Belfast Telegraph

Pictured: Dramatic rescue after climber's fall on 80-metre Antrim cliff

An injured climber has been dramatically rescued from an 80-metre cliff face after injuring her leg.

The incident happened on July 12 when Ballycastle Coastguard and Coleraine Coastguard were called to a serious incident at Fair Head, a rocky headland on the northern coast of Co Antrim.

Officers from the PSNI also attended the scene.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, station officer in charge of the Coleraine Coastguard Team Chris Little said: "People would travel from far and wide to climb the cliffs at Fair Head. It is one of the places that climbers would aspire to visit. Most of the people that visit there would be experienced climbers."

The alarm was raised when a female climber, who was out climbing with a male partner climber, fell five feet and was left hanging from the cliff by a rope.

Mr Little explained that as the pair were experienced climbers, the woman's partner was able to lower her to the ground and knew to call the emergency services.

"Rescues at Fair Head are technically very challenging because of the nature of the terrain, you have cliffs that are up to 100 metres high," Mr Little explained.

"At the base of those cliffs you have a boulder field and it is difficult to work on and dangerous to try and cross, some boulders as big as small buildings, and it’s very easy to fall between them." 

There is no easy access to the bottom of the cliff, and four members of the coastguard teams from Ballycastle and Coleraine made their way down to the injured climber through gullies and using rope pulleys and were able to administer first aid treatment to the woman.

Soon after this they were joined by the Red Bay Lifeboat team, who made their way across the boulder field at the base of the cliff and were able to give the injured climber Entonox, which is a brand name for nitrous oxide - a painkiller administered orally as a gas.

At this point there were six members of the rescue services with the woman as they awaited the arrival of a rescue helicopter from Prestwick in Scotland.

On arrival, the helicopter was required to fly below the height of the cliff. The winchman was dropped down in the boulder field and was required to make his way towards the injured climber, and the 'hi-line method' - a technique used to prevent the stretcher the climber is attached to from spinning as it is raised - was used to lift the woman to safety.

The woman was then taken to Royal Victoria Hospital to be treated for her injuries, and in total the rescue effort took around one hour and thirty minutes.

Advising any other potential climbers, Mr Little said: "We would always advise anyone who is climbing to make sure they have both the equipment and the experience necessary for the climb they are undertaking, and if anything does go wrong they should dial 999 immediately and ask for the coastguard." 

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