/ Check Your Knot and Your Partners
Always good to be reminded, especially with at least two deaths in the last 12 months due to incomplete or incorrect tying in....
CHECK YOUR KNOT AND YOUR PARTNERS: (Whatever knot you use):
Here's a young Felicity Ryan at Potash Road Crag, NY asking This OK Dad?
If you climb with me, you know I always ask and in most cases check.
> Here's a young Felicity Ryan at Potash Road Crag, NY asking This OK Dad?
> If you climb with me, you know I always ask and in most cases check.
Her chalk bag is not in the correct position.
Child standing at the bottom of a crag with no lid on ? tsk tsk
> Child standing at the bottom of a crag with no lid on ? tsk tsk
It's under the woolly hat
> Always good to be reminded, especially with at least two deaths in the last 12 months due to incomplete or incorrect tying in....
> CHECK YOUR KNOT AND YOUR PARTNERS: (Whatever knot you use):
> Here's a young Felicity Ryan at Potash Road Crag, NY asking This OK Dad?
> If you climb with me, you know I always ask and in most cases check.
I doubt her ability to hold a leader fall in those slippy wollen gloves mick.
There was me thinking she had inherited a big head from somewhere :-)
also check your partner's belay plate threaded right (if possible) and screwgate done up
Looking through photos the other day I found one of me belaying with a cross loaded crab behind me as part of the belay. This stuff does happen to even the most careful
Sadly two friends of mine were involved in an accident where a lapse of concentration resulted in a fatality at an indoor wall. Both involved were highly competent and in my experience extremely safety concious climbers, just a split seconds loss of focus was enough.
The results are terrible so please just have a little check each and every time you climb.
Why does the rope coming out of the top of the knot pass through the harness belay loop and then then follow the line of the belay loop, as opposed to just following the line of the belay loop?
Salutory lesson from my teens - I was at the top of pitch 1 of Great Harry:
Me: "When you're ready.."
Second: "That belay good?"
Second "Chuck yourself off, then"
I check the belay one more time and get a richly deserved billhooking for calling him up when I wasn't absolutely sure.
The only thing that got damaged was my pride, but the lesson stuck. If only all our learnings came as cheaply.
One time I managed to get 8m up the first pitch a route without tying on at all so I know it is all too easy to get completely distracted before starting a route, especially a hard or challenging route where you are concentrating on other aspect of the climb.
Without wanting to be macabre and having not been following the UKC and the climbing press much in 2011, when/where were the accidents you refer to?
Clearly it happens, I have tried to start a route without tying on before, but I am more surprised that your belayer missed it. What were they doing while you were climbing the first 8m - you would think they would notice something was wrong when the slack they were paying out wasn't being taken up... ?!
Safety first has to be the golden rule.
Of the occasions I am aware of - and there have been a few - the leader has started to tie on but not finished, so the rope is through the harness maybe with half a knot in it - just waiting to strike!
I have a sly trick I often use - take in the rope a bit 'snug' once it is through the 1st runner - a cheeky check that it is actually attached to something!
Totally invaluable. My regular partner and I make a point of checking out belay and knots every time.
The one time we forgot, he got to the second bolt on a 6b route in Rodellar (first bolt was missing). As I was about to say on belay realised that the plate was still on my harness.... We had been chatting before he started climbing and thus distracted. A sobering reminder why you should check your own and partners gear!
> Why does the rope coming out of the top of the knot pass through the harness belay loop and then then follow the line of the belay loop, as opposed to just following the line of the belay loop?
The rope is threaded through the belay loop. I sometimes do that with single ropes. I got into the habit when I had a harness that did not have the little retaining loops to stop the rope wandering off to left or right on the waistband and leg loops. It also, quite irrationally, gave me a little extra assurance for no real effort.
My first climbing experience in Chamonix was together with my little brother and my parents. Me and my bro were very very inexperienced and our parents hadn't a clue. At the anchor of our first route he had prepared to lower me. At least that was what he thought. When he said GO, I had enough common sense to check if the rope was running correctly. It was hard to see as the rope was a mess. To my horror I found that he had threaded his own end through the anchor and not mine.
I would have decked if I hadn't checked.
Climbing wall death due to knot failure by Ed Douglas
The death of a climber at the Warehouse in Gloucester is a tragic reminder of the importance of checking your harness knot.
A coroner’s inquest has ruled that Gloucestershire climber David Rothman died because he did not tie into his harness properly. Rothman, 73, a retired engineer and a regular at Gloucester climbing wall the Warehouse, suffered multiple fractures after falling about 30ft, and died in hospital two days later.
The inquest focused on how Rothman might have become detached from the rope. His belayer Tony Raphael gave evidence that he felt resistance as Rothman’s weight came onto the rope before the highly experienced climber fell.
This suggests that Rothman had attempted to tie his usual bowline but the knot had failed. It is possible Rothman either forgot to tie his bowline after pulling the rope through his harness, or did so only partly or incorrectly. A figure-of-eight knot has been discounted because there was no bight left in the rope. Deputy Gloucestershire coroner David Dooley said: “Had a stopper knot been used, the rope probably would not have failed.”
The other accident was at Awesome Walls: http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=59860
It is also a concern in the USA: http://www.rockandice.com/news/1909-bowline-blamed-for-death
There have been several deaths due to knot failure, or incomplete knots in several countries both outdoors and in, and many injuries. The exact numbers are not known.
A UKC piece on the relative merits, demerits and roles of fig 8, single bowline, double bowline and bowline with Yosemite finish would be a great.
I'm new to this lark, been going to the local wall for a couple of months, and it's certainly surprised me to see how casual people seem to be about tying in/attaching belays, and how very few people seem to check each other.
Years ago, I used to shoot, and safety checks were a ritual, done no matter how sure you were that everything was ok. I expected to find the same in climbing tbh.
The little informal group I climb with have always happily practiced the buddy check system both indoors and out. I work on the principle that if something can go wrong it will go wrong. I know I have incorrectly tied in and have seen others do so as well. A recent example was when 3 of us abbed in to do Pel or Rap at south stack. The sea was fairly high so first man down set up a hanging belay. I came next and tied onto my end of one half rope and third man came down but before tying onto his end decided to put his jacket on. He did not tuck the jacket inside his harness which resulted in him only feeding the rope through the leg section of the harness and completely missing the waist loop. This was spotted and corrected because we persist in doing the buddy check.
Then do it!! FFS! Nobody has said you can't, why do you need permission???
> You need to tone down your response, it comes across as patronising and aggressive which I am sure in the real world you are not.
I get very irritated by people suggesting more controls in daily life. As I said, if you want to have a "formal tie in procedure," then do so. If you don't understand where the permission thing came from, read your post again.
Another vote for the buddy system - all the time: roping up, at every stance, whilst rapelling, etc. This should be drummed into every beginning climber, because it is probably the most valuable piece of advice on safety there is. It's saved me, and partners, several times.
> I'm new to this lark, been going to the local wall for a couple of months, and it's certainly surprised me to see how casual people seem to be about tying in/attaching belays, and how very few people seem to check each other.
> Years ago, I used to shoot, and safety checks were a ritual, done no matter how sure you were that everything was ok. I expected to find the same in climbing tbh.
Once you get out the hall and out in the real world you will find there are many things you or your partner will have to do independently on which the safety of one or both of you relies on. On many occasions a partner check will not be possible and therefore climbing has developed a culture of self-reliance, individual competence and personal checks.
I have no wish to climb with someone not competent to tie their own knot satisfactorily since at some stage I may have to risk my life on their abilities. A culture of awareness of all the things happening around you is to be encouraged,a structured partner check system and the reliance on this to the detriment of personal skills is a retrograde step.
I will still comment if someone is not tied in correctly. (If they chose to solo, do run out routes beyond their level or whatever else that is their choice, but I can at least do the simple friendly thing of pointing out an obvious danger they have missed.
Checking yourself is the most important thing, checking others can be helpful and can save your day on the crag.
Many years ago I climbed Manchester Buttress with the rope just pushed through my harness and the knot untied, but since I didn't fall off it didn't matter. I hope I've checked or been more careful since but there isn't a fail safe system. I always try to tie on without any distractions, but we are all human, and to err is human.
What I do always (I think) do is double check before abbing. After all, when you're abbing you're always falling and I always double check that my harness is properly buckled. One of the big things to check then is that the tails (if you're using two knotted ropes) haven't been left excessively long ("just to be on the safe side") so you might have accidentally pushed the tails through you ab device.
It's just maths:
If you've got a 1 in 10,000 chance of getting your knot wrong and your partner has a 1 in 100 chance of missing a badly tied knot then overall the chances of climbing with a bad knot are 1/(10,000 * 100) = 1 in a million which is safe enough.
But without the check its 1 in 10,000 which is pretty risky for an activity you could easily do a thousand times a year.
When teaching I always get people to check each others knots and that their belay is still threaded properly. I trust my climbing partners 100% but still have a sly look at their knot to make sure they are have not made a mistake and are about to ruin my nice day out climbing. Such accidents can be avoided, very easily. It doesn't matter how experienced you are, mistakes can be made with dreadful unfortunate consequences.
To be honest, I'm not sly about it. I check openly, almost every time, Im human so it is almost. People sometimes take it the wrong way, but to be honest if they take it as an insult then I'm often not bothered climbing with them. I am absolutely happy for people to check my knot. It is a simple, quick and completely painless thing to do.
When I'm teaching, its something I teach, and insist on. Its also drilled into my head to check check check, which is invaluable when working with kids.
Somebody pointed out that it won't reduce all risks and isn't always possible... and the sky is blue and it's a long way to Tipperary. Still worth doing when you can.
Talking of checks, ran a group abseil yesterday. Several instructors, three abseil stations and three bottom ropes for a group of forty 9 year olds, with about 20 parents hanging around, too.
Check personal anchor secure; then, for each abseiler, check 3 harness buckles, check helmet, check rest of group back far enough and not wandering off, check safety rope screwgate, check safety rope Italian hitch tied properly and HMS screwgate done up, check rope loaded in fig 8 correctly and screwgate done up. Check parents away from bottom of cliff if not wearing helmets.
Multiply the above process by 20-25.
> The death of a climber at the Warehouse in Gloucester is a tragic reminder of the importance of checking your harness knot.
> A coroner’s inquest has ruled that Gloucestershire climber David Rothman died because he did not tie into his harness properly. ...
> The inquest focused on how Rothman might have become detached from the rope.
Thanks for citing this case. (I was surprised that it had no commentary here on UK Climbing,
as it has gotten several mentions elsewhere, as noted.) In some reports of the case, the coroner's
assertions of what happened exceed the evidence reported : i.e., the climber fell, unattached to
an unknotted rope; but this doesn't mean that there HAD BEEN a knot (the bowline is faulted)
that came untied, as it could be as for the long-ago Lynn Hill fall, just a rope fed through the
harness but left untied.
Some people have used the case as grounds for avoiding the bowline. While
this is sensible advice for an unsecured, basic "bowline", it isn't so good an
advice about secured bowlines (either by extension or some "back-up" knot).
And the leap to blame a suspected knot misses also the point raised in this
thread of checking one's belay system.
This was an odd bit of testimony, as reported : the belay felt tension and (then!) looked
up to witness the fall : what was the belayer doing prior --in apparently NOT looking
at the climber? Among the on-line reports is one that says that the climber was done
and being lowered. (One should hope that the inquest got these facts straight; but the
quotes reported don't give such confidence in that.)
Right. Here is where the coroner has leapt to the blame-the-bowline camp;
had the bowline been tied, it probably would not have failed, either, in this
top-rope (? --again, a basic fact not reported, to my awareness) situation,
though we don't know the exact rope characteristics.
!!? There is a remark that details will be reported when the investigation
is completed : the accident was over 2 years ago [Jan'11], how much time ... ?!
A culture of awareness of all the things happening around you is to be encouraged,a structured partner check system and the reliance on this to the detriment of personal skills is a retrograde step.
I absolutely agree that a culture of raised awareness is necessary, the most accidents occur when people become blase to the hazards surrounding them. I can't understand how the habit of a buddy check is a retrograde step ? Not one of us is infallable and as the accidents highlighted show it is sometimes the older more acomplished experienced climbers that are at risk of accidents. A pre climb check doesn't make you safe but if it offers the chance of picking up a potential fatal mistake then it has to be a good thing.
I wrote "a structured partner check system and the reliance on this to the detriment of personal skills is a retrograde step." which is not the same as `the habit of a buddy check´ (apart from your climbing partner for the day may well not be a buddy).
Placing an emphasis on partner checks when teaching beginners leads to the impression that this is the gold standard of climbing safety whereas the ability to tie knots correctly and check them yourself should be.
Making correct knot tying and rigorous self-checking the priority would reduce the number of climbers who fail to re-tie correctly at lower-offs and incidentally would have saved the climber last year in the US where a group who used the partner check system all thought someone else had done the check, his lack of personal skills being his downfall.
Once one leaves the simplistic world of top-roping and climbing walls the partner check has massive failings in that a partner is not available to do the checking and climbers then have to learn another way of dealing with knots in a safe manner. Learning one method which works in a limited number of situations and another which covers all possible situations strikes me (and many others) as confusing.
Wise words Jim.
Saying that buddy checks are counterproductive since you can't always do them is also wrong. If you replace the buddy check with nothing in these cases (usually abseling situations) you are again increasing the risk a lot. What you should do is replace the buddy check with another double check, and in an abseling situation that is weighting the system while still tied in to the anchor. Alternatively, if the anchor is far from the edge, weight it so that if the system fails, you just fall over and not over the edge.
I interpreted Jim as saying whilst buddy checks are very important and should always be done when you can, in some situations it may not be possible and in those situations you must check yourself.
Surely that is best practice.
He said "the reliance on this to the detriment of personal skills".
He didn't say that buddy checks are wrong. He said that relying on buddy checks so much that you don't rely on yourself and your own checks first and foremost is wrong. There is a difference.
Thank you for the update of the coroner's findings and the other links.
My climbing partner and I always check harness / knot / belay plate etc before climbing. It's a ritual we've deliberately built up. the way we see it is - there is no pride, no shame - if one of us spots a mistake we fix it. No embarassment, no false pride.
I'm teaching the same to my scouts who I'm teaching to climb - don't be afraid to look at my knot / my belay plate / my harness etc when I'm checking yours. I'm not too proud to have a potential mistake pointed out to me by a child. The more eyes on safety the better. I hasten to point out that at no point has a child found a mistake, but I still don't mind them checking for one. :-)
Can't see why anyone should be offended at a quick friendly check - it means they care about your safety.
Absolutely. Anyone who gets offended by that is an idiot. And, BTW, anybody who thinks it's some sort of thin end of the wedge, police state, mind control, infringe on my personal freedom kind of a thing is an even bigger idiot.
Which is a conclusion based on speculation to the cause,
rather than some fact. Ironically, it might lead to the solution
of knot checking --albeit not for the reason of seeing that
SOME decent knot is tied, but that the prescribed and not
proscribed knot is!
To the concern about growing a culture of dependency,
the Rothman case is more the opposite --a long-standing
climber more recently a regular on the inside.
I very much doubt that both climbers that died left the ground with anything other than complete reliance in their own skills. A simple stop and check before climbing could have saved lives.
> Which is a conclusion based on speculation to the cause,
> rather than some fact.
True. Despite lack of rigorous proof, the incident has catalysed the decision to insist on only fig 8 knots. I suspect things were leaning in that direction anyway.
Ironically, it might lead to the solution
> SOME decent knot is tied, but that the prescribed and not
> proscribed knot is!
Yes. This move not only necessitates knot-checking by staff but also simplifies the process. Just one, easily recognized knot, rather than all the variations on the bowline.
> as it has gotten several mentions elsewhere, as noted.) In some reports of the case, the coroner's
> assertions of what happened exceed the evidence reported : i.e., the climber fell, unattached to
> an unknotted rope; but this doesn't mean that there HAD BEEN a knot (the bowline is faulted)
> that came untied, as it could be as for the long-ago Lynn Hill fall, just a rope fed through the
> harness but left untied.
I have only just joined this thread and given it a brief scan but I may have missed some points if they appeared higher up.
This comment about Lynn Hill jumped out at me, although I am in agreement with what you say in the rest of your post. My understanding of the Lynn Hill accident is that it was a figure of eight knot that had been part-tied. I have always maintained that this is a flaw in the Fo8 knot since you can get distracted half-way through tying it and leave no decent knot. There are many stories of this happening both with nasty consequences, and on occasions where people have discovered half way up a route.
I wrote about the Fo8 decision of some climbing walls here - http://www.rockfax.com/news/2011/12/04/knot-safety/
The main point in that article is that the decision is being based on 2 fatalities since 2002 and not on the real stat that is required here, namely the number of times someone has fallen the full height of the wall due to a knot coming undone, or being partially tied, since each one of these is a potential fatality. I am sure there would be a number of part-tied Fo8 knots in that stat.
I also feel it is bad practice to insist people tie a knot they may not be familiar with.
In defence of the walls though, they were probably being harassed by insurance companies looking for some change in policy.
At the Roaches last year I saw a guy second the Sloth, fairly gracefully but not totally solid. When he came back down his leader spotted that he hadn't doubled back when putting on his harness.
The Lynn Hill myth is one that met an agenda, it seems, and got legs. The assertion that she had simply tied NO knot --but meant to finish tying in with a bowline-- is hers, in her published book as well as in conversation(s) to some who asked about it. As she was wearing a shell during the climb, the unsecured rope went unnoticed from observers (but clearly there'd been no "buddy check").
There have been other *solutions* to the supposed half-tied FO8 problem, with using an anchor bend (fisherman's *bend*) / aka anchor hitch as the base knot, which will grip the tail --if the tying at least reaches that point before distraction-- well enough ('a la the Prohgrip / Blake's hitch).
For indoor climbing, maybe there should be some standard of having the climber weight the belay system, although with so much rope out, that might entail moving backwards from the wall to deliver tension (yeah, but while doing that, take a gander at the belayer to look for signs of wakefulness!)!?
Now, your article asserts that :
If there are such a number of cases, it makes a good argument for the check that SOME good knot is tied, and less that that knot be a particular one. Btw, that F08 photo'd in the article is rather poorly dressed, IMO --looks too much like the simplistic, traced-8 images parroted all over, vs. the precise curving and folding that will retain form under load. (Dave Merchant's _Life on a Line_, 2nd ed., advocates a somewhat awkward symmetric form, claiming superior strength but more importantly easier loosening after loading; then there is the more obvious one, and the choice of which "end" to load and which to be the tail.)
But the gym's could insist on testing this? Anyway, it's a rather weak point, IMO, as climbers should be familiar with some basic set of knots --where "familiar" also carries connotations of being able to work with that set beyond some enumerated cases.
> If there are such a number of cases, it makes a good argument for the check that SOME good knot is tied, and less that that knot be a particular one.
Which I think is what I am saying although I may not have followed your point fully.
It was done nice and loose for illustration purposes.
'should be' being the operative words there.
I would be really against being forced to use a figure of eight when tying in at the wall...usually when I climb indoors I use it as an opportunity to try moves or more strenuous routes I wouldn't do when climbing outside and as such I am more likely to weight the knot when I fall off! As my fingers are pathetically weak I find that if I have weighted a figure8, I am unable to untie when I have completed the climb/moves and for this reason I use the yosemite bowline with a stopper which is easier to undo.
The main problem I have found is distraction when tying whatever knot you decide to use and I'm quite happy to have anyone check my knot since I know how easily I can be distracted!
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