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Gym climbing mishaps. Belay mistakes.

Original Post
Mars La · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2018 · Points: 0

Hey all this is my first post here! 

So I’m beating myself up about making a mistake with my climbing partner in the gym last night. I have the belay technique down but I notice that I mess up on simple things.

I tied into the wrong side of the rope and had my climber on the side that is farther from the wall. When they fell they swung out and got twisted with my side of the rope. He yelled at me and that caused me to get really embarrassed.
I feel like an idiot because I just never put the 2 things together.

I’m still learning so I know I’ll get over it and never make that mistake again but I can’t help but feel like a dweeb.

Anyone have any not so obvious belaying tips? Things to always (aside from the knot and belay device) double check before climbing?

Also if you have a story to share, I’d appreciate it.

Dave Baker · · Durham, NC · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 164

The partner check is a two-person activity.  If your partner ALSO did not notice that they tied into the wrong side, they should cast as much blame on themselves as they did on you.  

Hamish Hamish · · Fredericksburg, VA · Joined May 2017 · Points: 15

He yelled at you because the rope got twisted?  Find a new partner.  Most likely belayer position, rather than what side you’re tied into, has more effect on whether a climber on TR would get twisted up in a fall.  Regardless, this should have been a learning moment, not a license to yell and embarrass.

Also, if you two agreed that the side tied into was the problem, why would that be your fault and not his?  Maybe he was just mad that he fell ;)

Will Handy · · Denver, CO · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 10

Sounds like you have a shit climbing partner. Making sure he's tied into the right side of the rope is just as much his responsibility as it is yours.

Here's some seemingly obvious mistakes me or my partners have made over the years:

-Tying into two different ropes (Seriously happened. On the bright side, it becomes obvious very quickly)
-Using a new style belay device for the first time and it getting jammed (incompatible belay beener), leaving the climber stuck on the wall until the belayer was able to get someone to come help (practice with any new equipment before getting on the wall)
-Climber tying into just one of the hard points on their harness (surprisingly common, always double check each other)

Adam Ronchetti · · Madison, WI · Joined May 2011 · Points: 25

This doesn't sound like that serious of a sin. I'd say beat yourself up if you want to but safety checks are a two-person system. Your partner shares just as much blame as you. As for yelling at you over a not dangerous mishap. That's just kind'a shitty. 

Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,425
Mars G wrote: Hey all this is my first post here!

So I’m beating myself up about making a mistake with my climbing partner in the gym last night. I have the belay technique down but I notice that I mess up on simple things.

I tied into the wrong side of the rope and had my climber on the side that is farther from the wall. When they fell they swung out and got twisted with my side of the rope. He yelled at me and that caused me to get really embarrassed.
I feel like an idiot because I just never put the 2 things together.

I’m still learning so I know I’ll get over it and never make that mistake again but I can’t help but feel like a dweeb.

Anyone have any not so obvious belaying tips? Things to always (aside from the knot and belay device) double check before climbing?

Also if you have a story to share, I’d appreciate it.

You need to ditch your "partner" and climb with someone who doesn't have anger issues.  Tieing into the wrong side of the rope is really not a safety concern and typically won't make getting the ropes twisted around each other any more likely, that usually has a lot more to do with how overhung a route is and where the belayer is standing.  Yes you can learn how to avoid this, but as a new climber you can't be expected to know that right now and as it's not a safety concern, who really cares.

Stop beating yourself up and get a good partner.
J W · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,642
DaveBaker wrote: The partner check is a two-person activity.  If your partner ALSO did not notice that they tied into the wrong side, they should cast as much blame on themselves as they did on you.  

This.

I run a climbing gym and can safely tell you that this barely qualifies as a mistake in the grand scheme of things.
B Jolley · · Utah · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 172

Clear communication with your climbing partner, visual and verbal checks on everything every time.
Everyone makes mistakes, don't let it get to you. Fear will cripple you in this sport.
Sounds like both of you need more experience.

Zach Parsons · · Tacoma, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 100
Mars G wrote: He yelled at me and that caused me to get really embarrassed.
If it helps you get over your embarrassment, the entire gym was probably thinking the same thing as everyone posting above: your partner acted like a floundering jerk. You're new, if anything he should be embarrassed for not catching the (trivial) mistake and then being an asshat about it.
Mars La · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2018 · Points: 0
IHamish Malin wrote: He yelled at you because the rope got twisted?  Find a new partner.  Most likely belayer position, rather than what side you’re tied into, has more effect on whether a climber on TR would get twisted up in a fall.  Regardless, this should have been a learning moment, not a license to yell and embarrass.

Also, if you two agreed that the side tied into was the problem, why would that be your fault and not his?  Maybe he was just mad that he fell ;)

Exactly. Like we’re both new and still learning!

I wasn’t belaying in the most ideal position for that route, I was trying to be out of the way of the adjacent wall. 

But you’re probably right, he was getting heated from the route and when he fell he directed the frustration at me.
Edited for typo 
Tomily ma · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 305

+1 your partner sucks. Yelling isn’t nice. That stuff happens and you can be a baby about or laugh and learn. At least no one was maimed. 

don'tchuffonme · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 25

Your partner is a dick.  He took his fear out on you.  Considering it's a silly thing to inspire so much fear, and thus the reaction, it exhibits how much of a ninny gumby he is. Get a new partner, practice good checks before you leave the ground and make sure you incorporate this into it.

Dallas R · · Traveling the USA · Joined May 2013 · Points: 181

Pretty much everyone will have a less than stellar moment.  Few will share on this forum because flaming occurs.  So I will share one event. My partner got spanky new belay glasses, really cool, you don't have to twist your neck around while your slow ass partner take forever to climb a route.  

While being lowered she still had the glasses on, for whatever reason she thought I was on the ground and released the belay, I dropped about 10 feet.  Fortunately we were at the gym and the floor was padded, I was not injured, but I did lay on my back a few extra minutes contemplating life.

We adopted another communication word, DOWN, aka off belay.  97% of the time it's pretty obvious, in the gym it's really obvious.  But in the wild you are often at locations that have roots, rocks, boulders, scree, or just really uneven ground, the climber often needs a moment to change balance being lowered to standing.  It still hurts if you get dropped on your but even when you are only 1 foot off the ground.

F loyd · · Kennewick, WA · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 486

I am a yeller.. I wouldn't yell for that though.

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 1,074

Yeah, partner was a doofous. That's a really minor thing, but it's on them also not to catch it. What if they hadn't finished their knot? Stupid.

But, dumb happens, that's why we check. I've seen both partners laughing, when they look up and realize they are both tied in. I've started to tie in, as a belayer, or started to grab the belay device, as a climber. You catch it, and laugh.

I second Dallas's comment about making sure the climber is steady on their feet before you give a bunch of slack to go off belay. Not in the gym, but outside you often have odd terrain to get down, and it's nice to still be lowering, rather than scrambling. Usually, the climber will just pull some slack to start untying, and it's clear to go off belay, but not always. Never wrong to ask "you good?" first.

Best, OLH

Thumper ... · · Lawton, Ok · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 306

Yeah don't beat yourself up. Two person check system. When I took my lead climbing test I back clipped the first draw, something I never had done before. It was embarrassing, the whole gym heard the guy say come down you back clipped,  but its times like that when you really learn from it. I sure did. I bet it'll never happen again.

Edit* and your partner is a total super jerk dinkle-shplat 

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,070

As others have said, the side of the rope you tie in is not that big a deal, even if you have a big bar at the top that the rope is wrapped around, the difference in the fall distance/swing is a few inches if you are tied in to the closer rope, vs the farther side.

And you will likely get the rope twisted around again, in a gym toprope fall situation, despite choosing the best place to stand. As a lightweight belayer, if I am not using the anchor, standing too far 'out of the way' of the swing is not an option, I would be pulled up/under anyway. And sometimes there is no good spot to stand, once you take into account other people using nearby ropes, etc. I'd say that the rope twisting thing happens to me maybe once in every 200-500 gym TR laps (i.e. several times a year). It's not that big a deal, what gets twisted can get untwisted just as easily.

As to sharing some mistakes...

I once threaded a gri-gri backwards, and didn't notice. Neither did my partner. Fortunately I was using the gri-gri as an ATC, with a hand firmly on a brake, and the rope was thick/gri-gri was new/it was toprope, not lead fall. I was able to catch the fall ( at which point I realized that the gri-gri was threaded backwards), and lower my partner to the ground.

I also once tied in using only the bottom  of the two tie-in loops (you are more likely to flip in a fall with only the lower tie-in point)--noticed this on a pre-climb check, and corrected.

I also once tied in using my leg loop, instead of the tie-in point, when re-threading the rope after leading a route and cleaning the anchors. It was very hot, I was tired, dehydrated, and somewhat loopy, but still can't quite figure out how I managed to do this... Noticed it on the check before going off direct, and corrected.

A guy I knew once started climbing without double-backing his harness. There was a brief period of time when some harness manufacturers thought that having a velcro to hold the harness belt together while you threaded the buckle and double-backed it was a good idea... And this guy didn't want to buy a backpack, so he would put the harness on in a parking lot, hang the gear off the harness, and hike in like that... what can I say, we are talking about n00b mistakes... Anyway, he didn't bother with the buckle on the hike in, just the velcro, and then forgot. And his belayer, another friend of mine, didn't notice...  The guy started climbing, took a small lead fall at the second bolt, and the harness came undone. Fortunately he didn't fall out of his harness completely, the leg loops caught on. And he held on to the rope really tightly while he was lowered back to the ground.

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20
Dallas R wrote: 
We adopted another communication word, DOWN, aka off belay.  97% of the time it's pretty obvious, in the gym it's really obvious.  But in the wild you are often at locations that have roots, rocks, boulders, scree, or just really uneven ground, the climber often needs a moment to change balance being lowered to standing.  It still hurts if you get dropped on your but even when you are only 1 foot off the ground.

Communication standards are introduced for the sole reason of having people from different groups yet familiar with standard able to communicate effectively and without ambiguities. Introducing something new, even when necessary, has potential of putting people not familiar with your preferences at risk.

Dallas R · · Traveling the USA · Joined May 2013 · Points: 181
amarius wrote:

Communication standards are introduced for the sole reason of having people from different groups yet familiar with standard able to communicate effectively and without ambiguities. Introducing something new, even when necessary, has potential of putting people not familiar with your preferences at risk.


I totally agree with this.  My usual partner, my wife, and I use other than standard communications that have been honed by many many climbs together.  But whenever we are climbing with a group or other partners we make a point of using formal communication, formal verbalized buddy checks, and we always use the persons name when communicating. 

We also do not assume that our new partner has the same expectations that we are accustomed to.  We explicitly describe what we are going to do or what we expect they are going to do.  i.e. You are leading a single pitch sport climb with 7 bolts and a chain anchor..    When you get to the anchor you will clip in and make yourself safe, at that point holler slack.  I will give you about 2 feet of slack so that you can build an anchor using 2 opposing quick draws (quad, sliding x etc.), I will not take you off belay.  Clip the rope in and yell take.  I will take the slack in until you are tight at which point I will yell back "I've got you".  When you take your safe tie in off and are clipped into the anchor via the rope and are ready to be lowered yell lower, I will respond "lowering" and start lowering you slowly unless you let me know you want to go faster.  When you reach the bottom and no longer wish to be belayed tell me Off Belay.

OCD? I don't think so for people I have never climbed with before.

If anyone else is using terms other than the ones bolded in my narrative please let me know, I am always willing to improve and learn something new. 
curt86iroc · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 74

ive seen way worse in a gym, trust me (guy ties into rope and start TRing while belayer puts the rope for the next climb over on belay)...  

nothing you did was unsafe.

Ian C · · NC · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 111

I had to yell at a staff member at the gym on Monday night. I was leading a route and they came up to my belayer and started talking to them.

When I asked for more slack my belayer was distracted and shorted me on the clip.

After I finished climbing I had a discussion with the staff member and told them not to talk to my belayer when I am climbing. I felt like a dick but I shouldn't be the one giving the staff directions!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Beginning Climbers
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