Unbelayvable: How Not to Bail


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I watched a guy try his first sport lead outside. He bailed after the fourth bolt. None of his friends wanted to try the route, so an older climber instructed him to thread the rope directly through the bolt hanger so he wouldn't have to leave a bail carabiner. Then the older gentleman proudly recounted a story of how he was two pitches up on a route and couldn't finish it. Instead of leaving a real carabiner behind, he used a toy carabiner because it was cheaper. He said, "Those things only hold 500 lbs. or so, but I was just too cheap to leave a real biner."—Kevin Kuo, via email

LESSON: There are many ways to safely bail off a sport route. Threading the rope directly through a bolt hanger is usually not one of them. Take a gander at the methods in the linked article and be sure to carry a couple bail biners or quick links in case you need to go down because you can no longer go up. Though slightly more expensive (really only a couple bucks), it's more polite to leave carabiners. At best, quick links are hard to remove for the next person that leads the route. At worst, they can rust shut and become very hard to remove. Keep in mind that you may be able to retrieve gear by walking to the top of the cliff and rappelling, climbing the next route over, or asking a stronger friend to climb the route.

Toy carabiners usually have something like "Not for climbing" or "Not load bearing" printed right on them, because they're not load bearing. 500 lbs is a very generous estimate. They're intended to hold a set of keys or maybe a waterbottle. Absolutely not a person. If your life is worth so little to you that you're willing to risk it instead of leaving behind gear that costs roughly the price of a hamburger, then I can't help you. You'll get better advice from a therapist.

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