Unbelayvable: Quickdraws Aren't Decorative

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.

More than just a shiny, dangly rock ornament. Photo: CGehlen/Flickr;

>>I saw a climber lower from a draw in the middle of a sport route because she couldn’t finish it. Then her partner tried the route. Instead of pulling the rope or toproping from the high clip, he tied into what should have been the belay side of the rope. He headed up, cleaning the draws that his rope was running through above him. When he got to the former high clip, he cruised right on past it. That put him back clipped above a single piece of protection 35 feet off the deck. Luckily, he finished the route without any falls. —Submitted by Tim G., via

LESSON: Well, this defies all logic. The logical thing here would have been to pull the rope or toprope from the high clip and then lead past it. Use common sense when you climb. Normally, if one bolt fails in a sport fall, for whatever reason, you have another one five feet below it to catch you. Unclipping all the draws as you climb removes that redundancy that we climbers value so highly. Furthermore, when a quickdraw is backclipped (rope runs into the front of the carabiner then out the back) it makes it possible that the rope will unclip itself in a fall. Combine that with a lack of protection and you’ve got the potential for a 35-foot ground fall.

>>A guy next to us was belaying a leader off of his gear loop. Worried, I ran over yelling, “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” The belayer turned to me with a lot of attitude and yelled, “What?” I told him to check his belay. He looked down, checked the gate, and said it was fine in a very mind-your-own-business tone. The climber clipped in direct to a bolt, started yelling at the belayer, and an argument ensued. —Submitted by Randall Chapman via

LESSON: We covered gear loops in this column quite recently, but the short of it is that most of them aren’t designed to bear loads. When you catch a lead fall, the force is transferred into the belayers body via their harness, so it’s nice to belay from the strongest section: the belay loop. Instead, let’s talk about advice. It’s easy to get riled up when you see something unsafe, but the last thing you want is for the culprit to feel like he’s in a confrontation. If he gets defensive, he’s not going to listen to you. The best way to go about this is to calmly approach him, stand by side-by-side, and offer your advice in a friendly, helpful tone. Something along the lines of, “Hey, you might want to try ______. I noticed you were doing ______, but actually in some situations that can lead to ______.” If it’s not an urgent error, wait till the climber is back on the ground first. Hopefully, they’ll appreciate the tip. If not, the climber can take it up with the belayer himself, like above.

>>I saw a girl belaying in a rock gym with a Grigri. She was faced away from her partner, talking to a friend, with her hand over the locking feature on her Grigri. Her partner decked from 20 feet. They both walked away, but neither had any idea what went wrong. —Submitted by Rob Aspinwall, via

LESSON: There are two big problems here, and both of them are pretty common. First, the Grigri is not an auto-locking device, it’s an assisted braking device. Most of the time, the device’s built-in cam will stop a fall on it’s own, but there are situations when it might not (skinny ropes, light climbers, significant rope drag). Bottom line: Keep your hand on the brake strand. Also, gripping the device can lock it in the open position, negating it’s braking capabilities. That’s what happened here. Check out Grigri basics for more tips. The other major problem above is the inattentive belayer. When you’re belaying, your full attention should be on your climber. It’s not the time to socialize. You never know when you’re going to need to feed out slack, reel it in, or catch a fall. Had the belayer here been watching, she may have had time to lock off the rope before the climber decked.

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