UNBELAYVABLE

Climbing - - CONTENTS -

Scary (and true!) tales from a crag near you.

I was at the Ou­ray Ice Park. Our group was topping out a route to fin­ish the day. I was the sec­ond-to-last climber. At the top, I switched the an­chor to a top hang­ing be­lay. Be­ing new to ice, I didn’t think about where I’d left my tools. They were stuck in the snow next to me, and I’d piled ex­cess rope on the edge above. A part­ner pointed out that if the rope slid, it would dis­lodge my tools, so I clipped them to my har­ness in­stead. All I had for my sec­ond tool was a tiny, ul­tra-light mi­cro-biner. I clipped the tool to it and didn’t think any­thing of it. Thirty sec­onds later I heard a noise be­low and looked down to see my tool rock­et­ing down the wall in the di­rec­tion of my part­ner. It had un­clipped it­self. The fly­ing weapon missed him, then bounced into the stream. After I nearly killed my part­ner, he had to re­trieve my tool from the frigid wa­ter. Beers were on me that night.

—Mark, Boul­der, Colorado LES­SON: While some tech­ni­cal skills of rock climb­ing do trans­late to ice, ice climb­ing re­quires a higher de­gree of care and aware­ness. Any part of the climb can break off, and the climber has sharp blades on their hands and feet. Th­ese things re­quire spe­cial con­sid­er­a­tion. Stand far from the ice­fall zone when be­lay­ing, avoid step­ping on the rope, and al­ways be con­scious of where you place your ice tools. Ice clip­pers on your har­ness or a lock­ing biner should be fine in this sce­nario, but the broader advice here is to have a plan be­fore start­ing up the route. If you know you’ll be build­ing a be­lay at the top, then have a plan for se­cur­ing your tools be­fore you leave the ground. My mate brought his girl­friend to the crag. She’d never climbed out­side. We de­cided we’d rap­pel in from the top. I asked my mate if his girl­friend knew how to rap­pel. He said she did. She didn’t have a cord for a prusik so I lent her mine. I rapped first, got to the ground, and then started sort­ing some gear. A mo­ment later, an­other climber yelled, ran past me, and grabbed the tails of our rope. I looked up to see my mate’s girl­friend rap­pelling: torso hor­i­zon­tal, legs sky­wards, and barely in con­trol. When she reached the ground, I saw that not only did she not know how to rap­pel, she hadn’t used my prusik.

—Tim Jenkin, Auck­land, New Zealand

LES­SON: It’s al­ways good to be ready with a fire­man’s be­lay, re­gard­less of your part­ner’s skill. While rap­pelling seems straight­for­ward, mis­takes can have per­ma­nent con­se­quences. Al­ways err on the side of cau­tion. When bring­ing a new climber out for the first time, prac­tice rap­pelling on or near the ground. Wrap a tree with a sling and biner, then clip a rope through it and help set up your friend’s rap­pel. Pro­vide in­struc­tion and al­low them to rap­pel hor­i­zon­tally by walk­ing back­ward to get a solid feel for it.

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