Unbelayvable: Scary (And True) Tales From A Crag Near You


Every Monday we publish the most unbelievable stories of climbing stupidity submitted by our readers. See something unbelayvable? Email unbelayvable@climbing.com.

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Lesson: Make sure your belayer is well-fed before starting a climb. Photo: laurelfan/Flickr.

>>I saw a guy tying in with an old shipyard rope. We told him how unsafe that was. He said that his dad used the rope throughout the 1980s, so it should be fine. As we were walking away, he asked his buddy, "You want to risk it?"–David Cook via Climbing.com

LESSON: If you have to ask if you should risk it, then it's probably not a risk worth taking. Your dad's old shipyard rope fails just about every requirement of a climbing rope. Climbing ropes are dynamic, which means they're designed to stretch. That stretch absorbs some of the force generated in a fall. A static rope, which a shipyard rope presumably is, provides no such stretch. Even a very short fall on a static rope can generate a significant amount of force on your anchor and your body. Even if your anchor survives, you might not enjoy what happens to your bones and guts. Furthermore, even an unused rope should be retired after only a few years of regular use, and an untouched rope only lasts 10 years, according to manufacturers. Don't put your life in the hands of a 25-year-old rope that's been exposed to the dangerous salt of the ocean. If you need something to do with your old shipyard rope that badly, go buy a boat.

>>A guy waited until he was at the third bolt to teach his girlfriend how to belay. He called "take." She proceeded to give slack, pulling the climber-side of the rope with both hands. She would've pulled out enough rope for him to deck if her Grigri hadn't locked up. The climber saw this and yelled, "No, pull the other side of the rope!" Then he rested and continued climbing like nothing happened.-Kerry Mcwilliams via Facebook

LESSON: Climbing with an inexperienced belayer can be as dangerous as free soloing, or moreso. At least when you're free soloing, you've accepted the fact that nothing is going to catch you. Always make sure your belayer has a firm grasp of the concepts before starting up the wall. If you're teaching someone new to the sport, it's good to start in a controlled environment, like the gym. For added safety, employ a backup belayer until both you and your belayer are confident he knows what he's doing.

>>At a local crag, a guy set up a toprope, prepared to rap off of the anchors with his tube-style device, and then decided it would be cool to add 25 feet of slack into the system and jump off. His anchor was a single biner attached to webbing. But he had a GoPro on his head, so he must've known what he was doing.-David McGee via Facebook

LESSON: While we're sure that epic GoPro video would generate a ton of Facebook likes, we wouldn't recommend this to anyone. Rope jumping has seen popularity with daredevils in the Southwest and teenagers in Russia, but both groups face a high mortality rate. Bungee jumping is done with a large, elastic cord designed to catch massive falls. It stretches significantly more than a climbing rope. While a climbing rope can certainly handle a 25-foot fall (more when accounting for rope stretch), it won't be as comfortable or as safe of a plunge. That's assuming everything goes well and you don't crash into a ledge or the wall. Furthermore, big falls reduce the life of your rope. And if you are going to huck yourself off a cliff, at least pretend like you're doing it safely by using opposite and opposed biners in your anchor.