He Used a Human As the Belay Anchor. Really? (Yes, Really)

This anchorless belay relied on bodyweight and broke all the rules in the book, including some that weren't even in there.

Photo: AscentXmedia/Getty

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I saw a big guy struggling to rope-solo up a tricky 5.8. He was using an ascender, and he wasn’t taking up slack very well. The real problem was at the top of the cliff. His “anchor” was his smaller buddy, sitting five feet from the edge, holding the rope around his hip. I explained that a fall would’ve yanked them both off the cliff, but got blank stares.

—Submitted by Ed, via Climbing.com


Use common sense and think through worst-case scenarios. Nothing about this “meat anchor” is ERNEST (equalized, redundant, no extension, solid, timely), and it put two lives at risk. It actually takes quite a lot to hold someone on a rope, more than you may think. If the “soloist” had fallen he likely would have dragged his buddy off the top of the cliff. Plus, if you have a partner, just have him secure to a proper anchor and belay you. There is no advantage to toprope soloing, and using an ascender for a self-belay device is yet another bad idea. There are numerous devices and techniques that are proven and work better than ascenders. Very likely these two climbers were rank beginners as evidenced, among other things, by using a hip belay. Holding someone on a hip belay takes practice (and heavy clothing unless you want rope burns) and went out of favor oh, about 50 years ago when belay devices became popular. You would have done well to intervene with a bit of friendly advice. Stepping in like that can be awkward, but now as bad as calling 911 and rendering first aid.

Also Read: Here’s a Dangerous Belayer You Won’t Want To Climb With

A new climber set up a toprope by clipping one quickdraw between two bolts. Not only was the rope unsecured and running against a nylon sling, but the angle between the bolts was about 170°.—Submitted by Cameron Hunt, via Facebook

LESSON: Basic anchor principles aside, two things make this especially dangerous. First, a nylon rope rubbing against a nylon sling under weight will generate a lot of heat. There’s a good chance the sling will melt. Metal should be used between all soft goods. Second, the wide angle would multiply the force generated in a fall. With a 30° angle, each bolt bears 52 percent of the original load. With a 120° angle, each bolt bears 100 percent of the original load—lower loads on the anchor are always better than higher loads. Using longer slings to decrease the angle, decreasing the load is a no brainer.

Climber: “Take!” Belayer: “Hold on. Let me finish texting my mom.”—Submitted by George Terrizzi,  via Facebook

LESSON: Put the phone away and pay strict attention to your climber. “Take” is a serious command that warrants an immediate response. You can tell your mom you love her when you get home.

Want more? Check out more installments in our ever-growing hall of dangerous behavior: 

Climbed On Webbing Instead of Rope

Used Hands for Belay … No Device

Actually used a Grappling Hook for Climbing

Belay Device Somehow Unclipped Itself, And Leader Fell

Lowered Off Gear Loop

They Used Parachute Cord For Slings

No belay Anchor on Multi Pitch, and Leader Falls

Lucky He Didn’t Die. Lowered From a Toy Carabiner

Unfortunate Groundfall, Fortunate Landing

Leader Decks When Experienced Climber Bungles the Belay

Saw Through Someone Else’s Rope

Belayed With Hands Only—No Device!

Smoke Brick Weed and Go Climbing

Belay With a Knife In Your Hand


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