Climber Survives 15m Ground Fall at The Mine

Never underestimate the importance of buddy checks!

Last week the MCSA Mountain Rescue team joined WSAR and SARZA to attend to an injured climber who took a 15m ground fall at The Mine, a popular sport crag close to Cape Town. Check out the MSCA’s report below and remember to ALWAYS check yourself and your climbing partners before you get on the wall – it could save a life.

Hey buddy, check your climbing buddy…ALWAYS!

A climber is lucky to have survived a 15m ground fall, sustaining “only” leg fractures after he started a rock climbing route, unknowingly not having properly tied into the climbing rope and then falling unprotected by the rope. The accident happened on 5 December at The Mine, a steeply overhanging sports rock climbing crag on the cliffs above Muizenberg.

As part of a WSAR team, SARZA and MSAR rescuers rushed to the scene, placed the climber in a stretcher and, with the help of several other climbers and EMS paramedics, wheeled the climber on a stretcher down a 1.5km path to an awaiting ambulance.

This climber lived to tell the tale, but you or I can easily make the same mistake when distracted. Here’s how a moment of inattention led to him falling 10m, plus a 5m tumble:

Teaming up with another climber he had not climbed with before, the pair finished a route and prepared to move to a new climb. Not wanting to lose the end of the rope in the process of gathering up and bunching the rope on a tarp before moving on, the climber tied the end of the rope with an unsafe knot to his belay loop and moved to their next climb where he intended to tie in properly to the rope.

The mistake came in the hurriedness of preparing for the next climb: the climber was put on belay and set off without EITHER of the climbers doing a buddy check on each other. He, therefore, started the climb inadvertently, still being tied into the rope by just the weak and hastily tied knot. With the rope connected, albeit weakly, and moving with the climber, there was no sign that anything was wrong until he reached a difficult section three bolts and 10m up. Here, he fell onto the weak knot, which immediately gave way and he continued to fall to the ground unprotected. To add insult to injury, he took a further 5m tumble over a small ledge.

Neither climbers nor others in the immediate vicinity wore helmets, but luckily, no one else was hurt. Had he climbed further up the route or fallen badly, the outcome would have been much worse!

You know the lessons already:

  • Wear a helmet.
  • Check yourselves and your buddies before every single climb.
  • When climbing, make it a habit to only use ‘safe’ knots regardless of the situation.
  • Have your local Mountain Rescue emergency number on hand

You might be tempted to just “go with the flow” when climbing with a new partner, or you may feel awkward insisting on practising proper safety procedures, but your lives depend on it. Take the time to stop, make eye contact, check each other and ensure both of you are focused on safety and good communication.

Don’t take it personally, but we prefer not to meet you this summer holiday. If a situation gets to a point where you cannot safely resolve it yourself and need help, STOP – stabilise the situation, get everyone safe and call for help. By the way, we don’t mind if you give us a heads up and ask us to be on standby when things are not going to plan but have not yet reached a point where it is an emergency.

Take care, have safe fun, and check your buddies!