Unbelayvable: Learning on the Fly

SCARY (AND TRUE) TALES FROM A CRAG NEAR YOU
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Kevin Corrigan
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SCARY (AND TRUE) TALES FROM A CRAG NEAR YOU

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.

I was at Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin. We were toproping when a couple of kids set up a toprope on a route next to us. The first climber reached the top, and that’s when it became apparent that his belayer had never done this before. He was yelling down to her from the anchors, explaining how to lower with a Grigri, but she wasn’t getting it. Then he yelled for her to take her hand off the brake and just control him with the lever. She let go and yanked the lever open. The climber whizzed down. The belayer let go of the lever, and the device locked itself with the climber just a few feet off the ground. Later, we saw the same guy coil his rope while standing untethered about three inches from the cliff edge.
—Justin, via email

LESSON: You’ll probably be fine teaching someone to lower on the fly. You’ll probably be fine standing at the edge of a cliff without a tether. But you might not be. It’s that cavalier attitude toward the dangers of our sport that gets people hurt. And it’s just lazy. Spend an extra five minutes on the ground teaching your belayer what to do and ask for someone to supervise her with a back-up belay while you climb. Anchor yourself while working near a cliff edge and you absolutely will not fall off the cliff. Sure, you can get away with these things sometimes, but there will come a time when you don’t.

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