/ A small request from a climbing instructor....
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.......
I expected to read your post with dismay but actually found it quite interesting.
However, why don't you let people tie in with a figure 8 at your wall? I thought a lot of the point of a fig 8 is that it's easier to check that you've tied it correctly?
I think he means a fig 8 device.... most commonly used as an abseil device
A small request? That looks like a big long one to me, got bored reading at the lying down belaying bit. There is nothing wrong with lying down when your belaying.
Wind your neck in and stop preaching.
> However, why don't you let people tie in with a figure 8 at your wall? I thought a lot of the point of a fig 8 is that it's easier to check that you've tied it correctly?
He's taking about a figure 8 belay (or abseil) device rather than a figure 8 knot.
There is an example here:
Agreed we've all made bad mistakes. However I reckon a significant (15%+ ??) of climbers routinely operate at a pretty low level of competence. Crap belaying is usually the litmus test.
As climbing's become safer, dire penalties seem far less likely and it's easier to drift by on automatic. Easier but potentially deadly.
I work at a wall too, and have seen people doing dangerous things from time to time. It happens, we're all human. I've yet to have a negative reaction from people when I've chatted to them about it though - diplomacy and mutual respect is the name of the game. I find if you explain to folk why you're asking them to do things in a certain way it makes your life a lot easier... Some of the time it's simply a case of asking more experienced climbers to assist in setting a good example to newer climbers who may not be able to make as good a judgement call about whether something is safe or not, rather than the technique in question *always* being wrong. It's worth remembering that none of us know everything too...
Sometimes a natural cure for the complacency that creeps in with the over familiarity of situations is a prod from a sufferer of as you put it "SPAitis" ....
While understanding (and broadly agreeing with) what you're saying here, Al, it's a pity you feel the need to call it that when not all SPAs suffer from this terrible affliction!
Not for you perhaps, but for the relative novice who copies what you do because they think it looks cool....
I'm watching you Jamie!!!
Nothing focuses the mind like hanging above an 'iffy' gear placement in bad weather. But you don't get that indoors, so no wonder people lose their concentration.
Bit like modern cars. They are so well designed nowadays that people actually feel safe !
I am afraid its your job to get people's heads back on the job, despite any reaction you might get. The problem is, most people never fall off unexpectedly on an indoor wall. Loosen a few holds, so they fall off regularly and they will all have to concentrate a bit more (not a serious suggestion mind)
Surely, not tying in is self regulating in a Darwinian kind of a way ?
popcorn is needed
The quality of Floor-walkers tends to range from the calm, experienced, observant and supportive staff member right through the ranks of good to mediocre staff down to the 'intern' who has the short end of the shift and who should actually be accompanied as they move around the floor. What is also vital is the monitoring of floor-walkers by the senior on duty: something that is frequently overlooked. This acts as both quality assurance and a double-check: it also provides a witness to any event that may lead to debate or damage.
The same could be said for being at a crag where we each have a role to look out for each other but the great outdoors tends to be far less lenient when mistakes are made and we are on our own to make decisions.
What is also important is that the floor walkers at any wall recognise that there are a number of equally appropriate methods of doing the same thing, be it tying-in, belaying or lowering and a wall that prescribes only a rigidly monitored set of methods, or worse only one method, shows up its own inadequacies; especially if staff members then hide behind the ubiquitous statement about insurance.
I am a TA for two walls and I have tried to minimise the level of 'you must do this and that' types of instructions to customers as the more you write down and prescribe the more open you are to legal challenge when something goes amiss.
The next most important issue is the attitude of staff: nothing replaces courtesy regardless how strong a floor-walker considers they need to intervene on a customer's use of the wall. If staff come over 'all in your face' and with attitude then customers are going to get unnecessarily wound-up and possibly overlook the basics. Traipsing over ropes whilst sucking on a dummy-teat of a water bottle & trying to look athletic whilst looking around haphazardly (as I have seen at a number of walls) is not floor-walking; it gets customers' backs up and means that there is no certain way that he or she can assuredly claim to have made a thorough and complete check during that particular circuit of the wall-users. The best floor walkers are those that go about their role inconspicuously blending-in but can recall all the main activities that are happening in each section of the wall.
I have to say that your posting on here suggests a certain degree of self righteous "I've got 50 years experience so wont let an SPA holder tell me what to do...itis".
Anyway, putting your gratuitous SPA bashing to one side, I agree with you about how it's done. Diplomatically rather than as a telling off and citing of the rules (except for belaying whilst being on the phone, that's a telling off!). If it's done badly its more a reflection of the person's personality than of their qualifications.
Wall guy told an old SPA and MLA partner that he needs to take an introduction course as he didn't know how to tie in. He didnt recognise a bow line. Makes everyone around think he's a total ****. Management need to make sure their staff know what their on about and know how to approach people who aren't being safe in the right way.
Maybe not when the first three all posted simultaneously!
Num Num, whilst belaying usually finds himself absent-mindedly paying out great loops of slack while he gapes lustfully at the Lucy Creamer type climbing at the other end of the wall.
I thought it was just me who did that
Yup, pretty much sums up my experience as a climbing instructor.
Generally I found that if you pick people up on things they are doing wrong then the standard of climbers safety increases because most people using the wall without supervision will not be one-off users and will mend their ways if they are consistently (and politely!) asked to by staff. Most people when picked up will either recognise the mistake themselves, take the advice as new information gladly or take the advice on after the reasoning behind it is adequately explained. There are however some cases, usually older men, who are stuck to their ways like insects in pine sap. If someone is being obstinate I generally found the best angle is essentially; "look, I know you have done it like this since hemp rope was first invented but you have to remember that newer and less experienced climbers all around you may be copying what you are doing and with their lack of experience putting themselves at risk" (obviously without the sarcastic slant). This simultaneously acknowledges their length and breadth of experience, suggests that they are superior to those just starting out and makes it less about "I want you to change" and more about "Can you help me help these other people?". Woot for amateur psychology o/
> Num Num, whilst belaying usually finds himself absent-mindedly paying out great loops of slack while he gapes lustfully at the Lucy Creamer type climbing at the other end of the wall.
One of my partners does just that. Soloing mentality when belayed by him needed...
At least you have someone to ogle at to keep you awake whilst belaying.Down at other walls it's a bit more grim with the old boring fart crowd at one end, and the gauky keen ones at the other.
Actually, a lot of the time at our local wall,people use the wall to boulder, as it is not very high...
> I have to say that your posting on here suggests a certain degree of self righteous "I've got 50 years experience so wont let an SPA holder tell me what to do...itis".
The laying down thing ! It was only 40 winks , I was exhausted after the warm up . I'll bring a foldy out chair next time okay ?
The op did say 'the use of a figure eight as a belay' which thought was pretty obvious.
I agree with this SPAitis issue. I have one, but I'm not over zealous about it's value tbh!
There are too many people in climbing now who aren't just having a word with folk who've accidentally made a huge oversight, out of genuine care for others... but are actively carrying around an attitude that the whole climbing world is in terrible peril and that because nobody can match their 'self proclaimed' level of skill & judgement, they're all woefully inadequate, doomed jerks...
They're often people who can't climb very well and, most disturbingly!!, are the ones that DON'T actually raise it with the people in need, at the crag... but come on UKC and bore us all with it after-the-fact!
If you see someone in climbing doing something dangerous... Either approach them about it out of genuine human love for your fellow (a basis on which it will highly likely be appreciated) or let them get on with it!
Maybe they really can belay laying down whilst on the phone.... And maybe their mate doesn't care, because he's about 6 grades below his limit warming up?? There's no rules you know!
Of course, if you're working at the wall (OP) that's totally different and you're gonna have to accept that being persistently scowled at and resented for 'policing work' is part of the job!
Exactly the approach given to me by young whipper snappers in charge when I turn up at walls in my breeches, red socks and hemp rope, and climb straight up to the top without clipping because there are no tree branches to put a sling and steel stubai krab around (i've still got a couple). None of this namby pandy clipping bolts. When I was a lad we did 200 ft run outs. The leader just didn't fall - simple as that.
Figure of eight belay? What's that? What's wrong with a good old body belay and bowline around the waist? I haven't fallen off in the last 60 years, so why should I start doing so now?
I appreciate the respect shown to me by you young instructor laddies and lasses.
You know, I posted this last night and didn’t expect so many replies this early on, though I have been very interested in all the posts. Have I started a flame-war?
Ok, perhaps I should clear up a few things.
Firstly, I am certainly not meaning to sound too preachy, I have just seen a few many falls for my liking because of silly little lapses (of which I am also guilty) and wanted to point out that complacency is dangerous. I am not the most experienced climber on here (not by a long shot) and am still learning things myself, some of which have been challenges to the way I was originally taught (at a climbing wall).
While floor walking I try as best as possible to only intervene when is absolutely necessary and even then in a conversational way. I’m a 5’4’’ woman and couldn’t swagger over with an air of self-righteousness if I tried! There are many times which I have come away from these conversations having learnt something new rather than having shown someone ‘the right way’. We all do things differently; it’s just trying to sift through the differences from the down-right silly.
Lastly, is it possible to get SPAitis without having your SPA? I’m slightly concerned! Perhaps its CWAitis instead.....
Of course its my job to correct and help, though when you sign yourself into our wall you have to declare that you can do all the basic things (there is even a ticky box list). It's rather annoying when you have someone who has blatently lied on their form when all they had to do is ask to be reminded how to do things (like tie in).
I have absolutely no problem with spending time helping people who are just not sure, or have perhaps forgotten something.
Heh heh, nah I was bottom-roping at the time.
I had tied in, just couldn't acually remember doing it....its a weird nervous tick I have.
Taking the issue of tying in, how far d oyou go in training a new supervisor at a wall?
If you allow people to tie in using any safe technique, how do you know your supervisor knows all these techniques? there are quite a few safe knots you can use to tie into a harness. However, if a young supervisor is put in a position where they are unsure of right/wrong, it's human nature not to want to be pointed out as a tit, so they might let something unsafe go.
In construction we have a thing about scaffolding, it's a dismissal offence to touch any part of one. Now, we have some very skilled people who can easily distiinguish between a brace and a toe board. But if you let one person do alterations, the next, less skilled person may think it's acceptable for them to do it. So to be 100% safe it's a blanket ban.
So I understand where the walls are coming from, it's a way of controlling risk.
Perhaps it's the people at the wall who need to be educated as to why they are being asked to work a certian way? If they want to climb their own way, there's always the big outdoors?
I agree with some of what you say, it is easy to 'get up people's noses' if handled incorrectly! I also agree that there may be some level of SPAitis amongst some at the wall. However, please don't assume that I am suffering from this terrible affliction, as I haven't even thought about getting my SPA yet. I don't know everything, and am still learning.
shouldn't make any difference at all!
It’s interesting to hear about your experience of this sort of thing, out-with climbing that is.
All our newbies go through an extensive period of shadowing other instructors, to learn how to handle the variety of groups we have. We also hold regular training sessions, and offer CWA and CWLA training and assessment courses when we can.
Our adult intro courses (which is how I personally learned how to climb) teach the fig-8 and bowline (which is all we allow in our wall) as well as the use of a variety of belay equipment and styles. Our idea is that if we can teach folk how to use a variety of knots and plates, they will make their own decision about which they are more comfortable using. Not all of our instructors will take these classes, especially if they are not experienced themselves.
If they see something they aren’t sure about then they will generally ask the advice of one of the more experienced staff before doing anything (I had to ask about using a stitch-plate once because I had honestly never seen one in use before).
> It's rather annoying when you have someone who has blatently lied on their form when all they had to do is ask to be reminded how to do things (like tie in).
A wall we went to in Salt Lake City (a few years back) made us all do a belaying and lead falling off 'test' to show competency.
Ah. In that case your sermon wasn't an unqualified success.
Could be. Its similar, but worse! ;O)
I got picked up the other day for tieing into a screwgate krab on an DMM Alpine harness, though acceptable to do so I was told to tie directly into the harness, fair enough, your rules I thought. The lady wasn't unpleasant at all however ten mins later a lad turned up telling me my tie off was too long (About 40cm) which I felt a tad fastidious. I have an SPA but never use it in anger I just smiled.
I could have mentioned his route setting was a pile of pish but didn't. It's there place it's their rules, though I felt a mild embarassment at being told off by someone half my age with half my experience but my wife tells me off for less all the time
Oh? You work in construction?
Gosh, how interesting. I'm surprised you've never mentioned it before.
Oh dear, a change of profession may be in order, time to hang up the rock shoes and grab a white collar instead.....:)
> Oh? You work in construction?
> Gosh, how interesting. I'm surprised you've never mentioned it before.
You know, I really don't get your dislike of this sort of thing. I work in construction and happen to REALLY love my job. Really really. I'd say that's a good thing. And I use it sometimes to draw parallels because it's what I know best.
Your issue is?
having read the post and all the replies i have to say as an instructor who also works in a climbing wall environment the best way i find to ' enforce ' our rules is to ask and discuss the potential problems we notice... i.e lying on the floor whilst belaying ( what an idiot, and how dangerous! )
Would you lie down outside on a crag??? I know I wouldn't. Also using a phone whilst belaying!! Your mind is then not on climbing, similar to driving whilst on the phone...your more liable to have an accident!!
Most of the climbers at our climbing wall are more experienced than me... but i do agree i wouldn't speak to them as a self rightous person. but if i do see something that is of interest i think regardless of that person's ability and skill level its my duty of care to enquire!!
i have many DofE people who cant tie up a pair of boots, i still show them knowing that some will not listen. its not the same or even close but i see your problem. i just show them how. again and again, but i like by job so i smile and show them what to do.
if you ignore the ukc linch mob there are some useful comments, unlike my first post.
Hemp rope!!? Luxury! Now in my day....
Whats wrong with laying down while belaying?
> Dislike? Goodness me no. I only wish you'd stop being so coy and tell us more about yourself.
By the way,
have I mentioned that I work in construction????
> Whats wrong with laying down while belaying?
In reply to needvert:
> Whats wrong with laying down while belaying?
since you have no profile its difficult to understand how much experience you have but if it helps:
Indoors-I cant imagine any wall (or come to that most other users, or other leisure facilities)tolerating anybody lying in the circulation area, whether they are attached to a rope or not.
Outdoors-Trad. There are plenty of things you can do to best manage ropes and falls (including dealing with falls onto to suspect gear) if you are in a more flexible belaying position
Outdoors-Sport Less of an issue but you aren't giving your leader much of a dynamic belay and you are worse than useless if they are working it.
Outdoors (all)-stuff gets dropped and pulled off...you are now a nice big pretty imobile target.
...as for belaying lying down in inflatable rubber ring...Dear Points of view
Yes, i do sometimes. What's the problem with it? How is it more dangerous?
>I know I wouldn't.
I wouldn't wear skirts, but if that's what you like feel free...
There you have it. You did a one day course and you think you know more than someone who has honed his skills over the years.
I can probably belay lying down one handed while on the phone using a fig8 device safer than you do with a GriGri following your 'best practice' rules, but i guess they don't teach that in Mickey Mouse courses. That is learnt by being out holding fall after fall and understanding the properties and limitations of the system; but that would involve using one's brain rather than follow strict directions, so i reckon is still out of your league.
How many falls have you held when climbing outdoors? Can you count them with the fingers of one hand? Do you really think you are experienced enough to be calling idiots to people who have streamlined their technique out of experience?
Tell you what, you do whatever you like when you are outdoors, that is completely your call but don't expect it to be ok indoors with a whole lot of in-experienced climbers and children watching.
People will be watching what you do and thinking its ok to do it even if they don't have the 'skills' you possess. If you dont like the guidelines at your local wall then don't climb there, go outside where you do what you want!
I cant speak for nick_curtis01 but I have personally taken and held countless falls, using a variety of plates, indoors and out, trad and sport. Funnily enough I didnt start climbing yesterday.....
We’ve all read the stories.......
I found your post patronizing and the above statement is a clear example. You might have read the stories but someone like me has experienced them first hand so you may understand if I also found them a little offensive (that's too strong a word but you get the drift) But on second reading I decided to cut you a little slack. The problem with these broadcast forums is that on first reading there is a tendency to take it personally. You are a professional and indoors you most certainly have a duty to point out dangerous practices. As others have said it's the manner in which it is done that is important.
> We’ve all read the stories.......
> I found your post patronizing and the above statement is a clear example. You might have read the stories but someone like me has experienced them first hand so you may understand if I also found them a little offensive (that's too strong a word but you get the drift)
I sincerely apologise if I came across as patronising or offensive, it was not my intention.
For me its not just about the stories but also from the experience of seeing these things happen. I hadn't long started with my wall when I witnessed a particularily nasty fall, and ended up completely loosing my lead head as a result. Its only recently that I have been able to get back to taking big lead falls, even then its terrifying (cant imagine what it would be like to actually have to get over a fall or to have witnessed a worse outcome).
The falls ive seen havent been due to major faults, just a combination of little ones and I just wanted to point out the danger of complacency (of which I have admitted several times of being guilty of).
Nice comortable belaying stance I'm sure you'll agree ;-)
I imagine its also very difficult for a floor walker to distinguish between experienced and inexperienced people.
Neverhtless they are handy in the winter months even though I might end up with some shleb telling me I'm not belaying properly.
At first I thought that was me! ...then I realised its a mermaid.
This is shocking! These guys should go back to the wall to learn how to belay http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=179139
His quickdraws don't even match ...accident waiting to happen
each to their own, except indoors, in the gym you follow their rules and the instructors advice is to be listened to. outdoors do as you like, its only going to traumatise the sympathetic people who watch you die.
P.S A fig 8 knot is insurable and a Fig8 belay DEVICE is not.
Lol! I'm sure he's still celebrating.
This is partly a tact thing isn't it?
There's a big difference between someone saying "you know what you're doing and how to do that safely, but the newbies over there don't, so would you mind doing it by the book in case they get the wrong idea" or "you know that's fine and I know that's fine but our insurers don't, so would you mind doing it the other way instead while you're climbing here" and someone saying "I don't care how much experience you've got Mr Bonnington, I passed my CWA last week and I know that that is WRONG AND DANGEROUS (although I couldn't explain why) so don't do it or else."
> I cant speak for nick_curtis01 but I have personally taken and held countless falls, using a variety of plates, indoors and out, trad and sport. Funnily enough I didnt start climbing yesterday.....
BUT you don't recognise a sticht plate? BTW I've been climbing for forty plus years and I don't make a habit of "holding and taken countless falls" - me and my partners tend to be more efficient at the job - of climbing! Puppy.
This is the proper way to belay. It's comfortable and you don't get a crick in your neck.
I agree on the second part about those around, but I what annoys me, is looking after idiots, including arrogant idiots you have mentioned, who become aggressive and ignorant on spotting their mitsakes.
I'd expect members of staff and instructors at climbing walls triggering self-correction in climbers, than fixing their mistakes.
Meaning, if you see someone making mistakes or doing wrong thins at your wall, approach that person and ask "Are you sure you are belaying correctly?", "Are you sure you've clipped the draw correctly?"...
Then, depending on reaction, you act:
- if a person shows that she does not really know what she is doing, then help
- if a person shows signs of ignorant over-ego approach, conclude "OK, I hope you've not forgotten your insurance policy number", and leave them.
Simply, please, do not cultivate "mind the gap" approach straight from the London Underground. In climbing, in rocks, in mountains, there is no room for mothering!
Let the arrogant idiots hurt themselves, they will learn. If don't, they will die.
What pisses me a lot is the NHS-like approach to ignorance of some (or many) individuals in the population and begging them "Stop smoking, please" "Darling, would you mind exercising, otherwise you will get fat"...
We are adults. We must pay for our mistakes on our own.
I must admit, I could hardly resist watching Lucy climbing. Perhaps it's because of the new rocky haircut Lucy's got :)
I didn't really want to spell it out so bluntly but in essence what occurred was a 20 year old youth with an SPA who's hardest climb was severe telling a middle aged mountaineer who had climbed most of the North faces known to man as well as leading hard extreme routes since the sixties that he did not know what he was doing. I'm surprised he did not drop one on him.
He still should have said use a fig8 weather the girls were there or not.
SPA shows he can work at a climbing wall but its not him who makes the rules.
Just because he is doing what he is told and cant justify it even though if he was telling you we both know what the climbing walls opinion would be, maybe they told you this when you complained.
Did you sign a form saying you would tie in with a fig8, in which case the snotty youth was right again.
just because your a god at climbing dont give you the right to break rules, and have a go a a unlucky kid doing his job even if he is rude. you still have the right to complain about him being rude though.
This is turning into an 'us' v 'them'
Those who can can and those who can't tell us how to do it. When really it's not like that it's a tap on the ego that people don't like and the way some smug youths occasionally like to feel good by being smart arses.
It's there rules - let them rule just be aware that if you break their rules a spotty little herbert might bring you up on it.
I also know of the incident in which Al describes whereby the lad was pretty rude to him as he explained it to me in person and to be fair I agree with him. An SPA is nothing more than a supervisory award with a bit of rigging involved which is why climbers on assessment only really need to climb "up to" severe.
I would climb with Al anyday of the week and anybody who cites that he is arrogant should probably go to the lifts and partners forum and advertise to go climbing with him.
Curiosity drives me say WTF?
Are people actually being unpleasant, or just overestimating their own expertise, whilst being opinionated?
Seems those with the most to say, and that of the least interest, are those that have been climbing 5 minutes, with or without an SPA to their name.
however the snotty youth still should have known better than to tell someone off for a bowline,
You would have loved the man doing drops on a fig.8 off Castle Buttress at Brinham at the weekend and teaching a young girl to upside down abseil with no backup. You should be greatful that indoors you have the power to stop 'interesting' practice. Climbing is an exciting activity that attracts a good number of brave folk and a few fools. Even good climbers can be complacent on easy terrain (read the Yosemite accdient analysis). I still intervene sometimes when climbers are doing stuff even more stupid than our Brimham friend or more commonly when damaging the rock (eg abseilling on slabs with hard routes dependant on pebbles) but its not something I expect to recieve a kind welcome for; fools don't tend to respond well even to the politest challenge. I remind myself of this when I face someone with SPAitis...fools are the ones most likely to get upset.
On the specifics of belaying lieing down that some posters here see to be supporting: I held an unexpected lead fall once and it hurt: won't be doing it again.
If the wall policy is use of a figure of 8 then that's the policy and its the snotty youths job to police that. The bowline is a funny knot. I've met experienced folk who were a bit superior about the knot yet consistently tied it slightly wrong (and you need to watch carefully to tell this is the case). Fig.8 is a nice obvious easy to check knot, ideal to ensure customers are safely tied in.
Been trying to find a link on strengths or otherwise of the various types but sadly failed. Too many folk think there is only one bowline (their way!) but this link at least illustates the variety out there:
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