/ Campaign for "Buddy Checks"
If everyone who reads this thread, and thinks this is a good idea, starts using this call from now (and explains the idea to their climbing partners), we may well have a solution. What do folks think?
Buddy checks are Good Practice. However not everybody follows Good Practice and why should they?
Climbing is all about personal choice and personal responsibility.
Absolutely - not everyone uses climbing calls either.
That is correct, but does not make it wrong either.
Howabout a non-american version?
I'm all for climbing with a partner who always checks - I would be very happy for the people I climb with to check me and I do the same for them. We all know what its like to be pysching up to a route and would fully appreciate the "Chris, just watch your knot" comment if something was wrong, but I don't want some childlike call from a mate I can have an intelligent conversation with.
In an Alan Partridge accent.
Cant get more British than that!
Don't make it like climb when you're ready, make it part of that call... I use "On belay, your knot looks good, climb when you're ready."
Pretty difficult to forget to check then.
I do like checking me checking you though... :D
+1 more for this, might use this on Sunday at the wall :)
Me and my mates all perform peer checks and do the 'calls', even get my 7 old to do them too. Think it's always a good idea to reduce the potential for error/risk, especially those which could have serious consequences.
I understand that everyone can make mistakes but your knot is essentially your own responsibility. There's nothing wrong with being quietly observant, in fact it's a quality you'd want in a good climbing partner, but do we really need to explicitly have a buddy check?
I do like the checking me, checking you thing though...
The economy has taken a tanking, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, nobody can afford to get on the property ladder and we've sold off the council housing, the transport system is all to fvck, the NHS is dying a death of 1000 cuts, our civil liberties are being eroded by our own elected representatives at every turn, and you reckon what's wrong with the country is some folk want to encourage you to look out for your mates?
Perhaps, but I have a suspicion that all of us taking responsibility for each other would be more effective.
> The economy has taken a tanking, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, nobody can afford to get on the property ladder and we've sold off the council housing, the transport system is all to fvck, the NHS is dying a death of 1000 cuts, our civil liberties are being eroded by our own elected representatives at every turn, and you reckon what's wrong with the country is some folk want to encourage you to look out for your mates?
It could be worse, the Tories haven't been in power that long yet.
Maybe a summation of what is wrong with the UK is a bit strong, but a lack of self reliance is something that, imo, is becoming increasingly prevalent and probably not completely unconnected to the problems you posted about.
You'll probably have heard some of the gutter press' stories about the ridiculous things people go to A & E for because they need the state to nurse them for a minor injury. It all adds up. My 96 year old Gran refused to go to A & E when she'd broken her finger because it was a waste of time and they'd only bandage it up the same as she would. I met someone (an adult) the other day who refused to "learn" how to change a tyre because they thought someone else would do it for them if they got a puncture (AA, parents, passer by). I know someone else who calls their Dad every time a circuit breaker trips in their consumer unit. How can you expect a society to operate if people are completely unwilling to help themselves?
The tragic story that elicited this post shouldn't be a warning that we need someone else to check our knot for us, it should be a warning that you should make damn sure you check it yourself because there's going to be a time when no one will be there to help you. Your knot, your life, your responsibility. Why is my partner more capable of checking my knot for me than me?
Buddy checks are a good idea, unquestionably. But in the real world, even the most well-mounted "campaign" that you mount will probably only change the habits of a few. Climbers don't like being told what to do, and suggesting to experienced (and almost universally safe) old-stagers that they need to change what they're doing isn't going to get you far.
Which is ironic as analysis tells us that most accidents of this nature happen to very experienced climbers who have suffered a momentary lapse of concentration.
For what it's worth, most wall-intro courses teach a buddy-check as standard.
Me - "Climbing"
Partner - "I haven't said climb when ready yet"
Me - "Well come on then say it then"
Partner - "No not yet"
Me - "Come on stop messing about"
Partner - "You haven't done your safety checks"
Me - "Yes I have, my knots fine"
Partner - "Your knot is truly beautiful, but you have only tied it round your leg loop"
Me - "Oops, well spotted"
Thankfully my 9 year old daughter was on the ball.
Yes, you should always check your knot; and then your partner should double-check it. It's not about delegating your safety to someone else, personal responsibility for your own safety is always number one and if we muck up it is our fault BUT, there is no harm in having a back up where knots are concerned as this will reduce mistakes.
Saying that, when you leave the ground, what gear you place, how good it is, and how far you run it out is of course up to you - your safety though is also in the hands of your belayer also as regards catching you in a fall, that trust in someone else is very important.
For me, this experience means I've always been religious about keeping up safety checks in both climbing and diving. I think it just needs to be emphasised to beginners that complacency is one of the most insidious problems in any sport which relies on correct equipment and procedures for safety.
It is a good job I was not on the next line listening to that, I would have fallen off laughing.
Please, please give her a huge hug.
Maybe because you're going for a hard redpoint, have spent the last 10 minutes sitting with your eyes closed visualising the route, and are now "in the zone" and totally focussed on the crux moves?
But regardless, whether or not he or she is "more capable", if it takes two people to become distracted at the wrong time to allow someone to start climbing without a properly tied knot it's much less likely to happen than if it only requires one.
> Why is my partner more capable of checking my knot for me than me?
Don't you check your partner's tying in?
I really don't think so! All I want is a way to remind myself to do the check.
> In an Alan Partridge accent.
> Cant get more British than that!
That's the one, thanks!
Anything that apparently abdicates individual responsibility to a 'system' in climbing is a bad thing IMO. It can encourage complacency because you 'know' someone else is taking care of you.
> Anything that apparently abdicates individual responsibility to a 'system' in climbing is a bad thing IMO. It can encourage complacency because you 'know' someone else is taking care of you.
It is not about abdicating individual responsibility. Shit happens as a climber and you usually only have yourself to blame: it's good to check that your belayer is a good belayer, many, even experienced climbers are not good belayers; there are certain people I know I will not climb roped with! Let's not forget that usually climbing with a rope is two team activity, and you often share responsibilities together - double check that nut belay!
You always check your knot first, then your climbing partner double checks it, that's what friends are for. You are also responsible for the condition of your own harness, the state of your rope and gear.... and of course, you then set off climbing....and if you do hurt yourself, you chose to climb and always primarily the consequences are your responsibility/faul/pleasure.
I practice these checks. I don't see this as nanny state nonsense. You can of course pitch it that way, but for those who prefer to take a more ruthless tack, I would set it out like this:
If I'm going to climb and you're belaying, I will take responsibility for my safety by checking you're clipped and locked and set up right. If you object, you've got a personality defect and I don't want you belaying me anyway. Let's call it a day and go to the pub (so long as you're not so disturbed you won't buy your round).
If you're climbing and I'm belaying, I don't want you falling to the ground and spoiling the day because you forgot to tie your knot properly, so I'm going to check it, and I don't care what you think. If you don't like that, by all means climb solo and I hope to see you in the pub later.
Looking at this as an engineer in a safety-driven industry: the practice simply "makes sense". It's incredibly cheap (in time/overhead/effort) and reduces one of the largest sources of risk: human error.
If you want to go down the whole track of "take responsibility for your own actions" I would play that game this way: if you make an active decision to avoid buddy-checks, then you don't have much business rolling into A&E when you hit the deck and do yourself an injury.
Its good to check, obviously, but it should never be made 'compulsory' nor should you ever rely on the fact that someone else has done it.
Giving something a name like 'buddy system' formalises it an codifies it and that is wrong IMO.
I agree. It's good practice, that's all, and will never be made compulsory, that is silly. There should however I believe be regular reminders from the BMC, the climbing walls (the signs at the walls are no good IMO and should be improved) and the climbing media.
Petzl had a good article about it in last years catalogue...their MD had a fall caused by an incomplete knot.
As I recollect, it's been called the buddy system since Alan James painted signs with that on in 1990 when the Foundry started and the first posters, created by Alan and myself have been around since 1998 I think. Buddy system is good shorthand for checking each others knot.
Right, off to the Foundry!
I find it makes me think of the Rex-Kwon-Do scene in Napoleon Dynamite - "At Rex Kwan Do, we use the buddy system. No more flying solo. You need somebody watching your back at all times."
i learned to climb using partner checks pretty much before anyone leaves the ground. partners ive had that dont do it are always thrown off by it... an i think, wtf, why not?
It's not only good practice to check each other's knots, but also harness buckles, particularly those which are finished by passing the strap back through the buckle to lock it off, and where the knot is tied to the harness.
Another sensible check are shoe laces! It's not very funning, and rather off putting, to find yourself making delicate moves with a flapping shoe lace....
Or looked at another way, its entirely fine to minimise and avoid the buddy check. Its everyone's own life and they have self responsibility.
But at an indoor wall especially, a body falling from a few meters up is very likely to injure, maim or kill bystanders. For that reason alone, extra vigilance in tying in is essential - be that a forceful pull on the whole knot or watching over the tying process.
> But at an indoor wall especially, a body falling from a few meters up is very likely to injure, maim or kill bystanders.
How often has this actually happened?
Isn't a pull on the live rope something everyone does when they tie on? I do, it's my arse that's going to hit the floor very fast if I make a mistake.
> Why is my partner more capable of checking my knot for me than me?
He isn't. He is probably less capable and more likely to miss something since it's not his knot. However, he is extremely unlikely to mess up his check on the exact same occasion as you mess up yours. The value of the partner check is that it is independent from your check.
If the probability of you tying your knot wrong is 1/10000 and the probability of him not checking it properly is 1/100 the overall probability of climbing with a bad knot is 1/10000 * 1/100 = 1/1000000. So despite his check being 100 times more likely to miss something than your own check it still makes the overall system 100 times safer.
I love the way you've tried to make it look like you aren't making things up! How much safer would it be to climb on two, three or four ropes?
> I love the way you've tried to make it look like you aren't making things up! How much safer would it be to climb on two, three or four ropes?
If x is the probability of climbing with a bad knot on one rope:
With two ropes, the probably of climbing with no good knot is x squared.
With three ropes, the probability of climbing with no good knot is x cubed.
So in answer, quite a lot safer.
Although I think the 1 in a million shot with one rope and a buddy check is probably good enough. ;)
Buddy checks are a good idea, although I'm not sure about making them part of a climbing call system. There's a danger that it just becomes something people do as part of a routine without actually paying attention.
Even more important is not making a mistake in the first place. Tying on is so routine it's something we can all do without really thinking about it, and therein lies the danger. I doubt that John Long 'forgot' to finish his knot, he probably allowed himself to become distracted because he wasn't paying sufficient attention to what he was doing.
It's not just in climbing that this happens. How often when driving a familiar route do you find that you've no recollection of part of the journey, and have been doing it on 'auto-pilot'?
The important lesson is to concentrate when tying on and not to allow yourself to be distracted by conversation, requests to pass a piece of gear, or any of the other things that can take your mind off what you're doing. Then when you do the buddy check you can be confident that everything is OK.
Agreed!! If you can't get tying your knot right and have to rely on someone else, how on earth are you going to manage to rethread into a lower off at the top of a sport route - on your own!?
I also want to say I appreciate Nath's input in having his daughter check him, fantastic and a very honest admission; I get my daughter to watch and check, more so she will get used to checking herself as well as she cannot belay me, but is aware of the whole system.
It's not a 'bad' idea as such but, for me at least, if I and my partner were to say 'buddy check' to each other on a regular basis it would swiftly be followed by 'mop', 'bucket' and 'detergent please'.
Juts agree amongst yourselves to check and say something like' 'I'll check your knot' - 'check my knot 'please?
> Don't you check your partner's tying in?
No, not unless it's someone I think may be inexperienced or possibly if it's someone I haven't climbed with before. Even then I don't buddy check it, I just look at it. Sorry if that's not American enough for everyone! (joke)
I don't want to sound complacent but I just can't see how I would ever leave the ground with a f*cked up fig 8, it's impossible to tie incorrectly and my harness only has one power point loop. It's something I couldn't bare to leave the ground without double checking. Even when you're setting off on a new pitch and haven't actually freshly tied in, it's automatic to pull your ropes, look at your knot, check your belayer isn't having a sandwich etc.
I wouldn't be offended if someone wanted to check my knot, but if they said "buddy check time" and then started grappling around my crotch I'd think they maybe had other intentions. Why not just inconspicuously look? The same way everyone automatically glances at their partners belay plate before they set off, we don't need to blow up the balloons and dance around singing "buddy check time" for that, so why for tying in?
There's dozens of things you should be observing when you're out climbing, you can't buddy check them all. You hope you're partner would be observant enough to notice you straying onto a suspect slope while you're engrossed following a bearing, or to notice you're ropes aren't running straight, to let you know that flake is actually detached, that you've got a bit of mud on the sole of your shoe, that you've not done your helmet buckle up (done that one!), your gaiter strap is dangling down etc. There's plenty chance to check these things without making a big song and dance about it and if you have good climbing partners they'll hopefully be on the lookout for any of your many possible f*ck ups, tying in is the least of everyones worries and doesn't warrant a special buddy check.
Good idea for novices but I always check myself. I don't want or need to get into this with my climbing partner.
It's always impossible, but then it happens to you! On 2 occasions people Ive been climbing with, people with tens of years of experience, have failed to tie in properly.
It only takes the tiniest slip to disrupt your routine and before you know it your half way up the pitch wondering where the f*ck your rope just went.
I think there is a bit of indoor climbers and outdoor climbers talking past each other in this thread.
The thing about indoor climbing is it's easy to do 1,000 routes a year and every single route will involve weighting the rope when you lower off. Even if you only mess up your knot one time in ten thousand you'd be quite likely to get hurt at some point in your climbing career.
With outdoor trad climbing the number of routes is smaller and the intention is usually not to weight the rope so minimizing the risk is arguably less critical. But for the sake of the 5 seconds it takes to do a buddy check why not do it anyway.
That could well be the case, but I certainly do not consider myself an indoor climber, nor is Alan James or Mick Ryan and they (I've just found out from reading through this thread) set up the buddy system.
i think yes.
scuba divers do it, rally drivers do it, hunters do it, AR teams do it - its a basic given with most groups doing anything dangerrous and one i personally impose on anyone i climb with (after a nasty near miss a few years back).
id actually further it (in a format used with some heli-access teams) where 'Check!' is combined with all participants raising their hands so the others can see what is actually being checked (tie-ins, anchors, rap device etc). hands only get lowered when the check is done (in some circles a mandatory point-at and thumbs-up must be given for each checked factor, with a final double-thumbs up for the lot - but thats maybe going a bit far...).
so im all for it.
Having said that, I remember following a reasonably well known climber, up a reasonably well known route, on a windy limestone crag, named after a reasonably well known breakfast cereal, only to find on reaching the top (after a couple of very on/off moments en-route) that he had clipped the belay into one of the equipment loops on the back of his harness, instead of the belay loop.
So it certainly can happen to anyone. Although, I wonder whether there is a slightly more relaxed approach when climbing indoors?
At the end of the day though, it's better to be safe than sorry.
> In an Alan Partridge accent.
ah-haaaa should be the response I feel
It's method I've used for quite a few years now - the only problem is that you end up humming an Abba song all the way up the route...
I don't think anyone has said checking is a bad thing have they ? the value and downsides of formalising it is what people are questioning.
"The docs tell me I'll have a 100 percent recovery," he says. "I expect my ankle to be stiff, but considering what could have happened, I am really lucky."
Long says that he ties in with a double bowline, but this time, distracted and tired after a long day of work, he didn't finish the knot. "I made the two bowline loops," he says, "and threaded the rope through my harness, but I didn't bring the rabbit out of the hole and around the tree."
Adds Long: "A lot of people are down on the bowline, but the same thing would have happened with a trace-8. I just wasn't paying attention."
More at: http://www.rockandice.com/news/2402-john-long-accident-update
> I don't think anyone has said checking is a bad thing have they ? the value and downsides of formalising it is what people are questioning.
Formalising it when teaching climbing, or when climbing with novices would be good practice, though. When I was starting out and climbing with an older member of the club, I remember them making a point of going through the climbing calls. Once they recognised that I'd got the principles down, the formality dropped off, but the checks and communications didn't. I think they're still embedded now.
I have, however, started off on a climb with a half tied knot because my partner thrust a bundle of qd's at me as I was tying on. We then had a bit of a chat and I set off... no serious consequences, fortunately.
If the buddy check had been part of the 'training' then perhaps they would have waited until I'd completed the knot.
Surely it doesn't need formalising when climbing with novices, does it ? surely its common sense to surreptitiously keep an eye on them ? I'm not sure whether it helps in the long run for people to know their mentor is always keeping an eye on them though.
Comes down to how people learn things - take driving: I don't go through a conscious check list when I'm changing lanes anymore, but I still check my mirrors, indicate and manouvre. When I was learning to drive, the checklist stood me in good stead (what should I be doing now? MIRRORS, SIGNAL, MANOUVRE).
You are keeping an eye on them, but you're also teaching them the processes that become second nature. I think the buddy check should be part of our climbing protocol, however formal or informal it needs to be.
Just how long do you think it takes people to realise their life depends on their knot ? I don't think I'd want to be getting anyone into climbing who couldn't work that one out for themselves !
This isn't about the realisation that the knot is an important element in your safety, though. Any fule kno that.
The thread was started after John Long forgot to finish tying his knot, and he is not alone in having done that. Lynn Hill etc etc - it's all in the thread above.
I for one would love the opportunity to climb with John Long or with Lynn Hill. It'd be a f*cking brilliant experience as long as I didn't finish the day thinking "I wish I'd told them their knot looked a little loose", or "I wish I'd thought to check their knot, rather than blithely assuming that such heroes of the sport were above such mundane oversights".
In summary, what is there to argue about on this issue?
Before I climb I hold the rope and show the know to my mate saying "ok", he then lifts his t shirt/whatever to show his buckle and says "doubled"
Not sure how anyone sees "ok" and "doubled" as a problem?
I thought everyone did this.
I always remember just before I stepped off the end pausing and saying to my mate "give us a check on this system as I'm so p...ed".
I had done it right, but I'm all for buddy checks!!
Y'all should be embarrassed it took a Yank to say this, but surely the British version of the way-too-American "buddy check" should be the "Check Mate?"
> Or looked at another way, its entirely fine to minimise and avoid the buddy check. Its everyone's own life and they have self responsibility.
Sure, but the buddy may object. e.g. I don't want to climb with someone who is too arrogant or dumb to implement the check. In this way I take responsibility for my situation.
> I love the way you've tried to make it look like you aren't making things up! How much safer would it be to climb on two, three or four ropes?
It's about cost benefit.
The cost of the buddy check is almost zero, so the benefit has a low bar to pass under.
Adding extra ropes adds much more cost, so the benefit is unlikely to be worth it (especially as the complexity may add risk in other ways).
Went roped climbing for first time in a while yesterday and was completely anal about buddy checking :-)
> Went roped climbing for first time in a while yesterday and was completely anal about buddy checking :-)
Completly missing the moment I failed to do the screw gate up, (I did it before you left the ground)
perhaps a "mindworm" type rhyme could be drummed in (e.g "It's Not the kNOT that carries you off, its NOT kNOTTING the KNOT")
> In an Alan Partridge accent.
Class, sheer class
My girlfriend taught me to climb and how to tie my knot properly; we always check eachother's knots before climbing.
It just seems retarded not to have someone else check as it takes less than 5 seconds if they are being really careful about it and it could save your life.
I don't think it matters about it being a formal phrase (although I suppose this would be easiest for instructors) as long the check actually gets done!
The buddy check should also extend to checking your belayer has you on belay correctly.
Because if one of you is an absent-minded dumbass and you both end up on belay (instead of one of you being tied in), then at least one of you should pick it up. :-)
Belaying off e.g. a gear loop is more likely than mis-tying a knot IMO
Failure to clip on a weight bag or ground anchor is a common one, and quite dangerous if I'm leading with someone less than 2/3 my weight belaying, which is very common.
If I don't see that it's clipped on, I do tend to ask for a check.
It is if he hit the first clip hard, as would be likely if I took a large fall. Good chance of some sort of gear failure there I'd think, or if not that at least injury to him and a chance of me being dropped.
Me: 18st, the belayer concerned about 11st. Fortunately the bags at Big Rock are quite heavy. And yes I have taken falls with him belaying before, so it is safe. But not if the bag is forgotten.
Never had a problem yet!
Whether outdoors or indoors I'll check my partner's knot or that they have me on belay properly and vice versa.
Amongst the guys I cimb with we also go through the same starting routine after checking knots:
Partner: Climb when ready
At least this way when I set off I know that my belayer has hold of the dead end and isn't picking his nose/scratching his ass etc!
We use other calls when outside and always start the call with our partner's name to avoid any confusion with other teams.
It's ultimately personal choice but I'll stick with what works for me, no-one I've climbed with has ever had a problem with the above, if they did I'd think twice about letting them hold the rope for me!
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