/ Lethal Rhymes while belaying
Far too often the belayer thinks the word shouted was ''SAFE '' and proceeds to take the rope out of the belay plate to the dismay and possible consequent death of the partner.
This happened to me a few days ago.I had set up a top rope with sling on a tree and shouted '' TAKE '' so that the belayer could lower me down.
I had kept a hold of the rope and watched in horror as the belayer took me off belay.
Perhaps we should start using a new word for '' TAKE '',such as ''HOLD'' . It doesn't have the rhyming ''A '' sound that can be so lethal. '' BLOCK '' is another possibility,which was used for a while on Peak sport routes in the 80's.
Or "secured" for safe, which is not only a totally different word but also more syllables.
This always shits me up. A lot of the time when I take the leader off belay I get paranoid that they're not actually safe and then have them on body belay until they're definitely definitely safe. Much worse of course if you're finishing the route as in your case and then shouting something that could be "SAFE" or "TAKE".
I have walkie talkies. problem solved!
This actually happened to me, I shouted 'take'..belayer heard 'safe'. Fortunately he was using a gri gri so threw out a few armfuls of slack but kept me on belay. I had the rope running through a quick-draw attached to the anchor. Sat back into my harness and was very surprised to find myself halfway down the crag!
New system - kept 'Take' but replaced 'Safe' with 'Secure'
The bottom line is never to react instinctively to "safe" by taking someone off. Look at the general context of the situation and if there's any room for doubt keep them on and pay out rope as you would if they were still climbing.
this is the most disappointing hip-hop thread ever.
Verbal communication at a crag is obviously flawed for so many reasons. The fact that the two of you are physically connected by a rope offers the possibility of direct communication. Five tugs works extremely well and unlike 3 is unlikely to happen by accident.
Surely you've gotta be a bit of a loose cannon to just hear "safe" and take someone straight off belay?
If I can see the climber, I'll try and see that they are safe, and ask "is that you safe?".
If I can't see the climber, a bit more dialogue to ensure they are actually safe.
Wait up there everybody. If you'd all had good instruction in the first place you'd know that the correct call is "Take In", not 'Take'. For the very reason that you have all pointed out, ie the belayer might here 'Safe', and put you in a position of danger, through your own fault.
Unfortunately I've been present, met or know first hand the people in involved in the following:
'Lower me off' being miss-interpreted as take me off resulting in.................multiple fractured scull, smashed orbit, broken jaw, and destroyed inner ear bones. Fortunately the casualty stayed fully conscious on us, had no teeth or bone fragment airway blockage, survived, didn't have suffer brain-damage, or develop epilepsy and bar being deaf in one ear and associated loss of balanced made a full recovery.
As above but a complete recovery after a fractured skull and resultant short term brain trauma induced near fatal resipratory failure...the chopper got to hospital quite literally in the nick if time. The climber went on to lead multipitch E4/5.
Very similar to above, and we'll never know exactly what happened, but a top of route communication error which ended in a short and sharp fatality.
Personally I have taken someone off belay, to quickly adopt a body belay when it became apparent it was actually a call from another team round the corner, due to myself having a rhyming name to the other belayer!
Thus it's worth considering non standard phonetically different calls with you're regular climbing partners. For example one of my favourites was 'you smell', for take me off, from 'off' as in rotten.....a fair description of some people's rock boots as they remove them at the top of the climb! Furthermore you can do this one by mime, if you have visual contact. But I thought of it so you sods can go and think of your own......'alright' (said in best menacing fake Vinny Jones style cockney)
Or the yank climbing call 'dirt me' for lower me off
Take care out there.......things may not be as they seam.
> Wait up there everybody. If you'd all had good instruction in the first place you'd know that the correct call is "Take In", not 'Take'. For the very reason that you have all pointed out, ie the belayer might here 'Safe', and put you in a position of danger, through your own fault.
> Climb safe.
Take and Take in have always meant different things.
and if the wind steals the word 'in!............where does that leave you.....
I usually say 'tight' instead of 'take'.
> Take and Take in have always meant different things.
He's right Mr Rocky57. So much for that instruction.
Take in means there's too much slack so take a bit in.
Take means take the rope completely tight so I can weight it without dropping too much.
> Take and Take in have always meant different things.
He's right Mr Rocky57. So much for that instruction.
In North America, secure is far more common than safe, and whilst it sounds a bit yank, I have to admit its less ambiguous. And I personally avoid slack in favour of give after a near miss with it being confused with safe.
In the end though, there are situations where it doesn't matter how loud you shout or what you say, you will not be heard. The only way around that (I'm not a big fan of radios unless its big wall or alpine) is to know your partner and have pre-arranged fall backs. This goes deeper than just tugs, like taking in really fast for instance. Me & the wife both know that when the rope starts disappearing at a rate faster than anyone can climb, its code for take me off. Equally, being over keen taking in can be a good way to confirm to a 2nd to start climbing. Practices like that though only work safely once you climb with someone regularly.
"when the rope starts disappearing at a rate faster than anyone can climb" - or at 32 ft/s squared!!
> "when the rope starts disappearing at a rate faster than anyone can climb" - or at 32 ft/s squared!!
Ha, yeah, I think you'd be hard pushed to confuse it with that.
Another thing that does my head in; some people just seem incapable of shouting, it comes from the gut, not the throat. Squaddies out there will recognise Clear, Loud, As an order, with Pauses (CLAP). Stringing sentences together, or worse, using Ps & Qs, is just not required or useful.
If I am safe I go for "#NAME# I'm Safe"
If I am about to fall off it is "TAAAAAAAAKKKKKKKKKKEEEEEEE"
When instructing I see a lot of ok's going on.
Get to the top and shout ok.
Belayer says ok and takes tight and then says ok again.
Climber then says ok and belayer says ok and starts lowering.
Very common amongst climbers on courses who have only climbed indoors.
I like the idea of shouting secure. Think I'm going to use that.
Surely this is about lazy belayers making dangerous assumptions rather than "dangerous rhymes"?
I'd say that I out should never take anyone off belay until you're absolutely sure they are safe.
> When instructing I see a lot of ok's going on.
Oks are pretty useful. Nothing worse than shouting 'CLIMB WHEN READY' and getting silence back because they're dismantling the belay and didn't think to at least let me know they'd heard me.
Recipe for disaster.
I think that this is more to do with novices not understanding what is happening rather than poor calls.
I think this is it - why does the belayer need to take the leader off belay at all?
If the leader is going to be lowered, they might want some slack to thread the anchor, but this doesn't necessitate taking them off belay; if the belayer is going to second the route then they should be tied in before the leader sets off.
In this case, the worst that should happen is the leader takes a fall back down half the route (like happened to a poster above), when the belayer mistakenly pays out too much slack.
Am I missing some situations?
> Take in means there's too much slack so take a bit in.
> Take means take the rope completely tight so I can weight it without dropping too much
When did climbers universally start interpretting "take" as meaning "hold me". It really shouldn't be a necessary as a command. Take or take in both effectively mean remove the slack. If I weight the rope I don't expect a competent belayer to do anything other than hold me until I ask to be lowered. A good belayer will be paying sufficient attention to judge how desperate their climber is and to act accordingly regardless of whether they are asked to "take" ot to "take in" IMO.
Take or take in both effectively mean remove the slack.
Take = Remove any slack and ready the belay device in preparation for a fall/rest, etc.
Take In = Oi! Stop eating your sandwiches, pay attention and take in these yards of slack that seem to have appeared in the system
I know that you shagged my wife
I'll make you suffer with your life
I don't care what you actually say
I'm gonna take you off belay
There's a lethal rhyme...
I like 'TIGHT' because if I shout "SH**TE" and people get confused they'll do the right thing anyway.
I've always gone with 'tight'
Often accompanied shortly thereafter with
'sometime today you (insert expletives of your choice'
> Take or take in both effectively mean remove the slack.
> Take = Remove any slack and ready the belay device in preparation for a fall/rest, etc.
Do you really climb with belayers that are so crap that they have to be prompted to ensure thatbthey are awake enought to hold a fall?
If I felt the need to make this request I'd be looking for a new climbing partner ASAP!
I refer you to my comment above about choosing your belayers carefully ;)
It's a useful distinction, and standard practice these days I'd say, especially if climber and belayer can't see each other or its a big pitch.
> I think this is it - why does the belayer need to take the leader off belay at all?
> Am I missing some situations?
Any situation where you don't get lowered? I agree, if you are getting lowered, climber should stay on if practically possible.
I take safe to mean take me off, every time. I think it non-ambiguous use helps. In a standard sport climbing situation with a lower, I don't shout anything until I want to be lowered, the belayer doesn't need to know you're attached and you're rethreading.
Do you really climb with belayers that are so crap that they have to be prompted to ensure thatbthey are awake enought to hold a fall?
It's similar to "Watch me here", except that you know that you are going to weight the rope. "Watch me here" warns the belayer that something might happen and "Take" tells the belayer that something is going to happen.
> Do you really climb with belayers that are so crap that they have to be prompted to ensure thatbthey are awake enought to hold a fall?
> It's similar to "Watch me here", except that you know that you are going to weight the rope. "Watch me here" warns the belayer that something might happen and "Take" tells the belayer that something is going to happen.
I think I prefer to keep it simple, it's small wonder that people get confused and drop one another ;(
> I take safe to mean take me off, every time. I think it non-ambiguous use helps.
Exactly how i use it, and everyone i ever climbed with. Take is for alerting the belayer that i might be/am about to fall, in this case i usually shout "tight" or "watch me".
> I think I prefer to keep it simple, it's small wonder that people get confused and drop one another ;(
I think you'd be hard pushed to have an accident mixing up take and take in.
> I think you'd be hard pushed to have an accident mixing up take and take in.
That's pretty much my point. You don't need to use take and if you don't use it your belayer can't confuse it for safe. Unnecessary jabber just increases the potential for misinterpretation. Learn to belay safely with the minimum of chatter, it will serve you well when you're on a winter route and the wind is threatening to drown out every word you say.
> That's pretty much my point. You don't need to use take and if you don't use it your belayer can't confuse it for safe. Unnecessary jabber just increases the potential for misinterpretation. Learn to belay safely with the minimum of chatter, it will serve you well when you're on a winter route and the wind is threatening to drown out every word you say.
Not everything we do whilst climbing is to prevent getting killed to death by danger, some things are just useful; do you want a rest, or do you want me to just take a bit of rope back without pulling you off the crag? If you climb at your limit much, that becomes a nice little tool, especially on big pitches. And this isn't some esoteric strangeness, its pretty mainstream.
Totally agreed. I think this obsession with taking leaders off belay at the first opportunity is born of climbing walls.
I don't like being lowered off unless everything (including the belayer) is AOK. If I rig a top rope (as Paul did), I always rappel down.
"Watch me" and "have you got us?" are my standard calls to say that I might be weighting the rope any moment now.
Not very brief but they seem to avoid confusion
Maybe so, but on balance I think I might prefer to die than look like a total knob at the crag.
> Totally agreed. I think this obsession with taking leaders off belay at the first opportunity is born of climbing walls.
Eh? How so? I've never seen anyone taken off belay at a climbing wall unless they've actually been stood on the ground.
> Maybe so, but on balance I think I might prefer to die than look like a total knob at the crag.
Haha, awesome. Durran Gold right there.
I was referring to a general lack of understanding of the procedures required on crags compared with climbing walls and the confusions that can thus arise (such as confusing "take" with "safe" or "take me off.." etc)
Or if you misread the manual for your radios, and set the squelch the wrong way so the radios stop working as soon as you go round the corner. Then you're still fine provided you have agreed a backup like not taking off belay until you run out of rope (unless you have also managed to get both ropes stuck, in which scenario you really really wish the radios were still working...)
I am one of these 'novices' so often talked about in these sorts of threads and I have to say the calls I use indoor and out have served well and kept me and my other beginners safe.
I typically call 'climb?' when about to start a pitch and expect the response 'climb on'. No response means no move and usually signifies my belayer is not ready. Seems silly when you're so close but it works.
On the wall my calls are 'take in' to pull in the slack, 'watch me' to prep for a probable fall or 'feed' to pay me slack.
So far I back any instruction with a thumbs up if I can. I'm not doing anything big yet so my belayer can always see me. I have radios and throat mics and wouldn't hesitate to use these on awkward or long pitches.
'Safe' is the call to take me off belay (with 'off belay' being the expected response) or 'lower' if I'm coming down instead of topping out.
Any call of 'ok' signifies stop your action, I have enough of what I need.
I likely picked much of this up from other climbers but feel that it was reasonable and easy to understand. Certainly the chaps I introduce to climbing all take to these calls easily and quickly with no confusion. Feels like common sense, especially if you act with a certain level of paranoia to check, confirm and act double safe at all times (as most climbers seem to)
And if there is a misunderstanding and you can't confirm, take the lower risk option. So if you think it might have been "safe" but you're not sure if it was "take" then take in loosely - not hard enough to pull the climber off but so there's no spare slack, and if they pull a bit of slack allow them to do so. If they meant "safe" they'll soon shout again.
I've often said to people similarly if they aren't sure if I shouted "take" or "slack" to assume I meant "take" but not too heavily. If I don't get slack and I wanted it, I'll soon shout for it again. If it's the other way round, I might already be on their head.
The point about assuming communication taking place is very good indeed. When I was teaching Mrs Crag Pony I noticed she always tightened the screwgate on her belay krab when attching it to her gear loop. I said she didn't need to tighten it. Quite a few months later when told to"Climb when ready" I spotted she hadn't screwed up the gate on the belay krab and pointed it out, to be met with "But you said, etc". GULP!
All my fault, had pressumed communication had taken place.
I do that, it's just force of habit of "always do screwgates up", which is a better habit than sometimes forgetting even if it might mean I'm a bit slow retrieving it when I need it.
Gorgeous day though and a good (safe) time had by all :)
> And if there is a misunderstanding and you can't confirm, take the lower risk option.
A good point, well made. I'll ensure I pass that tidbit to my group :)
Say "Take in"
It's phonetically quite different to "Take" or "Safe", or for that matter "Slack".
I remember an incident when the leader shouted "below" because a rock was falling. His second thought he said "belay" i.e. reached the belay. The rock missed him but hit someone's dog at the foot of the crag.
As has been pointed out, that means something else entirely. 'Take in' would mean there's excess slack in the system while 'take' or 'tight' means someone's about to sit on the rope!
I've heard many Americans using this system:
When the lead climber gets to the belay he shouts: "Off Belay". (Which is short for "You can now safey take me off belay as I'm tied to an anchor or just happy where I am". To which the second replies. "OK, Belay OFFFFFFF".
Seems to be quite unambiguous.
Not sure what they say for "Take" but it wouldn't matter if it was "Take", "Tight", "Up Rope" as none sound like "off belay".
Friends of mine use weird bird-like noises that they understand. Works well on busy crags as no-one else uses the same "calls".
Thanks Michael, I'm probably not with the kids on this one- it being a term I've never been taught on a course, or employed in 'real life'. I'm also not sure it means something else entirely different from Take In, but there you go.
Perhaps that's the real problem. My immediate thoughts are that the 'communication system' has too many terms in it. What you might gain in 'subtlety' by being able to employ lots of different terms, you lose in overall degraded communication.
Why not say the traditional "Watch me"? This tells a belayer to be alert that he's about to take a climbers load. It has more similar phonetics to "Take in", and would have non-lethal implications if misunderstood. Okay, there's a subtle difference, but a non lethal one, and actually not a difference that makes any real difference to what's needs to be done.
The military have a limited number of phrases used in 'contact drills'. Here communication needs to be quickly understood, and probably over the noise of gunfire, etc. A bit like climbing where we might have to should over the sound of wind, etc. The number of phrases is relatively limited, and also follow a phonetic pattern so that 'Break Left' won't be misunderstood from 'Magazine', "Man Down" or 'Rally Rally Rally' in a particular context.
The other aspect to these limited number of terms is that they 'embed' as a kind of automatic response that doesn't require conscious thought. The more terms you have, the more subtlety you can employ, the more the listener has to think about what's going on.
Exactly the same principle was given to me when I learnt to climb. A much more limited number of 'calls' was taught, and each is unlikely to be misunderstood 'lethally'- hence 'Slack' vs 'Take in' are good and distinct. 'Safe' vs 'Off Belay' can't be misunderstood, etc. So, when a partner is climbing you'll either hear 'Slack', 'Take in', 'Watch me' or 'Saaaafe'. I can't think of an additional term that would make climbing safer- I'm sure someone will argue that, but I'll leave that to them to convince me.
The point is that this limited number of terms is unlikely to be misunderstood. Even if the actual letters can't be made out, say if the wind is blowing, then the 'tempo' of the sounds makes them relatively comprehensible.
A proliferation of terms (some of which I'm not convinced the world really needs, such as 'Take') will tend to make each less likely to be easily understood, and also less quickly reacted to. Overall, communication is degraded, and more likely to be 'lethal'.
The only thing I'd add is that 'Take' or 'Tight' could be misunderstood for 'Slack'- so I'd then be looking for another term for that. But the principle employed seems sound.
The problem with 'bird like noises' is that they won't work with people you don't climb with often.
I use 'watch me' as well as 'tight' and 'take in'. The differences are subtle but crucial I feel. Never climbed with anyone who didn't already understand these terms when used in practice, but yes, 'tight' has been mistaken for 'slack' once or twice. Hanging on grimly and saying it again seemed to work!
Speak French. According to these forums safe=Vache and take= Sec
Also gives your pair a certain je ne sais quoi n'est-ce pas?
I just say 'take in' and 'I'm safe'
Me too - in fact I read the message topic as "Leanne Rhymes while belaying".
After a friend was stuck for a couple of hours having topped out of a winter route on the Ben but was unable to tell his partners to climb, I make sure simple rules such as "strip the belay and start climbing if there is no rope left," and "if the rope isn't taken in, wait until it is before climbing," are understood.
> The problem with 'bird like noises' is that they won't work with people you don't climb with often.
They do, just tell them that words are conversation but an odd noise of some sort means safe and another means on belay. It works far better than anything else when a rope length is out or in high winds. It is also very hard to confuse a high pitched monkey noise or chicken clucking with safe, take, tight, watch me, how much, it's a bit steep here, did you lock the car, what does the guidebook say, I'm really hungry, this is awesome, or any other random things shouted on climbs.
> I know that you shagged my wife
> I'll make you suffer with your life
> I don't care what you actually say
> I'm gonna take you off belay
> There's a lethal rhyme...
Outstanding, I hope it is original too!!
"strip the belay and start climbing if there is no rope left,"
That one makes me nervous, as it could also be caused by the climber having run out of rope, having been unable to find a belay, and being a bit stuck. The last time anyone wants taking off belay.
I think the idea of sharp tugs is probably as good as you'll get - but a significant number, again so the climber pulling rope up to clip when short of rope (or to start building a belay) isn't mistaken for it.
> "strip the belay and start climbing if there is no rope left,"
> That one makes me nervous, as it could also be caused by the climber having run out of rope, having been unable to find a belay, and being a bit stuck. The last time anyone wants taking off belay.
Put in a belay where you are in which case the second can strip the belay and wait for the rope to be taken in as a leader fall will result in an upwards pull on them.
Or wait for the second to remove the belay and you both climb together (moving together on 60m of rope,) you be careful as you are when moving together and belay as soon as you can. If you come off, there is upward pull on your second which is fine. If they come off you catch them as you are climbing carefully (with 60m of dynamic rope out it's not hard.)
It takes a little common sense on the leaders part, hopefully they would not be attempting the crux when moving together with no gear and the second on a traverse. At that point I'd have down climbed to the nearest belay.
If they've run out of rope, taking them off belay won't make any difference - you being tied on is the belay. So might as well. If they realise they're at the end of the rope and start downclimbing, you can always put them back on again.
If they can't find a belay where they are and they either didn't pass one, the last one was ages ago or they can't reverse, then they have no option but to continue. Not letting them do so isn't going to help the situation, that's for sure. It could be argued (particularly if the first bit of the pitch is not too difficult for the second and assuming there's gear inbetween the climbers) that it's better to be ready to climb when the rope comes tight than spend ages waiting before dismantling the belay. If the leader happens to be on a tricky section they're surely less likely to come off if they are quickly given slack to continue?
That's not new at all, I was taught it in the late '80s. It does seem to have fallen out of use though :-(
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