This relates to when we had moveable crashpads situated below the front part of the arch for bouldering – height was only 10 feet, but users had to manually adjust crashpads if they shifted during climbing back then, and this accident relates to that setup.
Was in contact with M, who said that he would bring his friends on Saturday for climbing. I asked him to come at 4.30 pm, which is our regular slot for beginners and a guided session, but he insisted that he’d handle his friends himself. I explained that if they had climbing experience, they could boulder on their own. He asked if he could belay his friends, I said yes, assuming he passed our belay check. He agreed.
M came with his friends at 4 pm, and they proceeded to warm up, and boulder. Once they asked for harnesses to top-rope, we provided those and I had N give M a belay check. We issued belay devices, carabiners, and harnesses. The group proceeded (without asking) to have some of their less experienced members belay, and I spotted one of them making a mistake, and I corrected him, and asked M to keep a better eye.
The group stayed for three hours, and near the very end of their session, as I was busy instructing N, I saw P bouldering and take a fall directly onto concrete. The arrangement of crashpads was poor (there was a large gap) and her fall resulted in serious injury to her leg, a fracture.
After checking the camera records, I was able to confirm that M was spotting (standing directly behind P), that as I observed she fell first onto concrete and then her upper leg pushed away the crashpad. Our pads are heavy and covered in a high-friction canvas, so they’re not otherwise prone to slippage, but are still reliant on users arranging them properly.
In this case, there was a large gap, and M did not spot P in any way despite standing right behind her. Had the pads been arranged properly, or had M spotted properly, this would not have happened.
It is clear that users who profess knowledge (and sign our waivers) cannot be taken at their word, and we should (a) issue a stricter advisory about spotting (b) fix the bouldering flooring permanently so that our crashpads cannot be blamed for accidents and (c) keep a closer eye on users coming to Delhi Rock for the first time. Users need to know that bouldering with pads does not mean that spotting is not required, regardless of height. For users who go through our classes, and are inculcated into our systems, this works, but for users who profess knowledge and experience, we need to be more vigilant.
In this case, M insisted on handling the group himself; climbed with someone who did not have belay experience and was not belay certified; M did not arrange the crashpads as we do for users (no gaps); and M failed to spot P when she fell, which would have averted the accident. We have to be more vigilant against such users. We also need to permanently fix the crashpad flooring so that it cannot be moved into an unsafe configuration.
– Immediately after the accident a large permanent mat was installed under the arch which provided ample coverage. Subsequently, the amount of padded flooring has been dramatically increased in both coverage and in thickness.
– We stopped allowing people we did not know from belaying; the only top-rope conducted now is under the direct supervision of Delhi Rock personnel.
– Most users have shifted to bouldering (except for kids), so we have increased the amount of bouldering and reduced top-rope. The top-rope we do have has crashpad coverage as a redundancy measure. So the possibilities of a fall onto concrete have been dramatically reduced.