface area to rock contact. With even more hindsight now it probably wasn’t the best placement and I could have done with some smaller cams!
Trad rock climbing
Slip, trip or fall
Rescue Services Involved?
12 May 2019 at 21:18:55
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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.