Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Thin Line

We've all been there. We've all thought thank god I didn't fall off on that pitch. Reaching out for that finishing jug and hurling yourself onto the belay ledge, totally forgetting about the life threatening peril you were in not moments ago. I've read loads of mountaineering books where it does go wrong, where the author have written an explicit account of the events and the errors made, which are usually related to over-ambition or an arduous descent. I never really thought about the consequences of a serious fall, it's just all part of the risk you take, isn't it? Thinking that you'll deal with it when you get there..

Climbing at Sheepstor a few years ago on a summers day!

A few weekends ago I was climbing with Rob up at Sheepstor on Dartmoor. Its a great little crag with loads of low grade routes on it, perfect for a crisp post-rain winters day. We started easy taking on a HS then battling with the VS Mushroom Wall, which anybody familiar with the crag will know its about as much a VS as it is a good choice of route to warm up on! Anyway, after this with the psyche running high I mentioned to Rob a route I had done a few years back. One which wasn't done all that often.

Some top belaying technique as Rob warms up at Sheeps Tor

Sheltered Arete is an exceedingly bold E1 5b which climbs a leaning slab on the right hand side of the crag. The slab rises straight out of pile of boulders with the first opportunity for gear at around 9m before the overlap. The thought of myself having done an E1 that rob hadn't, compelled him to give it a go. Most people including myself do a small amount investing before hand on a top rope or bring along a pad however a high level of psyche regarded such frivolity as duplicitous.

A few tough moves and he was on his way up. As he made it to about 4m the the whole crag went silent. The birds stopped chirping and time seemed to move agonizingly slow. The next move, a rock-over onto a small foot was being quietly contemplated, as if the narrow line he were balancing on been success and failure had suddenly become a lot thinner. A moment later he committed to the move, and then out of nowhere the trusted foot slipped and he crashed down onto a grass patch narrowly missing most of the peripheral granite blocks. At first glance he seemed okay just very shaken but it became quickly obvious he had broken and dislocated his ankle. The climbers at the crag all burst into action, once we established it was only his leg that was injured we moved him out of the boulders so we could lie him down. Shortly after the air ambulance arrived, landing among the boulders. After relocating the ankle and administering a reasonable proportion of drugs he was off in the air and was at Deriford Hospital in less than 6 minutes. 

Thanks to everyone that was so helpful with of course the biggest thanks reserved for the air ambulance. A half kilometer stretcher carry down to the road would have not be pleasant for the casualty or his aspirant rescuers! The line between success and failure may be very close, but the two potential outcomes could not be more different. Heal up soon Rob!!

The Iron Angel loaded with an injured Rob shortly before it departed to Deriford Hospital (which it reached in 6 minutes!!)

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