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Unsent: The Ultimate Belay Test

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Unsent /un-sent/ 1. To have failed so badly on a route you had previously climbed that you negate your redpoint. 2. A humor column.

At Sendhaus™, we pride ourselves on safety. The first step is being a solid belayer. Here, we present a dialogue between our trusted associate, Wander, and a new customer, Ralph, so you can prepare for your own belay test should you visit one of our 32 nationwide locations.

Wander: Excuse me, sir, where are you going?

Ralph: To climb?

Wander: Oh, no—no, no, no. Sendhaus’s™ insurance policy states that you’re not to stand within 15 feet of a rope unless you’re belay certified.

Ralph: How could I know that?

Wander: See that card zip-tied to that man’s harness so he can’t remove it, ever? That mean’s he’s belay certified. You’re not. If you climb, you’ll die.

Ralph: Can I take a belay test?

Wander: That’ll be $25, but first you have to watch our orientation video. We play it conveniently every two hours, on the even hour.

Ralph: It’s 2:11.

Two hours later…

Ralph: That video only covered your membership options and classes.

Wander: Yes, it’s important info. Now let’s get started. How long you been climbing? What toprope grades do you summit?

Ralph: 30 years. 5.13d, trad.

Wander: Then this should be easy. First, let’s talk about your gear. How old is your harness?

Ralph: A year.

Wander: Cause we only allow harnesses less than 10 years old.

Ralph: This harness was released in 2017.

Wander eyes Ralph’s harness suspiciously.

Wander: I’ll let it slide—this time. Let’s see your belay device.

Ralph shows his Grigri.

Wander: Sorry, we only allow tube-style devices.

Ralph: This is a totally solid option. It’s assisted braking.

Wander: It doesn’t matter. None of our staff knows how to use it. We have to be able to tell you when you’re doing something wrong. It’s not about safety; it’s about superiority.

Ralph: Well, I have an ATC-Pilot.

Wander: OK—I’ll let you use it … this time.

Ralph clips a screwgate through his belay loop, pushes a bight of rope through the device, clips the biner through both, then screws the gate shut.

Wander: How do we check our setup?

Ralph: I verify that everything is clipped and oriented properly, and squeeze the gate to confirm it’s locked.

Wander: And?

Ralph: And have my partner double-check.

Wander: And? And?! What are we missing still?

Ralph: I don’t know.

Wander: Wow, OK—really? Here at Sendhaus™, we have our 27-point Übersënden Preflight Checklist, and you’ve only hit three points.

Ralph: But I’ve never been here before; how am I supposed to know about your stupid–

Wander: For starters, you need to check that you clipped into the same rope as your partner. You need to agree upon commands—every time. You need to inspect the rope for core shots. And you need to check that your carabiner is a pear-shaped—not D-shaped—quadruple-action twist-lock belay biner with an anti-cross-loading gate. If you don’t own one, go see Rain at the Gearhaüs kiosk up front.

Ralph returns after spending $50 on a new carabiner.

Ralph: And now?

Wander: I found this guy, Dave, also in need of a belay test. He’ll place his life in your, a complete stranger’s, hands while he climbs and I stand uncomfortably close holding the rope.

Dave ties a perfectly dressed figure-eight with a Yosemite finish.

Wander: Sir, that extra twisty thing—we don’t allow it.

Dave: This is a safe tie-in. I’m an IFMGA guide.

Wander: Wow … fancy letters. Sir, we require a figure eight with an overhand backup.

Ralph: You know the backup does literally nothing, right? Some groups have even suggested that it can be less safe because it can make it easier to miss a mistake in the knot.

Wander: We don’t care about safety, only insurance.

Dave re-finishes his knot.

Wander: Now tell me how you inspect his knot.

Ralph: It’s a perfectly dressed figure eight, not a single crossed strand, within a fist-length of the harness and with 6 inches of tail. It’s the best knot I’ve ever seen. I hate you so much. It’s a good knot.

Wander: But how do you know it’s a good knot?

Ralph: (Teeth clenched.) YOU TELL ME.

Wander: You have to count the strands. Look—two, four, six, eight, ten. We call this our 10-Point Sendhaus™ Knötinspektiön. Here, I’ll demonstrate it for two seconds then requiz you immediately.

Ralph: I can’t fucking take another second of this.

Wander: Sorry you feel that way. I’ll go ahead and pass you for the day, but I’d suggest you take our $200 Mega-Töpröppen course before coming back.

Ralph: I am never coming back here, ever. Do you even climb?

Wander: Never! Way too dangerous. My mom would kill me.

Read more Unsent. For Kevin’s non-humor columns, see Noon Patrol.

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