Unbelayvable: Bad Gear, Bad Guy

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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.

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I was getting ready to climb Short Circuit (5.10a) at Lion’s Head in central Ontario. Somebody was climbing Wired (5.10c) next to us. I said hello to the belayer, who seemed to be doing all right. On the way up the route, I looked over at the climber next to me. I didn’t recognize the rope, and it seemed to be odd in some way. I kept going, and as the routes came closer together, I could see that something was really wrong with the rope. I reached over, and to my surprise, found that it was a hardware store marine rope, and similarly, he was using steel carabiners normally used on trailers. I reached him as fast as I could, explained the situation, and politely asked him to transfer to my rope and let me take him down. He insisted I was a clueless idiot and told me to get lost. I had my belayer lower me and immediately called the local park authorities. Neither he, nor his belayer, were very happy with me when they showed up and took him off the crag.—Lenny, via email

LESSON: Climbing ropes today are dynamic; they’re designed to stretch. They absorb impact in a fall, making your deceleration soft and safe. Even if your hardware store rope survives a whipper, you won’t like what it does to your insides. A hardware store rope likely will be static, which will transfer all the force of a fall into your body. Even very short drops could lead to serious injury. This is also why it can be very bad to fall on a sling connecting you to your anchor. It is absolutely essential to use equipment that has been designed and tested for climbing. You can’t reasonably expect it to keep you safe otherwise. And it’s actually cheaper to buy real climbing gear in the long run. One night in the hospital can cost $10,000, which is like 80 climbing ropes or 2,000 carabiners.

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