/ Near misses and your accidents (no fatalities)
How about you post your own near misses and YOUR OWN accidents? No discussion of fatalities and avoid posting other people's mistakes - post your own.
I'll kick off with mine.
Final bit of gear to protect dirty top out scrabble onto sandy grassy belay. Second said it was unclipped from rope.
I faff a lot setting up belay so I thought maybe it unclipped by in some weird way. I think what really happened is I put in nut & extender, though "thank f###" and did not clip extender to rope. Conclusion: fear/relief induced stupidity may be more plausible than weird rope/caribiner/rock unclipping event.
Put in crappy cam as first bit of pro, traverse slightly then put in second better cam. Removed first cam as I thought it wasn't doing much. Fell off, second cam popped, VERY lucky ground fall - trip to a&e but able to go to work next day with no real pain. Conclusion: that first cam might have held.
I think all problems have been my mistakes. I am the most dangerous thing I am likely to encounter.
Trust me though, I'm not a complete idiot and I've climbed with 10 or 20 people without doing any harm!
I fell 2m on a rocky alpine ridge. A hold snapped off on easy ground. I hurt myself but was lucky, I could have died. It was after 12hrs of climbing and I was probably tired mentally and physically. Hope this helps someone, somehow.
Many years ago, I overestimated the strength of an ice axe belay. When my mate slipped whilst climbing down in to Tower Gap, the belay failed and he took a dive down Glover's Chimney and I took a big swing into nothingness, landing on a ledge below the ridge as our weight equalled out on the rope. We were both a bit shocked, but unhurt and manage to extricate ourselves, but it could have been so much worse.
My first proper winter climb and whilst it did not put me off, it certainly taught me to think more carefully when building belays.
> How about you post your own near misses and YOUR OWN accidents? No discussion of fatalities.
Well, dead people are hardly going to be reporting back from the dead are they?
That would be highly insensitive and in very poor taste.
> That would be highly insensitive and in very poor taste.
I fell 15m down Raven Crag (Langdale) when descending from the top of Centipede. I slipped on a bit of wet grass - I'd changed my climbing shoes for approach shoes at the top, and fortunately I'd kept my helmet on, because when I came to a halt, a tennis ball sized rock bounced off my helmet. I was rather battered and bruised, and a bit scuffed, but fortunately no more than that. I now have a healthy respect for wet grass anywhere near an edge (i.e. I try to avoid it).
For many fatalities there is a surviving climbing partner for whom YOUR OWN accident means somebody else died. Sorry if my original wording or this reply does not make it clear.
Back on topic, have you any events we can learn from?
A bit of both
I forgot to check my partners belay device and after they lowered me I found they were very upset because they had left it attached to a gear loop rather than the belay loop.
Lesson Learned - always do a buddy check
After climbing a new route, onsight, ground up at Fairy Caves Quarry and opting to descend by abseil to retrieve my gear because no one was willing to second up the choss, the rope dislodged a TV sized block above me that missed severing my abseil rope by inches.
Lesson learned, take more care cleaning routes, I should have abbed the line first and crowbarred off the loose blocks rather than the minimal gardening I did on lead forcing my future wife to play space invaders with the falling rocks.
Climbing a roof boulder problem indoors I was pulling so hard on a large jug that it came loose and because of the way I was holding it spun so fast and had enough momentum for the bolt to be unscrewed nearly all the way. If it had fallen off it would have fallen 8' straight onto my face.
I had never worn a helmet while sport climbing at Portland until the day I first saw rocks raining down from the route my partner was climbing, I always wore a helmet after that.
Someone decided to start talking to me while I was getting ready to abseil and distracted me at a key moment. I was stepping backwards off the top of the Dewerstone when I realised that I wasn't actually attached to the rope.
Nobody gets to talk to me when I am rigging things now. If they try I tell them to stop, and start my checklist again from scratch.
> Many years ago, I overestimated the strength of an ice axe belay. When my mate slipped whilst climbing down in to Tower Gap, the belay failed and he took a dive down Glover's Chimney and I took a big swing into nothingness, landing on a ledge below the ridge as our weight equalled out on the rope. We were both a bit shocked, but unhurt and manage to extricate ourselves, but it could have been so much worse.
Holy moly! Very glad you survived. That must have been terrifying!
Having said that, how was it that you came to be belaying for the Gap off a buried axe? There's a big boulder you can sling just before the arete to the Gap - maybe 10 or 15 metres back from the Gap itself, which makes a very scenic belay (see e.g. here: https://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10102591804465481&id=61002384&set=pb.61002384.-2207520000.1527678482.&source=9) not to mention the enormous block directly above the Gap itself which will happily take a 240 sling.
Back in 2013 on a stateside trip, young and foolish me saw some very tempting sandstone rock structures, what started off as an exploration scramble ended up turning into a full on free solo. Without judging any sort of risks/ fall potential (my own naivety) I carelessly roamed around alone on the crag.
As it began to get dark, I began to descend, not remembering which route I took up. As I downclimbed a large chunk of sandstone snapped off releasing me promptly to the ground 15-18 feet below me.
The full force of the fall both my tib and fib, leaving a gruesome compound fracture and my foot hanging on by just my tendons and some skin. No cell service and alone, I was extremely lucky there was a hiker nearby to get me out of shit creek.
One incredible surgeon, 3 months and an insurance bill that would make most people wince, I was back climbing.
I will never free solo again and bouldering does not appeal one bit. It’s taken time, but my confidence in lead climbing is constantly progressing
Things I learnt and do now;
•climb with a rope!
•have taken a WFR Wilderness First Responder course and carry a first aid kit should anything happen to me or anybody around me
•protect myself in anyway possible; always wear a helmet, clip stick if available
•let people know where I’m going
•become aware of risks; I was somewhat blasé in my youth and unfortunately it took such an accident to open my eyes
•always have travel insurance (this saved me so much economical turmoil)
Climb on and climb safe!
Abseiling off a three pitch sport route on the Organ Pipes in Tasmania. Abseiling on a grigri with a doubled single rope threaded through the anchors; a clovehitch is put on a large screwgate on one side of the anchors and you abseil on the other side of the rope. The rope does not pull through because obviously the large biner doesn't fit through the bolts.
Did this fine for two pitches, went through the set up, attached gri gri and leant back. Something felt a little off as I weighted the rope so I pulled back up using (thank god) the other side of the rope. It was then I realised that I was attached to the wrong side of the rope and an attept to abseil would have resulted in a 30m free fall onto the scree below and certain death. Quite how this didn't happen I still don't quite know.
Having corrected the error I abseiled to the ground and sat by myself for a while contemplating what had nearly happened. Now I will only ever abseil with a normal belay plate and a prussik. Its dangerous enough without introducing new systems like the grigri /clove hitch biner. I still get a bit emotional thinking about how close it was. Thank god for the drag in the system!
Why did you exclude fatalities from your OP? I'm sure a Medium could have been engaged to provide some interesting accounts from the other side.......
Younger me went for a bit of a scramble/exploratory climb somewhere on the W face of Tryfan solo. I'd put rock shoes on thank christ but after a lovely 40 or so metres of around Diff climbing I ended up at a bit of an impasse. No worries I thought, and scrambled over to what looked like another easy line. Ended up 70 or so metres off the deck climbing heather, weetabix, "rock", and finding every second hold to be disposable. At one point two of the "footholds" I was standing on spontaneously gave way.
Got to the top and ended up having to sit down for a good hour to get my brain working again. Then traversed round to the N ridge where I found a couple having a massive barny somewhere on the east face so proceeded to rescue them from the precarious position they'd got themselves into.
Half put my harness on when racking up (loose leg loops, buckles not rethreaded). Thought, "it will be more comfortable and I can do it up properly before I set off". Realised halfway up the lead.
Built a semi-hanging belay on a route somewhere on Raven Crag (Langdale), while I was dismantling it (my partner climbed through) I realised that all my gear had been in the same loose flake.
Two 'closest' calls I can remember:
1) Years ago on a badly bolted but easy sport route in Frankenjura, clipped the one or two bolts on route (neither of which would have prevented a ground fall from the top), got to the top and found a 'pigs tail' lower off. Having never encountered one I had no idea how to tread it, faffed around and thought I had it right. As I started to sit back, realised it wasn't threaded properly at all and I would have just hit the ground had I let go.
Conclusion - inexperience and lack of concentration on my part.
2) Climbing on Lundy, abbed into a crag we hadn't planned on climbing at without reading guidebook description (which said leave ab rope in place to allow top out). Partner lead to top and disappeared. Unknown to me then proceeded to scramble up 10m of near vertical mud and wedged in blocks. Relaxing in the sun on the belay ledge I heard a shout and looked up to see a block the size of a microwave come over the top, which exploded a few meters from me. Fair chance it would have killed me had it hit. If leader had fallen when block come out he may well have hit the belay ledge. We eventually got out ok and went to the pub.
Conclusion - read the guidebook. Down climb if topout looks too awful.
Had a couple of other, almost abbing off end of rope, not tieing in properly a few times. Most of the issues have been 'user error' on my part.
Off the top of my head, here are mine:
1) I decided to get on the Wombat (E2 5b), even though I could see from the ground that one of the jugs on the headwall was wet. I thought, it's a jug, It'll Be Fine (TM). It was not fine, once your hands are wet they don't really work on gritstone. I managed to get back to the lip, when both hands slipped off a couple of slopers. Got suspended off my foot in the flake, upside down, for a couple of seconds, then fell, swinging straight into the wall, smashing my leg on the overlap and stopping with my head less than a metre from the deck. Leg was badly bruised but thankfully no lasting damage done.
2) I got on Umbongo (E1 5c), a pumpy E1/E2 in Turningstone Edge at a time when I was really not fit or climbing efficiently. It goes up a 6a-ish boulder problem then traverses right onto an easy arete. I thankfully went straight up (off route) and placed a high cam before doing the traverse. When I got to the very last move on the arete, I experienced complete finger failure on fingerjugs that should not be droppable. Took a massive swing, heels hit the boulder at the bottom, arse and back *just* cleared the boulder, and then drop-kicked my belayer into a spin.
3) This one thankfully did not end in a fall, as that would have been bad. I got on Militant Tendency (HVS) and went off route. I can't remember exactly but either I went too far left or not far left enough on the traverse-y bit. As a result, I found myself a deadly long way off the deck, on a position I could not reverse from, with no gear between me and the ground, no gear visible above, and hard moves. What felt like an eternity later, a friend dropped a top-rope and I went up. As it turns out, the moves up were 5c-ish and there was no gear to be had.
My mate didn’t have a long enough sling to put around the big block on the edge of the gap. As for the rest, probably belayed too far back and didn’t notice the block, general inexperience. There was a lot of snow, it might have been obscured, certain things about that trip are very clear in my memory, others less so.
My worst near miss was getting to the belay ledge on a route on the wall above Idwal Slab. After seconding the pitch, I tied into the belay, the leader took me off and began bringing up the third person on the other rope. I was just about to lean over the ledge to check their progress when I had the good fortune of deciding to re-check my tie in. I hadn't in fact tied a clove hitch and had actually just looped the rope around the krab a couple of times. This averted a 50m fall to my certain death. Lesson learnt - always check your knot.
My worst accident is a mere sprained ankle suffered when bouldering a bit too high on something a bit too hard and missing my pad. Still gives me a bit of pain when foot jamming after a few years. Lesson learnt - don't climb hard boulders without spotters.
Oh my worst accidents are as follows:
Leading Cotton Terror at Anglezarke, placed a few bits of marginal/shite gear but cruised the first bit. Well happy with how easy I found the bottom bit, I got to the chossy overhang. Placed a bomber cam, then pulled on the horizontal flake the cam was in. Flake snapped, my cam came out and I fell 12m or so. Luckily the marginal gear held me enough to slow me down, but stripped the RPs. Walked away with broken ribs, and my wrist had gone all weird. Also had a minor fracture to my skull as I'd chucked the remains of the flakes away from my belayer. It then hit me somehow and wrecked my helmet.
Bouldering at Caley, I slipped off an arete and whacked my ankle. Ouch I thought, but jumped back on even though it was incredibly painful. Then I noticed my shoe was full of blood, as was the mat. Turned out I'd clipped a sticky out pebble when falling that had gouged out a perfectly circular hole in my ankle. Down to the bone. Pretty boaky. This took bloody ages to heal and involved sepsis, daily trips to a GP practise for packing and district nurses visiting me to repack on weekends.
I got lowered off the end of a rope after I'd spent quite a bit of time swinging about stripping routes, swapping from rope to rope, generally just getting on with stuff while losing situational awareness. Belayer was just doing as I asked, my fault, very lucky to walk away from where I landed. Pay attention and think hard when doing the unusual. Knot the end of ab/lowering ropes even when you don't expect to be working anywhere near them.
Dropped someone at the wall. Wasn't paying enough attention, non-assisted device.
Fell and decked. Avoid run out elephant's arse mantles.
Messed up transition from ascending to descending rope in a very serious position after making very broken contact with someone above I'd asked to cut loose the jammed rope I was still climbing then rushing to get off it before they cut me loose too. I was backed up but would have gone 80+m. Don't rush. Think before asking someone to do something likely to kill you!
Spotted my partner about to lean back and ab off the tails rather than down the rope just in time to stop it. Double check things even when you know what you're doing.
Twice had critical pieces of gear unclip from the rope mid pitch. No idea! Put redundant gear in if you can I guess and get your ropes exorcised if they're as evil as mine.
Went most of the height of a crag from a little runout to the chains, missed everything on the way down thankfully. Clipping slack and stretch really adds up even when nobody is doing anything wrong you always go *much* further than you think you will.
Ledge and all the gear fell down under my partner. Don't go back to a route you'd backed off once because it was unstable and all the gear is behind the instability. Lucky escapes both ends of the rope.
Whole crag fell down the night or day after we were working a route on it. I'd noticed quite a bit of movement in the months before but was still of the 'geological time' mindset. Crags can fall down anytime including now.
Nearly lost control of thin new ropes abbing off High Tor without back-up. Match the friction available to the friction needed and back yourself up especially for serious abs.
Slipped off from hands on top of NTBTA at Stanage while relaxing, shaking out and cracking jokes before topping out. It's not over until it's actually over, complacency gets you hurt.
Fell into a narrow undercut zawn with a swell running while deep water soloing, got sucked under roughed up and very nearly drowned. Don't ignore the weather just because you're there and want to climb, the sea doesn't need an excuse to kill you.
A couple of times I've had novice belayers I believed understood the task/instructions do something seemingly mad. People don't admit to not understanding things even when asked and they know it's important, you have to help them carefully.
Thanks for starting this thread.
The first that comes to mind was a mate leading up a gully/chimney sort of route at a crag, with the intention of finding a new route (everything else was way too hard for us). He's about 10m up and calmly asks if I am sheltered. Turns out he'd pulled on a chockstone/boulder in the chimney, but it had come loose. He was bridged across the gully, now with a very large boulder (2x football size, and perfectly round) on his lap pushing him backwards. He said he had about 20 seconds to hold it before he'd have to release it, so I hurriedly move the pile of ropes out of the fall line, and me, and flicked the lead ropes out the way too.
When the boulder came down it smashed fairly substantial trees all the way down the hillside. It was lucky he could hold it, and lucky I had time to move the ropes, otherwise they'd have been shredded and he'd be soloing.
Conclusion: I now always ensure ropes and me are out of the way of the bottom of any route if at all possible. Simple, but worth doing.
Knocked off a route, ice climbing on Ben Nevis, by someone soloing the pitch above who sat down on a ledge when wearing waterproof trousers. The snow was bullet proof neve, and he couldn't get an axe in it to stop. We fell the length of the first pitch to land in a snow drift, stopped by my axe which has gone through a loop in a rope attached to a deadman. This was in the days when ice screws were a curio. Next stop would have been the chasm at the bottom, all the way from the top of Coire na Ciste. Dusted ourselves off and walked up one of the gullies to the top.
Soloing at Craig y Forwen - up a nice layback flake. Just closed my hand around a nice jug made by a hole in the flake, when the edge I was holding in my other hand broke off.
1- Topped out a Stanage on a freezing cold day. Shouted to my belayer that I was safe even though I hadn't set a belay yet. Promptly slipped on some black ice and very nearly went over the edge!
Lesson- you're not safe until you're safe!
2- Climbing at some quarry in the Wye Valley which had tree abseil descents. We both reached the top, had plenty of rope so just tied the ropes together lazily with really long tails. My partner attached ready to abseil, double checked everything, then set off. He only noticed at the last minute he was abseiling down the tails of the rope.
Lesson- ....triple check? I don't know. Don't tie really long tails.
3- Years ago trying to push our grade indoors, a partner and I decided to set up a top-rope on something really hard that only had draws for leading. I rainbowed up clipping the draws and the lower-off. Once on the ground we decided that the rope running through the draws was going to be a pain for belaying on top rope, so my partner said he would climb the route and unclip as he went, to just leave the rope running through the lower-off as a top rope. Off he goes, unclipping, until he gets to the lower-off and starts trying to unclip that too! I screamed at him and he noticed his mistake quite rapidly! We were both very experienced, he just had a moment of complete absent mindedness.
Lesson- Complacancy causes accidents. And always keep an eye on your leader (if they are in sight), the amount of people on the "sitting down belaying" thread who didn't think this was necessary was quite an eye opener. We all make mistakes, look out for your partner, you never know when they might make that one fatal error.
1) Almost dropped a mate when belaying indoors. I used to use a hand-over-hand method to lower people, I accidentally grabbed a nearby top rope instead of his rope and he fell about a meter before I was able to grab his rope again.
Lesson: Since then I have always a hand shuffle method to lower people such that there is no danger of grabbing the wrong rope.
2) Was leading in North wales with an experienced second and a noob 3rd. I had entrusted the second to sort out the third's Harness & knots etc before sending him up the route. Did 4 pitches and started on the abseil descent. Got the 3rd set up on the abseil and as he was weighting it his harness popped open at the waist. Fortunately he had good hold of the ab rope and managed to pull himself back onto the rock but was understandably very shaken. Investigation revealed that he had doubled back his harness through both sides of the buckle and the 2nd had not paid enough attention when instructing him to spot this and I had not double checked it myself.
Lesson: Don't rely on someone else to double check for you when leading a group.
3) About to start and abseil in North Pembroke and began to weight the rope when it pinged out of the belay plate. Turns out I'd only clipped the belay plate into the krab and missed the rope and not noticed. Again fortunately I was holding onto the rope firmly enough to avoid a 20m plummet into the sea with a full rack.
Lesson: Always double check yourself even if you've done it dozens of times and ought to know what you are doing.
Years ago I ****ed up my coordination seconding on an easy layback crack and fell off... would have been fine if belayer had paid attention and taken in some rope but in the event I landed with a clunk on a wee ledge 15 m up the crag, (and about 3m down from where I fell off) result - broken ankle.
> Years ago I ****ed up my coordination seconding on an easy layback crack and fell off... would have been fine if belayer had paid attention and taken in some rope but in the event I landed with a clunk on a wee ledge 15 m up the crag, (and about 3m down from where I fell off) result - broken ankle.
A friend fell off seconding and broke his ankle. Apparently the rope from him up to the belayer at the top was snug as you'd expect, but still had enough stretch that his fall was sufficient to break an ankle on a ledge on the way back down.
Did a 30m sport climb in Australia...
I threaded the belay and tied a figure of 8 on the bight. I clipped the (what I thought was) loop and when I was at the bottom, realised I only clipped the tail end before the last thread. The only reason it didn't fail was that it was an old rope and the friction prevented it slipping. Otherwise it would have been a 30m fall onto rock.
Lesson learnt: climb on old frayed ropes ;)
Leading at the wall, something overhanging F6bish. Pulled up some rope to make the clip, but didn't have quite enough rope to reach it.
I pulled up some more rope (in hindsight, too much) and just as I was about to make the clip, I slipped off. As I started to fall, the excess rope somehow got wrapped round my upper arm.
My belayer held the fall nicely, I probably went about 15 feet, coming to a halt about 6 feet off the deck.
Result - the full impact of the fall got taken by my arm, rather than my harness.
Three injuries for the price of one ensued:
1. As the rope came tight, my arm got wrenched vertically upwards & then the full impact of the fall went onto it- lots of soft tissue damage in the shoulder.
2. The rope garrotted my bicep. There is still a groove in it where the rope cut into it.
3. The rope then ripped off, so I got rope burn all up my arm.
And yes, it hurt like hell.
Lesson - only pull up enough rope to make the clip.
Setting up a top rope at Causey Quarry in Co. Durham I was walking down towards the edge when I tripped on a tree root and plunged head first towards the void. Somehow a flailing hand caught a root at the edge and I slithered to a stop, half my body in space, staring straight into the eyes of my shocked GF about 80' below me. Such a simple accident could have ended my life at 24.
I have also squandered at least five more of my nine lives but that was while caving, driving or motorcycling.
A long time ago climbing with a school club :-
1. Top ropes set up on a small quarry, 10m high. Climbers were clipping into figure 8 knots with screwgates. One particular knot had a really long tail with a stopper knot 10” up the rope from the knot. This slipped down, forming a second loop. Climber clipped into this loop. He fell off at 4-5m up, the stopper knot came undone and he hit the deck. No injury. Lesson - stopper knots tight to the fig 8. Having no stopper would have been safer.
2. Whilst lowering off from top-roping, the climber’s strand got caught in a crack near the top of the crag. The belayer let out loads of slack to free it. The climber jumped away from the wall, the rope came loose and he fell a good distance, nearly to the ground. Lesson - better top rope anchor positioning. Options limited, it was on the prow at Wilton.
And when I first started leading outdoors :
multi-pitch climb, bringing up two seconds on two full ropes that were both the same colour. To simplify belaying for the novice belayer. I just put one strand in the belay plate and placed all the protection on that strand. At the top of the second pitch, I realised I had placed all the gear on the wrong strand. Lesson - I was an idiot.
Took off on my paraglider in good conditions, got about 300' above take-off, (about 600' above the deck.) Looked left, all good, looked right to see....
I'd clipped my right riser into the karabiner gate, rather than the karabiner.
Flew down very very carefully rather than throw the reserve.
It took me four hours plus to stop shaking with fear.
I'm not the only one to do it apparently (not my image.)
When climbing a sport route in Spain, I had to rethread the lower off. Not usually a problem but for some reason I had it in my mind that the rope loop was much the strongest part of the system so thought I would alter my normal procedure. I clipped my sling from the chain to the rope loop rather than into the harness belay loop. While 'hanging' off the sling, I started to undo my tie in knot ....the rope was otherwise just tied tied to a gear loop to stop it being dropped. Obviously, I realised just in time and have better tactics now!
Another school climbing club one: descending from the Cromlech and one of the MOACS on my waist caught briefly in a crack in some broken rock without me noticing, then pulled as I moved on. I pitched forward and nearly took a header down but the teacher behind me caught hold of me and stopped me. Always been very careful about trailing gear of any kind since then.
That is quite a photo.
I'll join you with a non-climbing near miss...
I was windsurfing in beautiful summer conditions that had steadily built up through the day from gentle winds and tiny waves at lunch time picking up to 4m waves and sailing over powered on a tiny sail by the evening. I wiped out in the waves hitting the side of my head on the boom, hard enough to fracture my orbit, but some how (I have no idea how) didn't render my self unconscious.
I had a helmet...it was in the boot of my car...it had been easy conditions when I started that day so hadn't bothered wearing it.
Lesson learned...Helmets only work if you actually wear them!
One I saw, also indoors.
Someone bouldering on something very overhanging, with their chalk bag attached to their harness with a krab.
They fell off, landing flat on their back. The krab, at the time of landing, was at right angles to their back.
The mat absorbed a fair bit of it, but the top of the krab still hit their lower spine very hard. Luckily no long term injuries, but she still screamed pretty loudly & was extremely slow to get to her feet.
Lesson: Tie your chalk on with cord.
> 3- Years ago trying to push our grade indoors, a partner and I decided to set up a top-rope on something really hard that only had draws for leading. I rainbowed up clipping the draws and the lower-off. Once on the ground we decided that the rope running through the draws was going to be a pain for belaying on top rope, so my partner said he would climb the route and unclip as he went, to just leave the rope running through the lower-off as a top rope. Off he goes, unclipping, until he gets to the lower-off and starts trying to unclip that too! I screamed at him and he noticed his mistake quite rapidly! We were both very experienced, he just had a moment of complete absent mindedness.
Had the same thing happen to me. I had led/dogged a steep sport route up to a high point and lowered off before the top. As it was really steep my partner decided to second it work it and we both agreed he would leave the last two clips in. Well he did really well and climbed right through up to the second to last clip. He unclipped the rope and I thought that was a bit dodgy, as now he was top roping off a single clip. However he's an experienced bloke and I assumed (wrongly) because he was doing so well he had taken a calculated risk to carry on. You all know where this is going now - he got to the final clip pretty pumped but still going and nearly took it out before I shouted, which scared both of us to say the least.
Some of my others-
Set up an abseil using some threads in amongst some boulders. They were a fair way apart and we needed to pull the rope so didn't bother equalising them. Leant back on the rope and one blew- luckily the other held. Dropped a fair few metres and then hand climbed the rope fuelled with adrenaline/terror. The thread that blew was full of ivy- it wasn't actually a thread at all. Check your anchors meticulously and equalise them whenever possible.
Climbed a route where the last pitch was clearly described in the book as going through a loose patch. I was belaying, not paying enough attention and had forgotten the guides warning. Caught a good sized block in the shoulder to pay for it. Pay more attention- particularly on loose stuff
4000m+ route in the Alps after first lift. Very nearly fell in bergschrund on the descent. It was far too warm and late and the snow slope was way too soft, it just gave way underneath me at exactly the wrong time. Luckily partner held me- we were short roping of course. Alpine starts are there for a reason and summer mountaineering in the Alps is getting more and more dodgy I think.
Again in the Alps we were descending a glacier and navigated ourselves down the wrong tongue of it close to a large ridge. Not the end of the world really outside of alpine mountaineering but as we got off the glacier and started taking gear off a massive rockfall came down from the ridge 100s metres above and obliterated the glacier where we were 5min ago. Too complacent after having ticked the top.
Nearly walked off the Trinity face of Snowdon at night by using the white arrow instead of the red to follow a bearing. If it doesn't look like a ridge and looks like a steeping scree slope- you're almost certainly not on a ridge.
On a sea cliff- went to a lesser known crag- couldn't make any sense out of the guidebook. Nothing was particularly hard and I was getting annoyed so just wandered up my best guess. 1st pitch was the sort of flaky loose stuff, not too bad, hardly any gear. Could not find a belay so made a bodge job - it was utterly crap. Brought my mate up, I led on. No runners for 35m. If I had fallen I would have killed both of us. It was certainly character building- but I shouldn't of put my friend in that position. When we couldn't make sense of the book I should of called it a day.
Luckily I have never had or seen an actual accident
Whilst working at an outdoor centre I was responsible for running a climbing/abseiling session for a group of youngsters at Lawrencefield in the Peak. There was one other instructor who set up top ropes for climbs and I copped for the abseil, a youth worker from their base came with them as they had some behaviour issues. We used belts with slings in those days so at the start of the session we set them all up and told them not to take them off without an instructor over-seeing the reset up.
I had completed most of the group when this one lad presented himself for the abseil. I went through the clipping in process - abseil krab & safety krab both clipped OK. He launched off the cliff and his belt stripped off. He calmly grabbed the rope and pulled up hand over hand and said the immortal words 'That was close'. It turns out he took off the belt because he needed a pee and the worker had checked his belt afterwards but he had not re-threaded it with the locking third thread.
I recognised that it was my fault for not checking the set up and it was at that point that I decided to move into a more mainstream training job in a lower-risk environment.
On my way up to an ice route at La Grave I was approaching to the top of a 30 min walk-in and just had to walk across a slope beneath a gully which had had a fair bit of snow/ slush (it was the end of March) run down it. It rather smooth and icy. My partner who had steamed ahead of me had left some very shallow steps kicked into this rather slick looking section. As I placed my feet in his old steps I slipped and ended up on my back and picking up speed. With axes on my back and nothing to self-arrest with on this slope I attempted to grab small trees on my way down. Luckily for me the slope turned into more soft snow and after ~80 m I was able to turn on my side and bury my fist and arm in the snow to self-arrest. Excellent, as if I hadn’t already been slow, it was time to re-walk part of the approach again.
My partner who was already at the base of the climb and had seen me walking up a section just before the crossing thought he’d gone mad seeing me walking the same bit again 10 minutes later.
Immediate result: slightly shaken, a bruised ego and an insistance in roping up for the first pitch which we would have otherwise soloed. Could have been a lot worse had there been any bigger trees, rocks or drops (lucky me there weren’t).
Lesson learned: - don’t trust old kicked steps or chuck on some crampons when you aren’t feeling sure
-remember that the danger isn’t only present when climbing.
Walking in the Wicklow mountains after a snow storm. Saw a sign at the top but was plastered with snow so nothing visible. Descended below the snow line and then wondered why there was a little parachute in the bracken. Then realised we were in a firing range.....
I know the op said no fatalities but this one is long enough ago.
> A friend fell off seconding and broke his ankle. Apparently the rope from him up to the belayer at the top was snug as you'd expect, but still had enough stretch that his fall was sufficient to break an ankle on a ledge on the way back down.
That (not a broken ankle, but a hard-ish but short ground fall) often happens to me, being really heavy, as the belayer can't get the rope taut enough when I'm seconding if there is a lot of drag through the gear.
I tend to play the Japanese train driver game, pointing at things to check them each time I'm about to do something, in order to avoid doing something stupid while threading a lower-off. I still have done stupid things, though (primarily ending up on only one bolt which is not great at all).
Alps; short roping the rope caught on a loose rock as I dislodged it the rock dropped onto my girlfriend. Luckily short roping she was only an inch below and the helmet took the impact.
UK Trad; top roping at the local crag on a familiar route it started to rain as a partner started. We retreated into the cave. As he pulled through the overhang it fell off and landed where we had been chatting. Belay out of the fall line.
Abseiling; almost abbed off using a new autolocking device, didn't test it before use. Backed it up with a prussik and it was stiff. Payed out slack and I dropped. Grabbed the higher rope with my left and burnt hand, continued to the bottom. Not disastrous but had to lead HS with one hand to get out as my second wasn't able to lead anything there. Assess all situations as they occur and don't act impulsively.
Approach; girlfriend slipped crossing a glacial slab (rock), could have ended up on the mer de glace 300m below. Luckily the slip was arrested. Be careful or be dead.
Winter; late to the clinb we headed to waterfall gully. It was taken by a few groups so we decided to head to green gully. Crossing the bottom of number 5 stepped off the path being used by guided groups! The slope moved around me and I threw myself back to solid snow. The whole thing was loaded, just as the avalanche forecast said it would be.
Gear; placed a sling repeating an easy climb on a damp day, didn't clip it, pulled round the overhang which was harder than I expected and wondered why the rope was heading straight down to the belayer. Frigged in some gear utterly pumped.
In the early days of my climbing I got to the top of a route, I think it was at stanage and found that most of my gear had fallen out. My belayer didn't tell me because he didn't want to panic me. It was an easy route but I'm not sure if he did the correct thing or not.
At Shipley Glen a non climbing mate came along to have a go and was asking about how secure cams were. To prove how good they were I placed one at waist height and told him to drop back on to it. Turns out there was a hidden fracture in the rock and the cam pulled out bringing a lump of rock with it and my mate ended up on his arse.
Go on, I'll play.
1) poor route recommendation for a friend pushing their grade. Nearly fell off too far above the ground with no gear to speak of. My bad in so many ways. He managed to hold his pop off with one hand on crimps. Too close.
2) my leader at portland, took too much slack on the second bolt, fell as he went to clip. Big yellow bird out to hospital. I thought he'd killed himself. Lucky just a broken arm and shaken.
3) mate bust his knee (ACL) bouldering falling onto two mats, one foot on each mat, which then moved as he landed. Wouldn't have been so bad if I wasn't messing with the camera rather than spotting properly. mountain rescue, ambulance, hospital, 6 months off climbing.
4) some group at huntsman leap, leader goes down, second asks us as passers by if she had the abseil correctly set up, NO! Then we showed her a Prusik, she had no knowledge. What on earth she was doing at that crag abbing in when she obviously knew not enough to be safe, but even more wtf was her leader. He was a prize one.
Besides these, seen pretty much all the minor things and absent minded things people warn about which end up in death if allowed to go to their conclusion. Worryingly so, but avoided the conclusion so far, so must be doing OK with the vigilance.
I slipped on the slabs at the top of Jack’s Rake in the rain, slid down on my face and seemingly held on with my teeth & the newly-produced ballast in my undies.
1. Torquing the axe head in a big pocket on a Grade II, it popped and I flew backwards and down. Much to the amazement of both myself and the second, I landed squarely on my feet, upright, on a ledge a few metres below.
2. Leading a single pitch VS onsight in army boots, a reached the top to discover my harness wasn't properly fastened. Did it up before anyone saw me.
3. Missed a hold and slid to the bottom of the slab. Rolled backwards onto the ground. No harm done. Looked up. Head was a few millimetres from a rock at least as big as me. Helmet for climbing, bouldering and hillwalking from that day forward.
A few near misses - I was about to ab off Avon Gorge on a carabiner brake before I realised I hadn't actually clipped in. Led 1st pitch of Great Slab without bothering with any gear and only a marginal belay - my mate fell off, took a big swing and flipped me over so I was pointing down the slab, hearing the nuts grate in the crack... I still don't know how I survived that one. Got caught out climbing the seracs at the top of the Gervasutti couloir - by the time we decided this was unwise the 55 degree snow at the top of the couloir had turned to bottomless slush - had to inch across it plunging all 4 limbs as far as they would go without toppling backwards.
But my absolute worst nightmare was taking my son, then 8 years old, up Rib and Slab on Carreg Wastad. By an absolute fluke I didn't untie at the top but took an alpine belay at the top of the grassy amphitheatre - poor old Sam slipped in the grass and took a huge pendulum across the crag. Holding him was no problem but if we hadn't still been roped up he would have gone the full height of the cliff. Not a nice thought.
I was belaying a mate of mine while he was resting on a bolt while sport climbing in Spain. I was sat on a rock holding him and as it was a very hot day, another mate had thrown up a water bottle. After having a drink, he dropped the bottle back down.
The bottle was falling right into my lap, so naturally and without thinking I reacted and caught it. With two hands...
Next thing my partner knew he was in freefall. Not sure if it was his squeal of surprise that alerted me, but thankfully I was able to drop the bottle and regain control of the dead rope before he hit the ground.
It was a pretty sobering reminder that a momentary lapse of concentration or even a natural reflex could lead to something catastrophic, no matter how good a belayer you reckon you are. I now try not to hang out directly under my climber if I'm holding their weight, always pay 100% attention if they're resting or tie off the plate and stay well out of the way if gear/water lobbing shenanigans are happening.
Doing my first multi pitch lead on Milestone Buttress. Can’t remember the route but it was easyish with 3 of us.
I led the second pitch and ended up on a bit of a slab with good holds.
There was an instructress there with another novice . She told me to move over. I said I couldn’t as I was shitting myself, so carried on up the easier line. She said ‘I know you are’. Ta duck.
I ended up on a big ledge which led to another pitch which went up through a notch and boulder.
On the ledge I decided that I was going to shit myself, so removed my harness and had a crap, which I hid under a big boulder.
I could hear my mates shouting from below to ask if I was safe, which I now was from soiled kecks. Being a novice leader and due to the close call, I fashioned a belay around the boulder that Id shat under and safely brought up all two.
The experienced climber nearly fell off the ledge when he saw what I’d belayed off, and pointed out that we may have fallen to our deaths. I still have nightmares about my fat mate pulling us all off!
the lesson to be learned is to trust no fecker!
About 18 months ago we were doing some exploratory trekking and trad in the Indian Himalayas. We'd spotted what locked like a great line up a series of approx 40/45m slabs intersected by grassy banks. After successfully completing six pitches of easy, unprotected climbing: six runners in total (not per pitch) and a general lack of anchors, on two occasions in just lay in a depression, we decided to bail.
After spotting a relatively easy descent we proceeded to make our way back to camp. On the way down we came to a rocky outcrop, which looked to be single pitch. I then spotted what looked like a nice line within my capabilities. My belayer had no anchors, he was stood on a gentle slope but a long way off the valley floor (100's of metres).
I set off up a fairly easy slab, but again with very few placements. I got one cam in fairly low down and made the delicate traverse to the crack line I was aiming for. It became steeper than I was comfortable with and "unprotectable". With my only gear at least 10m below me and at least 10m to my left I was unable to commit to the move. Fortunately there was an easy escape traverse to my right, leading to a grassy bank. Then my foothold disintegrated, both feet off the rock, I instinctively grabbed a flake just above my head to the left, just held on but not securely, and had to rapidly readjust my grip before getting my feet back on the rock. I then reversed the line back to safety and a very relieved belayer.
Biggest adrenaline rush and comedown I remember.
After several close calls with rockfall I switched to a gri-gri for belaying sport.
1) Falling off from 50m up and not decking at Wintour's. Burning my belayer's hands pretty bad in the process, but noone broke anything.
2) Falling off from 5m and decking from soloing a short section of over hanging choss at Cherry Hinton (tucking and rolling on chalk scree)
Was rappelling... err abseiling 4 pitches. I was very mindful to not get the knots stuck, and being super careful to make sure I had knots in the tails, as I was conscious at the time of recent accidents from people abseiling off the ends. I was so focused in fact, that I forgot to attach my cowstail to the anchor before I disconnected from the abseil rope. Stood high on a ledge, "safely connected" - it would've been nothing to lean back weight the cowstail. Thankfully I noticed after about 30 seconds. But I try to treat the seriousness of that situation as if I had been killed - because realistically it was just luck that I survived it totally unharmed.
> 3. Missed a hold and slid to the bottom of the slab. Rolled backwards onto the ground. No harm done. Looked up. Head was a few millimetres from a rock at least as big as me. Helmet for climbing, bouldering and hillwalking from that day forward.
Helmet for hillwalking? Not a look I've seen yet!
Good thread...hope this isn't too long:
I was halfway up a 600m route in the Dolomites, and 3 m above a shite belay on chossy rock...it had taken my partner an age to bang in 2 dubious pegs. Suddenly I heard a shout from above...I looked up expecting to see rockfall...but to my horror I saw a climber falling...arms going like windmills I remember...he was going to hit me...I was going to die...then my partner was going to die cos of the factor 2 impact on the dodgy belay. He hit me, but his rope had come tight just before impact, so he "bungeed" me before slamming into the rockface. I fell 7 m & during the fall my knee touched the rock, leaving me with a compound fracture of the kneecap. Incredibly, the belay held...all's well that ends well...helicopter ride and 10 days in hospital and a forever crap knee. My partner and I have 1 peg each from the dodgy belay as keepsakes...The guy who fell on me also had to be helicoptered off with nothing more than a sprained ankle...
Lesson learnt: sadly, a pathological fear of climbing routes with other people on them...and, to borrow a phrase I heard Conrad Anker use, "I don't do sedimentary rock anymore" (Desert Island discs, if memory serves...look it up...it's a corker)...oh, and try REALLY f*cking hard to get a bit of gear in straight off the belay, although in this instance there had been bugger all...
Winter route in the Dolomites, quite inexperienced. On the way up I'd started to undo a knot on a sling to use on a belay, then changed my mind (can you guess where this is going?). On descent, setting up an abseil anchor I put said sling around a spike, forgetting that I hadn't re-set the knot. I clipped into it, leaned back and weighted it to throw the ropes down. Next second I was falling...the knot had given way. Incredibly, I landed on the lip of the drop-off in perfect balance after a fall of around a metre. After we got down the abseil I had a cigarette (I hadn't smoked for about 5 years) and a long sit down til I stopped shaking.
Lesson learnt: focus, focus, focus! As others have said, be utterly clear about when being distracted is not an option. This is my golden rule when tying in...I never chat...I always treat it as a transition moment to a different "me"...a pact with myself to celebrate the fact that I'm still alive and to focus on the climb to come.
In the Dolomites, on easy terrain, I pulled on a rock without testing it...it came off and I momentarily lost balance & regained balance...all over in an instant...that was it...huge rush of adrenaline and I carried on climbing.
Lesson learnt: Test every hold...and..."I don't do sedimentary rock anymore".
Climbing a 6-pitch route on the Index wall in the US...I was belaying up my second...I was (only slightly) mis-aligned twixt anchor and my second, and I had the rope running directly from my belay device to him. Totally without warning, he fell...because I wasn't aligned, I was pulled off balance, and was unable to hold the impact on the belay device. Rope slipped, and I dropped my second (difficult to type this...deep, deep shame). I controlled the fall after about a metre-and-a-half of rope had slipped, suffering significant rope burn and cutting a groove into the flesh of my palm by my thumb. Fortunately my second was fine, albeit rather puzzled about why he'd just had an unexpected flying lesson. Finished the route in excruciating pain.
Lesson learnt: Since then, I always add in a "directional" above me when bringing up a second to ensure an upward pull (or I use guide mode on e.g. a Reverso). I never understimate the impact of a second fall.
Final thought I picked up somewhere on the subject of reading about other people's accidents: "Never, ever, until the day you actually hang your boots up for the last time, fall into the trap of thinking 'this couldn't happen to me'.
So, my list of the 3 biggest "enemies": complacency, distraction...and other climbers...
That reminds me of a similar thing I've done, but I got the rope rapped round my leg, fortunately the only damage I suffered was dented pride.
Thanks. Great post. And very glad you're alive!
Thanks for starting a fantastic thread and for clearly evidencing that UKC posters have no reticence about discussing and learning from mistakes...its just that some of us want to retain a respectful gap following tragedy.
On that sober theme I've watched avalanches sweep past many a climber in Scotland ignoring the obvious posted risk. In my own climbing, falling rocks and ice, have just missed my head where an impact could probably have been fatal. I've tripped and just held on, had handholds break and just held on in potentially fatal and very serious situations. I've been involved in a few life saving rescues and saved partners with automatic responses. I've lost dear friends.
Climbing IS dangerous and the joy we get from it in combination with the risk means we need to treat it with respect, prepare, be efficient and stay focussed. The activity where I've seen the most hospitalised avoidable accident victims is indoor bouldering. The most important lessons I've learnt about risk are more about the climber psychology, especially in safer environments, and controlling exposure to objective risk, than the process or equipment that some climbers here seem to fret most about.
This is a great thread! If we can learn from each other's mistakes then we won't have to make so many of our own...
Here's two of mine, one (mostly) bad luck, the other complacency:
Going for Polyphemus Gully on Lochnagar. We'd climbed fairly steep and somewhat loose snow to the base of the route. I'd kicked out a nice big, solid platform and was gearing up when said platform completely collapsed under me. The next thing I knew, I was sliding down the steep snow slope, with nothing in my hands. The ropes weren't uncoiled yet, so my two partners could only look on in horror as I inexorably accelerated towards the enormous boulder field a long way below, mechanically uttering "F*ck" at regular intervals. Somehow or other, I managed to get knees, elbows and nose into the snow and came to a halt. We regrouped and set off up the route to find it wasn't quite there and ended up having an absolutely wonderful solo romp up Raeburn's Gully instead, which had recently avalanched and refrozen, leaving an immaculate neve slope with a wee bit of ice in the middle and a very amenable cornice. (See e.g. https://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.php?id=255398 and https://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.php?id=255401) Lessons: avoid gearing up in exposed positions; if you do end up doing so, keep your axes very, very close to you in case you need to grab one!
The same winter (yes, unsurprisingly this all happened during my first proper season of winter climbing) we optimistically went in one morning to have a go at Hoarmaster. The route was black though, as was all the other steepish stuff in the corrie. About the only line that looked good was the Milky Way, so we headed for that. Unfortunately, having psyched ourselves up for something hard and instead finding ourselves doing something easy, we became comedically complacent: my pal dropped a glove during the gear up and had the joy of watching it cartwheel all the way to the lochan. I then somehow managed to drop some gear on lead (which I've otherwise never done in my life.) Fortunately, the nuts landed on a ledge 5 or 10 metres below and my pal was able to collect them. We subsequently somehow lost a nut during the gear pack-up at the top. And then the bad thing happened. We wandered over in benign sunlight to 1141 and started walking down the Fiacaill a'Choire Chais. This was all a bit dull, so my partner had the bright idea of ice axe arresting our way down into Coire Cas, and set off down. I, in rather more gung-ho fashion, jumped down the hill after him, counting, no doubt, on plenty of experience doing this sort of thing when winter hillwalking. Unfortunately though, there were at least three things that, in my complacent state of mind, I hadn't considered. Firstly, the snow surface was refrozen and uneven; secondly, I was using an aggressively curved climbing tool rather than a walking axe; thirdly, conditions were lean and, rather than the usual gentle snowy run-out, there was a big boulder field at the bottom. I was about to become closely acquainted with all three facts.
I was initially rather puzzled as to why it felt so hard to get my axe to bite and stay in the snow in the usual fashion. Puzzlement quickly turned to alarm which then became resignation as I accelerated to goodness knows what speed, grimly holding onto the useless axe and waiting for it all to end. (Of course, helmet was in the bag.) And then it did, in the form of the most abrupt halt imaginable, courtesy of a large Cairngorm boulder.
Miraculously, I found myself conscious and without a head injury. And, indeed, sitting up. The pain was a lot less pleasant though: pretty excruciating in my left thigh, and my left elbow didn't feel too good either. But I had a quick feel/move of each and decided nothing was broken, and, while my left trouser leg was ripped to ribbons, there didn't seem to be any blood oozing out the bottom of my trousers or sleeves. In mortal shame, I waved off the ski patrol skidoo that was coming towards me and hobbled to my feet, much to my partner's relief. It must be said that over the next hour I did somewhat regret the decision to decline what would have been a nice ride back to the ski centre as I limped down the mountain.
Once back in Aviemore, we headed to the Happy Haggis and I went to the toilets to inspect the damage. I was most surprised to remove my upper layers and find that, although said layers had been un-punctured at this point, there was a gaping hole at the elbow joint with plenty of bone exposed. The first priority was, of course, getting the fish supper in. And then I needed to drive my pal to a suitable train station to get him back to Glasgow, so I didn't go to minor injuries in Aviemore (who I suspect would have reasonable experience with this sort of thing.) Being a doctor and having worked in A&E, I knew the importance of getting the joint properly cleaned so as to avoid catastrophic intra-articular infection. I also know that small A&Es tend to be staffed only by very junior doctors out of hours (having been one of them!) so in the end I avoided Perth and queued for the requisite Saturday night 3 hours in Edinburgh.
There was no bony injury to the leg, but over the next few days it swelled and bruised to a degree I have never seen equalled in my medical career (which has included caring for the victims of horrendous road traffic accidents in rural Zambia.) The attached foot also swelled massively as a result, making it difficult to get into my B3s for a rather long and limpy outing taking a hillwalking pal up Tower Ridge in sublime conditions two or three days later! (We only had 800ml of water for the whole route on a sunny day as he'd gulped all his by the time we got to the base of the route, not realising how much he was drinking as he was using a Platypus. Another valuable lesson!!) The experienced nurse practitioner and orthopaedic registrar who I was lucky enough to get in Edinburgh hadn't precisely sanctioned this activity, but they had been kind enough to provide me with extra dressings for the elbow should I choose to engage in it. ("If it starts bleeding too much or if any of the stitches burst, just change the dressing.")
Complacency is a dangerous thing. As is assuming that your technical climbing tool's arrest performance will equal that of your walking axe. Never see anyone less than an experienced professional if you have an exposed joint. And if you need to collide with a granite boulder at 40mph, do it with your thigh rather than your skull.
I have since been a lot more careful with "easy" snow slopes.
Long day of sport climbing, maybe 7th or 8th pitch of the day (final) and I'm cleaning the anchor. I untie to thread the two bolts (too small to pass a loop), however I just tied a figure of 8 without actually passing the rope through the belay bolts. I do a quick check of the systems before I lower off and with shock I discover that the belay was not threaded. Two things prevented me from having a serious accident: 1) Careful check before I put my weight on the rope.
2) I remember I was stripping a wondering rope on TR but left the final quickdraw on the bolt before the belay and clipped it into my belayer's rope. If had just unclipped I would have taken a monster fall with all that slack out but not hit the deck..probably, it was a short route!
No matter what now I never ever rush cleaning a route.
> Helmet for hillwalking? Not a look I've seen yet!
Still the simple slip is the major cause of mountain injuries. Many of those involve head injuries. Even worse if a simple slip by a lone walker results in unconsciousness.
I'm really pleased to see this account, because it's very similar to my own experience, and I've never felt too comfortable about discussing it because for a long time I felt like a complete fool. It was Lochnagar, very inexperienced in the ways of snow and ice, and we'd just plodded up the Black Spout. Someone suggested a similar descent method to yours, and I similarly found myself in a situation where my ice axe wasn't doing the job it was supposed. And in similar fashion I hit a boulder and went flying down the hill. I didn't get away in quite such good style as you: the result was a fractured acetabulum, chipped and otherwise damaged knee and a shoulder subluxation. Oh, I had a helmet in my bag too, but I was lucky enough to get away with cuts to forehead and scalp.
Lessons learned: well, I already knew that you shouldn't glissade down a snow-slope you hadn't walked up but took no notice. Why? Peer-group pressure - the others thought it was okay, so I went along with them.
Here is my stab at a summary.
Quite notable in almost all the posts above that decision making is critical. Memo to all - put that as a skill on your CV!
Most safety critical climbing activity takes place between your ears.
It looks like we repeat variations of other people's accidents or near misses so we should make those things obvious to ourselves (perhaps look at the 100+ examples above or read up on it) and worry about that obvious stuff.
Keep an eye on verdicts from formal inquests too.
Also notable that in none of the 100+ examples above does gear break - it pops or it holds but it does not snap.
Gear breakage is so rare you read about them even when it happens in another country.
With the exception of 5kN or less micronuts, has anybody snapped any gear/rope/whatever?
That's my summary which unsurprisingly is in line with my prejudices so what have I got wrong?
Also note I know bugger all about anything bigger than local crags.
Many on ukc must have something less vague and more useful to say as a summary, please do so.
> Still the simple slip is the major cause of mountain injuries. Many of those involve head injuries. Even worse if a simple slip by a lone walker results in unconsciousness.
You make a good point!
I once nearly trod in a dog turd at Hobson Moor.
Clearly poor decision making by the dog, if only it had gone slightly to the left it would have got you.
2 incidents come to mind, one stupid, one bizarre. The stupid one was trying to find a short cut off Beinn Eighe, ending up going down an unknown gully and was standing on a snow bridge peering over the edge to see if it went. Yes, it did-i.e. the bridge gave way and I fell down about 30 feet to land in some soft snow on a ledge. After several fags to sort my head out managed to sneak off via a series of ledges. lesson learnt-don't go prospecting without a lot more circumspection. Second incident was just plain weird. About 3 pitches up Good Friday climb on the ben, first outing for my super shiny wizzy boots. These boots were so wizzy they had a brass pulley type wheels instead of loops, so whatever tension you put on the laces transferred the tension without friction along the entire length of the lace. Imagine my surprise when I stepped up and kicked in for the next foot placement to stub my toe on the ice. Looking down i saw a stocking clad foot, sans boot. Oh dear.The laces had worked loose and the frictionless system meant my foot shed the boot as i stepped up. A bit of one footed down climbing to the belay then a few abseils back to tower gully. Lesson learnt-do your bootlaces up! And don't buy boots like that again.
> With the exception of 5kN or less micronuts, has anybody snapped any gear/rope/whatever?
I've seen a rope get far too close to breaking indoors. My daughter was working a route and spent some time resting on the rope before the crux then she had a go and took the fall and did this a few times. When she gave up and lowered off we saw the sheath on the (nearly new) rope was all the way through and about 1/3 of the core too. The rope had been rubbing against a hold further down the route when she was resting.
Just a wee reminder that in the Equality Act 2010, stupidity is not a protected characteristic.
My 3 worst:
Late 1997 - at Ibrox Climbing Wall. I was very inexperienced and it turned out to be a very cheap lesson. I was about 25 feet up, took out a mile of slack and failed to clip in. Nearly decked out head first! I was lucky my climbing career wasn't finished before it started. I learned a lot from this and it stood me in good stead for almost a decade.
April 2006 - West Gully, Lochnagar. I led the first pitch and decided to belay just above the first steep ice wall. I put a horrendously crap peg belay in and took a direct belay from this. My partner slipped on a 45 degree slope below the ice wall, ripped me off my belay and I took a 25 footer head first. Luckily my 2 good screws held. Again, I learned very important lessons about belaying - I had often previously body belayed from crap anchors. I certainly did not forget to do this afterwards!
Sunday June 19th, 2016 - Intrusion on Fulmar Wall, North Aberdeenshire sea cliffs. This was my only serious accident and hopefully not the type of experience I'll ever repeat. I had just led Albatross Direct (VS) and felt quite good. I had already led and seconded Intrusion over the previous few years. The rock was wet and I went left to avoid the wet rock when I was 17 feet up. A hold broke and I fell on my side. For a few seconds, I experienced the worst imaginable pain. I then lost consciousness with my eyes open! My mate Scott was an exemplary figure of calm as he called for a helicopter rescue and I was choppered out after numerous lungfuls of entonox (which is actually Nitrous Oxide, commonly known as "laughing gas"!) and 3 shots of morphine. I was amazed at the wonderful caring expertise of the folk from the Coastguard Helicopter Rescue Service - I did not feel any more significant pain thereafter (although I needed more morphine for the next 2 days in hospital). Went home after 8 days, when I recalled Renton's classic line from "Trainspotting" ("Heroin makes you constipated...." - I'll say!).
I was fully recovered within 11 weeks - I led "Big Daddy" at Deceptive Wall in early September. I completely shit my kex, but then got it together! I have learned to avoid wet rock and bold and/or obscure routes of VS and above since then and I have very much enjoyed my climbing since then, concentrating on well protected rock (e.g. "Cowardy Custard" at Ballater) and winter climbs in good conditions (e.g. Waterfall Gully on the Ben).
Great idea for a thread - I hope we all learn from each other!
I tucked the waist drawstring thingy of my Ron Hill Tracksters in so that it wasn't swinging around in an annoying fashion.
Unfortunately, and unknown to me, rather than tucking it into the space outside my Y fronts & inside the Tracksters, I had tucked it inside my Y fronts.
At some point, again unknown to me, the drawstring became wrapped around my genitals.
Consequently, when I attempted to pull the Tracksters down at the end of the day, I nearly removed my gentleman vegetables.
Lesson: Don't wear Tracksters.
I badly sprained my ankle falling over on a flat path on the walk-in to our first route in the Calanques. Thought it was broken - ambulance, A&E, crutches, the works. A few years later I broke my leg in three places falling over skiing along flat snow in Chamonix. PGHM, helicopter, hospital, the works.
Lessons learnt? Me and France don't get along. And the bit before the climbing is potentially just as dangerous as the climbing itself!
First on the Isle of Harris, on a crag with a load of loose rock. I was belaying two pitches up under a small overhang, and friend was on third pitch. At some point the ropes shook a little then came tight - all in all underwhelming, considering it turned out my friend had just taken a proper whipper (onto a microwire no less - which held). Then a second later, with no warning, a microwave-sized block came and slammed into the grassy belay ledge right beside me, leaving an impact crater, then continued it's freefall to the bottom of the crag, rolling down the screes and heather to a standstill.
The second was sport climbing; same friend was skipping clips to get through the crux just below the top. He skipped the clip, did the crux, then slipped off on wet jugs by the chain, peeling away. He fell in a massive arc which was aimed squarely at me. I was holding the rope, tucked in, when his feet slammed into my back at high speed. This sent me head-first (no helmet) into the rock. It would have been a pretty bad head injury had there not been a shelf at the base of the crag which kept my head even a few inches from the rock
In the aviation industry, there is a saying along the lines of:
“There are no new accidents, just new pilots waiting to make the old mistakes.”
We have “Human Factors” and “Error Management” training to try and address the many of the same issues discussed in this thread...a surprisingly interesting subject!
> Clearly poor decision making by the dog, if only it had gone slightly to the left it would have got you.
Indeed. I agree with you that most shits tend to fall right of centre.
We had a great winter this year (2018) so I decided to do the CMD arete. However, during the first few months the winds were too strong so I called it off a few times. After using up majority of my annual leave from work I had to wait for April before I tried again. Luckily the mountain tops were still snow and ice capped well into April. So, I made my plans and set off early April. Getting to the summit of CMD was hard work as parts of the snow had softened. Once at the top feeling appreciative of my efforts I headed for the arete. Fifteen minutes into the arete I placed my foot into a foot print from a previous walker. . Unfortunately for me the snow and ice decided to give way and I immediately started to tumble down the right side of the arete. I managed to control my tumble and got into a self arrest position with my ice axe under my shoulder. My arrest was slowing me down, however my axe was just cutting through the snow and ice. It was too steep of a fall and the ice may have been a bit to soft. All of a sudden my axe snagged on one of the many rocks I bounced off on my way down. I'd gone down about sixty to sixty five foot before I came to a jolting stop. I climbed back up and finished the arete. Once I reached the summit of Ben Nevis I took some Ibuprofen and paracetamol then rested for fifteen minutes. My decent down the Ben was bum sliding down the Red Burn which was amazing fun until I realised I'd lost my prescription glasses. Urgh!!!
Luckily, my only injuries were lots of bruising from the bits of rock I hit, muscle strain on an abductor muscle in my groin area and a bit of whiplash from the sudden stop. Nothing some ibuprofen and a bit of rest wouldn't cure. Also, thanks to another climber who found my glasses and this website, I managed to get my glasses back.
All in all, a day out I would have been cursing if things didn't work out well in the end.
> “There are no new accidents, just new pilots waiting to make the old mistakes.”
That sums it up.
With the sole ;-) exception of Ena Sharples' bizarre boot, nobody has invented a new accident or scare.
I've a few involving nearly killing people with rocks.
- At Clifton Crag many years ago, several of us were walking down a steep slope to get to some routes. I leant on a boulder the size of an old large CRT TV, partially buried in the ground - and to my horror, saw it start to roll downhill towards my mate (remember that, John?) I screamed at him, and fortunately he had good reactions - he'd have been paste if it had hit him.
Lesson: never assume anything is solid, especially when there's someone below you.
- On the Patternkoffel in the Dolomites, nearing the top of the Nordgrat, the climbing all but over, I ran a pitch out by walking across a large boulder-covered ledge, to belay on the final ridge above. When I took in the rope to bring up my wife, it caught on a large rock, dislodged it, and sent it hurtling towards her. Luckily it missed.
Lesson: watch what the rope runs across; just because it's easy ground doesn't mean you shouldn't stop and belay before it.
- On a via-ferrata in the Dolomites, on a steep section, some people in front of us knocked down a huge rock, directly at us. It shattered just above us, raining down large chunks, and all we could do was press against the rock and hope. We were lucky.
Lesson: other people are all trying to kill you. Where possible, avoid climbing under them, especially when you're anchored to something which prevents you from taking evasive action.
Overall lesson: loose rock is very frightening; almost all rock has the potential to be loose.
- One more, a different one. Traversing Jebel Rum with my wife, I became ill and started vomiting and having severe runs. We had very limited water with us, and I was soon very dehydrated. By the time we were descending, I was getting dizzy and quite weak.
Abseiling down a steep section, I was just going over the edge when my wife stopped me. I had not fed the rope through my belay device at all, and was simply attached to the rope by my prussik, which I had clipped into a leg loop rather than my belay loop. Would it have held me? Probably, but maybe not.
Lessons: don't drink tapwater in Wadi Rum when you can get hold of bottled water instead. Always buddy-check. Using a prussik when abseiling is a great back-up (see loose rock thoughts above), but don't get distracted. Always be scared when abseiling, there are so many simple things you can do wrong if not paying full attention, no mater how familiar you are with what you're doing.
My most terrifying was one of those errors of omission, with potentially deadly consequence.
After a week or so of alpine bolted mulitpitch and abseil descents we were getting pretty slick and confident, and had our systems for the abseil down pat.
Halfway down the abseils I was the first to the stance. I came off the rope and started going through the drill, untie knot on the end we are pulling through, thread belay, retie knot, chuck down end, sort out fangles in the excess rope that is getting pulled down.
By that time my partner had arrived at the stance, clipped in and we had started to pull the ropes. I was just about to lean back on the chains and check the fall line for the ropes when I had a sudden awareness that something was amiss, and just froze while i worked out what. I hadn't clipped my sling into the belay and had spent the last 3 minutes sorting the abseils etc whilst happily stood on a sloping 2ft ledge 150m above the valley floor.
Be very, very circumspect abseiling, or anytime you are reliant on a single anchor, and always check check and recheck.
Other close calls that fit in the objective danger category, but this is the one that fits in the gut-wrenching, what-if memory of it all.
While descending Tour Ronde my mate slipped and started to slide down the face. Despite my best efforts to dig in with my crampons and ice axe the snow was like sugar and I had no purchase once the rope tightened. So I got dragged down as well. It was actually strangely therapeutic as the 'fall' felt like an eternity and although I could not arrest my slide I could kind of steer my decent on my back. Only got worried as we approached the large bergschrund at the bottom and while my mate somehow bounced over it I got swallowed up like Boba Fett in the Sarlac pit. Took a while to extract myself. Thankfully the pair of us were unscathed and our involuntary slide probably knocked 45 mins off our journey time back to the Augille du Midi
> Lesson: other people are all trying to kill you.
Yes! I once had to shout at some people deliberately trying to roll a boulder down a steep path used for ascent near the top of Scafell. Morons. That was a big lesson for me - don't underestimate how stupid other people can be
Three from me.
Fell off the dirty finishing holds of agraphobia at Symonds yat 35 years ago, stopped 5ft from the ground after a 40ft plummet, by the only runner high enough to stop me. Would have been very messy if that one runner didn't hold.
Lesson, check out the top out before you climb if you are concerned that it could be dirty or loose, and don't be shy to use a preplaced belay rope to the top of the crag.
25 years ago almost got badly injured or worse by a climbing helmet (heavy activity centre one) that rolled off the top of wallabarow crag and landed on the ledge 3ft from me, in the exact spot where I had been stood a few mins previously. That could have been one of the most ironic climbing injuries ever.
Lesson, tell everyone to leave helmets on until well back from the edge if the crag top is rounded.
20 years ago I sprained ankle falling off the awkward mantle shelf boulder problem on the bowderstone.
Lesson, use a bouldering pad (not invented, or at least not in common use then), or good spotters.
Thankfully that was the worst injury I have sustained in 35 years of climbing, but the ankle still gives me some (pretty minor) problems to this day.
Lesson, do the rehab exercises the physio tells you to do.
Not a climbing one but a hill walking one but one which could have ended horribly. In my much earlier walking days I decided to take my wife walking for new years, just the two of us. We stayed near Patterdale and walked up Grisedale on New Years day. I hadnt gained much experience and certainly not in those conditions.
We had warm and dry, if not rudimentary gear and set off up Grisedale to then climb Dollywagon Pike and the hills on the Helvellyn range and then back down to Glenridding. I hadnt planned on a whiteout or the length of day that we had and upon reaching the main summit of Helvellyn, alone, the day was closing in and fast. I started to panic and started to test the edge of Striding Edge, which I couldnt see clearly, to see if we could walk down it to save time. This was in standard boots without crampons or axes. I got further and further to the edge to see where we could descend with my wife looking on from a safe distance.
Instinct took over and I climbed back up to then make the dark walk back to base. It was only after speaking to a local in the pub about our adventure that I had discovered that I was walking over or very near to a horror show of cornices and I was lucky not to have fallen through one.
To this day I think back about the conditions and that I could easily have fallen to my death down that hillside.
Just remembered one which still terrifies me. I was in Siurana 2 years ago resting high up on a long classic 3 star route.
I am just hanging on the rope when a foothold I am barely pushing on just breaks and misses my belayer by less than a meter. Sizeable chunk which could have made the trip very different.
Rock sometimes breaks completely unexpectedly.
Perhaps a bit dull in comparison, but here's a thread from a wee while back discussing mistakes we've made when making decisions involving assessing avalanche risk: https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/winter_climbing/how_did_you_make_your_worst_avalanche-related_errors-659209#x8506191
In terms of the cognitive processes involved (or lack thereof!) there's a fair bit of overlap with a fair few of the mistakes people have described in this thread.
I was on a family holiday in Majorca. Thought I'd do the Caval Bernat ridge Caval Bernat Ridge (3S) by myself. I did an interesting start up a large groove in my trainers, it was easy but..........I pulled over a small overhang 100'+ up and one of the two large hand holds snapped, I swung out of balance on the other hold, nearly to ripped off it. Pretty sure that would've been curtains for me.
Take special care when soloing..... or don't
This is the Civil Aviation Authority website concerning Human Factors:
It is worth digging around the website but also have a look at page 40 of this (CAP 737)
Leading an easy route indoors that was on a corner, casually talking to my belayer as I was clipping the second clip, lost my balance and fell off (literally a couple of metres off the ground), rope was only through the first clip and it went taut as cheese wire and my leg landed on it, I pivoted around by the back of my knee and ended up smashing into my belayer and finished upside down having just missed cracking my (unhelmeted) head on the corner of the wall!
Result was some nasty rope burn all round the back of my leg ... hairy legs and rope burn do not mix!
Just goes to show how much you can injure yourself only a few metres off the ground in the safety of a gym! The tautness of the rope burning my leg reminds me how little intuitive idea we have sometimes about the way forces interact and impact us.
Great thread. It's amazing that climbing's still allowed (the Swiss tried to "close" the Eiger Nordwand in the 30s because so many people were getting killed ... ).
So here's my story. Three of us were climbing the Ortler North Face in winter, a long time ago. Fantastic weather, early start and brilliant hard ice. Two of us were very fit and motivated; number three (an old friend who'd invited himslf along) was neither, and slowed us down so much that we decided to retreat after about 1/3 of the climb. The reason: the sun would be hitting the summit seracs, 500m above us, very shortly. The two of us were incredibly pissed off. Retreat meant abseiling off Abalov threads down about 300m of 60° hard ice; no big deal, except we'd never done it before.
So I set up the first Abalov and set off with some trepidation. Once I realized that it actually worked, I was just starting to enjoy the orderly and professional retreat, when a crampon came off. This was in the days when you had to tie the things to your (leather) boots with long neoprene straps. The crampon dangled precariously on a loop from the tip of my boot; I had to very gingerly lock off the abseil and fish for the crampon with a too-short ice axe at full reach. I eventually got it, took my gloves off and managed to get it strapped back on, but the whole excercise took about 30 minutes as my hands rapidly refused to work properly at about -15°C.
Just as I set off again, a serac broke high above us and triggered the ice avalanche. Definitely the worst moments of my life: the initial crack and rumble, then maybe 5 seconds of horrendous crescendo, the certainty that you're going to die, and absolutely helpless to do anything about it. The ice debris, containing blocks the size of small cars, missed us by about 20m and thundered down the face, pouring through a rocky funnel about 100m below us. When the noise and the ice dust had settled, we carried on down and were back sitting on the terrace of the otherwise deserted winter hut in the sun in less than two hours. We stayed there for a further four days in perfect weather and conditions, but I couldn't bring myself to try the face again. So the fitter of my two colleagues was doubly pissed off.
The point is: had my crampon not come off, we would have been in the rocky funnel when the avalanche came. So my ineptitude at strapping on a crampon before leaving the hut had very probably saved at least one of our lives, maybe all three.
Oh yes ... story number two: at the age of 21 I arrived fresh from the Peak District for my first alpine summer. First day: a great walk in on a sunny afternoon, up fairly steep and very soft snowfields to arrive at one of those Italian aluminium bivouac shacks perched in improbable places in the Bergell. Pleasant evening, great food and sunset. In the middle of the night nature called; I put on my boots and stepped outside onto the snow. My feet shot from underneath me, and I just managed to grab something under the shack before I'd have been whizzing down towards the boulder fields a long way below. My good German mentor hadn't thought to tell his Froggatt friend that alpine snowfields freeze iron hard at night ...
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