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Date of Incident

28/01/2022

Country

Wales

Incident

My colleague and I planned to climb up Dolmen Ridge which is a Grade 3 scramble, using ropes etc. The route would take us up onto Glyder Fach and we would walk back down a well trodden path. We expected to be up and down in about 5 hours. My colleague is a Mountain leader and I am a trainee ML. The weather was dry and clear when we walked the 1.5 hours to start of the climb. The rock was damp and it was very cold. We have about 3 years experience of scrambling and rock climbing. We saw 2 other climbers approaching the start of the climb about 15 minutes ahead of us. We started to climb at about 11.30. As we progressed we could hear the other two climbers up above us and were were aware they had started climbing the main buttress which starts on a prominent well known ramp. Somewhere around 12.00 one of them shouted 'Rock below' and a rock did indeed comes flying down towards us in the gully below. As we looked up I heard a 'pinging' sound a saw one the climbers fall head first from the buttress about 60 metres above. I assumed he was on a belay and that his partner would catch him but very quickly realised that he wan't because we could hear the climber bumping and thudding down the rock face into the gully towards us. It was clear that he wasn't caught by his belay partner and he eventually landed in the gulley about 10 metres in front of us. We shouted to his partner to call 999 immediately, which he did. We were with the casualty within minutes and despite attempting first aid it was clear he had not survived the fall. He had massive head injuries with huge blood loss and was unresponsive with no pulse. His climbing partner eventually climbed down to us in the gulley and joined us. We managed to calm him down as it was clear he was in shock and distress. We all tied ourselves into a sling on a good rope spike to make ourselves safe. He showed us that his climbing rope had been cut but couldn't understand why. He said he had been belaying his partner up the buttress and that his partner shouted that he was safe. He heard 'rock below' and took cover which was when his partner fell down past him and then on into the gulley below. He said he locked the belay rope to catch his partner but that it didn't catch him. He believed the rope must have caught on a stone and it had cut it with the weight of the climber falling. I did see a sling and carabiner further up the gulley that had come down with the deceased climber.
Coastguard helicopter attended after about 50 minutes and after assessing left the scene because of low fog and the fact that we were in a gulley. our priority by that time was survival as it started raining, blowing a gale and was freezing cold. We were well equipped to help the second climber by keeping warm with extra layers and putting him in a 2 man bothy bag to keep warm and protected. After about 4 hours a small number of Mountain Rescue team was deployed by helicopter and walked/climbed to our location where they started a rescue/recovery operation. My colleague and me were abseiled down to the base of the climb and welcomed by MRT who gave us food and coffee which was very welcomed. The 2 of us were walked off down to The Ogwen centre where we met other team members and went for debrief and Police statements. The second climber was walked off about 20 minutes behind us. MRT were all finally off the mountain by 2200 having recovered the deceased body.
The second climber did say that this was their first weekend climbing on real rocks together. He said they had met in an indoor climbing centre and had done a 2 day scrambling course last summer in 2021.
I'm aware that the Coroner has opened and closed and inquest and that investigations are ongoing.

Lessons

I am satisfied that my colleague and me were sufficiently equipped with extra layers. waterproofs, hats, gloves and bothy bags, Whistles and spare food. Because of that we were able to give equipment and food to the second climber who was not well equipped. Bothy bag was absolutely worth it's weight in gold that day. My colleague had one of those orange thick plastic survival bags that you can get in too. They are dangerous and could have resulted in someone tobogganing off the cliff face so that's gone into the bin. Mobile phone obviously was essential. OS mapping on the phone was excellent for giving co-ordinates to MRT whilst under immense pressure. Always expect the unexpected is my motto.

Activity

Scrambling

When

Ascending

Injury

Fatality

Causes

Falling rock, snow, ice or object, Hold breaking, Equipment failure, Belaying failure or error

Anonymous?

Yes

Reported By

Witness/Rescuer

Wearing Helmets?

Yes

Rescue Services Involved?

Ogwen Valley and Llanberis Mountain Rescue Teams got us all of the mountain safely and recovered the deceased. Coastguard helicopter unable to assist in any lifting but delivered MRT to base of climb.

Author

14 February 2022, 14:26:33

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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.