Every Monday we publish the most unbelievable stories of climbing stupidity submitted by our readers. See something unbelayvable? Email email@example.com and your story could be featured online or in print. For more Unbelayvable, check out the Unbelayvable Archives.
1. I was waiting in line to rappel in Gorges du Verdon, France. There was a party of five in front of me. One guy prepared and I noticed something strange about his ATC. He had clipped the rope through the ATC with a locking biner in the proper place, but instead of clipping that to his belay loop, he clipped a separate biner through the ATC’s wire and secured himself to that. I warned him about the danger, to which he responded, “Thats fine. I always do it like that, never had a problem."
—Felipe, via climbing.com
LESSON: The wire on a belay device is called a keeper loop. Its purpose is to keep your device from sliding up the rope. It's not designed to be load bearing. If this climber has been using it to support his weight every time he rappels then he's very lucky, and possibly very skinny. The bottom line is that you can't reliably depend on it to hold you. Besides, you're already using a perfectly good locking carabiner. There's no reason to make the system more complicated (and completely unsafe) by adding another biner. To make it extra safe, extend it, back it up with your favorite friction hitch, and throw knots in the ends of each strand every time. Enough rappel accidents happen when people are using gear properly. Don't tempt the fates and make your raps any more dangerous than they need to be.
2. My partner was getting ready to try to red point his project. He was tying in when I asked him how he was going to handle the crux. He started mimicking the moves with his hands. Then he chalked up and went. He sent the route, clipped the anchor, and called for me to take. As he leaned back to lower, he screamed and grabbed the chains. When he’d started to weight the rope, his knot unraveled and was pulling through his harness. When I had asked him how he was going to do the final section, he stopped tying in and forgot to finish.
—Darren Essman, via Facebook
LESSON: This is a fairly common way experienced people get hurt. They get distracted and forget to finish tying in, or locking their belay biner, or passing the strand through both harness loops. We, as climbers, tie in so often that's it's easy to overlook a simple mistake. A good way to avoid this is to make a point to finish what you start before moving on to anything else. Don't tie half your figure eight and stop to put on your shoes. Don't start your figure eight then pause to have a conversation. Don't start your figure eight then take a break to make sure your rack is organized the way you like it. Start your figure eight and finish your figure eight before anything else, every time. Then the belayer should check out the climber's knot and make sure it's up to code, and the climber should check that the belayer is set up properly and their biner is locked. These simple mistakes can be avoided simply by double checking your partner.
3. A couple was on an obvious first date on the route next to us up Rock Canyon. I saw the guy giving the girl a run down on how to belay. She said she understood, and he started climbing. She was quite sketchy. She didn't know when to give slack and when to take. He topped out and then it went from sketchy to scary. She dropped him 10 feet when she tried to lower him. They both freaked out, so I grabbed the rope and brought him down myself while the belay device was still on her harness.
—Dustin Tara Hansen, via Facebook
LESSON: There are better ways to impress a girl than by decking. Lead belaying is a complex skill that takes training and practice. It's not the kind of thing you can expect someone to get right after a brief verbal lesson. Remember, you're the one in danger when you climb with an inexperienced belayer. Start by taking your date to a climbing gym and giving her proper instruction. Have someone back up her belay until she has the confidence and ability she needs to belay on her own. Only after she's caught some falls and lowered you without incident a handful of times should you take her to climb outside. Who knows? Maybe she'll turn into the belayer you'll spend the rest of your life with. Better option: Take her out to dinner.
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