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"Universal" Belay Certification


Original Post
20 kN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,348

https://americanalpineclub.org/universal-belay-program/

I guess the idea is now instead of climbing with 15 belay tags on your harness from a dozen gyms, you only need one for all gyms?

Doug Hemken · · Madison, WI · Joined Oct 2004 · Points: 5,597

That seems like the one practical benefit to the average climber. Having a standard curriculum will also possibly be a benefit to those who provide instruction, and those who insure them.

Their TLA's will have to come into widespread use before the actual certificate has any meaning to the common climber. Fortunately, climbers love jargon.

wivanoff · · Northeast, USA · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 472

"Universal"? So, I could use it in Europe?

I suspect it would be a long time before various gym's insurance companies accepted this without the individual gym doing the testing. And, if you had to still have each gym test you, what's the point?

Maybe I could use it as ammunition for "how to belay" pissing contests on the interwebs? (like some use AMGA SP certification)

Or maybe I won't be able to climb at places like the Gunks unless I have one of these? Perhaps there will be a safety committee that will order me off the route?

$ for AAC memebrs, $$$ for non-members?

This sounds like an idea that's not going to be implemented very well.

Anne McLaughlin · · Raleigh, North Carolina · Joined Jan 2008 · Points: 123

I love this idea!

I trust the AAC much more than individual gyms. I'm at the point where I ask them before the test "Look, how do YOU want me to belay?" because they are so unstandardized.

Also, when I'm travelling and trying to get in a quick gym workout, the belay test can eat up half an hour when there is a line. When you're squeezing in gym time after an all day conference it is very frustrating to wait.

And heaven forbid you also want a lead test, and they have to go find the one person "allowed" to give a lead test.

crackatoa Spiesbach · · Boulder,Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 70

Just watched those videos.. They are actually fantastic... I think this is a great thing for the aac to do..

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525

Given the pervasive occurrences of belayer incompetence, the AAC almost had to try something. No doubt the certification itself will be used in unfortunate ways, and whether such certification can really address the issues of distraction and complacency is surely open to question.

Perhaps the example of defensive driving courses is relevant. The content seems obvious and routine, and yet the actuarial results on people who have taken the course is that they have fewer accidents and are better insurance risks.

But I think you have to keep taking the DD course to maintain the actuarial benefits, so maybe you have to be belay-recertified periodically as well?

I suspect there is a considerable can of worms here.

Dylan B · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 50

Terrible idea. I will not trust some centralized authority to tell me who is or is not a safe belayer. I will evaluate each person in my own judgment. The AAC is taking on a risk that they have no way to really evaluate or oversee.

Brandon.Phillips · · Portola, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 55
wivanoff wrote:"Universal"? So, I could use it in Europe?
You can use it on Mars.

We've all seen sketchy belay practices come out of certain gyms. I've done a lot of work with ropes courses and seen some really scary stuff come from people trained in house at different camps.

I guess it looks bad for all of us if people are getting dropped all over the country.
FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Dylan B wrote:Terrible idea. I will not trust some centralized authority to tell me who is or is not a safe belayer. I will evaluate each person in my own judgment. The AAC is taking on a risk that they have no way to really evaluate or oversee.
How can training be a terrible idea? You'd have to be a fool to blindly trust any belay "certificate," but it shows the person has received some basic training. It's a good starting point, no?
Bill Shubert · · Lexington, MA · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 55

Seems nice to me. I was taught at a gym that used the AAC belay standards. The gym I'm at now teaches new leaders the "hold both ropes above the device with your weak hand, then move the dominant/brake hand" technique, which frankly sketches me out, especially seeing beginners doing it. After he took the course in the gym, I had my current partner watch the AAC videos, and told him "ignore what you were taught, belay me like this."

If it's convenient, and gyms start commonly accepting this, I wouldn't mind getting this certification to simplify things when I'm travelling and want to visit random climbing gyms.

ViperScale . · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235

Selling fake universal belay certifications!

Dylan B · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 50
FrankPS wrote: How can training be a terrible idea? You'd have to be a fool to blindly trust any belay "certificate," but it shows the person has received some basic training. It's a good starting point, no?
Training is not a bad idea; certification is a bad idea. Any yahoo can reproduce a modicum of belay technique at the end of a 20-minute session. That has absolutely no bearing on what they can or cannot do when I meet them for the first time. The certification suggests otherwise, and that's false.

At a gym, the certification serves a purpose--to tell the gym that you have already had the mandatory instruction. It is not there to tell other climbers that you're safe to climb with. This, on the other hand, will be used and perceived as the latter, and that's a mistake for climbers and for the AAC.
Sean Cobourn · · Gramling, SC · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 3,015

The belay methods taught are sound but certification is a slippery slope to licensing by land managers. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Derek Doucet · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 53
wivanoff wrote:I suspect it would be a long time before various gym's insurance companies accepted this without the individual gym doing the testing....
Given that a relative handful of insurers insure a significant proportion of the gyms in this country, I'll bet there's actually considerable enthusiasm among them for a unified and high quality curriculum. I'll also bet that the AAC had conversations with those big insurers when this program was in development.
wivanoff · · Northeast, USA · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 472
Brandon.Phillips wrote: We've all seen sketchy belay practices come out of certain gyms.
Yes, we have. And the AAC Universal Belay Card will be issued by some of those same gyms who will (supposedly) follow the AAC criteria.

And what if they don't? Is the AAC somehow going to oversee this?

Or if an individual gets his card but reverts back to inattention or crappy technique? "Well, he's got his card. I guess he's OK to belay"

How about when someone gets dropped in the gym. Is the gym owner going to shrug and say "I dunno. He had his Universal Belay Card"?
Pavel Burov · · Russia · Joined May 2013 · Points: 50

As usual, the measure of education is the lowest possible student's level to pass the certification. In other words: the guaranteed level of competence of certified person. If they know how to keep it high enough it will be really nice.

nathanael · · Riverside, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 348

Give it a year or two and California will be requiring one of these in order to climb on public land. A couple more years and you'll need to show it in order to buy a belay device.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

You can (and should) question any belay card or certification, and should assure yourself that your belayer knows what they're doing. Still, the AAC belay card would make me feel like someone has had some decent introduction to belaying standards.

Even if a card is issued by the gym where you're climbing, you shouldn't blindly trust a belayer you've never climbed with.

Disclaimer: I don't climb at gyms, so I have to verify for myself the competency of a new belayer or someone I've never climbed with before. If someone I'd never climbed with before showed me their AAC belay card, I would still watch them belay me on an easier climb, first.

You'd have to be naive to think that a belay card on someone means no further assurances are needed.

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 549

When can I get my certified "Rock Police" card?

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 125

Not a bad idea, as long as the individual gyms that do the training work toward a unified standard and issue the cards. It is like SCUBA diving. There are a handful of certifying agencies, and destinations sign up with whichever agency they like if they are going to teach divers. Once you complete a course, You are issued a card that is now universal. My NAUI diver card will get me on a boat anywhere in the world (as long as there are no technical requirements, like cave cert., that are also required). When I picked up my NitrOx cert., I did it through PADI, and it is also universally accepted.

All the certification shows is that you have had a MINIMUM level of training. If I am diving with someone, I care about more than just the certification, just like I care about more than just the card hanging off the harness with a climbing partner. It provides a baseline that training was completed to a certain level. I am then required to verify that the person has the appropriate skills to partner up with me.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Matt Himmelstein wrote:Not a bad idea, as long as the individual gyms that do the training work toward a unified standard and issue the cards. It is like SCUBA diving. There are a handful of certifying agencies, and destinations sign up with whichever agency they like if they are going to teach divers. Once you complete a course, You are issued a card that is now universal. My NAUI diver card will get me on a boat anywhere in the world (as long as there are no technical requirements, like cave cert., that are also required). When I picked up my NitrOx cert., I did it through PADI, and it is also universally accepted. All the certification shows is that you have had a MINIMUM level of training. If I am diving with someone, I care about more than just the certification, just like I care about more than just the card hanging off the harness with a climbing partner. It provides a baseline that training was completed to a certain level. I am then required to verify that the person has the appropriate skills to partner up with me.
Yes.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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