An absolutely brilliant place to climb, let there be no doubt about that, my best days in this area have been on the sea cliffs.
Before going to these places, I find it reassuring to refresh a few basic rescue skills and techniques, to be on top of the game.
Recently there's been a few articles published on-line regarding self-rescue for climbers. Indeed it's an important subject for any climber, whether leading or seconding and regardless of the grade they may be climbing, mishaps can occur anytime and often when least expected.
It was years into my rock climbing career before I started to think about the 'what ifs' when things go wrong (I wasn't working in the climbing sector back then), why it took me so long i'm not sure, but my best guess is, it isn't something that many climbers bother to consider, and the subject had never arisen. Pretty unbelievable really. And when I did start to question people about the techniques for getting out of trouble, knowledge was sadly lacking. We're talking here about climbers who were frequently operating on sea cliffs and big mountain crags, so self rescue skills to some degree are essential rather than optional.
Thankfully over the years a selection of skills courses and self learning has left me in a far better position these days. Mostly though, what I discovered is that only a few quite simple techniques are required and these can be applied to a variety of situations (like many of life skills).
Rule 1: always make sure to keep yourself safe when going to help others
Rule 2: calling for help is always a good idea. If you can then do so immediately
Rule 3: Think simple. What's the simplest solution to the mess you're in. Simple = quicker = more efficient = probable better outcome :-)
Rule 4: Devote some of your climbing time (yes it's precious, but so is life) to learning & practicing a few simple techniques
The photos below show:
1: a tied off belay device. Quick and easy to learn, useful to know
2: set up for an un-assisted hoist - useful if you need to haul your 2nd up to the belay ledge or passed a tricky move
3: counter-balance abseil in the process of being set up. Useful as a means of descent to an injured 2nd
The 3rd photo showing the counter-balance abseil being set up is a technique at the forefront of my mind at the moment. Only a few weeks ago, whilst on a multi-pitch route, the leader inadvertently dislodged a large block. I heard the shout from above 'BELOW' and moved accordingly, the block missing me be only a few feet, phew!
A counter-balance abseil being the next step, should I have been injured and unable to continue. A sobering thought. Thankfully, I was climbing with a knowledgeable partner that day, so know the right steps would have been taken.
How to learn these skills:
Study a relevant book;
Ask friends whom you climb with, they may be able to help;
Practice these techniques in a safe place, with a back up rope if necessary;
Book onto a self-rescue for climbers course - we can arrange these in the Lake District; Snowdonia; Peak District; and Costa Blanca areas