UNBELAYVABLE

Climbing - - CONTENTS -

I was in the Ou­ray Ice Park and stum­bled upon two toprope climbers that had me cring­ing. At this par­tic­u­lar area (South Park) the be­lay is across the Un­com­pah­gre River from the ice. The pair made their way down to the base, and the first climber crossed a snow bridge to reach the route. There, he placed an ice screw. He clipped a quick­draw to the screw, then clipped the be­lay side of the rope through it. His be­layer was on the other side of the river. The rope ran hor­i­zon­tally from her to the screw, then up to the an­chor, and back down to the climber. The climber went up the route and then be­gan low­er­ing. Be­cause the rope was run­ning hor­i­zon­tally, it nearly pulled the be­layer into the river.

—Chase Hamil­ton, via email

LES­SON: The be­layer should al­ways think crit­i­cally about her own po­si­tion. In this sce­nario, a sud­den fall could have eas­ily yanked the be­layer into the river. Be­ing sub­merged un­der the frigid waters while tied to a rope and fight­ing against the cur­rent doesn’t lend it­self to a pretty out­come. There’s no rea­son to re­di­rect the be­lay side of the rope like this. It puts a lot of out­ward force on that ice screw, and elim­i­nates the ad­van­tage that grav­ity usu­ally pro­vides to the be­layer. An­other thing to con­sider, par­tic­u­larly in this area of the Ou­ray Ice Park, is that a be­lay from the an­chor above could be the best op­tion. Many routes in the South Park area start climb­ing right out of the river, and be­lay­ing from the other side of the wa­ter, even without that re­di­rect, is a hazard that can be avoided by be­lay­ing from above. I brought some friends to a pop­u­lar toprope crag. We met two guys climb­ing an easy 5.4 and de­cided to share ropes with them. They de­scribed their an­chor for me: a sling around a chock­stone with lock­ers. It sounded OK. I fre­quently solo this route, so I fig­ured any­thing was bet­ter than noth­ing. When I reached the an­chor, I found a sin­gle sling around the chock­stone with a sin­gle locker, and upon closer in­spec­tion, I found that the chock­stone was quite loose. If the route had been any more com­mit­ting I would have peed my­self right then and there. After build­ing a proper an­chor, I rapped back down and asked my new friends if they would ap­pre­ci­ate some help­ful crit­i­cism. Thank­fully, my sug­ges­tions were ac­cepted gra­ciously.

—Tris­tan, via email

LES­SON: You know that ex­pres­sion about how you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth? That does not ap­ply to climb­ing an­chors. If some­one of­fers you a climb­ing an­chor, you should look it di­rectly in the mouth and in­spect it closely. Un­less you see an an­chor for your­self, you’re tak­ing the an­chor builder’s word that their an­chor is safe. That doesn’t usu­ally in­clude their ex­pe­ri­ence or the level of risk they’re will­ing to ac­cept. It can be a great time saver to share ropes, but al­ways ex­am­ine any an­chor be­fore you trust your life or your part­ner’s to it.

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