Climbers are being warned to check a vital piece of equipment after camming device broke during a fall.

The British Mountaineering Council examined the piece of gear after a climber fell 16m (52ft) after coming off a route at Bosigran in Cornwall. The climber was, according to the BMC, very lucky not to be badly injured in the incident.

The metal cams stayed in the crack where the climber had placed them, but the rest of the device was found on the ground.

The inspection revealed that the wires connecting the camming device – a Rock Empire number 1 – to the sling had snapped and the conclusion was that failure was caused by metal fatigue caused by flexing. The technical report, by Daniel Middleton, said that the design of the device made it difficult for users to check for signs of potential problems.

A spokesman for the BMC said: “Flexible camming devices have helped revolutionise modern climbing.

“It isn’t very common, but the flexible wire stems can become damaged by repeated use. Checking for damage isn’t always easy with some modern designs, but is worth the effort because damaged wire stems can fail when loaded in a fall.

“Check for broken wires or signs of corrosion every now and again. If you do spot anything, retire the unit or contact the manufacturer for advice.”

The manufacturers, Rock Empire, were sent a copy of the report but didn’t respond, so the BMC decided to publish its findings.

The report states: “Failure of the wire cable in other units of the same manufacture could lead to serious injury or worse to the user. With the design employed, it appears that this may occur in other units, which on inspection by the user appear to have plenty of life left in them.”

The full report can be downloaded from the BMC website. You can see the cams at the Rock Empire site.