/ Autobelay non-clipping falls

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girlymonkey 27 Nov 2019

It's very easy to be judgemental and think you could never forget to clip in.

All such falls I have heard of from autos have been experienced climbers. It can happen to anyone who is tired/ distracted/ focussed on a move etc.

This lady is brave to share her experience publicly as people will judge. Please be respectful and take it on board to be mindful of what you are doing whatever else is going on and recognise when you are too tired and really should just go home.

https://www.theclimbingacademy.com/tca-life/forgetting-to-clip-auto-belay-an-interview/

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Ramon Marin 27 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

It's not that of a rarity. Even a friend of mine set off climbing without tying onto the rope, if I wasn't for me checking he would have been soloing. Another time, on the auto belays, I passed on the biner to a mate for him to tie on and he wasn't paying attention and left the gate open, the screwagate hanging by the nose on the loop. He was about to set off when I pointed it out, he was shocked. The lesson to learn is alway check, double check, triple check. I never set off without at least checking my twice, even then once I failed to notice that I hadn't thread the rope through the bottom hole of leg loops.

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Route Adjuster 27 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

I did exactly this a few weeks ago.  So used to unclipping the autobelay and clipping it out of the way to a floor anchor / sandbag to lead a route on the line that I did that same thing when I wanted to climb the autobelay line on my own.  I was around 5 metres up when I realised, stayed calm and climbed back down but was a little shocked how easily I had done it.  I climbed quite fast, probably too fast for anyone around me to realise and point it out.  The route was around 10 metres high so a serious fall was possible.

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tom_in_edinburgh 27 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

Very easy to do especially when doing laps and swapping between autobelay lines.  I've called one person down who'd started off without clipping and a friend got to the top without clipping but fortunately noticed before jumping off and downclimbed.

These days I always take a step up and jump off before setting off properly as an alternative to a partner check.  I also double check the gate has locked by pushing on it rather than trusting the mechanism: a couple of times when I've checked it's not been locked properly presumably due to chalk/gunk getting in the autolock mechanism.

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Ceiriog Chris 27 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

Iv'e had 3 near misses over the years, (not with auto belays) and all of them have been associated with me being distracted, either by someone jabbering away to me, or trying to multi task.

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wbo2 27 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:  it happens.  Someone locally did it as he was distracted by getting his mate setup filming properly so the whole thing is filmed.  10m fall, serious injuries 

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deepsoup 27 Nov 2019
In reply to wbo2:

> 10m fall, serious injuries 

Well if you're going to do that, it'd be a shame not to catch it on camera eh?

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Robert Durran 27 Nov 2019
In reply to Ceiriog Chris:

> Iv'e had 3 near misses over the years, (not with auto belays) and all of them have been associated with me being distracted, either by someone jabbering away to me, or trying to multi task.

Given the deceptively non serious feel of walls and the high potential for distraction, I'm surprised there are not far more serious accidents given the number of near misses. 

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PaulJepson 27 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

I'm not sure how (if the auto-belay was a typical setup of auto-locker on the auto-belay clipped to a triangular mat in front of the lines, like the one behind her in the video) you would manage to not clip in? The only way would be if the line had been released to go to the top and the mat was down. Otherwise there's a massive mat in the way of getting on the wall and then a tape in the way all the way up?

Accidents do happen and that's why the buddy check is there (I caught myself only going through the bottom loop of the harness one time) but buddy checks aren't usually an option on auto-belays (otherwise you'd be belaying as a pair normally, right?). Even so, I really struggle to see how you'd not clip in with a typical auto-belay set up. I can understand not doing a gate up etc. but then a majority of auto-belays I've seen have auto-locking biners to negate this risk. 

There's a pretty cool device called a belaymate (https://clipnclimb.biz/en/about-clip-n-climb/belaymate-self-climbing-device/), which prevents the clip from being taken off the mat at the bottom unless it is first locked into the piece on the harness, but using this would require set harnesses (as the part that connects to the harness is fixed). The only way to use these would be to give out the harnesses to the punters with the connections already attached. It does offer another level of safety though, as it means the belay line and mat cannot be released unless someone is clipped in. 

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Presley Whippet 27 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

Another danger is the transition from auto belay to roped climbing. It is not unusual to see a climber having completed a lengthy warm up on the baby bouncers tie in and forget to clip the runners. 

Watch out for yourself and your friends. 

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teh_mark 27 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

I did this not long after I first started climbing. Had a long bouldering session and decided to warm down on some easy autobelay routes. Forgot to clip the second time, made it halfway up the the route before I realised and downsoloed, hoping no one had seen! This was before the triangles came into vogue.

It's very easily done.

Post edited at 12:52
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girlymonkey 27 Nov 2019
In reply to PaulJepson:

People often climb an adjacent line using the auto if they can't get a belay, then there is no mat in front of it. Also, some lines may meander and not necessarily start behind the mat. Some mats aren't very big. I guess there could be other reasons, but these are the main ones I can think of. 

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daWalt 27 Nov 2019

> associated with me being distracted, either by someone jabbering away to me, or trying to multi task.

This ^ 1000 times

I don't know if anyone else dose this, but I try and stop or pause the converstion while myself or partner is tying in.

beign distracted can lead to all sorts: leaving the front door open, driving off without paying for fuel, you name it, all simple things that always get "how did they manage that".......

Personally I nave a 3 point self-check sequence with the tie-in, the bother is the autobelay clip-in doens't dovetail easily into those 3 things so I sometimes struggle to shut down the wee-nagging-doubt.

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daWalt 27 Nov 2019
In reply to PaulJepson:

> and then a tape in the way all the way up?

There's a tape in the way all the way up when you're clipped in.

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Max factor 27 Nov 2019
In reply to PaulJepson:

> I

> There's a pretty cool device called a belaymate (https://clipnclimb.biz/en/about-clip-n-climb/belaymate-self-climbing-device/), which prevents the clip from being taken off the mat at the bottom unless it is first locked into the piece on the harness. 

They have these are kids clip n climb centres. They are an awful faff to use and black box, so hard to see how it works or do an inspection to see it is functioning correctly. It also takes away the need for self-reliance which is an important thing to develop as people go on to lead, learn trad, etc. 

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Bulls Crack 27 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

Yes - done it myself on auto-belay reps but realised after a couple of metres. Now I make extra sure

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Wiley Coyote2 27 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

I can't imagine setting off without tying in......however I can confirm it is very easy to set off up your project without you or your belaying  noticing that you do not have a single QD (Luckily this is a fact you discover at the first piece)

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drconline 27 Nov 2019
In reply to PaulJepson:

We climb at this relatively new climbing centre all the time. It's quite sobering to read about this.  It sounds pretty traumatic for the person concerned and no doubt the staff on duty as well.

To explain how this could happen it's worth noting that the autobelays at this centre are not all together - they are mixed up with toprope and lead climbing routes around a big pillar. I don't know the specifics of this accident but I can well imagine that you could start up a lead climb next to an auto-belay and since you've just been doing all auto-belays you might not think anything was wrong if you were distracted.

I'm pretty wary and now I and habitually do a biner-check at the bottom AND the top of any autobelay route before letting go.

stay safe!

Dave

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oldie 27 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

Made three bad errors early in my climbing.

Didn't check my friend hadn't tied tape ends together on their swami belt when bottom roping. They fell off but fortunately friction in the multiple tape raps meant Swami stayed together.

In Pyrenees with my father he needed rope for two rock pitches. Brought him up then saw the rope was passed behind his waist belt but he hadn't followed through on fig 8 knot.

At top of long, easy, unprotected slab pitch reached narrow footledge stance, struggled to find anchor, then while bringing up second saw I'd forgotten to clip in.

Haven't done similar for almost 50 years, but have prevented accidents by remembering to buddy check.

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freeflyer 27 Nov 2019
In reply to daWalt:

> associated with me being distracted, either by someone jabbering away to me, or trying to multi task.

> This ^ 1000 times

I now rigorously ignore any conversation attempts when making safety preparations. This can come across as rude but is better than a cockup. If I get a chance, and no-one else has pointed out the situation, I apologise afterwards.

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pass and peak 27 Nov 2019
In reply to freeflyer:

With you on that one, iv'e now gone one step further and sternly tell them to shut up because I need to concentrate, they almost always understand and hopefully take it on board themselves! Unfortunately Iv'e yet to make it work both ways and yabber on far to much myself when personal climbing. If anyone climbs with me I'm happy to be reminded otherwise! NOTE to others I rarely do walls, but this problem isn't confined to indoors, lots of distractions outside as well!

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Oceanrower 28 Nov 2019
In reply to pass and peak:

I must admit, I've never really understood this. I can tie a knot. I can do it blindfolded in my sleep! It's like driving. Talk to me and I can still drive. If you're that easily distracted, what else can't you do when someone's talking to you?

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Frank R. 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Oceanrower:

Just basic human nature - we tend to do a lot of things on autopilot (especially the more experienced we are), with the occasional total brain blackouts - like unclipping your anchor, abseiling on one strand, etc. Usually happens to the more experienced climbers as well as the complete beginners... Just like driving, there was a saying that you are not a good driver until you had an accident (presumably one you survived intact and took something home from it). 

And seriously, sorry, but if you are driving and thinking any talking is not distracting you, you are just deluding yourself...

Post edited at 01:30
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teh_mark 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Oceanrower:

In the same way that despite being able to turn a corner accurately in my car without consciously thinking today I turned into a low metal bollard and wrote off both of my nearside doors, it's very possible to occasionally f*ck up tying in (or clipping in, or putting yourself on abseil, or...) if you're dedicating most of your thought to other things. It's why in aviation pilots still occasionally land with the gear up, run out of fuel or get lost over rural Lincolnshire, and it's why pilots have checklists, and flows, and sterile cockpit rules*. It's a fundamental 'human factors' problem, and it makes sense mitigating it as far as possible by, for example, dedicating your entire attention to doing safety-critical tasks like tying in.

* - ok, your average PPL getting lost over rural Lincolnshire probably doesn't have a sterile cockpit rule, and may well have thrown the checklist in the bin long ago - but perhaps if they did they wouldn't be having a drama...)

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timparkin 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Oceanrower:

> I must admit, I've never really understood this. I can tie a knot. I can do it blindfolded in my sleep! It's like driving. Talk to me and I can still drive. If you're that easily distracted, what else can't you do when someone's talking to you?

Until the moment when you think you have, but haven't

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girlymonkey 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Oceanrower:

> I must admit, I've never really understood this. I can tie a knot. I can do it blindfolded in my sleep! It's like driving. Talk to me and I can still drive. If you're that easily distracted, what else can't you do when someone's talking to you?

I was chatting with a very experienced climber the other day as he was puting his harness on. I noticed that he tightened a leg loop and didn't double it back. We finished the conversation and he started to go to climb, and thankfully I had noticed the leg loop and remembered to mention it, he hadn't noticed due to chatting.

I think if you think you can do these things faultlessly while distracted, then you are more likely to go wrong at some point as you are not checking yourself and not recognising the level of human fallibility that we are all susceptible to.

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nikoid 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Oceanrower:

You seem to be saying you are immune to mistakes which clearly cannot be the case. Are you seriously saying you have never done something silly whilst distracted? And re your driving example, of course we can all talk and drive, but I promise you your situational awareness will be adversely affected with anything that takes your mind off the thing you should be really concentrating on.

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pass and peak 28 Nov 2019
In reply to Oceanrower:

I tell them to shut up when I'm driving as well! Maybe I'm just not the talkative type and rather get on with it and save the talk for the pub, where incidentally I'm known for not shutting up when I should!! 

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Paul Sagar 28 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

I have a recurring nightmare in which I've made it to the top of a lead wall, I look down, and I'm not tied in.

It's not a very nice dream, but every time I step up to an autobelay line for the first go, I flashback to that image in my mind. Seems to work reasonably well as a remembering-to-clip mechanism. I recommend (not really) traumatising yourself via the medium of your own mind as one useful prompt to safety... 

Post edited at 17:11
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gman2012 28 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

I remember hearing about this, there were new signs because a couple of people had been using auto belays without clipping around the same time. Sam's one of the last people I'd expect this to happen to so I've been triple checking ever since.

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Dax H 28 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

I like to use the each partner checks the other partner before every climb method. If I'm with someone who isn't interested in checking then I don't climb with them. 

Everyone makes mistakes but you might only get one climbing so it's not worth the risk. 

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megamonkeyman 28 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

Just jump off after 2 moves on the autobelay!

If you hit the floor with a bump then let that be a lesson to you. I practice this and hammer it in to everyone I introduce to an autobelay.

No harm in looking down at your knot now and again either, autobelay or leading even. Call me paranoid!

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Skip 28 Nov 2019
In reply to megamonkeyman:

> No harm in looking down at your knot now and again either, autobelay or leading even. Call me paranoid!

I do this constantly, indoors and outdoors

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alibrightman 29 Nov 2019
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

> These days I always take a step up and jump off before setting off properly as an alternative to a partner check. 

I like this idea.  It's a positive suggestion, something that may be a good habit.

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althesin 29 Nov 2019
In reply to megamonkeyman:

Excellent idea, no fails, just "system tests"!

😁

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Hooo 29 Nov 2019
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

I once started up a route at my local wall without noticing that it didn't have any bolts. I got to the level of where the third bolt should have been before it dawned on me that I should have clipped in by now. A quick traverse to the next line had me safe, but it was a reminder of how blase we'd got. My belayer hadn't noticed either.

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mattrm 29 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

I've climbed extensively at a wall that only has auto-belays.  Over about 6 (maybe 7) years, I've seen one incident and heard of one other.  Purely ancedata, but I've seen a lot more bouldering injuries (broken legs/ankles) and I hardly every boulder indoors.  I've also seen a few people tie in fine and then forget to clip till really quite high up on the wall, when leading indoors.

The one incident that I did see was actually a young very inexperienced climber, who just scampered up to the top of the slab and then stopped.  I just noticed him get to the top as I'd finished a lap.  The wall supervisor wasn't really an experienced climber and we both panicked to be honest.  I jumped on the autobelay next to him, climbed up, clipped him in and soloed up on to the ledge (thankfully those two routes had a ledge at the top).   Sat on the ledge and told him to let go, he did thankfully.  We then unclipped a belay so I could clip in and downclimb.  I was so shaken, that I couldn't jump off.  I was happier downclimbing on the autobelay.  He didn't seem bothered at all, but both of us were really shook up.  I'd just become a parent when it happened and the kid was quite young.  

I always find that most climbers are often quite blase about tieing in checks.  I get some funny looks when I do it, especially if it's with someone I don't normally climb with, but thankfully most people are pretty understanding.  

Also mega kudos to TCA and Sam for the interview and publicity, it's great to see them doing that.

Post edited at 09:40
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planetmarshall 29 Nov 2019
In reply to PaulJepson:

> Even so, I really struggle to see how you'd not clip in with a typical auto-belay set up. I can understand not doing a gate up etc. but then a majority of auto-belays I've seen have auto-locking biners to negate this risk.

Take a look at this video. Try not to read any of the comments or descriptive information before you do. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo

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krikoman 29 Nov 2019
In reply to megamonkeyman:

> Just jump off after 2 moves on the autobelay!

> If you hit the floor with a bump then let that be a lesson to you. I practice this and hammer it in to everyone I introduce to an autobelay.

I do this every time I first go an auto-belay, usually they're a warm up as I get ready before anyone else in our gang. To be fair though I only usually do it on the first go, it checks my harness and auto -belay at the same time. After that I usually clip and tug the tape.

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kathrync 29 Nov 2019
In reply to mattrm:

> The one incident that I did see was actually a young very inexperienced climber, who just scampered up to the top of the slab and then stopped. 

This reminds of something I saw once, where a young climber was seconding something.  He had obviously been told to unclip as he went, but no-one had thought to tell him to leave the lower-off clipped in. Thankfully someone noticed before he tried to lower off, but I can understand your sense of panic!

> Also mega kudos to TCA and Sam for the interview and publicity, it's great to see them doing that.

Yes, absolutely. Very brave of both of them. I am pleased to see that the majority of the discussion on here and elsewhere on social media has been positive.

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andrewwaller 29 Nov 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

I did this about 10 years ago in Switzerland , I noticed my mistake just as I was about to let go at the top , the route was near my limit at the time so I was fairly pumped but just had enough left to climb down using the ample draws that were luckily still left on that section of wall . I still shudder at the thought of what could have been .. 

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