DWS risks?

April in the UAE means deep water solo season. The water is still refreshingly cool but not so cold that a frigophobe like me can’t stay immersed for a while. The sun is still low enough in the sky for long enough to dry out the caves and overhangs. The jellyfish of winter are gone, and with luck: the choppy seas too. The best conditions seem to last until the start of June. Further into the summer and the rock is either in the sun and too hot to touch, or in the shade and too humid. So now is the time. For me a good DWS session – last Saturday, for example – leaves such an excess of psyche that I can barely keep still at work and find myself crimping the edge of a keyboard or undercutting my desk.

Middle-aged desk jockey sketches up Generation-X F7b+, Gen’s Cave

One background worry though: how dangerous is this game? So far in the six year history of DWS’ing out of Dibba there have been numerous minor injuries but none serious. Two types dominate: muscle tweaks and bruises from poorly executed jumps or awkward falls, or cuts from contact with barnacles or sharp rock near the water line. Both risks can be minimised with care. Learn to jump from someone with good technique (not me! though my older son isn’t bad), or at least study the photo of Jiri on page 127 of the guide book. Don’t try to climb on to the rock direct out of the sea, especially in choppy conditions when a limb can be loaded unexpectedly. (Some experiments have been conducted with rope ladders anchored to the cliff with skyhooks, for water exits, but the jury is still out.)

What hasn’t happened so far though, as far as I know, is an accident stepping from a boat on to the cliff. An obvious worst-case scenario could be something like this: 1. climber steps from the boat on to a low foothold, 2. unexpected swell pushes the boat abruptly forward and/or the climber slips, 3. the climber’s foot or ankle is caught between the boat and the rock. I don’t think it is possible to reduce this risk to zero but there are some obvious commonsense precautions. Padding the front of the boat with a bouldering mat makes it easier for the climber to jump off if the exit is going badly. And an attentive “spotter” at the front of the boat can help support the climber’s body out of harm’s way. The climber should always aim to step high … materially higher than the boat. Maybe I am being alarmist. But do take care.

PS Thanks to Alan Christmas for the photo.

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