Crashed and slightly burned

Home Forums Accidents, near-misses and mishaps Crashed and slightly burned

This topic contains 10 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Rod 12 years, 9 months ago.

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • Author
  • #3321 Reply


    Got dropped by my belayer yesterday. We’ve climbed together on a weekly basis for the past 18 months.

    1. He assumed he was going to follow me up the route and join me at the belay, contrary to prior discussion and completely unnecessary.

    2. He misunderstood the only 3 commands I have ever used with him, presumably the only commands he’s ever heard from anyone because he only climbs with our group.

    3. After installing the belay I tested the rope it seemed jammed.

    4. With no direct visual I played extra safe with the commands I asked him to check I was on belay and could I descend.

    5. I received confirmation.

    I weighted the rope a little and it held so I gradually upped it to full body weight and it proceeded at the correct pace so I relaxed. Finally I must have passed the point of critical friction resistance from the rope jam, I fell. I’d taken 10m before full comprehension that I was completely off belay. I hit a ledge then fell another 10-20m. I managed to stop my own fall via grabbing a tree…the last in line before the big free fall exposure. Minor injuries, I soloed out and rapped down on my own steam.

    My belayer had no idea what had happened until I rapped into vision blood oozing, none!

    Got down and I told him the story. No criticism at all as I’ve learnt it achieves nothing.

    The guy went on to have a particularly bad day on the communications, hearing “take” left right and centre when I’d said nothing at all and finally ripping me off the rock later in the day whilst I was on lead. That was the last straw and I let him have both barrels, I don’t regret doing so he bloodywell deserves it.

    #3322 Reply


    Yikes! Are you going to climb with him again? Not sure I would trust someone who decked me but then there’s the argument that if you drop someone once you become a much more attentive belayer . . . .

    #3323 Reply


    I have to heal so its a mute point for the moment.

    I think I’ll stop there, time to put this one behind me before I put something in print that I regret. Spilt milk and all that…

    #3324 Reply


    Thanks for sharing this Rob, after all the purpose of this is to warn others. I’m highly suspicious of belayed descents – there is no backup. One bad mistake and yer done. At least for belayed ascents I have to fall first for bad belaying to matter….

    #3325 Reply


    I’ve always found ’em suspect whenever I was in a position where I couldn’t see the belayer…now I’m certain!

    Another stupid thing: I dusted myself off, took 30 minutes to check the body’s reaction and got straight back onto the sharp end of leading and stayed there for the next 4 hours. Turned out fine but with 20:20 hindsight I’d advise against the “get straight back on the horse” approach, if I’d already cracked any vertebrae I would have made matters significantly worse. I also realised at the end of the day that I hadn’t properly checked all the gear I had attached to my harness for cracks after the fall.

    So what revisions for the future:

    1. Instal some self security to the other side of the rope and ease myself down to where I’ve got eye contact with the belayer.

    2. Do a full sanity check after a fall, ANY fall: body, rope, harness, clips, shoes, everything. I was so shocked by the situation surrounding this fall that I didn’t complete this routine, I had always done so previously.

    3. I’ve also reviewed the list of people I climb with to categorise who I can happily do multi pitch routes with, single pitch with visual contact, trad, sport and finally block. I kinda had one before but it wasn’t as formal and firmly defined as it should be.

    I saw this bloke last night and told him he was demoted to the block category.

    #3326 Reply


    Don’t assume that a belayer becomes more attentive if they have dropped someone once. They might just be plain stupid and thats not going to change too quickly.

    I had the pleasure of witnessing what was potentially a similar accident at Churchmans Brook. The leader got to the top of a climb, set up the rope so he could do a belayed descent and was just about to lean back when he thought to check first. “Have you got me”? There was no one near the end of the rope, it was just dangling in the air. With no verbal communication someone sauntered over and put the climber on belay. So all was well but it could have been a different story.

    With regards climbing after a fall; apparently people with very bad injuries can get up and proceed to walk about (or continue to climb) because they are pumped up on adrenaline.

    Anway, glad to hear there was no lasting damage in your case Rod.

    #3327 Reply


    Hi Rod:

    You were incredibly fortunate to escape without injury! Here are a couple of my belaying stories…

    1. A mate of mine teams up with a person he has never climbed before. He reaches top of cliff and starts to lower off. Person has epileptic fit, hand comes off belay. Friend falls 20m to deck – broken vertebrae + head injuries.

    2. Climbing at Frog Buttress with a competent person. I am 0.5m above a piece and signal to belayer I am about to fall. I fall but belayer doesn’t lock-off. I fall 10m but grab rope 2m from deck and prevent breaking legs – bad rope burn to hand….

    3. I am belaying a friend on a thin crack climb. Person falls 8m pulling 2 seemingly “perfect” TCU placements. He hits me on belay, which is good thing because, as I fall to the ground the slack takes up: we are both hanging on the rope with our bottoms 10cm from the ground….

    4. We are on a glacier practicing jumping into a crevasse, while the other people on the rope arrest our fall. The crevasse has a snow bridge about 10m below the rim. I am the first person to jump and I am pretty nervous. Our instructor convinces me that it will all be OK: “just jump” he says in his calm voice. I jump and the belayers fail to arrest the fall. I hit the deck. Luckily the snow is soft and the friction slowed me down…


    #3328 Reply


    yes i was lucky, significant power reduction over the 3 week healing process and having to train heavily to get it back.

    good stories.

    i’ve got a friend who fell 10m just prior to putting in the 1st clip on the 4th pitch of a local climb, onto the belayer. they sort themselves out before he heads back on up, gets the clip in and then heads off for a couple of metres before experiencing a rope jam. poses a question or few to the belayer…no response.

    turns out he’s cracked the skull of the belayer in the preceeding fall. an epic followed…

    #3329 Reply



    Can you tell us a little about the epic that followed the cracking of the belayers skull? How did they get off the climb? Just interested from a rescue point of view.



    #3330 Reply


    Dino…sorry, just getting you back for the mis-spelling.

    I don’t know but will see Pierre in coming weeks so I’ll update you then.

    If it were me I’d have just rung the heli blokes to get airlifted off. We’re pretty much all insured for it over here, costs A$ equiv of 60 bucks per annum. Heard of that being done in local climbing rescues a couple of times, each featuring spinal fractures, but its fairly infrequent.


    #3331 Reply


    G’Day Di,

    As promised…

    They got lucky really. The guy got back to semi-conscious, from there Pierre was able to get lowered back to the belay. Pierre gently lowered the guy 2x30m pitches and with the aid of other climbers they loaded him into a car (able to get reasonably close to the base of the route). 10 minutes to hospital. Apparently the guy doesn’t climb anymore but has no ill effects.

    Pierre continues to have epics. The most recent involving falling rock and a helicopter trip…climbing with the guy that dropped me! Pierre took him under his wing to train him in the commands. As a team they were fine but a rock from their pitch dislodged and creamed some poor bloke below them (and for all those agony aunts out there…a helmet wouldn’t have helped).

    Finally, you asked would I let my belayer secure me again. With the benefit of several months of hindsight, no. We’ve climbed together a few times since but I didn’t let him belay me on anything other than easy routes in a gym. Nice guy, but…

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
Reply To: Crashed and slightly burned
Your information: