A CORONER has urged climbers to exercise extreme caution when tackling limestone cliffs in the Dales.

Geoff Fell was speaking at an inquest into the death of 33-year-old Andrew Cooper, who fell 40-feet down a crag near Austwick.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Fell said: "The Yorkshire Dales is a well known national park with lots of limestone that does tend to be brittle.

"The countryside does attract many climbers and fortunately accidents are very rare.

"However, this incident does highlight that care does need to be taken when scrambling up cliffs with a lot of limestone.

The inquest, held at Skipton Magistrates' Court, heard how Mr Cooper, of Brindley Court, Skipton, fell when a piece of rock he had in his hand broke away.

Mr Cooper had been out with his brother, Graham Cooper, when the incident happened on October 12.

The pair, both experienced walkers and climbers, had been scrambling up Robin Proctor's Scar, Austwick, and were on their way to Ingleton.

A witness told the inquest that he saw Mr Cooper fall and bounce several times down the crag. It was a sunny day and the rock was dry.

Mr Graham Cooper said he and his brother had been scrambling partners for about 10 years and had walked that particular route many times before, sometimes in the dark.

Mr Cooper told the coroner they had done a risk assessment before setting off.

He said: "We assessed the weather conditions and it had not been raining or snowing. If it had been those conditions then we wouldn't have gone that way. We would have bypassed it and gone on a safer route."

Mr Cooper, who had been in front of his brother, said he heard a noise and looked back to see Andrew with hands were up in the air.

"His grip was very strong so I can only assume that he what he held onto had given away," Mr Cooper added. "I have been racking my brains for weeks over it and it is the only thing I have come up with.

"He had no way of getting hold again to stop."

Mr Cooper described the incident as devastating.

Summing up, coroner Geoff Fell said: "I accept fully that Graham and Andrew were heading away from the rockface and were taking care. What happened was an unfortunate, tragic accident."

And he reiterated: "I think what people need to do is bear in mind that there is a risk when climbing cliffs such as this. Hopefully this is a one off isolated incident."