Base Camp Blog

See Something Cringe-Inducingly Unsafe? We Want to Hear About it

Do everything right, and climbing is actually pretty darn safe. Still, some people assume they can guess at the technical bits and everything will be fine, like this person a friend of mine rescued recently:


"I was teaching a belay class when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl yanking on the end of a loose rope.  To my dismay, she was belaying a climber with no belay device. The climber was at the top of the wall, 'tied in' to the grigri. He was weighting the rope and the belayer was supporting his weight with her bare hands."

Have you witnessed anything cringe-inducingly dangerous from uninformed climbers, either inside the gym or at the crag? We want to hear about it. Tell us what happened in the comments and your story could be featured in an upcoming issue of our print edition.

photo: laurelfan/Flickr;


As a student working at both a climbing gym and university wall, I am always intrigued to see other gyms/universities. I visited Kansas University's wall. To belay, I needed to take the 'belay test.' They want you to use gri-gri's that they provide. The instructor was giving me guidlines while I belayed my climber. She said I didn't need to keep my hand on the break line. I responded trying not to sound like an asshole. I said, "I'll keep it on there in case the gri-gri fails." She responds, "It won't fail."

Anna - 03/24/2014 9:15:58

I was climbing in a gym with a buddy. I was tying in when my buddy suddenly walks away from me and reaches towards the person belaying at the station a couple of ropes over from us. I then noticed the belayer was looking up at the climber with his hands in the air. He was standing on the brake end of the rope with his right foot and taking pictures of his girlfriend at the very top of the wall! He even seemed insulted when my buddy held the rope in the brake position and explained to him the danger of the situation. He seemed more mad that we ruined his girlfriends new facebook profile!

B - 03/17/2014 10:23:01

I work at a climbing gym, we always get first time climbers belaying veteran climbers who brought them but thought it was unfair that only they should have the fun... Even though we tag them and tell them specifically NOT to belay their host after they pass the front desk. But the dodgiest thing that i still find super hard to believe is when we caught a dad (who is a competent climber) 'belaying' his kid on a 12m wall as if he was raising a flag on a pole. No belay device, harness, or any indication of climbing gear whatsoever. Even after doing a rescue and giving the dad a stern warning he just replies "oh he's so light, and i don't have my gear anyway". We tell him that if his son wants to keep climbing TR under his supervision he HAS to have proper gear and use it correctly. He reluctantly heads to the rental desk and moves on to another wall. A moment later i ask the guy at the rental desk if he rented a harness and a belay device, and he told me "nope, just the harness". I run upstairs and find him belaying his son through a series of loops through his harness. Wasn't even a munter! Poor kid was terrified. He left after that. Shame to see that people usually choose egotistical option of getting pissed off at someone correcting you and never coming back, rather than listening to the advice for their own safety. His own kid! Still dumbfounded on that incident.

Zoé - 03/16/2014 10:37:43

So we were climbing some easier stuff in finale figure, when i saw a guy climbing a 7a next to us. The crux was in the start at the route, between the 2 and 3 clip, as the lead climber scream and tries to pull through the crux i see his belayer having about 3 meter lose robe out, standing far away from the wall. Even more horrifying was the fact that a sloppy 5c route was just below the 7a line meaning the ground the first couple of clips was CLOSE. the climber makes a dynamic powerful catches to a jug and make it to the easier part of the route luckily without falling.

Mikkel - 03/16/2014 12:17:20

one time climbing mt lemmon in az, two of my buddies ask to borrow my rope for a bit to do a multi pitch climb, they get up to the first belay and I tell them that my rope is a 60m and to be careful. next thing I know I hear a bit of yelling and soon after they got down, I found out he passed the end of the rope on the rap from the top and just downclimbed to the next belay, choice.

nathan wikstrom - 03/16/2014 12:48:32

In was climbing in Chamonix a few years back. I had just reached the top of a route that was more than a 100 metres long. A man that has probaly climbed since hemp ropes where used comes up, clips a carabiner without a screw gate in an old rusty piton, clips in the rope then throws the rope over his shoulders and yells to his partner to start climbing... He was not secured himself, just standing up on the slope at the top... Luckily, the second did not fall.

Christian - 03/15/2014 1:39:51

On a climbing trip just starting our day, my friends and I came upon a group of climbers on the warm up wall. We all started climbing, while waiting to climb I look over and see one of the climbers from the other group is only tied into one hard point. Getting their attention I let them know of the error. They fix the problem and start to climb. His first clip he back clips. Once again I inform him of the mistake. He fixes it. Finally for his 3rd clip he Z-Clips for the last time he is told of the error. The climber tries to keep climbing falls and lucky for him the rope catches him just before he decks but still hits the floor with his heels somewhat hard because of the rope stretch. My group finally decides to climb at a different wall.

Joe - 03/14/2014 1:52:58

One time I read a bunch of stories about unsafe climbing experiences online, and I was surprised at how many people "got out of there" rather than saying something about the unsafe practice.

JB - 03/13/2014 9:30:39

A guy was roping up and he had a very old ship yard rope. We told him how unsafe that was and he said that his dad used the rope through out all the 80's and that it should be fine. We told him it is really sketchy and that he should not and while we were walking away he asked his buddy "you want to risk it?"

David Cook - 03/13/2014 9:27:23

A few extremely climbing-safety-heavy friends and I were packing up as it was getting dark after sport climbing in Colombia at this magnificent crag. A guy asked if one of us could help him clean a route, and I volunteered. As I neared the top, a roof where two bolts were properly set, I noticed the guy's "anchor" consisted of a single unlocked biner in only one of the bolts, attached to a single poorly meshed sling, to a single unlocked biner (with another unlocked biner attach to nothing adjacent to it hanging there). He had been belaying three first-time climbers on top rope at that spot. Definitely learned my lesson that day.

Stav - 03/13/2014 8:06:55

I was climbing with a few of my friends at Linville Gorge. We were sorting through our gear and deciding which climbs each team would do when two guys walked up asking to take a look at our guide book. After passing the book over and talking for a minute or two we continued to pack our gear. Then one of them said, "You guys brought trad gear?". Puzzled, we looked at each other and responded, "Yeah…" they told us how they had just brought a rack of draws because they were intending to do a route that was "Bolted". We felt that it was time to get as far away from these guys as possible so we headed off to climb. Later on, while a pair of my friends were cruxing on a route, my friend Dave and I decided to hike around and locate some climbs we wanted to get on. A few minutes of hiking lead us around a bend where we saw the two guys we had met in the parking lot. They were starting the second pitch of a climb, neither were wearing helmets, the belayer was simply standing on a ledge not tied off as his friend was about 15-20 feet up. The climber yells down "I can't see any bolts! I don't think I can down climb these next moves… but I'm gonna go for it!". My stomach is churning as he continues up, passes a small bulge and yells down, "A bolt! its only 10 to 15 feet away!" at that point we decide its time to get the hell out of there. We continue on with our day, climbing some awesome routes. Hearing no screams for help and seeing no helicopters the rest of the day we thought those guys must've figured it out and hopefully rapped down at some point. At the end of the day we see them in the parking lot. They run up to us and say, "Dudes, that route was sick! It got so ran out at one point we had to jam a quick draw into a crack and use it like a stopper, it was bomber!!" All I could do was shake my head and walk away.

Chris - 03/13/2014 8:23:41

At Echo cliffs in Malibu mid February, I coach a youth competition team, these kids crush indoors and out, we were climbing near a group of a dozen "new" climbers, they were climbing some easier stuff while the kids were running end of day laps on Java (5.11d). I guess one of the guys didn't want to be shown up by 11 year olds, so he decided to lead Espresso (5.11a) His belayer says "I'm not comfortable lead belaying yet" he reassures her everything is "fine" The guy makes it halfway up the route to the first crux; his belayer says "My neck is hurting, I'm gonna look at the ground, you just tell me what you need." She says this as the climber is mid- pull with about 10 feet of rope out, he blows the clip, she loses control of the brake end, and the climber ends up whipping 30-35 feet. I don't know how she regained control but the climber was only a few feet above the deck when all was said and done. No one in that group had any business being outdoors yet, and the incident could have very well ended with three children watching a person fall to their death. Climbing, as a sport is growing rapidly, and we all have a responsibility to check other people on their safety,even if it means a few touchy egos getting offended. If enough fatalities occur because of ignoramus' like this group we can kiss the local crags goodbye, they'll be shutdown and deemed "unsafe".

Seth C. - 03/12/2014 10:39:11

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