Unbelayvable: Ledges and Slack

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.

Kalymnos Greece Rock Climbing

The cliffs of Kalymnos, Greece. Photo: Mike Bean/Flickr; CC-BY-2.0

My wife and I were climbing in Kalymnos, Greece, when we observed a gentleman belaying his partner up Climber’s Nest (5.10a). The route is about 70 feet. It starts with some slab climbing to a shelf, then some vertical climbing to another shelf, then an overhanging section to the anchors at the “nest.” It’s one of those routes where the belayer must be extra careful to prevent the climber from hitting one of the ledges. Instead, this guy was belaying 20 to 30 feet from the wall with way too much slack out. The rope was touching the ground at times.
—Daniel, via email

LESSON: A good belayer does more than feed out rope and catch falls. A good belayer should pay attention to the objective hazards of a route. Is the climber above a dangerous ledge? Minimize slack so they’re less likely to hit it. Every extra foot you stand away from the wall is another foot your climber can fall. Same goes for slack. Think of it this way: If the climber in the story fell from five feet above a bolt, she’d fall 10 feet, then her belayer would get yanked toward the bolt. If he was pulled all the way to the wall from 30 feet away, she is now falling 40 feet (plus a little more for rope stretch). If the belayer was standing right below that first bolt, she would only fall 10 feet. Do your climber a favor and belay close to the wall. Get some belay glasses if it hurts your neck.

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