/ Climbing Wall - Emergency Crash Mat

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joelewisoutdoor - on 13 Mar 2019

Hi All
I am looking into the viability of having an emergency crash mat available as an additional measure for use when a climber becomes unattached for some reason whilst on the wall I know a number of walls have this in place or are able to quickly drag a bouldering mat out and get it under the person.
I just wanted to see if there was any info or experiences out there.
Has your wall got one? Has it ever been used? Did it make a difference?
Thanks in advance
 

Post edited at 16:16
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Bulls Crack - on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to joelewisoutdoor:

Unattached?  

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Iamgregp - on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to joelewisoutdoor:

They've got one at Westway, noticed it on my last visit...

Thought it was a bit of a silly measure meself but maybe someone's seen it used?

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Rick Graham on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to joelewisoutdoor:

I was asked to look into matting and related accidents as an expert witness about twenty years ago.

The advice then, and I would be very surprised if it had altered, was that matting should be fixed.

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john arran - on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

I'm guessing someone has been zealously creating a risk assessment and identified the possibility of someone finding themselves on a lead wall and no longer attached properly to a rope. Once it's declared as a substantive risk, it then becomes a responsibility to mitigate that risk if at all practicable. I'm not convinced the likelihood of this happening is significant enough to merit such action, but maybe a wall has experienced several such occurrences and feels the need to take action?

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WVRox - on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

They used to have one (a thick gymnasium style crash mat) at Kendal in the main room that was fastened up by the window. Years ago(10?) I asked  about it, and was told that it was an emergency measure, in case for example, someone was high up on the wall, and realised they’d not tied on properly. Presuming they then started shouting and calling for assistance, one measure  that could be taken, as a backup to anything else that was done, was to pull that crash mat out.

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teh_mark on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to john arran:

Could autobelays have been a factor in their risk assessment? After a session bouldering years ago, I put my harness on and clipped in to an autobelay to warm down on some easy routes...only 5m up I found that I hadn't clipped in at all. This was before the triangles became popular. I really should have applied 'check or deck' at the foot of the route and not halfway up it...

Not that I'm convinced a crash mat is going to be much use if you lob off the top of a 10m wall without being attached to anything.

Post edited at 17:52
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gallam1 - on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to john arran:

I saw this happen to someone top-roping at the Castle and it lead to a dreadful accident.

Some sort of airbag might have been a good idea in fact.  A thick indoor bouldering mat that can be put in place quickly could easily save someone's life,

Post edited at 18:08
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Rick Graham on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to WVRox:

Any extra padding may help in a fall, damage limitation. Sometimes it could make it worse.

However it is outside the design parameters of a bouldering mat. An air bag system as designed for fall arrest in industry or film stunt work would be better but quite impractical .

All in all a legal minefield.

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Heike - on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to joelewisoutdoor:

There was a case recently of a local wall near to me where a climber was spotted on the auto belays not having clipped in nearing the top, he seemed to climb beside the auto belay , an instructor saw it and ran to help, but it was too late to prevent him falling off and serious injury, so in that case a moveable mat might have been useful?

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elsewhere on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

An 80-100cm mat works for pole vaulters falling 6m without injury so matting works.

Perhaps 30-50cm might be enough to reduce injury. We just need some volunteers....

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teh_mark on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to elsewhere:

I don't doubt the right mat will work - but you have to hit it first. I'm not sure what the balance is between size and deployment speed, but I know that bouldering mats start to look really quite small from the top of some highballs...

All this assuming you don't catch a big hold on the way past and [invert/change course].

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petegunn on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to WVRox:

The one at kendal wall is still there, tied up against the window. Not sure if it's ever been used though!

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gravy - on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to Heike:

"ran to help but it was too late to prevent him falling off and serious injury, so in that case a moveable mat might NOT have been useful?", was there a missing word?

I like big moveable mats 'cos it's something to sit on but I think the main problem is moveable mats get abused then people fall 1/2 on 1/2 off and twist their ankles, break their legs etc etc and the chance of injury actually goes up (vs the small number of incidents with potential more serious outcomes).

There are regular occurrences of people not clipping into autobelays - some realise, some don't. 

It also happens (to a lesser extent) for regular climbers - harness not done up, 1/2 finished knot, wrong part of the harness tied in, belaying off a gear loop and my favourite belaying using both holes in an ATC device.  Mostly if people realise before they fall then they can be saved without a mat, if they realise too late then a matt won't help.

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Ciro - on 13 Mar 2019
In reply to Iamgregp:

I've seen the one at the westway brought out when a rope core shot spectacularly on the comp wall. Seemed an eminently sensible thing to do, getting a mat underneath in case the damaged rope failed completely, while someone else was getting up there to secure the climber.

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ianstevens - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to elsewhere:

> An 80-100cm mat works for pole vaulters falling 6m without injury so matting works.

> Perhaps 30-50cm might be enough to reduce injury. We just need some volunteers....

Ever tried to move a pole vault mat full stop? Let alone in a hurry.

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Neil Williams - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to ianstevens:

Talking of which, it might be worth making climbers aware of such a thing being at your wall...if they are hanging there about to fall off having seen their knot is not tied it might be useful to be able to shout for it.

Though FWIW I think if I noticed I wasn't tied in the first thing I'd do, if at all possible, is get clipped to a bolt using the in-situ quickdraw then think what next.

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WVRox - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

That’s a good point.......someone 25 ft up suddenly realised they’re not tied on properly and shouts down to tell their partner.....I appreciate it’s rare in the extreme, but if the guy at the bottom knew to grab the crash mat from against the wall and position it under you.......in case you were too pumped or whatever to grab the nearest bolt..... As Rick says though, legal minefield.....can you imagine the sign at reception.....!! I guess the compromise is that all the staff know the system

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whenry on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to joelewisoutdoor:

My local wall has just bought one - the general consensus though is that the only time it's going to get any use is if they decide to put boulder problems on one of the lead walls for a comp.

If someone's not tied in properly, or their rope gets shredded halfway up a route, one of the following is going to happen by the time they realise and a mat is pulled out:

1. They clip themselves in hard to an in-situ quickdraw and sit there until they're sorted out.

2. They downclimb on an easy route.

3. They fall off.

Unless they panic, they can probably do (1) or (2), and personally, I'd rather do one of those options than jump from potentially 10-15m up on to a crash mat.

Ok, not all routes (eg if top rope only) have in-situ quickdraws, but I'm pretty sure it would be quicker to go up on a neighbouring route and do a traditional rescue - and safer.

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derryclimbs - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to joelewisoutdoor:

I can remember an incident at a wall I was assisting at, where this measure would have been rather useful.

We were taking a group of children on holiday activities (read babysitting) and one of the days we were at the YMCA wall. Long story short (opening myself up to a lot of critique so please take my word that everything was done within the wall's operating procedures), one of the children found themselves at the top of a route with no rope. 

When he realised he didn't have a rope on his harness, he became visibly distressed. A quick 'drag mat' would have been useful for the interim time when we were sorting out the rescue. All ended fine as one of us went up the wall with a spare line, clipped him in and he was lowered down.

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wbo - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to joelewisoutdoor: My local wall has experienced some unfortunate incidents leading to injury, but the problem has been with people not being properly clippped to autobelays rather than leading.  The notion of attaching to a fixed quickdraw is appealing, but in practicality not that always very easy to do on a difficult route with 1 metre bolt spacing.

When someone falls from 10, 12m then a portable mat will be helpful, IF they manage to land on it

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WVRox - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to whenry:

I think the idea is that the mat is an absolute last resort back up to 1 and 2, and in the case of 3......well....better a mat than a hard floor. 

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Rigid Raider - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to joelewisoutdoor:

Back in about 1974 at the Sobell Centre I jumped off from just a couple of metres up landing on the edge of a crash mat and my ankle went over and dislocated. I will never forgive the staff and other climbers at the wall who, as I lay in agony, fainting with the pain, my foot sticking out at 90 degrees to my leg, stood gawping at me and did nothing until I asked if there was a first-aider whereupon an elderly man appeared and steadied me while I hopped to a public phone box and called myself a taxi to A&E. 

Sorry, carry on. Just a grudge I've nursed all my adult life.

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Neil Williams - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to WVRox:

> I think the idea is that the mat is an absolute last resort back up to 1 and 2, and in the case of 3......well....better a mat than a hard floor. 


Yeah, not "jump on this", but "we'll put this here while you're getting sorted/we're sending a rescuer up - don't panic".

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Rick Graham on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to joelewisoutdoor:

This thread just shows how elf and safety has developed into, dare I say it, a load of bollocks.

Managers and instructors trying to overthink every possibility, potentially making matters and consequences worse.

The simple answer is that climbing can be dangerous, participants take care.

This may be the reason the "Participation Statement " appears in guidebooks and BMC literature.

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Jon Greengrass on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to joelewisoutdoor:

> I just wanted to see if there was any info or experiences out there.

I forgot to do a buddy check once while lead climbing at my local indoor wall. The wall manager was waiting next to my belayer when I was lowered off  and pointed out that I had been belayed off a gear loop and if my partner had not been using a harness with reinforced gear loops I would have been looking at a ground fall. I asked him why he had not called up to stop me climbing or said anything to my belayer he said he didn't want either of us to panic. I was angry and upset at the time, but in the long term it has made obsessive about a proper buddy check.

> Has your wall got one? Has it ever been used? Did it make a difference?

I've no idea, I know that there are flooring systems available for roped climbing walls that have a layer of cardboard boxes or other materials under the rubber crumb matting that will deform under the circumstances you describe and make such a fall "survivable"

The idea of an emergency crash pad for this purpose is effing safety madness. Just the knowledge that they exist will lead to complacency.  Floor patrols and a allowing a culture among climbing wall users where people are not afraid to step in if they see unsafe practices.

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slab_happy on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to Jon Greengrass:

>  The idea of an emergency crash pad for this purpose is effing safety madness. Just the knowledge that they exist will lead to complacency.

The comp wall at the Westway is 17 metres. Are you suggesting that people will think "Oh, I won't bother checking my knot, because if I find myself at 17 metres up not attached to anything, somebody might be able to grab the giant crash pad secured to the wall, laboriously drag it over, and get it under me before I crater, thus possibly limiting the catastrophic number of bones I break"?

It's clearly intended as an emergency option to try to get under someone in a crisis, while other solutions are arranged -- not a "good" option.

If anyone's deluding themselves that falling onto it would be safe (versus "possibly less awful than just hitting the floor"), let alone that it means they don't need to check things as carefully, then they need to reassess their understanding of gravity.

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sambamlam - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to joelewisoutdoor:

I did see two in one day at an indoor gym in New Zealand, the mother didnt clip in to belay one of the children on top rope, just pulled the loose rope to the ground around the fixed plate, got around 15 feet up and a staff member ran up and belayed him. While the Dad was literally stood a metre back from the GriGri taking photos while his small child was 20 feet up tied on to loose rope. Good level of fearlessness from the kids though. 

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Neil Williams - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to slab_happy:

Probably put it in a similar bracket as a Via Ferrata set.  It's there so you can be air-ambulanced to hospital with multiple fractures instead of being taken away by an undertaker.

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Neil Williams - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to sambamlam:

That's rather negligent.  That said, I could certainly top-rope belay smaller kids just holding the rope - they really are not that heavy.  Not that I would, as I'm not stupid and don't want to kill anybody.

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derryclimbs - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to Jon Greengrass:

. I asked him why he had not called up to stop me climbing or said anything to my belayer he said he didn't want either of us to panic. I was angry and upset at the time, but in the long term it has made obsessive about a proper buddy check.

Angry at who? your belayer or the wall manager?

I recall an article about a belayer dropping a climber because they had belayed from their gear loop by mistake. The harness was slightly too big and the whole thing had slid around to the side a bit, making it seem as if the device was where it should be. The end result (after the dust settled) was that he always kept the belay device on a rear gear loop from then on. Weirdly, that very week I saw someone almost do it at my local wall. So I'm a 'back loop only' person now too!

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Neil Williams - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to derryclimbs:

> > I asked him why he had not called up to stop me climbing or said anything to my belayer he said he didn't want either of us to panic. I was angry and upset at the time, but in the long term it has made obsessive about a proper buddy check.

> Angry at who? your belayer or the wall manager?

FWIW if I saw that someone was doing that, the first thing I'd do if I had a harness on with a belay device to hand would be to put the rope (after the belayer) in my device and set it up to make the climber safe.  If I didn't have a harness on, I'd pick it up to sort out a waist belay as a backup.  The priority has to be making the climber safe.  I'd explain what I was doing and why as I did it.

The only justification for doing *nothing* would be if the wall manager *knew for certain* it was a harness with load bearing gear loops.

That said, I don't see why this is an even remotely easy mistake to make unless using an Alpine type harness - everything would be about 90 degrees out from where it should be and would just feel wrong.

One thing I've always been in the habit of doing (no idea where I got it from) before saying "climb when ready" is locking off the device and pulling hard on the live rope, which would have the effect of pulling the rope out if it wasn't in properly.  This would also highlight it being rotated through 90 degrees as it would be on a gear loop.  Maybe more people should do that?

Post edited at 15:21
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Jon Greengrass on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to derryclimbs:

> Angry at who? your belayer or the wall manager?

Myself

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Pan Ron - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to Rick Graham:

> This thread just shows how elf and safety has developed into, dare I say it, a load of bollocks.

I understand the viewpoint.

Though, if someone is clinging on at the top of a climb, rope dangling uselessly above them, and manages to hold on for the length of time it would have taken people on the ground to grab that big, light, inflatable sofa-like thing, that fills with air simply by flicking it in the air....as a wall manager, or witness, you'd feel like a bit of a plonker for not having invested in such a device, especially if its the difference between no injury and death/life in a wheelchair. 

> The simple answer is that climbing can be dangerous, participants take care.

Indeed.  But no point not having backups.  I always had cows-tails and carabiners on my harness, exactly for the eventuality where either I, or someone climbing next to me indoors, found themselves unroped.  Indoor climbing is unique in that you tie, and untie, dozens of times in a session, often when surrounded by a lot of distractions.  It introduces unique risks not found outside.

Post edited at 18:39
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Oceanrower - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to Pan Ron:

> grab that big, light, inflatable sofa-like thing, that fills with air simply by flicking it in the air....

You've never tried moving a crash mat, have you...

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Neil Williams - on 14 Mar 2019
In reply to Pan Ron:

> Indeed.  But no point not having backups.  I always had cows-tails and carabiners on my harness, exactly for the eventuality where either I, or someone climbing next to me indoors, found themselves unroped.  Indoor climbing is unique in that you tie, and untie, dozens of times in a session, often when surrounded by a lot of distractions.  It introduces unique risks not found outside.

That occurred to me today, where I was having a chat with someone else (not my belayer) about the 737 Max carry-on, during which I was tying in and started climbing while still blabbing on about it.  It did occur to me afterwards that the distractions could easily have resulted in a dangerous error.

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Pan Ron - on 15 Mar 2019
In reply to Oceanrower:

You'll see I referred to something not like a usual crash mat. More like an airbag. They're out there, are light, and inflate in seconds.

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Andrew Kin - on 15 Mar 2019
In reply to WVRox:

Wow, I think it’s still there.  I never thought about why.  I just lean against it when my daughter is getting coached.  I once (ok I was stupid) sent my 8yr old daughter up a climb at kendal on lead on the one and only line which was meant to be done using your own quickdraws.  At about the height for second clips my daughter asked where the draws were.  I made her downclimb with me spotting and went straight to the shop and purchased a set.  

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obi-wan nick b - on 16 Mar 2019
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