Unbelayvable: Little Kids, Little Rope

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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.


>>This rope is about 8mm and was used to belay children. Yes, the green cord is the climbing rope. There was no anchor. It ran from the belayer, up around the tree, then down to the climber.—John Gregory. See more bad climbing decisions at John’s blog, Dumb Anchors

LESSON: As far as I know, there aren’t any 8mm ropes on the market rated for use as a single rope. That means this little shoe string in the photo is either a half rope, a twin rope, or both (many ropes carry both certifications). Half and twin ropes are made to be used in pairs. When climbing on half ropes, each rope should be clipped to every other piece of protection. So half rope one would be clipped to quickdraws one, three, five, etc. And half rope two would be clipped to quickdraws two, four, six, etc. When climbing on twin ropes, both ropes should be clipped to each piece of gear. Right off the bat, this person is using their lifeline outside of the manufacturer’s recommendation. That’s not to say that it’s a death sentence. Alpinists will sometimes use a half rope as a single to save weight. But when an alpinist chooses to climb on one thin cord, it should be a calculated decision with the risks and benefits carefully measured. Something tells me that whoever set up the rope in the photo didn’t do much thinking beyond, “Eh, it’s fine. They’re kids.”

The issue here, and the biggest drawback to thin cords, is that they’re not very durable. A thin line will be cut faster by a sharp edge because there is less rope to be cut. This toprope was not built with that fact in mind. The rope is running across all kinds of edges on that rock surface, and the brunt of the climber’s weight will be focused on the section of rope running over the lip of the cliff. Even if nothing goes wrong, this anchorless style of toproping tears up the tree bark. All these problems could be avoided with a proper anchor made with static rope and extended over the edge of the cliff.

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