Mountain Project Logo

Addition To Pre-Climb Safety Check


Original Post
David Harding · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 10

An experienced climber friend of mine got lowered off the end of their rope recently, and nearly died.  Both climbers were very experienced (>15 years each, 5.12+ sport climbers) and this occurred at their local home crag on a warm up route that each was familiar with and the route was well known to need a long rope.  The nitty gritty details aren't that important; the main point is that even very experienced climbers (who should "know better") still get lowered off the end of their ropes and get severely injured.  

This could be chalked up to complacency, but it happens often enough that we climbers should ALL be proactive to avoid such an easily avoidable mistake.  As humans, we all make mistakes here and there, so we need to find a way to incorporate more passive safety and checking to insure that it's in place before climbing.

I propose that all climbers from NOW ON, add one little simple check to their pre-climb safety check (both harnesses fully "doubled back" in all locations, belay carabiner locked, assisted braking belay device properly loaded, belayer's brake hand on the brake, climber's knot properly tied through both waist and leg loop tie-in points):  climber and belayer verify visually that a sturdy knot with sufficient tail is tied into the end of the rope (usually tied into a loop on the rope bag; I recommend that when pulling the rope through that you immediately tie the bottom end into the of the rope bag).

I've already started doing this with all my climbing partners and spreading the word at the crags I'm visiting, and I highly encourage you all to do the same.  The life you save could be that of your friend or even your own!  It only adds a couple seconds.

Once again, PLEASE start adding this simple "knot in end of the rope check" to your pre-climb check before EVERY pitch (people sometimes switch ropes, or pull the rope through completely, etc., so it needs to occur every time), and spread the gospel!  Thanks.

aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 294

When I used to guide, I taught people to use ABCDE as their pre-climb checklist.

A - anchor: For leading, make sure your partner knows the plan when the climber get to the anchor (lowering? rappelling?). For toproping and rappelling, make sure the anchor is solid.

B - buckle: Old style buckles need to be doubled back. (If you see an "O" or a "D", that's "open" and "dangerous", if you see a "C", that's "closed" and safe). Speed buckles should be visually checked to make sure it's threaded correctly.

C - connectors: For the climber, this is the knot (make sure it's tied correctly). For the belayer, this is the carabiner (make sure it's locked).

D - device: For the belayer, make sure the device is threaded correctly.

E - end of rope: Tie a knot at the end of rope (for climbing and rappelling).

It's a quick way to remind people the stuff to look at in a pre-climb check.

Matt Pierce · · Denver, CO · Joined May 2010 · Points: 276

Good advice me thinks

Kalil Oldham · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 55

You mean closing the system?

Firestone · · California · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 449

Sounds like a good thing for gyms to add to their safety checks too. Even though gyms have knots tied already it would be good to add it to beginners classes.

grog m aka Greg McKee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 70

The nitty gritty details ARE important. 

Robby King · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 0

This came up on the episode of the Enormocast with Duane Raleigh (IIRC). Duane basically said that the most preventable type of fall he sees is people belaying off the end of their ropes, and that the super simple way to prevent it is of course to tie a knot at the end of your rope. 

Link: http://pca.st/01Qh

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 290
Firestone wrote:

Sounds like a good thing for gyms to add to their safety checks too. Even though gyms have knots tied already it would be good to add it to beginners classes.

Of the two gyms I frequent here, one has both sides of the top ropes totally prerigged (you just clip a carabiner on a belt loop), the other just the rope up over the anchor and down, both ends on the floor.

I tie a knot in the gym rope, when I think of it, which isn't exactly useful, but it is always checked outside when I belay someone, although we've never added it to a checklist, I just do it anyway.

Best, Helen

Drederek · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2004 · Points: 315

Or you could all just quit smoking pot!

David Harding · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 10

I agree that often the details of an accident can be enlightening for others to learn from, but I actually don't know some of the "nitty gritty details", like whether pair of climbers used the same rope they usually used but maybe a worn section of the end was cut off (and they forgot to make note of that), or whether they just accidentally brought too short of a rope and were distracted when then stopped at this particular longer-rope-needed warm-up route, or whether they traded ropes with another pair of friends just prior to getting on the route and didn't think to ask what length it was (or whether it had been shortened), etc., etc. 

The main point was that getting lowered off the end of climbing ropes happens too often, and to all types of climbers and belayers.  If you think you're infallible and that this could never happen to you, you could easily be wrong, and since all kinds of human factors statistics show that we're all human/fallible, it's a good (no, great!) idea to greatly reduce the risk of this type of mistake by simply checking for a rope end knot before each climber leaves the ground, during the pre-climb safety check.  Sorry if I'm sounding preachy, I'm just so saddened to learn that people continue to get badly injured from such a completely (and easily) preventable mistake.  (Note that another obvious solution is for the belayer to always keep an eye on the end of the rope as he/she lowers the climber to avoid lowering them off the end, but this unfortunately requires "active" safety and no distractions during lowering, which is not as reliable.  The pre-climb safety check is a time that both climber and belayer are both actively communicating to each other, without distraction, and if the knot is present, the climber should not be able to be lowered off the end with or without distraction during lowering.)

Let's all try to be as pro-active about climbing safety as reasonably possible!

Stagg54 Taggart · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 10
David Harding wrote:

I agree that often the details of an accident can be enlightening for others to learn from, but I actually don't know some of the "nitty gritty details", like whether pair of climbers used the same rope they usually used but maybe a worn section of the end was cut off (and they forgot to make note of that), or whether they just accidentally brought too short of a rope and were distracted when then stopped at this particular longer-rope-needed warm-up route, or whether they traded ropes with another pair of friends just prior to getting on the route and didn't think to ask what length it was (or whether it had been shortened), etc., etc. 

The main point was that getting lowered off the end of climbing ropes happens too often, and to all types of climbers and belayers.  If you think you're infallible and that this could never happen to you, you could easily be wrong, and since all kinds of human factors statistics show that we're all human/fallible, it's a good (no, great!) idea to greatly reduce the risk of this type of mistake by simply checking for a rope end knot before each climber leaves the ground, during the pre-climb safety check.  Sorry if I'm sounding preachy, I'm just so saddened to learn that people continue to get badly injured from such a completely (and easily) preventable mistake.  (Note that another obvious solution is for the belayer to always keep an eye on the end of the rope as he/she lowers the climber to avoid lowering them off the end, but this unfortunately requires "active" safety and no distractions during lowering, which is not as reliable.  The pre-climb safety check is a time that both climber and belayer are both actively communicating to each other, without distraction, and if the knot is present, the climber should not be able to be lowered off the end with or without distraction during lowering.)

Let's all try to be as pro-active about climbing safety as reasonably possible!

I agree with everything you are saying.  I would just add - it's a great backup plan/insurance, but shouldn't be a substitute for paying attention - that should be the goal (even if sometimes people get distracted).

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456
David Harding wrote:

I agree that often the details of an accident can be enlightening for others to learn from, but I actually don't know some of the "nitty gritty details", like whether pair of climbers used the same rope they usually used but maybe a worn section of the end was cut off (and they forgot to make note of that), or whether they just accidentally brought too short of a rope and were distracted when then stopped at this particular longer-rope-needed warm-up route, or whether they traded ropes with another pair of friends just prior to getting on the route and didn't think to ask what length it was (or whether it had been shortened), etc., etc. 

The main point was that getting lowered off the end of climbing ropes happens too often, and to all types of climbers and belayers.  If you think you're infallible and that this could never happen to you, you could easily be wrong, and since all kinds of human factors statistics show that we're all human/fallible, it's a good (no, great!) idea to greatly reduce the risk of this type of mistake by simply checking for a rope end knot before each climber leaves the ground, during the pre-climb safety check.  Sorry if I'm sounding preachy, I'm just so saddened to learn that people continue to get badly injured from such a completely (and easily) preventable mistake.  (Note that another obvious solution is for the belayer to always keep an eye on the end of the rope as he/she lowers the climber to avoid lowering them off the end, but this unfortunately requires "active" safety and no distractions during lowering, which is not as reliable.  The pre-climb safety check is a time that both climber and belayer are both actively communicating to each other, without distraction, and if the knot is present, the climber should not be able to be lowered off the end with or without distraction during lowering.)

Let's all try to be as pro-active about climbing safety as reasonably possible!

+1

One time a climber partner and I were climbing at a crag we'd both been to hundreds of times and knew quite well. We were using his short rope which he assured me was long enough and that he'd used the rope on this particular climb before without issues. Knowing the cliff was pretty short to begin with, I just went along with it. I even had the thought to knot the end just in case, but decided not to because I thought I might offend him with a microagression of mistrust. That was my mistake, and I never made it again when using his short rope.

He climbed the route and lowered off and near the end the rope started to pig tail. I was distracted by untangling the pigtails and completely missed the end up the rope and, before I knew what happened, he had decked and the rope was at the 2nd bolt. Luckily, he wasn't injured, not even a little bit of road rash. I was actually more freaked out than him, and he had to calm me down and assure me it was his fault. Luckily, this didn't ruin our climbing partnership, as it was our first time climbing together, and I got my rope from the car and we finished the day strong. 

To this day, I honestly don't know whose fault it really was and I dread knowing that technically I've dropped somebody. Even though nobody got hurt, PLEASE let this be a reminder to all that we are only human and we all make mistakes. Even if nobody gets hurt, you very well may lose a climbing partner and you'll have to live the rest of your life knowing that you dropped somebody. 

Stagg54 Taggart · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 10
eli poss wrote:

+1

I thought I might offend him with a microagression of mistrust. 

What the hell does that mean?

the kosak · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 0
Stagg54 Taggart wrote:

What the hell does that mean?

I think it's newspeak for "I was too afraid to speak my mind"

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456
the kosak wrote:

I think it's newspeak for "I was too afraid to speak my mind"

That's a microagression! Now I'm gonna have to go write a whiny blog post.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply