Unbelayvable: Phantom Belayers and Rappel Close Calls
>>A climber warned us about a sketchy dude in Smith Rock, Oregon. Mr. Sketch had offered him a belay, and when he was three-quarters up a route, he looked down and noticed something chilling. The belayer was gone. The rope hung loosely from his harness to the ground. He rapped down and found the sketchy dude flirting with some girls a ways down the crag. Sketch said, “What? You looked like you were doing fine!”
—Submitted by Jason D. Martin, via Climbing.com
LESSON: When you allow someone to belay you, you’re literally placing your life in his hands. Only climb with people you know you can trust.
>>“Only one end of the rope is on the ground!”
“That’s OK. I’ll rappel on both strands until I get to that point, then I’ll finish the rappel on one strand.”
A chorus of “No! Stop!” saved the climber.
—Submitted by Richard Bothwell, via Climbing.com
LESSON: Every time you rappel, pull your rope through the anchors and center it. If your rope doesn’t have a middle mark, put it through the anchor, match the ends, and coil until you find the center. Next, tie stopper knots on each strand so you can’t rap off the end. Toss the rope and make sure both strands reach the ground before you rap.
>>I saw a guy build a toprope anchor by putting a harness around a tree and clipping a single oval biner to it. Then he put another harness on a dead tree at the bottom of the cliff and belayed his daughter from it—with a pulley. At least he put a helmet on her.
—Submitted by Ben, via Climbing.com
LESSON: So many. Foremost, always seek expert instruction. Take a class from a gym, guide company, or climbing school, and practice building anchors in a low- risk environment (like your backyard). Always read the instructions that come with your gear. Climbing gear is very specialized and should only be used as intended.
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