"What follows is a brief, cautionary tale regarding the danger of relying on in-situ equipment. A team had decided to do London Wall an E5 6a at Millstone in Derbyshire. Preparations included finding a long stick and using this to clip the lead rope into the first piece of fixed protection, which was an old in-situ peg, approx 5m up the initial overhanging crack which forms the start of the route.
The climber set off and climbed the crack quickly and efficiently passing the peg and going on to the next section of the route which traverses to the left. The climber did not place any extra protection being content to rely on the one piece of insitu kit. The climber fell at the end of the traverse with his weight coming directly onto the peg. The peg broke seemingly instantly and the climber landed heavily on his back on the ground. It was obviously a serious accident with significant injuries: a very quick and efficient rescue followed with a small helicopter landing close to the base of the route - impressive piece of flying!
I have described this incident not to be ghoulish, but to emphasise, especially to inexperienced climbers, the utter folly of relying totally on in-situ fixed kit. Pegs in particular are rarely replaced these days, the one in London Wall could easily have be 40 years old! OK occasionally you may have to rely on a single piece of equipment, but its good practice wherever possible to back things up. I do hope the injured party makes a good recovery, and apologies for using his accident to highlight an important issue without being able to consult him first!"
Fixed pegs in general are in a very poor condition in the UK. Many pegs are from several decades ago - either placed as aid climbing equipment or placed in an era when peg protection was more commonplace. Just this last week I have snapped or witnessed the snapping of three pegs in North Wales. One of these incidents almost had very serious consequences.
- Routes that rely on fixed protection might be more dangerous/harder than the guidebook grade.
- Always back pegs up where possible.
- Pegs on sea cliffs are extremely prone to corrosion.
- There is no way of telling the strength of a peg (or tat) - sometimes the corrosion is on the inside of the crack.