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Driving up Boulder Canyon in the time before cell phone cameras, I nearly drove into the creek upon seeing this. A”toprope” was being ascended by a big guy and his partner, both dressed in jeans and sneakers. They had set it up using several lengths of a bed sheet twisted into a rope, knotted every dozen feet or so, and passing through a large pulley that was draped over the top of the route. We observed nothing of note on our return from Animal World, so the two must have at least escaped with their bodies intact.
—Submitted by Richard Wright, via climbing.com
LESSON: Let’s leave the bed sheet ropes to people escaping from prisons, shall we? This is so unsafe that my blanket advice is to go climb with someone that knows what they’re doing. But just for fun, here’s why this is scenario is so bad. First, a chain of bed sheets is obviously not rated to catch falls, but supposing it didn’t tear into pieces at the first sign of a load, you’re still not out of the woods. Climbing ropes stretch to absorb impact in a fall. This is why you can take a 20-foot whipper and still have functioning organs. A static rope, which a bed sheet rope presumably is, does not stretch. This means a harsher drop for your climber, but more importantly, it means more force on the anchor and belayer. In a good toprope setup, the anchor provides friction, which keeps some force off the belayer. A pulley, on the other hand, provides very little friction. A real possibility in this scenario is that the climber falls, the belayer is pulled all the way up to the anchor, and the climber decks. Don’t use bed sheets for climbing, and don’t use pulleys for toprope anchors.