Oli Eyre, 30, was free soloing on a remote limestone crag on the Staffordshire-Derbyshire border back in February when a hold broke and he fell to the ground. The 10-metre fall left him with a detached heel, a broken back, three broken toes and internal bleeding.
He told the Stoke Sentinel, “We had done the hard route with the ropes before doing part of it solo with no ropes or harness – just chalk. I solo quite a bit and it’s not safe but you are in control.
He was rescued by 17 members of a mountain rescue team before he was taken to the Royal Stoke University Hospital. “I was about 25 feet up and transferring my weight onto a rock when it just came off in my hand. All I knew is that I had to land on my feet.
“I have never felt pain like it. Over the years I have had dislocations, broken ribs, and a broken collarbone. But I have never experienced pain like that and I just lay on the floor screaming. I knew that mountain rescue and the ambulance service would be nowhere near.”
The doctors later told him that if he hadn’t rotated that he could have died. “I just tried to land like a cat. I landed hard on a slab of limestone.” It’s been four months since the accident and Eyre is back to running and walking.
Earlier this week, popular free soloist Austin Howell died after a free solo fall that resulted from a broken hold. In late May, an 18-year-old climber fell while free soloing at Saint-Côme in Quebec and is still recovering from being in critical condition.
Over the past few seasons, more climbers than ever have started to refer to free soloing as “scrambling” and back in the 1980s, top Canadian climber would refer to it as “third classing,” but it doesn’t change the fact that if you fall then you’ll probably die. Luckily for Eyre, he escaped with injuries that he’s since recovered from. Be safe out there.