Unbelayvable: Oh, You Were Using That Anchor?

By Kevin Corrigan ,

An ice climber topropes in Lee Vining Canyon, California. Photo: Tim Berger/Flickr; CC BY 2.0

I was ice climbing at Moffat Tunnel, one of the closest ice crags to Denver with easy access to set up topropes. Naturally, it attracts a lot of new ice climbers and crowds. I was dry-tooling on the side of the main flow. A woman (we’ll call her “Lucky”) was ice climbing, for the first time, 15 feet from me. A second woman (let’s call her “Gumby”) had just topped out on the left side and was cleaning her group’s anchors. In doing so, she mistakenly also dropped the toprope that Lucky was climbing on. Lucky was now free soloing about 20 feet off the ground. Luckily for Lucky, a nearby photographer and a free rope hung a few feet away. The photographer grabbed the free rope, tied a figure-eight on a bight, clipped a biner to the knot, and passed it to Lucky, who clipped it to her belay loop. Gumby was also lucky, because she didn’t even get a tongue-lashing.
—Brandon; Colorado

LESSON: Especially in a crowded area like this, it’s important to be mindful of how your actions will affect other climbers around you. In this case, it sounds like, done with climbing for the day, Gumby was going through the motions of breaking down her group’s anchors without much thought. There are plenty of things she could have done to confirm if the rope she dropped was in use—yelling down to the climbers below, for example—but the first step is to be present and work with care, reasoning out all of your actions and considering any potential consequences.

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