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I saw a group of four doing something very stupid at Pilot Mountain State Park. They were toproping an easy 5.6, but they weren’t using a rope. Instead, one genius in the group thought it would be fine to use an 80-foot piece of nylon webbing. He had a belay device and had threaded the webbing through it, thinking it was all the same. I approached and asked if any of them had been climbing outside before. Of course it was their first time. I politely suggested that what they were doing was quite dangerous, but they didn’t seem to care. They did break down their site after we spoke, and I thought they had the good sense to listen to someone who wasn’t at his first rodeo. Nope. They just moved 300 yards north to set up another route.—George Brunner via Climbing.com
LESSON: Webbing is just not a suitable replacement for a true climbing rope. Webbing doesn’t really stretch and belay devices aren’t designed for it, and that’s just for starters. Webbing may be less expensive than real climbing rope, but so is clothesline. It should be self apparent that you should only climb on climbing rope, but not everyone has gotten the message, obviously. For an issue of Climbing, I spoke to IFMGA-certified guide Joey Thompson for a skills article. One thing he said stood out to me, “As a mountain guide, I use the materials based on the manufacturers recommendations, and until I get some drop-testing results…I can’t recommend it.” I’d asked what he thought about clove-hitching a sling to a carabiner in an alpine draw, but the advice applies to, well… everything. Unless that little booklet of do’s and don’ts that came with your webbing says it’s OK to use it like a climbing rope, then don’t do it. Unless that little booklet that came with your belay device says you can use it to belay with webbing, then don’t do it. It’s pretty basic. And in this situation, I can confidently say that neither of them do.