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I was scouting a ledge to set up a toprope. I wasn’t anchored because the terrain was easy, but the ledge was narrow and exposed. A party joined me and started a route directly above me. The leader put in his first piece, a nut, and promptly fell on it. I was directly in his fall line. That nut was the only pro in the rock, and the belayer was unanchored. Lucky for the three of us, the nut held. —Francesco, via Climbing.com
LESSON: Always build an anchor when belaying from a ledge or any exposed position. What many fail to realize is that the belayer is in danger here, too. If the nut in the above scenario did not hold, the climber would likely fall over the ledge, and then pull his belayer off with him. You’re not holding a plummeting climber with strength alone. Build an anchor, and clip the belayer in direct. An anchor will also prevent other mishaps, like the belayer slipping off the ledge and pulling his climber off the wall. Also, don’t start climbing directly above another person, whether they’re on the ground or actively climbing on the wall.
I watched a group of beginners rappel off a route, leave their rope hanging, and return to camp. A few hours later, they sent their kids to retrieve the rope. Unable to coil it, the youngsters each grabbed an armful and dragged the rest back with them. —Anonymous, via email
LESSON: A clean rope is a strong rope. Dirt particles are very sharp on a microscopic level. When dirt gets on your rope, it will work into the core and cut fibers as the rope stretches and moves. Tests have shown that a dirty rope loses up to 40 percent of its strength. Beyond that, a dirty rope will reduce the lifespan of any gear it comes into contact with. A clean rope will wear a groove into a carabiner over time, but a dirty rope will expedite the process—and put the same wear on belay devices, anchor rings, and anything else it touches. Always keep a tarp between your rope and the ground, and take care not to step on your cord.
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