Rock climber rescued after freak accident

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Copy of Climb3 (40053092) DAILY NEWS Rock climber, Dylan Williams, 19, was rescued from The Canyon in Kloof Gorge in a three-hour operation after falling 15m. This is a picture of Williams taken minutes before the accident. Picture: Michael van der Ham

Durban -

A rock climber had to be rescued after a “freak” accident at Kloof Gorge at the weekend, luckily falling onto trees which softened his landing.

Dylan Williams, 19, bruised his back and suffered a fractured wrist when he fell 12-15m off a cliff known as “The Canyon” on the north side of the main gorge on Saturday afternoon. He narrowly missed the rocks at the base.

It took rescuers three hours to get him to safety.

Talking to the Daily News yesterday from Hillcrest Private Hospital, Williams, an experienced mountain climber, said it was a freak accident that could not have been foreseen.

He said he and his climbing partner, who was not named, and two others, had been climbing from about midday.

Copy of Climb4 (40053091) A Mountain Club of South Africa search and rescue member descending to the floor of The Canyon in Kloof Gorge to assist with the rescue of Dylan Williams, 19, on Saturday afternoon. Picture: Steve Cooke DAILY NEWS

About three hours later, Williams, attached to his partner, was climbing up the cliff face to set up the equipment when he slipped.

“I fell and it would usually be okay because the rope would catch me but something went wrong with the belay and I fell on to the bush below,” he said. “The rope did slow me down a lot but I was in shock after falling.”

Williams said the system had been set up correctly and they were still not sure what went wrong.

“I’ve climbed The Canyon hundreds of times before. It was just an accident and no-one is to blame.”

Michael van der Ham, 20, who had been taking pictures moments before the accident, said he was at the top of the cliff when Williams fell. “As I understand it, it was a fairly new rope so it went through the system quite quickly. The guy belaying below had to let go because of the pain.”

Van der Ham said Williams had remained fairly calm after the fall.

“No matter what height, if you fall it’s dangerous. He managed to miss the rocks though and land on the bushy area.”

Van der Ham, who has been climbing for seven years, said the group enjoyed climbing at this spot because, being private land, security was not a concern.

Gavin Raubenheimer, the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) search and rescue convener for KZN, said they were contacted at about 3.45pm.

A doctor from MCSA and health professionals from EMRS arrived and stabilised Williams.

They were joined by members of MCSA, Rescue Care and the police search and rescue unit.

“Because of his suspected back injury he had to be placed on a stretcher and lifted horizontally, not vertically. This was complicated because of the narrowness of the opening. There was a lot of manoeuvring and hoisting to get him out.”

Williams – a UKZN mechanical engineering student – said he had been climbing for about five or six years and had only had one other minor accident.

“I once fell from about 2m up and hit the ground but was fine. I’ve been climbing on and off for the past two years. Since January I’ve been climbing three nights a week and twice on weekends.”

He said he also climbed in Umgeni Valley and at Southern Rock Climbing Centre. “I won’t be able to climb for three months until my wrist is better,” he said.

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