Climbing - - THE APPROACH OFF THE WALL - — Char­lotte Bansal, via email —Pa­trick, via email SEE SOME­THING UNBELAYVABLE? EMAIL UNBELAYVABLE@CLIMB­ING.COM.

I was pro­ject­ing a sport route out­side and had just reached the crux. I was pre­par­ing for the move—a dyno around the lip of a roof to a bad hold—when I heard a cheer­ful “Hello!” I looked down and saw that some­one was climb­ing un­der­neath me on an ad­ja­cent route. The climber was so close that I could touch her, but had no idea that this was un­safe. I was look­ing at a 15-foot fall, land­ing on her and tak­ing her with me. My arms were so close to giv­ing out that I didn’t have time to think. It prob­a­bly wasn’t the best idea, but I was pan­ick­ing: I went for the dyno. By some mir­a­cle, I stuck it. Mean­while, the climber con­tin­ued her route, none the wiser.


As climbers, we should al­ways be aware of our sur­round­ings—in­clud­ing other peo­ple. Be­fore start­ing up a route, take note of where the line goes. Some crags make use of every square inch of rock, and as a re­sult, some routes are bolted so close to­gether that it makes you won­der if they’re even sep­a­rate lines. In the event that you can’t climb an ad­ja­cent route with­out in­ter­fer­ing with some­one climb­ing above you, or with­out en­ter­ing her fall line, then you need to wait un­til she fin­ishes her route be­fore start­ing yours. It’s safety, but it’s also basic crag eti­quette. Don’t crowd that crux!™ It was the best day of the Ir­ish sum­mer so far. I was tack­ling the long­est HVS (5.8) I’d done in a long time, a pumpy but well-pro­tected lay­back aptly named Ex­er­tion. As I ap­proached the crux, I placed a cam and called down to my be­layer that I was tak­ing a short rest at this stance be­fore the com­mit­ting fin­ish. My be­layer called back up, “Take all the time you need, man!” I looked down to thank him only to see him head down with both hands buried in his pack, dig­ging out a choco­late bar. He had no as­sisted-brak­ing de­vice, and no locked-off be­lay. When I called him out after the route for his lax be­lay, he de­fended him­self by say­ing I was be­ing overly cau­tious and that I “prob­a­bly would have been fine.”


Un­less the climber asks the be­layer to take him off be­lay, the be­layer should never take him off be­lay. Never, as in not ever. It doesn’t mat­ter if the climber is on a big ol’ ledge—he has to be the one to make that call every time if there’s go­ing to be any trust in the be­lay­tion­ship. Mean­while, as a climber, if you are go­ing to take a long rest, you can give your be­layer a break by clip­ping in di­rect to a bolt or solid piece of gear. And be­lay­ers, if you simpy must go hands-free at any point, al­ways tie a stop­per knot be­low your be­lay de­vice. A quick over­hand on a bight with a cara­biner clipped through the loop should do.

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