A member of Imperial College Mountaineering Club (ICMC) fell 100ft whilst climbing in north Wales on Saturday 13th February. He was climbing with three other Imperial students during a trip with the ICU club which took place on the Welsh mountains of Cwm Cneifion in Snowdonia.
The fall occurred as the climber was trying to negotiate a steep section of ice which had come to be known as the ‘Tower Slabs’. He tumbled through 100ft, the height of a 10-storey building, before safety equipment arrested his fall. If it were not for his ropes and his belayer (climbing partner) he would have fallen another 150ft and possibly would have suffered much more serious, if not fatal, injuries. The climber is considered to be very lucky to have escaped injuries other than a split lip and a broken bone in his face. His belayer suffered no injuries.
At the time of the fall, two of the local mountain rescue team happened to be close to the scene and were able to offer help and first aid to the fallen climber. They feared that the fall might have caused internal injuries, so the Sea King helicopter was swiftly summoned and the injured ICMC member was airlifted to Bangor hospital for a medical examination.
Chris Lloyd is a team member of the two rescuers who offered assistance after the fall, from the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation. He describes the events of that afternoon, which actually began with another party of nine requesting aid for a suspected broken leg. “At 2pm, we received a call to help someone with a broken leg…in a party of nine from Chester. Our team were called and 22 Squadron from RAF Valley came in to help.” Within a matter of minutes, whilst the man with the suspected broken leg was being attended to, Mr. Lloyd said that his team received another call “regarding a 19-year-old man from Imperial College. Two of our team members were actually climbing nearby and witnessed what happened so they went to help him straight away.”
The Sea King helicopter immediately rushed the Imperial student to hospital, who was feared to have suffered internal injuries, and then returned to the scene to rescue the man with the suspected broken leg.
The Imperial Mountaineering Club was described as being well equipped, and the fallen climber was described by Thomas Coyne (Chair of ICMC) as “experienced”. Mr. Lloyd has criticised the other group of climbers for being ill-equipped to deal with the hard snow and ice. “This year has seen a number of cases of people getting into trouble due to lack of ice axes and crampons on fields of hard snow.”
The reason for the fall is believed to be due to the crampon used by the fallen climber. Jonathan Hazell is one of the four Imperial students who were climbing in Snowdonia at the time of the fall. He told felix: “Something went wrong with the crampon and it seems the most likely explanation is that the rear retainer-clip popped out or sheared off.” He pointed out that: “there’s no real evidence of what happened as all that’s gone is a small clip which can be removed anyway”, and also admitted that: “I’m still going to be using the model of crampon in question just with some tape/cable tie to hold the clip in place.” Hazell will soon be going to Norway to climb ice for a week.
After the accident, the remaining members of ICMC continued their climb and the injured member was released from hospital the next day.