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Most dangerous newbie situation you've seen


Keatan · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 20

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.

Mark Dalen · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 935

Stop me if you've heard this before ...

Yosemite, 1976, scrambling around the base of the Apron ... a group of 3 teenagers, Asian, maybe Korean, 2 guys & a girl ... the girl has on a harness, a figure 8 & a huge sunbonnet ... the guys have a rope that looks about 7mm x 100 feet plus handful of stoppers ... they scramble up to a ledge about 40 feet off the ground & start fiddling with an anchor ... having nothing better to do I go up & watch ... a few minutes later one of the guys has in a single #7 stopper that he clips the rope to before tossing it off ... 'That won't hold!' I tell him but he acts like he didn't even hear me ... they're talking all the time but I can't make any of it out ... the stopper starts to fall out so the guy puts his thumb on it & calls for the girl to come up ... 'That's not enough!' I keep saying but she, too, acts like I'm not even there, threads her figure 8 & starts down ... I hold my breath, waiting for the splat ... she makes it all right, the 2 guys break down the 'anchor' & descend ... end of story ... it still horrifies me today ...

Michael C · · New Jersey · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 340

I've been to the Gunks on a weekend. I've seen all the horrors you could imagine, and more. 

AndrewArroz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
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. 

Clearly, he's opposed to using protection of any kind.

Ryan M Moore · · Philadelphia, PA · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 35

Mine is a jimmy cliff,  clip a dee doo dah tale as well. I saw a 10-12 year old girl belaying her large French Canadian father up the last pitch from the top... Hand over hand off of a rope wrapped once around a biner anchored to a very dead 3 inch diameter tree... Everyone lived... 

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,465

I saw someone bail off The Decameron (NRG) at the crux.  5th bolt.  That bolt is on a traverse with thin holds.  He proceeds to tie his friend into the follower's end, and the guy goes up, unclipping each draw to pass it.  I watched the first two bolts, then saw what was going on and told the belayer to stop.  When asked why, I said "this guy can't pull that crux, and when he doesn't, he's going to fall, back clipped, onto a single piece of protection roughly 45 feet off the ground.  I don't want him to die, and I don't want you to kill him."  That was enough for the climber to demand to be lowered off after he unclipped the 3rd draw up.  The belayer was pissed and embarrassed (or likely pissed because he was embarrassed), but there really wasn't anything else that could be done.

Forrest Carver · · Edgecomb, ME · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

In a classic case of "blind leading the blind" I recently attempted to "guide" a first timer while being barely a novice myself. I set up a slingshot toprope over the edge of a 30' cliff, intending to hike to the base to climb. As I started packing up some gear, I heard him yell "Hey are you gonna hold the other end or what?"

When I looked up, he was standing back-to the edge of the cliff, no harness on, straddling the master point, holding a rope with both hands, and starting to stick his ass over the edge of the cliff

"Dude, are you serious? Stop!" I said.

"Oh! Duh, sorry!" he said, picking up the other rope as well, thinking that his only mistake was trying to hand-over-hand rappel on a single rope instead of both ropes.

Hank Caylor · · Glenwood Springs, CO · Joined Dec 2003 · Points: 615

Not sure if it's a newbie thing or not. Me and a partner were rapping off Super Slab in Eldo (a popular descent for many routes on "lower Redgarden Wall") and I heard a dude who had been climbing the route to my right yell very clearly, "STEVE, OFF BELAY"!!!

Apparently there was a Steve on either side of me as the guy belaying to my left screamed at his partner "OFF BELAY STEVE"!!!!. 

Suddenly there was multiple climbers that should have been on belay that were suddenly not.. very tricky noticing that and straightening it out without meltdowns from climbers not on belay like they thought they were.

Mike Womack · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 1,536
Hank Caylor wrote:

Not sure if it's a newbie thing or not. Me and a partner were rapping off Super Slab in Eldo (a popular descent for many routes on "lower Redgarden Wall") and I heard a dude who had been climbing the route to my right yell very clearly, "STEVE, OFF BELAY"!!!

Apparently there was a Steve on either side of me as the guy belaying to my left screamed at his partner "OFF BELAY STEVE"!!!!. 

Suddenly there was multiple climbers that should have been on belay that were suddenly not.. very tricky noticing that and straightening it out without meltdowns from climbers not on belay like they thought they were.

WOAH!! what are the odds?  That's a crazy story

David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 55
Hank Caylor wrote:

Not sure if it's a newbie thing or not. Me and a partner were rapping off Super Slab in Eldo (a popular descent for many routes on "lower Redgarden Wall") and I heard a dude who had been climbing the route to my right yell very clearly, "STEVE, OFF BELAY"!!!

Apparently there was a Steve on either side of me as the guy belaying to my left screamed at his partner "OFF BELAY STEVE"!!!!. 

Suddenly there was multiple climbers that should have been on belay that were suddenly not.. very tricky noticing that and straightening it out without meltdowns from climbers not on belay like they thought they were.

As a "David" who has been in this situation, I've considered using call names like in Top Gun or Convoy. Luckily I did not take my partner off belay, because it didn't sound like my climber's voice.

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 20
David Kerkeslager wrote:

As a "David" who has been in this situation, I've considered using call names like in Top Gun or Convoy. Luckily I did not take my partner off belay, because it didn't sound like my climber's voice.

My usual climbing partner always yells my name, then waits for a response from me before giving a command. I have no idea if this is why he does this, but seems like something I ought to start doing too. 

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 20

The most common thing that I see at the gym with new belayers is holding the brake hand and rope up parallel with the climbers rope, even after taking in the slack (from top rope). If I can tell that they are really new I point out to them that they need to keep the brake hand in a braking position by pulling the rope back down after taking in slack.

TheZiggurat · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 0

We have a unique place in Columbus Ohio, the outdoor free climbing wall at the Metro Park near downtown.  It's great for the outdoor climbers to practice setting up anchors, cleaning, etc...but the real fun comes from all the non climbers we see walk up and try stupid shit.

Things I've seen: Rugby guy comes up and clips the auto belay to one belt loop, thought i was being an ass for calling it out(I also volunteer there, mostly hoping to avoid someone else's death).  Only reason he didn't climb was because his friends actually convinced him to listen to me, but had i not walked up there's no chance he dint end up decking.

We had someone 'forget' to clip into an auto, get to the top and just lean back....snapped right at the ankle, the blood stain served as a reminder to the newbies. 

Gear being used incorrectly, dear lord help me.  GriGri's somehow backwards(there's a fucking picture on the thing)...belaying off a gear loop...but my favorite was finding a kid who was practicing cleaning anchors for the first time who had dropped down from the top of the wall onto the anchor, then let the rope fall. He had been up there for a good hour or 2 before I happened to arrive on a chilly day, could have been stranded up there all night had I not wanted to do a headlamp session!

The list is endless.

Andrew Child · · Santa Clara · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 655

One time I was following the third pitch of Good Old days at smith. Got to the top and saw that my partner was "belaying" me through a tube belay device attached directly to the anchor as if it were a guide mode belay device. I took one look at it and said "never do that again", then got ready to lead the next pitch.

My partner isn't a noob, but that sure was a noob mistake.

Sam Sala · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 35

1) Guy in the gym, TR belaying next to me, had a heinous loop of slack out under his climber, who was about 20' up a 5.7 and looking super shaky. I was in the middle of inhaling to holler at him when his climber popped off. Dude miraculously landed squarely on his feet EXACTLY as the rope came tight...Had he had another 1-2' out, I can't see how it wouldn't have ended in a case of the mankles.

2) Practicing some SPI work in Boulder Canyon at a popular crag, a group of 4-5 with one "leader-type" blowhard show up...he heads up the walk around to setup a TR anchor and a few minutes later raps down to his group who all proceed to start flailing and bouncing all over the rope as each takes their turn. Bit later, we go up to work on some top managed systems and we see he'd slung ONE loose boulder (about the size of a large microwave that sits back around 6-8' from the lip (there are shitloads of large trees not more than 5-10' away)...we holler down to them to stop climbing and call the leader up to chat. Guy starts arguing, in perfect MP.com forum style, the weight of rock vs climbers, angles of force, kN of TR climbing vs. blah blah blah...Silently, my partner takes a #2 cam out, places it under the rock with a runner on it, and gives it a sharp tug...whole rock moves about half an inch, cam pops out, leader swallows hard...then proceeds to break down his anchor and they leave with no more words spoken. 

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
David Kerkeslager wrote:

As a "David" who has been in this situation, I've considered using call names like in Top Gun or Convoy. Luckily I did not take my partner off belay, because it didn't sound like my climber's voice.

The first time I climbed Dark Shadows, we were a party of three. A party of two showed up after us (we were on P3 at that point). Out of the 5 of us on the route, 4 are named Marc. The outlier was John in the other party. We quickly went to last names or nicknames.

Legs Magillicutty · · Durango · Joined May 2002 · Points: 590

When I was a brand new climber my partner and I decided to rap off a single, wobbly piton somewhere in 11 Mile.  We thought it looked sketchy so we had our partners on the ground stack up a couple crash pads at the base in case the piton blew. 

Don't do that, ok?

Pavel Burov · · Russia · Joined May 2013 · Points: 50

The most dangerous newbie situation is something happens on everyday basis in every climbing gym equipped with bouldering wall. A newbie right under a boulderer. You've seen it dozen hundreds times or so.

Aerili · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 1,970
Andrew Child wrote:

One time I was following the third pitch of Good Old days at smith. Got to the top and saw that my partner was "belaying" me through a tube belay device attached directly to the anchor as if it were a guide mode belay device. I took one look at it and said "never do that again", then got ready to lead the next pitch.

My partner isn't a noob, but that sure was a noob mistake.

Come to think of it, I had the identical experience on p2 of Commitment in Yosemite. And my partner was also not a noob whatsoever. And my reaction was just like yours. 

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

How can you say your partner is not a noob when they did something completely wrong. They are a complete noob at belaying someone up if they did that. Just because you are experienced at one type of climbing doesn't mean you are not a noob at another type.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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