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I was climbing with my usual group at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, Arkansas. It was a community day, promoted by our local gym. While we worked a route, another climber from our gym jumped into our rotation. We all finished the route, then it was the new guy’s turn to go for the redpoint and then clean the anchor. The belayer asked if he knew how to clean. He said he did and gave a little attitude, acting like it was a stupid question. He climbed the route just fine, but things got weird at the chains. He removed the quickdraws from the anchor and then yelled, “Downclimbing!” I looked up to see that he hadn’t threaded the rope. Instead, he intended to downclimb from bolt to bolt to retrieve the draws, essentially leading the route in reverse. I yelled up for him to clip back into the anchor so we could lower him, which we did. Once back on the ground, he continued to claim that he knew how to clean anchors, insisting, “I’ve done it that way before and know a couple other ways.” I tied back in and climbed the route again to get my quickdraws. Needless to say, I was on janitor duty, cleaning our routes for the rest of the day.
LESSON: This method could technically work on easy routes, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. It also becomes less workable when steeps and roofs enter the equation, or you’re climbing near your limit. Whipping from bolt to bolt all the way to the ground isn’t exactly ideal; it puts unnecessary wear on gear and your body. The quickest way to clean an anchor is to clip in direct, push a bight of rope through the chains, tie a figure eight on a bight on that section of rope, clip it to your belay loop with a locker, have your belayer pull in slack to test your connection, then clean the anchor draws and untie your original tie-in knot. Find a video demonstration and practice on the ground before trying it atop a pitch. And be humble about your abilities. Climbing isn’t a sport where you can figure it out as you go, like standup paddleboarding.
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