Unbelayvable: Saved by the Quickdraw

Scary (and true) tales from a crag near you
Publish date:

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.

Rock Climbing Equipment Quickdraws Gear

As far as inanimate objects go, quickdraws are not ideal belayers. Photo: masT3rOD/Flickr; CC BY 2.0

We were climbing at Chuckwalla in southern Utah. My partner had just reached the top of his route. As I started to lower him, I heard a rope zipping freely. I looked to my left, and a climber was in a free fall about 60 feet up. Then he stopped suddenly. His belayer looked astonished. His belay device had somehow come off his harness and was now jammed into the first quickdraw. It was the only thing holding the climber. We quickly had someone put the climber back on belay and removed the jammed device from the rope. The worst part is that the belayer had no idea how it happened.
—Eric Freiberg, via email

LESSON: This one does sound a bit fantastic—how did the quickdraw lock the rope?—but crazy stuff happens all the time, so on that note... Unless the belayer’s harness broke, there’s really only one way this can happen. The belay carabiner had to unclip itself from the harness. That’s only possible if it wasn’t locked. Always check that your belay biner is locked, and then have your partner double-check before she starts climbing. For added assurance, use an auto-locking carabiner so it can’t unscrew itself during the climb, and choose an anti-cross-loading design that keeps the harness and biner in the proper orientation (Metolius Gatekeeper, Black Diamond Gridlock, Edelrid Strike Slider FG).

We want to hear your Unbelayvable stories!
Email unbelayvable@climbing.com and your story could be featured in a future edition online or in print. Unbelayvable photos are welcome, too.