Date of Incident

21/09/2020

Country

Wales

Incident

Near miss: We were watching (from the bottom) a team of 2 ascend Tennis Shoe (HS 4b). The second was belaying at the stance in the gully at the start of pitch 4 (30m) whilst the lead approached the recommended belay at the ledge at the start of pitch 5. The lead looked around the ledge for some time and appeared to fail to find the (good) gear placements. The lead then started up pitch 5 (40m) looking for gear placements.

When the lead was around 5m up pitch 5 the belayer was heard to say "low on rope mate" - no names were used. When the rope ran out the belayer proceeded to dismantle the belay and commence climbing without any further (observed) communication to the lead. The lead was still climbing. The belayer was about 5m above the belay when the lead questioned the second and the second told him that he was climbing. The lead then made a belay (unknown as to quality) half way up the pitch 5 slab whilst the second waited (without being made safe).

Based on this it appeared that the team were using a 40m rope ? - which is not long enough for the abseil or possibly pitch 5. It is not known if this was a later issue.

Lessons

1) Define clear and acknowledged communications between you - using names and standard climbing calls or rope signals, especially on busy crags.
2) Belayers should never dismantle a belay unless they are sure that the lead has them on belay (see 1 above).
3) Leads should take more care to understand the route and consider the length of their rope - the lead was heard to say "I thought the belay was further up".
4) Use of walkie talkies on long multipitch routes will mitigate the risk.

Activity

Trad rock climbing

When

Ascending

Injury

No injury

Causes

Belaying failure or error

Anonymous?

Yes

Reported By

Observer

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.