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Topic - A small request from a climbing instructor....

Chalkd83 - on 01 Aug 2011
Since I began working at my wall about a year ago I have been quite frankly shocked and appalled at some of the lazy and sometimes downright dangerous things that people do.

I have seen it all: lying down belaying, missing out the first 3 clips whilst leading, back-clipping 8 out of 10 draws, trying to teach someone how to belay from the top of a climb, upside-down harnesses, parallel belaying, one handed belaying, letting go of the dead end completely, death-slack at the 3rd clip, one handed lowering, belaying whilst talking on a mobile.....that last one was my favourite. This is on top of the very common, not tying in correctly.

On pointing out these ‘mistakes’ I have been met with a whole range of reactions, from embarrassment to anger. The excuses have been wide “I was taught to do it that way”, “it’s ok, nothing happened this time”, “no it’s a completely locking device”, “i’ve been doing this for 30 years and have never had a problem”, “the other wall lets me do it this way”.
While I agree that most people have their own preferred way of doing things, each wall will also have a set of guidelines for safe practice. These may differ slightly between establishments, for example our wall decided that we wouldn’t allow the use of a figure eight as a belay whereas other places may allow it. If a member of the wall staff see’s something that he/she considers unusual, unsafe or is in violation of these guidelines then we have a duty to question it. This may simply mean that we ask about why you do it that way, rather than make you change, or that we suggest a safer way to do it. We aren’t doing this to annoy you or so that the wall isn’t liable if you hurt yourself! We are doing it for your own safety and the safety of those around you.

I have unfortunately witnessed several falls, which have remarkably not been fatal but did involve several broken limbs! These falls were not due to major equipment failure or inexperienced climbers but were 100% caused by small lapses which added up to a major problem. New ropes, bad communication, big falls, lazy belaying, lapses in concentration, slick devices, not locking off correctly, all of which are will not cause an accident alone, but when you start combining a few.......
There is not a climber among us who is not guilty of complacency, of doing something so often that it become second nature thus we stop thinking about it. Hell I know I have been half-way up a route and thought “sh*t I don’t remember tying in....” then having to do the awful glance down to check. I am also guilty of chatting to folk while belaying and not being as attentive to my climber as I should be. We all do these things!!

What I ask is small and simple: please check each other, be patient if wall staff question your methods and above all stay safe! We all love this sport but shouldn’t forget that it can injure and kill! We’ve all read the stories.......
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