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Fatal accident at Moonarie 24/4/2014 - more info
9:22:53 AM
There has been a tragic and sad accident at Moonarie, Flinders Ranges when a climber from Melbourne fell to his death from the top of the Great Wall. I was one of the people to find him and to help the police with their investigation and retrieval of the body. I have collected my memories and accounts from key people who were involved and want to share this information for the benefit of the climbing community and to help prevent future accidents.

The party had finished a climb at the top of the Great Wall about 2pm on Thursday the 24th of April. They decided to finish for the day as they were feeling tired. The party was on their way towards an abseil anchor when the accident happened.

As the surviving climbing partner recalls, "we were scrambling across a relatively easy but rocky area. The path ... may have had a little down climb at the end to gain the smooth ledge (i think this was the rough position of the tree too?). When he fell he was not yet at the smooth ledge, i dont think he was quite at the tree. He fell whilst still navigating the rocky area. I was watching my hands and feet as i climbed around the rocks, when i heard him slip i looked up to see a flash of something as he went over the little drop to land on the smooth ledge below, i could no longer see, but obviously he didnt manage to stop there and went over the edge. it is correct that i didn’t hear any shout or scream or anything”. She managed to set up an abseil with the remaining double rope, abseil safely, and called for help.

Responding to the call was a nearby group of climbers. We found the climber’s body at the base of the Great Wall, in the bush some 5-7 m away from the bottom of the cliff face. The climber fell about 60m, hitting the terrace at the base of the wall on the way down.

The casualty was severely injured with no vital signs and no hopes for survival. He had a climbing rope under and over it. Some climbing gear was on the gear loops of the harness and the belay loop was empty. The climber was barefoot. A sling with two non-locking carabiners was found not far away, also his helmet.

A lot of credit should go to the climber’s climbing partner who remained calm to safely come down and call for help as quickly as it was practically possible and without getting herself into trouble. There was nothing she could have done better to save life, given the circumstances.

The abseil anchor is fixed to a sloping, exposed ledge about 1.5m wide. To gain the ledge one needs to scramble down an exposed easy slope. Many climbers do not use a belay or safety line when scrambling down and approaching the anchor, is not a difficult path despite the exposure. There is a large tree which can be used for an intermediate safety anchor to approach the abseil chains on the ledge, but it seems that the climber was not yet at the tree base, when he fell.

We will probably never know exactly what happened. The climber was unroped when scrambling down an exposed slope but why exactly did he fell remains unclear. As his climbing partner recalls, he was carrying one of the two double ropes. “the rope was coiled, i coiled both ropes, tied mine on as a backpack and passed the other to him to do the same - he said something along the lines of ‘We don’t need to tie them on its not far/hard' something like that - he just carried it in his hand, or possibly sat on his shoulder.”

He could have stood on a rock that moved, or stood awkwardly and slipped/rolled his ankle a bit out of tiredness/lack of concentration, possibly the the rope got in the way, the possible lack of shoes and rope in his hand might have made it harder for him to recover. He could have slipped or a hold has broken off or his foot might have caught a loop of rope (he just carried the rope in his hand, or the rope possibly sat on his shoulder). Could he’s been distracted or even got attacked by a bird?

I need to point out that many climbers walk on that ledge unroped and as far as I know this is the first accident at that spot. To me, this tragedy has happened because of a combination of risks and bad luck.

- being near an exposed edge unroped and not attached to an anchor for safety
- mental or physical fatigue or not feeling well that day (he was taking antibiotics recovering from an injury, according to his friends)
- scrambling barefoot down an exposed slope at the top of the 50m+ cliff
- carrying a rope in his hand or on a shoulder, restricting mobility and increasing risk of catching a loop or tripping

According to his group leader the climber has been a club member for about three and a half years prior to the accident and undertook a three-day climbing rescue course with VCC in 2011.


[Moderator edit: Link to original 24/04/2014 thread; ]
9:27:55 AM
Thanks Andrey. I'm sure it's hard to put these reports together but they are valued.
10:36:04 AM
Well written and presented, my sincerest thanks to all those involved in putting this report together, it is most certainly not easy but I believe it is extremely valuable.

10:41:18 AM
Thanks very much Andrey, appreciated.


10:47:34 AM
Thank you for writing this Andrey. Very respectful and well written.

10:56:19 AM
This further information certainly brings message/s* home, and makes me aware that I am still reeling as a result of the initial event.

(*I have learnt that my climbing complacency can be an insidious thing...)
12:49:18 PM
Thanks Andrey for your help in this matter and again to the group of climbers that assisted the police and the VCC group to manage and come to terms with the accident. It was very much appreciated.

1:21:40 PM
On 28/05/2014 Howsie wrote:
>Thanks Andrey for your help in this matter and again to the group of climbers
>that assisted the police and the VCC group to manage and come to terms
>with the accident. It was very much appreciated.


There are 8 messages in this topic.


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