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131 On Belay 2009-09-30


I have been reading the annual Accidents in North American Mountaineering (by the American Alpine Club) publication for a number of years. The reports are often times insightful and allows me to hopefully learn from the mistakes others have made.

In the 2009 book there was an interesting account which happened at Looking Glass Rock, NC:

No one on the scene is sure why he fell, but the evidence suggests that he was new to the area and got himself in over his head. His girlfriend was belaying with a GriGri, but was not a climber herself. Climbers near the scene reported he was climbing on eyebrows above a crack on a 5.6 single pitch route, possibly - Good Intentions, when they heard him yell, "Take!" His girlfriend yelled back, "Don’t fall, wait!" He yelled back that his hands were too slick and he couldn’t hold on any longer and to "take" and get ready for the fall. She yelled back, "Please, no, wait!" (page 59, ANAM 2009)

Well, he fell and luckily for him he only needed "surgery, plates, screws, and pins to put it back together."

Back when I was a kid and skied regularly, newbies would go with me and to save the money I would volunteer to teach them how to ski. Excited to be on the slopes myself, I would take them to the bunny slopes, show them how to snow plow and leave them their to practice. None of the would be skiers learned anything from me. Luckily, none of them sued me! Then, they probably had to take lots of lessons just to correct their bad habits that I allowed them to learn on their own - if they ever skied again. So my advice to skiers, take lessons and if you can afford it, take personal lessons.

Back to climbing, if someone wants to learn to climb, please suggest that they take a class from a qualified instructor. In the above case, the climber was wanting to climb and did not care that the belayer did not know how to belay - the climber just wanted to climb. I felt sorry for the belayer.

Climbing is an action sport with serious consequences for failure. Belaying is just as critical to success of the team as climbing is. To be good at belaying you have to learn the proper techniques and practice.

Happy trails.


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