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Most dangerous newbie situation you've seen

Original Post
David Kerkeslager · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 127

Today at the gym, a guy and his (6-8 year old) daughter came in. After their orientation, they had been instructed to use the autobelays only. However, the father decided it would be cool to belay his daughter up a climb next to the one I was climbing. Our gym has GriGris on each of the ropes. To set up the belay, he clipped the GriGri to the belay loop of his daughter's harness, and began pulling the other side of the rope with his bare hands. I was finishing a climb and coming down and my belayer was paying attention to me, so we didn't notice until I was on the ground. Luckily, one of the gym staff was right there and stopped them while the daughter was only 5 feet off the ground. The father was angry, claiming, "It's easy, all you have to do is maintain tension on the rope". But the staff member insisted he needed to be belay certified, and he did bring down his daughter, after which they tried to get belay certified at the desk (which obviously didn't work) and eventually came back to the autobelays looking very angry.

Tell me your stories!

Rope Byrne · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2015 · Points: 25

This one time, at band camp, I saw someone try to play the trombone while standing too close to the person in front of her. She damn near knocked a french horn player out cold.

C Archibolt · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 871

One time in Arkansas, this guy was toproping with a truckload of pregnant teenage girls. One of the girls would belay him to the top of the cliff. He would then go off belay and rig the rope like he was going to rap, but instead of rapping he would hand-over-hand down climb the rope. 

mediocre · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0
Creed A wrote:

One time in Arkansas, this guy was toproping with a truckload of pregnant teenage girls. One of the girls would belay him to the top of the cliff. He would then go off belay and rig the rope like he was going to rap, but instead of rapping he would hand-over-hand down climb the rope. 

There’s something I love about a story that starts off with “one time in Arkansas” and also contains “truckload of pregnant teenagers.”

Matt Clay · · Estill County, KY · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 1,052

I've seen the OP's situation happen more than once in gyms. 

One time, I was out at a crag and a family reunion type scene showed up. The college-age kids climbed but the parents didn't. The matriarch of the family did a route on top rope and when she lowered back down she lost her balance when her feet touched the ground and fell down the slope, badly sprained her ankle. We were just out of sight when it happened and it sounded horrific, more so because we assumed she had decked. We offered assistance and gave them our first aid pack. But then they decided it would be too hard for her to use the longer trail back to the car, but would "save time" by getting her to the top of the cliff and carrying her back on the easier terrain. They achieved this by having the strongest person in their group, who didn't look like he had climbed much, but probably weighed in at around 220, rope up and climb out the easiest route on top rope. It was only maybe a 5.3, but he's got grandma over his shoulder like a flour sack. The other two males in the party are hauling on the other end of the line for 20 minutes and grandma isn't roped up at all. It made the trials of Hercules seem a small thing. 

My partner and I offered assistance/cast dispersions on their plan to the point of being obnoxious but once the party had decided on their plan they wouldn't turn back. It was harder/scarier to watch than the opening scene of Cliffhanger. 

20 kN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,346

I've seen people climb off route and find themselves rather runout before realizing it. Once I saw a girl climbing off route after the 4th bolt of a sport climb. By the time she figured she was off route she was parallel with the anchor risking a 50' ground fall. This wasn’t a low-angle slab either, the route was completely vertical. She realized her mistake by the time she saw she was 20' to the side of the anchor and 25' above her last bolt at which she started to panic. She started to downclimb very nervously and slipped barely catching herself on one hand. If she would have lost it she likely would have hit the deck before the rope even came taught.

Kees van der Heiden · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 40

Toproping over a sharp plaquette. 

· · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 0

Seen hip belays and someone get dropped from 50ft trying to clip the anchor in our gym by a bad belayer.

Mark NH · · 03053 · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 0

...posting for the first time on mountain project!

gtluke · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2012 · Points: 1

My buddy and I were rapping at the gunks and sharing a rap with two girls. The second girl set up her ATC and didn't connect it to her harness, she went to weight it by backing over the cliff and my buddy saw it at the last second and grabbed her by her jacket and pulled her back up. I mean MAYBE she could have held onto the rope with her hands? But holy hell.

Jason Kim · · Encinitas, CA · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 255

I saw a guy take a fall (on top rope) from about 40 feet up in Mission Gorge.  He ended up hanging a bit sideways and something was obviously wrong.  Lowered off and I saw that he was attached to the rope with a locker on one of his gear loops.  

Not really dangerous at all, but the funniest noob situation I've ever seen was that same day, after I had moved away from the above group of climbers.  A somewhat blowhardy guy climbing with his girlfriend, who was obviously scared and not having any fun at all, made it to the top of the cliff and disappeared to clean the anchor.  I hear him bellow out, "ROPE!!!" (there is no rope to be seen, he had already dropped it to the ground).  I look up, and watch a well-tossed cordelette go flying off the top of the cliff and into the boulders below.  

Tylerpratt · · Litchfield, Connecticut · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 35

Saw a kid at a NJ gym whos father tied a fucked up 8 on a biner and clipped the biner to the gear loop. The kid was about to lean back on it at the anchor when someone noticed it and started yelling at the kid. It probably would have held but fucked up to say the least. 

Mike Womack · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 1,673

I was belaying my bouldering friend up a harder sport climb and he was going to bail off the 5th clip.  Just to be sure, I told him to make sure to clip his rope to the bail biner and THEN unclip from the draw and clean it.  What ends up happening is he unclips the draw first (leaving no protection) and then as he realizes what he's done, panics and grabs the hold in front of him with both hands and pulls up on it shaking violently.  Meanwhile, I was planning which way I was going to jump since the belay stance is on a cliff's edge immediately below the climber at this point (meaning that he would fall on me and we'd both tumble down 40' or so).  Still shaking violently, he clips the bail biner nice and slow after which sailor talk, sighs, and victimizing ensued.  

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 480

Looking in the mirror around nine month mark after I started climbing.

 I got so butthurt I failed the lead belay test in the gym. Took the class and learned a lot. Hired a guide for more than a rope gun... learned a lot. 

 I could probably think of plenty of sketchy anchors even dig up a photo. I got stories involving arguing about rapping off a single piece of ratty sun bleached cord or belayers holding the wrong side of the rope because the rope is fed into the device upside down. 

Doug Chism · · Arlington VA · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 0

I saw an older gentleman at the gym belaying a very young boy, maybe 6 or 7. The kid climbed the rainbow route to the top and then proceeded to traverse across the top of the kids wall. The older fellow didnt discourage him, even when the kid got the rope under one of his legs. At some point the kid wanted to come down so the old guy was like 'just let go, the rope will catch you', I wanted to scream out his leg was caught but it was too late, the kid swung upside-down about 3/4 the height of the kids wall and smashed head first into the wall. He was screaming and crying and the old guy lowered, untied him and quickly carried him out ASAP when the gym personnel were showing up. I came over and told them the kid smashed his head into the wall but before I got the whole story out they went after him and I never heard anything about it again. 

Austin Hancock · · Provo, UT · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 50
Aerili · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 1,880

At Maple Canyon a few years ago: a group of about five young adults show up to the wall where my party and another one were already climbing (don't remember which one). One guy leads a 10c on the wall to set a toprope for his friends. Another two go up to TR. The guy climbing reaches the anchor without incident and begins to lower, but the woman belaying soon loses control and her climber begins free falling as she is pulled up in the air from the friction in her ATC. A dude lead belaying next to her tells his climber to stop moving for a sec then runs over and grabs the brake strand of the girl's rope with his free hand. Immediately their whole system is arrested and everyone is saved (the climber had fallen about halfway down the route). The girl was able to lower herself to the ground and someone helped her lower her climber. It seemed that she had some rope burn on her hands, and after disengaging from the system she ran over to her friends, whereupon they huddled around her while she cried. 

It wasn't the crying or even the lack of basic belaying skills (on a toprope) that got me, it was that neither she nor ANYONE in that group thanked the other climber who saved their bacon.      

Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,476

A guy and a somewhat younger woman come to climb Bob's Buttress crack at Grey Rock, Garden of the Gods. The lead climber intends to lead the trad route with nothing but nylon knots, Czech style. For a person using this technique, you might see a variety of ball knots, called monkey fists by some. This guy has some 1/4 inch and half inch webbing with one water knot, which at most fits very small cracks and not even the main crack. The guy climbs up to the crux about 20 feet up, slots a 1/4 inch in a horizontal seam, and then promptly begins to shake. I really expected to see him deck, but the little 1/4 inch sling holds and he is lowered off, trembling. I suggest he visit various used climbing gear places and at least invest in some nuts. Not sure if he took me up on that. 

Mark Says · · Aspen, CO · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 395
Tim Lutz wrote:

pretty much everyday in the gym:

children running around unsupervised, under boulderers, swinging on ropes, yelling....

Having children is more of a newbie relationship mistake than a climbing one, but we'll allow this.

pat a · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 0

Not the most dangerous, but the most ridiculous:

I climbed the 2 pitch 5.3 sport Clip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah at Rumney with my two young boys while my wife waited at the base with our toddler.  When we hiked off, there were 20+ Chinese school kids running around. Kids are climbing 30 feet up the slab and sliding down on their asses, getting scary close to the big drop off a nearby cliff, clearly bored to tears, etc.  Nobody seems to be watching them except my wife...

One dude is belaying another dude up the first pitch, looking pretty lost.  He's belaying with an ancient sticht plate and a brand new twin/half rope that looked...really short.  They're using radios and the climber calls down "how much rope is left?" and gets back a "not enough!"  

I look over at my wife.  She looks back and managed to convey the gist of the situation via spousal non-verbal jujitsu.  We quickly packed up and fled before we got sucked in...  

Later I got the full story:  the guy on the route "grew up climbing in wisconsin" and is chaperone for this group of kids on a summer field trip from China.  He decided they should try rock climbing, so he hiked them an hour up the mountain at Rumney to get to the easiest thing in the guidebook.  

They were there to set up a toprope for the kids.  My wife knew they were in for a hell of a day when she mentioned "your rope looks too short to toprope from the ground. you'll have what you need to belay from the anchors?" 

He followed up by asking how attaches himself to the anchor, how he gets his gear back, etc. 

"You belay your partner up, do the second pitch and hike down.  Do you have a third adult around to stay down here with these kids?" 

No, of course he didn't.   

She continued to drop hints that he was gonna have a bad time, but he went for it.  It's an easy 5.3 slab so I assume they lived through it.  If it was one of you guys and I'm mischaracterizing what happened, I appologies. I'd love to hear how your day went, though! ;)

Since then, when we witness any shitshow at a crag, my 10 year old smartass kid will loudly proclaim "Chinese Field Trip!"  

Keatan · · AZ · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 50

In my experience the most dangerous situations I've seen usually are a result of novice climbers extrapolating their climbing grades at the crag on to long routes in the mountains. This summer I saw this on the Black Face pitch of the Lower Exum. 

The leader got slightly off route, took a fall onto a fixed pin and then decided the other climber should give it a try. Instead of switching rope ends, they just pulled all the slack through. The new climber top-roped up to the fixed pin removing all the gear below it as he climbed. It was terrifying watching from the top of the chimney below as he struggled to clip the next fixed pin, 60ft up, with only one fixed pin between him and the belay ledge. He then finished the pitch, hanging often, clipping only fixed pins and placing zero gear. We made a brief attempt to explain at the next belay why that was a bad idea. I wish we could have done a better job helping and explaining earlier, but as discussed on here ad naseum, that can be a tricky situation.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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