Use a helmet - mine saved my life, says lucky climber

Andrew Pritchard with the helmet that probably saved his life. EMN-140610-121721001
Andrew Pritchard with the helmet that probably saved his life. EMN-140610-121721001

An experienced climber from Sleaford has told how he is lucky to be alive following a 50-foot fall from a cliff in Wales.

Andrew Pritchard, 56, of Sleaford Mountaineering Club was abseiling down a 140-foot cliff face in the Wye Valley near Chepstow on Sunday September 28 when the anchor for his safety rope gave way, sending him tumbling down the remaining 50 feet of Wyndcliff scrabbling to hang onto ivy and crashing through branches before landing at the bottom.

Andrew said: “The block we were using gave way. We had tested it and had lowered my climbing partner, Bill Bristow, from Leasingham, down with no problems.

“I have been climbing for 27 years and this is the first time something like this has happened. Falling through the trees slowed my fall but I hit the ground with a thump. The helmet probably saved my life.”

Some climbers nearby went to raise the alarm while Bill stayed with Andrew. Mountain rescue teams came from Abergavenny and had to stretcher him back through wooded slopes to the nearest road and a waiting ambulance which took him to the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport.

He suffered four broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder, chipped shoulder bone, torn nerves and tendons in his right arm, cuts and bruises. “Otherwise I am in remarkably good condition,” he smiled, saying that he surprised medical staff by being up on his feet the next day. “I was very lucky. The helmet was pushed into my scalp and it was dripping with blood, but it did its job.”

Andrew wants to make a video for the British Mountaineering Club hitting home the importance of wearing all the correct safety gear and helmet.