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Topic - Is sport climbing safe?

taddersandbadger - on 06 Oct 2012
Now the obvious answer should be "yes" right? This is why we do it , the pro is bomber and its all about the moves... after an "interesting" day down at Portland today I am left wondering...
Having just lead the mid grade "Top 50" route Pregnant Pause, I was enjoying the sunshine while my climbing partner, 2 stone lighter than me and at least two grades the better climber, floated up same said route. All of a sardine, all hell breaks loose and I am joined at the bottom of the crag by a chunk of limestone the size of a (VERY) large telly and my climbing buddy is taking a very memorable whipper having pulled a flake, at least 4 times his body weight, off what I would consider to be a very well travelled route.
Amazingly there were no serious casualties apart from some of our gear that was 'pile driven' into the ground by the boulder when it landed. So after giving myself a stern telling off for not wearing my helmet whilst belaying - not that it would have made a jots worth of difference had I been in the flight path of the mother load, it may well have spared me some pretty nasty injuries from some of the smaller satellites that rained down around me, it then took three of us to roll the flake over and retrieve the remains of our gear (sorry crag swag bandits!) and send it on its merry way down to the sea (having checked the way was clear - of course!).
Needless to say on the drive home there was much debate surrounding the days events. Perhaps we should have avoided Portland after a day of heavy rain, which may have loosened the flake? Perhaps we should have avoided a route with a loose flake? In our defence this one would have been pretty hard to spot as it was more of a slight bulge that formed a narrow ledge as opposed to an obvious flake.
I know there are those that regard the entire Bill as a lump of choss to be given a wide berth, but having spent a bit of time climbing there, I had learned to 'trust' the bulk of it as pretty good but perhaps now I won't see it as quite as "bomber" as I thought it was.....
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