Unbelayvable: A 20-Foot High Time Out

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Kevin Corrigan
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Every Monday we publish the most unbelievable stories of climbing stupidity submitted by our readers. See something unbelayvable? Email unbelayvable@climbing.com and your story could be featured online or in print. For more Unbelayvable, check out the Unbelayvable Archives.

unbelayvable rock climbing

Photo: ElPadawan/Flickr; CC BY-SA 2.0

I saw a mother and son climbing at the gym. They were speaking in another language, but it sounded like they were angry with each other. It seemed like the kid didn’t want to climb and the mother was telling him to keep going. An hour later I heard a staff member yelling at the mother. She was sitting in a chair 50 feet from the wall. Her son was still on the wall, suspended about 20 feet up. The only thing holding him up was a Grigri chained to the floor. (The gym makes people belay off Grigris anchored to the floor if they haven’t passed a belay test.)
—Brian Lockwood, via email

LESSON: This mom isn't likely to win Parent of the Year. Don’t abandon any climber on the wall, no matter what device you’re belaying with. It’s only OK to stop belaying someone if they call “off belay.” In order to have the piece of mind necessary to do something scary like rock climbing, you need to have absolute trust in your belayer. If your belayer does anything to breach that trust, you shouldn’t climb with them. Even if they’re your mom and they might ground you for disobeying them. Yes, a Grigri will lock and hold a climber, but it’s an assisted-braking device, meaning there still needs to be an attentive belayer present.

We want to hear your Unbelayvable stories! Email unbelayvable@climbing.com and your story could be featured in a future edition online or in print. Unbelayvable photos are welcome, too.