Unbelayvable: Playing Catch With the Rope Mid-Route

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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? Tell us in the comments and your story could be featured in a future edition, online or in print. For more Unbelayvable, check out the Unbelayvable Archives.

First Tangles

Take care of this before climbing. Photo: omad/flickr; http://ow.ly/BMtBM

>>There was a climber leading a sport route. The belayer was half belaying and half messing with a tangle. Halfway up the route, the climber stopped at a ledge, then untied and threw the rope down so that the belayer could sort everything out. He wasn’t clipped in to anything. After straightening out the rope, the belayer—after many tries—tossed the rope back up to the climber, who tied back in. He wasn’t safe until he reached the next clip, though. When he tossed the rope down, it had fallen out of the lower draws.—L.V., via Climbing.com

LESSON: Given what gravity and sudden impacts can do to a body, you should never be on a route unanchored. It’s too easy to lose your balance and pitch off the wall, especially when you’re doing something like, say, trying to catch an airborne rope. The best course is to prevent these problems before they start. Always flake your rope at the base of a route before starting a climb to eliminate knots and tangles. If you do find yourself in a situation like this, either go in direct while your belayer sorts it out, or suck it up and lower, fix the problem, and start over. It’s better to waste 10 minutes than to fall off a cliff.

>>I met a group of climbers working a route on toprope. The belayer was using an anti–cross-loading carabiner, which was connected to his leg and waist loops instead of the belay loop or tie-in points. It was also unscrewed, and the leg loop was jammed on the inner gate, holding it open. By some miracle, the Grigri hadn’t fallen out. No one noticed the oddly open biner until I yelled for them to close it.—Rui Rosado, via Climbing.com

LESSON: Carabiners are significantly weaker when loaded along their minor axis (width-wise instead of length-wise). Anti–cross-loading biners are designed to prevent this problem by fixing themselves in the proper orientation. This benefit is completely negated when the gate is open, which reduces a carabiner’s strength the same as cross-loading. A simple check to make sure your carabiner is locked should be part of your pre-climb routine. Better: Use an auto-locking carabiner and make sure it’s closed. Also, belay from your belay loop. That’s what it’s there for.

>>I climbed a multi-pitch sport route with a friend recently. He led and built an anchor. When I got to the top, I saw that he had the tube-style belay device clipped to the chains only by the wire at the base of the device.—Cody, via Climbing.com

LESSON: The wire on a belay device is called a keeper loop. Its purpose is to keep the device from sliding up the rope during a rappel. It’s not load-bearing. Had the climber fallen, it would have likely been a grounder. Even if the wire didn’t break, the device wouldn’t have stopped the rope from moving through it because it was not set up correctly in guide mode. Always read the instructions and make sure you know how to properly use your device.

See something unbelayvable? Tell us in the comments and your story could be featured in a future edition online or in print. Got an unbelayvable photo? Send it to unbelayvable@climbing.com.