Every Monday we publish the most unbelievable stories of climbing stupidity submitted by our readers. See something unbelayvable? Tell us in the comments and your story could be featured in a future edition, online or in print. For more Unbelayvable, check out the Unbelayvable Archives.
>>While walking towards our next objective, we saw a smiling belayer that was taking pictures with a tablet. He was holding the device above his head with the rope still in his brake hand. I wonder, in the case of a fall, if his reflexes would make him save the tablet or the leader.—Riccardo T., via email
LESSON: I've included submissions like this in Unbelayvable several times. The bottom line is that, if you are belaying, and your climber is on belay, you should have a hand on the brake strand, and your full attention should be on belaying. Every time I publish this advice, some commenters will claim I'm being unfair and suggest a situation in which they believe it is OK to ignore the belay. In fact, they're right. There are situations where the above scenario would be OK. Here are the times when it is acceptable for a belayer to eat a sandwich, take a nap, snap a butt shot, etc.
1. If the climber is clipped directly to a reliable bolt.2. If the climber has reached or built an anchor, clipped in direct, then announced they can be taken off belay.3. If the belayer has tied off the belay. The most common way to do this is with a mule overhand knot. Seek instruction from a qualified source and practice at home before trying it at the cliff. While it's a fairly simple knot, it must be tied while maintaining the brake, and failure would be grave.
In all of these situations, the climber should authorize the belayer's actions first. The climber is the one protected by the rope, so the climber must be the one comfortable with the risk. While the above belayer does have a hand on the brake line, he is in no way ready to catch a fall. I consider that unacceptable. Also, taking photos with an iPad looks really dorky. Come on.
Dumb Anchor of the Week
What’s wrong with this anchor? How would you improve it? Tell us in the comments, then see more awful anchors at the Dumb Anchors blog. Photos: John Gregory/Dumb Anchors. (Click for full size.)
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