British climber praises UAE rescue team after 10-metre mountain fall

Briton breaks both ankles after plunging from ledge in Ras Al Khaimah mountains

Waiwah Yip was walking with friends in the Ras Al Khaimah mountains when he slipped and fell. Photo: Waiwah Yip
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A British climber who plunged 10 metres from a mountain in Ras Al Khaimah and broke both his legs and ankles has praised the rescuers who saved his life.

Waiwah “Geordie” Yip had to be carried off the mountain on a stretcher after losing his footing on a ledge and falling 10 metres on to the cliff, breaking several bones.

Thanks to his experience and first-aid knowledge as well as the quick-thinking of his climbing friends, the 52 year old was able to be brought down the mountain safely before nightfall on March 9 and was then taken to hospital for emergency surgery.

Learning to walk again

Two months later, Mr Yip is taking the first steps of his rehabilitation.

“We were up in the mountains for about four to five hours,” he told The National.

Mr Yip is from Newcastle, north-east England and has been in Dubai since August, co-ordinating protocols in his job as a rigger for an acrobatic live show.

He has also worked on mountain rescue operations in the US, Canada and Nepal.

“I was scrambling up a trail so we didn't have the need for any climbing gear,” he said. "As I fell, I hit a couple of ledges and then landed straight on my feet.

“I did a full-body survey to see what else I had damaged. Thankfully I could move everything else.”

The accident took place at about 3pm and, after his shocked climbing partners alerted emergency services, a three-man rescue team arrived within two hours to carry him safely back down the trail.

Mr Yip said he was lucky to escape with relatively minor injuries, after forgoing a helmet and other protective equipment.

“I've done a lot of mountain rescue over the years so I'm familiar with rope-access techniques and also rescue procedures in my job,” he said.

“A friend who was with me was also experienced in rescue and first aid, so I was able to put myself in a splint and wait for the team to carry me off the mountain.”

The rescuers kept him in the shade as they cared for him and assessed the damage.

“I had a small laceration on my forehead because of the way I landed, as my knee hit my face,” he added.

The rescue operation took about an hour and Mr Yip was taken to RAK Hospital at 6pm for treatment.

Later that night, he was transferred to Saudi German Hospital in Dubai at about 2am, as his insurance would not cover him in Ras Al Khaimah.

Mr Yip required surgery on his legs and seven separate procedures have been completed since his fall, as well as several sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy to repair damaged tissue.

“When the patient arrived at night in the emergency department, he presented with unstable pilon fractures on both legs,” said Dr Omar Sabri, head of orthopaedics at Saudi German Hospital.

“The right lower extremity was open and the foot was white and cold, indicative of vascular injury.”

Dr Sabri said it was a “race against the clock” to bring Mr Yip into the operating room to avoid infection or further injury.

“Due to the prompt diagnosis and preparation by the emergency department team, the patient was quickly brought to the operating room,” he said.

'I want to go back'

Despite his fall, Mr Yip has not been put off enjoying the Ras Al Khaimah mountains.

“I want to go back,” he said. “I’ve taken some small tumbles before but this was a major fall.

“My experience definitely helped as I knew what I needed to do.”

He hopes the incident will show other climbers how prepared they need to be. He advises taking a first-aid kit, going with friends and taking a fully charged mobile phone.

“I was lucky I was with people who were calm and knew how to co-ordinate a rescue,” he said.

“Everyone who goes into the mountains should have some degree of first-aid knowledge and a small first-aid kit and emergency phone numbers with them.

“They should make a plan before they head out there and tell people the route they intend to take.”

Updated: May 25, 2023, 11:12 AM