/ Climbing wall rules.. again
Had an interesting experience at climbing wall last night and wondered what UKC have to say about.
Is it O.K. to teach someone to belay while you are climbing yourself?
A couple came into an otherwise empty climbing wall. One of them was experienced, Lets say climber (A). The other, lets say climber (B), had obviously never climbed before, didn't know how to put a harness on or what a belay device was etc. On the way out I noticed this same inexperienced person (B) was belaying their partner (A) on a top rope.
The person climbing (A) had been teaching them how to belay as they were climbing themselves. The belaying by (B) was poor; hands to close to the device, jerky lowering etc. The person being lowered (A) was also being half lowered and half down climbing. Obviously worried about the quality of the belaying he was getting.
On the way out I mentioned it to a member of staff and was told that was fine as he had signed the 'supervisor form'.
I have a few thoughts on this but would be interested to hear some opinions.
Nope definitely not ok.
Certainly at the places i go to, the supervisor for is for an experienced belayer to supervise a climber if in a two.
If in a group of more than two then, yes, not a problem
"Is it O.K. to teach someone to belay while you are climbing yourself?"
In most walls' view, no. And in my view it doesn't work so well. Best to find a third person, then the supervisor can stay on the ground.
I have taught someone to belay at the wall once. But I taught them until I was happy with the belaying (including 'testing' them with surprise jumps from a meter up) before I actually climbed more than a meter or two off the ground (on a super easy route of course).
EDIT: Should have said that she had some idea how to belay to start with, so wasn't starting completely from scratch.
Got to start somewhere.
AS ocean said a group larger than two would be more suitable!
If I were climber (A) I would have just got the first clip and lowered? reducing risk of serious injury..
Climber (B) would still have to belay correctly and communication would be easier.
repeat X times and away you go
I never mentioned the sex of the climbers.... ;-)
No there was no sex in return for belay coaching... my missus would cut my balls off! haha
The short answer for the short question:
As long as you feel safe, I suppose it's okay. You have signed him/her in, so it's your responsibility. However, I would not do that again. I climbed easy 5/6a something like 3-5 meters and decided to go down as I didn't feel comfortable with my friend's belaying.
I would ask someone else to hold the rope. Just in case. If I am teaching someone, I always keep my hands on rope, too. I firstly make sure they are can belay properly, catch a fall, lower the climber, etc. before I let them do that by themselves. I have taught more than 10 climbers to top-rope safely in last few months and they are all competent.
For the long question, I would say it's unacceptable for both mentioned climbers and staff. I have seen similar situation: crab clipped into tie-in point, "dead rope end" facing the belayer, braking hand above the belay device... I was bouldering just few meters away and decided to help them. One climber was more experienced, but still had no idea what he was doing. Two other people helped me to explain what's going on (my English is not perfect, so I appreciated that). In the end, I had to leave and decided to report it to staff. We came back and we saw that there was already another staff member advising them.
However, I always make sure I know that I am right before "stepping in" such situation. I have told in this forum already, but I was told that I had been using BD ATC XP belay device "upside down". It wasn't upside down as I was told by a young climber, I used the belay device in low friction mode, which is totally acceptable while top-roping on an older rope with not too heavy climber. That climber also had the same belay device and he felt quite irritated in front of his friend.
I'm not sure that quite holds. The climbing wall I normally frequent has a "no free soloing" policy, for example - arguably it's the climber's choice, and they sign the BMC participation statement when registering, but the wall doesn't want the inevitable HSE investigation when someone inevitably decks. A belayer who doesn't know what they're doing essentially recreates the same situation.
I'm just not sure whether we are talking about rules, policy or practice. I am sure no one wants to have accidents and my statement was probably too optimistic and unclear.
Surely, if the person does not how to belay properly, she/he shouldn't be left alone to belay someone. But if belayer shows that he/she is competent enough to belay alone, go ahead. That's what I mean about "feeling safe". I am not talking about the climber, whether he/she could free solo a route. It would be insane to trust climber only in this situation.
This is prolly best.
I wouldn't be keen to try to teach someone to belay from scratch while climbing myself (though I have done it in the past).
But if the wall are happy with it, the climber and belayer are happy with it, I wouldn't consider it any of my business to butt in. Same as at the crag.
Guess its only climber (a) who is really at risk.
Personally I would give it a miss. Would want someone beside them to keep an eye on them to begin with.
Reminds me of a scenario a year or so back. Was belaying at a wall, looked round and saw what I assumed was a novice belayer getting completely confused. They seem to have lost track of which was the live rope and which was the dead rope and was just building a big pile of live rope under their leader. Leader at this point was oblivious and approaching the lower-off. If they'd just clipped and dropped, they would have probably reached the ground. A quick shout to a nearby staff member and their intervention got the situation under control, but it left me a bit rattled. The pair carried on climbing...
I can't see a problem with it, so long as the belayer still gets signed off before being allowed in unsupervised.
Otherwise the only way to get an introduction would be via instructor led courses, and no-one likes to be told to come back in 2 weeks for the next course.
I've never been to a wall that distinquishes between a top rope belayer and a lead belayer, requiring a separate sign off, yet most people learn to lead belay off a mate, don't they?
If the accident rate was through the roof for this type of belaying practice then there may be an argument, otherwise it's just a misperception of the risks involved.
Fair enough, that sounds very reasonable! I do like your story about the upside-down ATC-XP - I was told the same thing by another climber once...
Sorry about confusing you and others at first. English can be difficult sometimes (I wasn't born in the UK)!
Lol I did laugh about that story too!
The one I sometimes get told is that my crab isn't screwed up... I politely point out that my BD crab is designed so that it can still be undone if screwed up while loaded and as such it appears there is a 'gap'. One still refused to believe... until he tried to screw it up tighter of course :) Though to be fair, I guess it can't hurt to tell someone if you suspect that it isn't done up.
I was warming up on a bouldering wall in an indoor wall to pass time whilst my partner was getting ready, when a staff member came over and told me to come down. When I came off the route and asked what the problem was they said I couldn't boulder with my harness on. Anyone know why this would be?
On the way out I mentioned it to a member of staff and was told that was fine as he had signed the 'supervisor form'.
At the wall where I work, this is our policy too. As an instructor I absolutely hate it if I see a 'supervised' climber belaying someone else. But the form basically states that the responsibility for the supervised is now with the supervisor, and it is at their discretion whether or not to allow them to belay. I raised it with the manager, and he just shrugged and said that's the way it is. One of those things where apparently I couldn't refute it.
At first, why would you boulder with harness? There is no reason why would you need it.
To answer your question - there are few metal parts on your harness, I suppose. Have you had a belay device (with a crab) attached to your harness? Imagine landing on a belay device or a locking mechanism from few meters. I imagine you were warming up and you were not doing something very difficult, but allowing anyone to climb with harness on would show a bad practice and hence more people would do it.
My belayer was told the same thing once when I was half way up. It got her so worried that she took me off belay to swap it round. Fortunately I was warming up on an easy route. But the "upside-down-ATC is OK" is maybe something that should get explained when teaching belaying.
I've done it before. It doesn't take long to to teach someone to belay safely - after which I got the staff to verify that they were happy with my partner's belaying prowess, and we went about our business. I was notoriously skittish when it comes to new people belaying me, and I was happy.
My ex girlfriend was a perfectly competent belayer, but climbed so infrequently I'd have had doubts about her passing any sort of registration test. It was much easier to just sign her in as a novice.
On a semi-related note, staff at one wall in London felt the need to come and harass my belayer as I managed to Z-clip. Fair play for spotting it within about 1.37 seconds...but it's not exactly a dangerous situation is it, nor one that you can fail to notice? And once you've discovered your monumental stupidity, it's easily rectified.
I was quite annoyed by that
On the newest version of ATC-XP, there are two pictures, climber on "low friction" side and braking hand on the "high friction" side. It looks almost exactly the same as on the ATC-Guide: http://www.needlesports.com/imagecache/a91ec16d-68c3-446a-b858-9f2100c79cab_720x720.jpg
That's probably why people get confused. And who reads the manual? It also says on the packaging that the belay plate has two friction modes. Who read that? Probably few of us. Or people just don't understand how belay plates work and that sticht plates didn't have grooved side (at least I don't imagine any).
Few if any walls will allow it these days. Personally I'd be happy enough to at least attempt to teach someone this way and have done so successfully a couple of times in the past (outdoors).
Like I said I'd been warming up waiting for my partner, thus planning to climb on the main walls where you need a harness.
Maybe climbing walls should ban leaders wearing belay devices hanging from their harness in case they swing into the wall and bang themselves against it, going off your theory? It all stinks of HSE gone mad to me. There's more chance of the roof falling in at the climbing centre than getting hurt from a harness whilst bouldering.
dunno i belong to the teach people to belay in a group of three with at least one person who can already belay properly "camp".
when the experienced person is climbing then both the novices hold the dead rope with the second person backing up the first.
my thought is it's not just about the climber, but the belayer doesn't need to be responsible for dropping someone when they don't know what they are doing yet... i don't think that's a fair thing to ask someone to do (and i also don't want to get dropped lol)
Yes, it was checking the pictures which convinced her it was the wrong way round and she needed to change it over immediately. I can see why they want unambiguous marking but it does imply that something which is actually an approved way of using the device is incorrect.
It rarely has anything to do with the HSE, they are relatively sensible.
It's to stop getting sued, where the result of a case on on the whim of a judge
In this case though do you think wall rules should normally allow it (as some dont)? Teaching to belay when climbing is a big risk that could come back and bite the wall. I've done this (very carefully) as well, indoors and out, when stuck without help, but I've seen others do it who seemed rather out of control.
Sorry but I am not going to comment on another wall's policy based on incomplete information.
And that is probably the most sensible answer ever seen on UKC
What incomplete information? I was asking the general question about if you think walls should have rules about letting beginners in who will be belaying the person who has signed them in (without another climber on the ground who can watch / assist with the belay)?
You did start your post with "In this case" :-)
I think ABC Guidelines would preclude a beginner being allowed to belay without supervision from someone on the floor. But I tend not to be so well up on rules relating to roped walls these days.
Guidelines or rules?
Some ABC members have instructors giving 1 to 1 instruction on belaying using this technique.
A third, supervising party who isn't tailing the rope and standing close enough to assist ain't adding a huge amount in terms of safety.
Ah I see. The danger of a.figure of speech :)
It sounds like you're using a very sensible technique as proof that what they were doing wasn't safe, when it's actually the opposite.
AFAIK (Graeme may confirm) there are NO ABC rules, just guidelines.
The Guidelines do contain somethings that are compulsory ie rules.
Sounds fine. Belaying someone on a top rope is not exactly a difficult thing to learn. Sure lowering the first few times you're not gonna be as smooth as when more experienced and putting your hand too close is a common mistake but not a big deal. The person with the biggest interest is of course person A as he/she is the one with most to lose if it goes wrong.
I taught myself how to belay from a book and from there learned to lead climb by dragging a complete non-climber to the crag with me and showing them how to belay before setting off. We didn't even have a stitch plate, it was rope around the waist style belaying.
Really? Do you do a lot of soloing
You shouldn't wear a harness as it's entirely possible that a loop will get caught on a hold. You tend to get into more contorted positions when bouldering and if your harness catches it could pull you off. Or it could get caught on a fall and badly jerk you. They can also be a bit restrictive when you want your clothing to be 'free'.
I do this all the time to spice up my boring indoor sessions. I call it Belayer Roulette.
Has that ever actually happened? In 40 years of climbing I don't think I've ever had a gear loop catch on a hold, except perhaps in a particularly thrutchy chimney.
You shouldn't climb at all if you worry about those sort of outrageous long odds.
That's how I learned too. 6mm blue washing line. Kids eh?
This is to do with indoor bouldering walls often with walls over crammed with upturning holds so doesn't apply to the real outdoors world.
Blue washing lines might be dumb (if understandable) but learning together with reasonable care is fine. As for gear loops catching and causing horrible death, it's of course a risk most of us accept (some don't but I'm amazed they can risk getting out of bed in the morning). Indoor walls of course have things like insurance requirements and legal responsibilities for health and safety, so I have no issue with their caution and rules. Problems arise because some people dont realise outdoor climbing is about person acceptance of risk and where ones risk acceptance is low it's rude at the very best to have a go at others who acceptmore, even those who will solo wearing a banana costume with sewn on additional gear loops.
Yeah, agree. Risk seems a different animal these days. As for dumb, we used to practice classic abseils off motorway bridges on said blue stuff. Ah, 80s nostalgia...
ADDITIONAL gear loops? They must have seen me coming; my banana costume doesn't have any. (Sorry to shout - feeling somewhat miffed.)
Sticht. It is a 'Sticht plate'.
My daughter jumped of a boulder indoors and didn't jump out far enough. She was wearing jeans with a slight flare and the bottom of her trousers caught on a hold which flipped her over and her hand hit the ground first breaking her wrist. I can believe that wearing a harness could be a risk on an indoor boulder where there are largish holds sticking out. Not a big risk, but an easily avoidable one.
It would definitely not be permitted at at least one, but probably both of the walls I regularly climb at. You can teach people to top rope or lead climb but if you are 'supervising' you cannot (as per the form) climb yourself. Teaching lead climbing/belaying I think you need your climber backed up by top rope or autobelay (although not 100% sure of that).
I would also argue that being 20 foot up is far from ideal for teaching purposes; at best you did your teaching well from the ground and hopefully get lucky your student was paying attention?
It is true that if you sign up for unsupervised climbing, you take on the legal responsibility (one of the classic legal cases in this regard being a novice boulderer who ended up quadraplegic; the wall was not held to be responsible). But if a member of wall staff saw some engaged in obviously unsafe practice and failed to intervene, I suspect they would then take on some responsibility in the event of an accident - if not legal then at least moral. If I ran a climbing centre I would not let stupid people kill themselves doing stupid things; if they wanted to do that they could do it somewhere else.
Bring two mates, and teach them both at once; then you have one climber, one belayer, and you holding the dead rope. Safe.
Both walls I climb regularly at have three separate registration categories for bouldering only/bouldering+top roping/bouldering+top roping+lead climbing. You can declare yourself competent for the appropriate category if you are an experienced climber, but (at least at one of the walls) to upgrade from one to another you need to be tested (free).
There are BMC signs at my local wall telling you to remove your harness before bouldering, precisely because of this risk.
Unless you are planning on placing some gear behind a hold two metres up for a rest, what possible good is your harness going to do anyway?
Not a biggie but at he same time, It's not too hard to put the harness on AFTER you warm up - asking why you'd boulder with the harness on is a fair question. Many walls have a similar rule and signs to this effect, yes chances of causing injury are low if it's just the hardness but you might have other gear hanging off it etc, I don't think the wall staff should have to try and spot which harness configuration is right or wrong for bouldering when it's so easy to just not wear the harness for bouldering...Also I would have thought there's also a small chance that the harness gets caught on a hold etc as you fall and you end up on your head, that's why those who want to be really safe boulder topless.
To be honest, for me it's not a safety thing at all - I see bouldering as a sport in itself and it's done without a harness on. People don't turn up to play football in their ballet gear, right?
I can't imagine anyone puts a harness on in order to boulder, but someone who was roped climbing might want to nip onto the bouldering wall for 5 minutes while their partner takes a short break and wouldn't want to take their harness off.
Same problem as the OP, lack of familiarisation with the technique, poor assessment of the risk.
I did this once, now the FA wont let me be a ref anymore :(
A: "It depends"
It depends on a lot of things-- I've taught belaying this way but I have to be pretty confident about belayer to go high enough to pose a risk. It is generally easier with three.
It is wrong to say that just the climber is at risk-- the belayer and climber are at risk (a novice belayer is often too tangled up and confused to step out of the way of a falling climber) but it is clearly the climber's responsibility to manage the risk on for both of them.
Belaying is a confusing skill to learn - there are 1/2 dozen small things to do at once and it looks deceptively simple - it needs a bit of practice at the basic operations and then practise to build up the full range of skills. In a 1:1 situation I'd very early on introduce the belayer to holding the climber from a low height just so the belayer can get a feel for a good position and gain confidence that they can hold the climber, however, I'd do a lot more work before I went to any height.
Teaching someone to belay while you are off the ground is a real bad idea.
I have taught one to one belaying with a new climber using a loop of rope to get them confident in handing the rope and doing a few suprise loadings to get them into the feel of catching a fall. I was fortunate that the wall I was using had autobelays, so when it came to leaving the ground I was always backed up just incase.
Funnily enough this topic has come up as I may be able to get some advice.
This evening I have planned to take
My girlfriend climbing at a local centre (she's been going on at me for weeks and took it upon herself to buy some shoes so now I have to)
She has climbed three or four times before but only on adventure courses she did whilst at college. To be honest, I was planning on taking her, warming up with some bouldering and then spending some time on teaching her how to tie in and belay techniques and if all goes well, possibly doing some top roping.
What are people thoughts on this?
Thanks in advance
Maybe ask another person belaying near by to watch her for first climb just to double check. I'm sure if you ask nicely someone will provide oversight
I think whether it is safe or not actually depends on the people involved. I've taught people to belay, then climbed, all in one go. However, I've made sure they've experienced holding me low down, it's been people that I know who are very capable, and I climbed very easy routes that I was unlikely to fall on (I would have been happy to solo).
Some people, I just wouldn't ever do this with, not in a million years.
It's hardly ever all foolish or all safe - it's nearly always... well.... it depends on the context.
Some very good points made. Thank you. I think I'll spend a while teaching her and then perhaps get her to practice taking and lowering, probably ask someone else to oversee this stage. Thanks for the advice
Find a friend (doesn't need to be a climber)!
Then your girlfriend and other friend can take turns to climb and belay, while you hold the belayer's dead rope until they have got the hang of it (and, in many walls, have been observed by the wall staff and signed off).
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