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Sunday, August 9, 1998 Published at 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK


Harry's climbing caper 'foolhardy'

Passer-by's snap of the prince appears in News of the World

Buckingham Palace is to take advice from climbing experts after Prince Harry was photographed dangling 160ft above a dam without a helmet and proper safety line.

Watch BBC correspondent Wyre Davies's report on the royal safety row
Safety campaigners said the prince should not have been allowed to descend without protection.

The incident happened last Sunday during an abseiling trip to the Black Mountains in Gwent with former nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke.

Prince Harry was watched by his brother William, 16, according to the News of the World report.

[ image: How the paper broke the news]
How the paper broke the news
Although royal aides were unable to confirm the details, it is understood Prince William also abseiled down the dam.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: "As we have said, the childrens' safety is paramount as far as we are concerned.

"Now we have seen the photographs we shall be showing them to experts and making sure that the appropriate safety measures are taken if or when something like this is done again."

A passer-by told the News of the World that she spotted the princes, who were with an eight-strong group including friends and police bodyguards, at Grwyne Fawr reservoir.

Jack Russell, the prince's previous abseiling tutor: He should wear safety gear
She told the News of the World: "It's not every day that you see the future king and his brother going over the edge of a sheer drop like that.

"Then we recognised Tiggy with a couple of men who could have been bodyguards and someone who seemed to be in charge of the harnesses and ropes.

"The rope was let out until Harry was perched horizontal at right angles to the jagged, stony dam wall and then he started down, taking long giant strides which turned into a run."

'Helmet is crucial'

The dam, holding back up to 400 million gallons of water is 130ft thick at the base and 15ft thick at the top with a roadway running along its length.

A special permit is normally required for abseiling activities from Welsh Water who operate the reservoir. Abseilers have to sign an indemnity in case of injury.

It is unclear who supplied the mountaineering rope and harness for the royal party.

Karl Durham, co-owner of the Black Mountain activity centre, commented: "Not to use a helmet while abseiling is foolhardy because it is crucial equipment.

"I am surprised Prince Harry was allowed to go down the dam without a helmet - and without a separate safety line held by an instructor."

'Promote safety'

Mr Durham, 39, with 10 years' abseiling experience, added: "An abseiler can slip or fall at any stage of the descent. There is always the possibility of loose debris from above hitting you on the head.

"A lot depends on experience but we just don't allow anybody with us to abseil without a safety helmet."

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said it recommends anyone abseiling to wear a helmet "at all times".

A spokesman said: "We like to see people in the public eye setting a good example as it is a great help with promoting safety."

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