Unbelayvable: Eight Awful Words

Scary (and true) tales from a crag near you
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Every Monday we publish the most unbelievable stories of climbing stupidity submitted by our readers. See something unbelayvable? Email unbelayvable@climbing.com and your story could be featured online or in print. For more Unbelayvable, check out the Unbelayvable Archives.

Unbelayvable Toprope

Photo: Peter Stevens/Flickr; CC BY 2.0

I was at my local climbing gym on a Tuesday afternoon. The facility was relatively quiet, with the exception of a couple toproping in the corner. It was easy to see that this was their first time climbing. As I was about to lower my partner, I heard eight awful words: “Honey, let me take your photo up there!” I turned to see the belayer move her left hand onto the brake strand so she could take out her phone with her right. Then, while trying to strike a pose, the climber slipped off his foothold. In the moment of panic that ensued, the belayer dropped her phone and let go of the brake with her left hand while grabbing the rope with her right. She managed to catch him before he hit the ground, but it sent him into a pendulum swing. All that could be heard was a quick yelp and then a loud smack as belayer and climber collided. Luckily everyone walked away from the incident with just bruised egos.
Nick, via email

LESSON: If there is only one belaying rule that you should never, ever break, it is this: Never take your hand off the brake strand. There’s no task more important for a belayer than ensuring the safety of your climber. If you do find yourself in a situation where you need to release the brake strand, tie a backup knot first. Have your climber go in direct to a bolt or piece of protection, then tie an overhand or figure eight on a bight in the brake strand below your belay device.

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