Unbelayvable: The Best of the Worst of 2014! (Part 1)

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Kevin Corrigan
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This week we're highlighting some of the most unbelievable Unbelayvable stories of 2014. It's one superlative you don't want to achieve. For more Unbelayvable, check out the Unbelayvable Archives.

Hook

LESSON: The first sign that this is a bad idea is that the Amazon description of the grappling hook clearly states "not recommended for climbing." A further glance at some of the reviews reveals several people reporting the metal hooks bending or breaking under small loads. The climbers in question may be beyond the help of this article, since it seems they've made a conscious choice to disregard their own safety, but this is a great opportunity to talk about why it's important to use climbing gear that's designed for climbing.

Most climbing gear features one or two certification labels: UIAA and CE. The UIAA is the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation. CE is a set of standards for all products (climbing and non-climbing) sold in the European Union. If your equipment holds the UIAA label, it means that it has been tested and meets the safety requirements laid out by the UIAA, and you can trust that the equipment is fully safe to use, as long as climbing is listed as one of the recommended uses. Uncertified products are all over the map: Some might be totally safe for use, while others might be homemade in someone's garage and will break under a 10-lb. load. Look for UIAA and/or CE certifications on your gear to KNOW that it's safe for climbing use.

So will a $20 grappling hook from Amazon get you up a cliff? Maybe, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. Nothing in the system is designed for climbing or tested for climbing. So if (when) it fails, that's on you. Also, climbing up a grappling hook is a good way to pull a rock down on your head.

Thanks to photographer Nathan Welton for this absurd story.

>>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!”—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.

>>I saw a big guy struggling to rope-solo up a tricky 5.8. He was using an ascender, and he wasn’t taking up slack very well. The real problem was at the top of the cliff. His “anchor” was his smaller buddy, sitting five feet from the edge, holding the rope around his hip. I explained that a fall would’ve yanked them both off the cliff, but got blank stares.—Ed, via Climbing.com

LESSON: Use common sense and think through worst-case scenarios. Nothing about this “meat anchor” is ERNEST (equalized, redundant, no extension, solid, timely). Plus, if you have a partner, just have him belay you. There is no advantage to toprope soloing.

>>Climber: “Take!” Belayer: “Hold on. Let me finish texting my mom.”—George Terrizzi,  via Facebook

LESSON: Put the phone away and pay strict attention to your climber. “Take” is a serious command that warrants an immediate response. You can tell your mom you love her when you get home.

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.