Unbelayvable: The Bail Fail


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.


Kind of like parking a car by crashing into a telephone pole. Photo: snikologiannis/Flickr; http://ow.ly/CHwhd

>>I saw a climber lose his nerve on a trad route and bail. Which is fine. But he swung over to a nearby sport route, clipped a bolt, and proceeded as follows: Swing to the original route, clean gear, swing back, lower to the next bolt, clip it, yard back up to the current bolt, clean the draw, fall on the lower bolt, and repeat.—Submitted by Albert Kim, via email

LESSON: Falls like this wear on your rope and gear, and expose you to unnecessary risk. And if the rope runs sideways to your pro, it could create a dangerous angle. The easiest way to bail from a trad route is by building an anchor out of nuts (the cheapest to leave) and bail biners (one locker, two opposite and opposite non-lockers, or one non-locker with the gate taped shut) then clean gear as you descend or retrieve it later on rappel if you can access the top. Another option is to aid past the crux and finish the climb. Check out Aid Climbing for Free Climbers for tips.

>>I saw a couple bail on a multi-pitch. Instead of rappelling normally-—one by one down both strands of the rope—they set up a curious simul-rap. He descended one strand while she braced herself at the top as a meat anchor, holding the brake line tight to keep the rope in place. He made it down, and then she descended her strand while he meat-anchored her from the ground.—Submitted by Hailey Hosken, via email

LESSON: Simul-rapping is an advanced skill with a low margin of error. Simple mistakes can be catastrophic. This is not even close to the correct way to do it. The safest and simplest way to rappel is to center the rope in the anchor at the midpoint, then perform a basic, extended rappel with a friction-hitch backup. See a video tutorial at Extend a Rappel.

>>I saw a climber lowering and cleaning a sport route that started under a long roof. He was clipped to the belayer’s side of the rope to stay close to the wall. When he unclipped the final draw, it suddenly introduced slack into the system, sending him into a wild swing. He was still clipped to the belayer’s side of the rope, and it whipped his belayer 40 feet across the ground. The belayer earned a nice gash in his head when he hit a rock. They had to go to the hospital.—Submitted by Johnathan Sliski, via email

LESSON: Clipping the belayer’s side of the rope while lowering (called a tram line) helps you stay close to the wall, but unclipping the last draw (especially under a roof) adds slack and a big swing is hard to avoid. It’s essential to go into the bolt directly, unclip the belay side, and have the belayer take in slack before cleaning the last draw. This will keep your belayer stationary, but make sure your line of swing is clear and that you’re high enough that you won’t deck. Have your belayer keep you tight, take the swing, and finish lowering. If the swing isn’t safe, you can finish lowering with the first bolt clipped and then retrieve it after, but first make sure there is plenty of rope to allow you to reach the ground, and do NOT unclip from the belay-side rope until  you’re on the ground.

See something unbelayvable? Tell us in the comments and your story could be featured in a future edition online or in print. Got an unbelayvable photo? Send it to unbelayvable@climbing.com.