As walls across the UK reopen this month, the BMC have released a video and article outlining the essentials for ensuring a safe return to climbing when we're all a bit rusty. The video includes pre-climb reminders for partner checks, belaying, auto-belaying and bouldering from pro climber and BMC ambassador Steve McClure, GB Climbing Coach Rachel Carr and GB Climbing Team member Billy Ridal, plus some COVID-19 protocol information.
BMC ambassador Steve McClure says:
"Even having climbed all my life, I still always take it easy on my first few lead climb sessions of the season. It may feel like riding a bike, but just like the chain of my trusty machine, it gets a little rusty when it hasn't been used in a while. Check and double check all the safety stuff; harness, knots, belay device...buddy check! Then start gentle, enjoy the flow and beauty of moving."
These films were produced by the BMC in collaboration with their partners: the Association of British Climbing Walls, Climb Scotland, Mountaineering Ireland and Mountain Training. The films were also supported by Petzl.
A few seconds spent on a Partner Check could save your life
It's so easy to get distracted and forget to finish tying in, or forget to tie a knot in the end of the rope. Our advice? Make a habit of doing a partner check every time you climb.
Start by checking your harnesses. They should sit above the hips, be properly tightened on all straps, and check the buckles are correctly fastened. After tying in, check your knot. It must be properly tied and threaded correctly through the harness.
Now, look at your belay system. Check the rope and device are threaded in the right direction and that the carabiner is connected to the belay loop. Check that it's locked and perform a functional test of the device.
The last step is to make sure that you've properly tied a knot in the end of the rope. There are still very bad accidents caused by ropes that are too short.
Keep your brake hand low and pay attention
When belaying, make sure to keep your brake hand low, whatever belay device you use. And don't let go. When belaying, pay attention and focus on the climber as their life is in your hands. Save your chatting to friends for when you aren't belaying.
There are plenty of distractions when climbing indoors but when belaying your only responsibility is to the climber. Pay attention and focus on them as their life is in your hands. Save chatting to your friends for later.
With a wide variety of devices on the market, always read the manufacturer's guidance and watch their user films online.
Autobelays: double check you've clipped in
Auto belays are a great way to climb on your own. But without a partner to check you, it's essential to take your time clipping in and do a functional test before leaving the ground. Very serious accidents have happened because climbers haven't properly attached themselves to the autobelay. Get into the habit of double check that you've clipped in every time.
Think of other boulderers
Remember that the mats at climbing walls can't remove the possibility of injury, so always try to climb down after completing a boulder problem and, if falling, try to land in control.
When moving around the wall, look where you are going including above you, and avoid walking underneath other climbers.
Remember to keep 2m distance at all times. Remember to wear your mask when not climbing, and sanitise your hands before and after climbing.
Wear a mask when breathing gently but not when breathing heavily.
I know we are all keen to get back to normal but this is emporer's new clothes.
So when are walls actually opening in each nation?
I believe it’s April 26th in Scotland.
Yesterday in England.
Staying at home is an option if you prefer it. I've had a vaccine (healthcare worker), am in no risk categories and the case rate is low where I live, so for me the cost/benefit is in favour of going to the wall. If it's different for you then that's a shame, but it doesn't mean others are deluding themselves.