Rescue on a multi-pitch climb
All was quiet until suddenly, a sharp cry echoed through the air. We froze, knowing what it meant. Someone had fallen. We shouted out Jay's name, but the only response was an eerie silence. Panic set in as we tried the radio, but there was no answer. Our hearts pounding, we clung to the rope, waiting for any sign of life, but we knew in our bones that something terrible had just occurred.

The Background
Multipitch climbing is like climbing a really tall staircase with rest stops along the way. We were a team of 6 attempting to multi-pitch climb the 270m Naga route on Tioman island's Dragon Horns, splitting into two sub-teams of three for the eight pitches. While I was at the pitch 1 anchor with Xieheng and X, the others were at pitch 3 belaying Jay who was linking pitch 3 and 4 when the incident occurred.

Thanks to our training and experience, we were able to effectively respond to the accident, and we'd like to share our approach as a case study for other teams in the field.
Naga Route on the Dragon Horns South Tower
Getting to the casualty
Getting to the casualty as quickly as possible without adding complexity was our top priority. This meant that the team at pitch 2 anchors had to stay put in the rope system while we sent Xieheng from pitch 1 with minimal load to get a visual on the casualty and be ready to start hauling if necessary. Meanwhile, I activated the drone to get a visual - the suspense was palpable. I desperately wanted to see my friend, but I wasn't ready for a gruesome scene. As the drone approached, a silhouette appeared behind a tree. My heart pounded as the drone got closer and I realized I was about to see Jay. Finally, the drone hovered past the tree and revealed Jay. It was a huge sigh of relief. He was standing and moving, but looking confused. He was staring at the wall in front of him blankly. He didn't react to our shouts or the items falling from his day pack, nor did he respond to the walkie-talkie or the drone hovering nearby. The scene was surreal to witness.

He had tumbled down a gully (roughly 15 to 20m) to the left of the climbing route, and I could see blood on his face. His helmet was gone. Disoriented and dazed, he managed to stumble back onto the climbing lane. Just in the nick of time, Xieheng who had ascended from pitch 1 anchors, caught sight of Jay and immediately sprang into action. He radioed the team (Yong En and O) connected to Jay's rope to lower him all the way down to pitch 2 anchors, but unfortunately, the rope was not long enough. Without missing a beat, Xieheng expertly transferred Jay onto another rope and lowered him down to the pitch 2 anchors.
The green line represents the climbing route until his last-placed protection (red arrow). The blue cross is where he landed after that scary fall.
Bringing the casualty down the cliff face
The urgency of the situation was palpable. Jay was barely coherent, unable to follow verbal commands, and with no memory of what had happened to him. Silence hung heavy in the air as the rest of us shared a wordless exchange, our eyes betraying the fear and uncertainty we felt at that moment. Our hearts raced with anxiety as we assessed his condition, desperate to identify any life-threatening injuries. We breathed a small sigh of relief when we saw that there was no major bleeding or head injury, but the pain in Jay's spine was concerning - specifically, at C5 and C6. Time was of the essence - we needed to act fast to get him off the wall. We were down 1 pitch to pitch 2 anchor, we still had two more pitches to go, a 25m traverse and another 25m vertical descent.

Our local contact in the nearby village sprang into action, preparing for evacuation and sending our medical assessment to the clinic. Meanwhile, O abseiled down from pitch 2 to pitch 1, setting up a Y hang and a guideline for a traverse abseil to get Jay down to the ground safely. The complexity of the operation was daunting, but we remained focused and determined to get Jay to safety.
Linking with Family and evacuating to hospital
Once Jay was off the wall, we carefully assessed his injuries and updated his next of kin on the situation. We knew that getting him out of the jungle would be a long and arduous process, but we were resolute in our determination to save him. For the next two hours, we navigated through the thick vegetation, one person short-roping Jay, another keeping him on a leash, and the last person spotting him.

When we finally reached the village, our support team was ready and waiting, with transportation to the jetty and a fast boat to Tekek Hospital. Jay was quickly transferred to a larger hospital on the mainland in Mersing, where he underwent X-rays before being transported to Johore Hospital for a CT scan. Finally, he was sent via ambulance to Singapore for surgery on his fractured C5 vertebrae. He is now recovering well and looking forward to his next climb
Our parting words
Throughout the entire ordeal, we relied on our training and experience to remain calm and focused, managing the crisis effectively despite the overwhelming fear and uncertainty. Although there were certainly things we could have done better, we were proud of the way we came together to save our friend's life. The experience reinforced our commitment to always be prepared for the worst, and to use our skills to help those in need. We must also add that the villagers at Mukut (where the Dragon horns are) were so well organised to help and arrange the evacuation. We would not have been able to get Jay out from the village without the amazing support of the villagers. We did an investigation and a team debrief post-incident and below is a summary of our findings and interview with Jay.
2 hours

To get casualty off the wall from the 4th pitch
2 hours

To get casualty out of the jungle
16 hours

From incident to arrival at Singapore hospital
Jay's viewpoint
"I recall climbing on a clear and stable route, and have no memory of falling.
I could only attribute it to a freak accident, which can happen anytime even when things seem smooth/calm. Hence it is important that the team's emergency/rescue response is always sharp and ready. Fortunately, the team was. I felt assured when I regained consciousness. I was grateful for the team's readiness and response."
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