COASTGUARDS and paramedic cliff rescuers from Torbay will return to a 50-metre cliff face during day light to repeat the rescue operation they carried out to save an experienced climber who almost fell to her death.
The multi-agency night time rescue operation to save the 32-year-old Cornish climber took so long and was so protracted that everyone involved has now decided to return to the scene at Walls Hill, near Anstey's Cove, Torquay, and carry out further practice exercises.
Pip Hall, coastguard sector manager, said: "We know now that there are climbers who use this spot so we will go back to this location in day light and redo the whole thing. Next time we have someone to rescue in this area we will know what to do a lot better and a lot faster. It was a technically very challenging rescue."
Mr Hall said the five-hour rescue was made difficult by the fact that cliff rescue teams from Teignmouth and Torbay could not see where the climber was.
He said: "It wasn't just the case of hammering in an anchor pole and abseiling down the cliff. We had to deal with fences, difficulty of access, a very high cliff and a big overhang. We have 200-metre ropes and we nearly used it all up. That's how big this rescue was."
Mr Hall praised the climber and her partner for being properly equipped and said that had her harness and rope not cushioned her fall she would have died on the rocks below.
He said: "We are talking about two experienced climbers with the right gear, helmets, safety equipment, and a lot of experience and knowledge of the area. They were doing the right thing.
"They were traversing the cliff when she lost her footing and fell. She came to rest on a ledge about 20 feet from the base of the cliff below an massive overhang. She hurt her back and hip where the harness was but she was saved by her gear."
Mr Hall said Brixham coastguards were alerted by her climbing partner and both Torbay and Teignmouth cliff rescue teams were called out to the scene along with the RNLI inshore lifeboat from Teignmouth and the coastguard helicopter from Portland.
More than 20 rescuers including the hazardous situation paramedics team from Exeter, several paramedics and a doctor from Torquay were involved in the incident.
The difficulty arose when the helicopter could not drop a straight line down to the casualty because of the overhang. However the coastguard helicopter stayed on scene and hovered for more than 20 minutes so it could direct the cliff rescuers to the right spot with its powerful search light.
The cliff rescue teams managed to locate the casualty and reached her with a stretcher.
The inshore lifeboat was positioned below and the climber was finally placed into a stretcher with a neck brace on and was lowered onto the lifeboat before being taken ashore to the Cary Arms on Babbacombe Beach where a land ambulance awaited.
The climber was then taken to Torbay Hospital with a lower back injury but her injury is not believed to be either life threatening or life changing.
The climber's partner called 999 at 8.20pm and the various rescuers were stood down by 1am.
Brixham Coastguard Watch Manager Dave Scullion said: "This was a complex operation involving many rescue units and is a good example of the rescue services working well together."
A spokesman for the ambulance service said three rapid response units and one ambulance, a GP from Devon Doctors all took part in the rescue.
He said: "It looked a lot worse than it was because of the activity on the cliff and below. Thankfully she was saved by her equipment and her injury is not as serious as it could have been."