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Witnessing people decking...


Original Post
Becca Joy · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 15

Today at the gym we witnessed a teenager fall 30 feet from the top of an auto-belay. He didn't clip into the auto-belay, then sat back to be lowered at the top. He hit the ground around ~12 feet away from me.

My friends and I are pretty shook up about it... the poor guy was howling in pain for the 30 minutes we stayed after the fall. Both his wrists were mangled, at least one bone piercing through skin.

I've seen other small injuries and falls take place in climbing (mostly bouldering). This is by the far the biggest accident I've personally witnessed. I know, obviously, the cause was user-error. It's just insane to see how severe our bodies can get messed up from this sport.

I'm also mad and baffled at this gym. Apparently there's been another auto-belay fall this year also. Why haven't they gotten rid of the auto-belays by now?

Mike G · · Pennsyltucky · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 0

Im sorry you experienced that, its an awful thing to be near and hear. Its also very unfortunate that happened to him, but get rid of the auto belays? do you think the auto belay is at fault?

Todd Berlier · · Sacramento, CA · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0

So sorry you had to witness that. I personally don't feel that auto belays hurt people, people hurt people. I feel like I am a responsible auto belay user and why should my right to use an auto belay be lost because of irresponsible use of auto belays? Plus if you remove auto belays it's just a slippery slope to banning lead climbing and bouldering. The next thing you know, we'll only be allowed to TR, even outside. 

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,535
Becca Joy wrote: Today at the gym we witnessed a teenager fall 30 feet from the top of an auto-belay. He didn't clip into the auto-belay, then sat back to be lowered at the top. He hit the ground around ~12 feet away from me.

My friends and I are pretty shook up about it... the poor guy was howling in pain for the 30 minutes we stayed after the fall. Both his wrists were mangled, at least one bone piercing through skin.

I've seen other small injuries and falls take place in climbing (mostly bouldering). This is by the far the biggest accident I've personally witnessed. I know, obviously, the cause was user-error. It's just insane to see how severe our bodies can get messed up from this sport.

I'm also mad and baffled at this gym. Apparently there's been another auto-belay fall this year also. Why haven't they gotten rid of the auto-belays by now?

This has happened consistently since autobelays came out. Some gyms can stomach it and some can't.

And, after you see a couple decks and a bunch of bone sticking out you get used to it, No worries.
Becca Joy · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 15
Todd Berlier wrote: So sorry you had to witness that. I personally don't feel that auto belays hurt people, people hurt people. I feel like I am a responsible auto belay user and why should my right to use an auto belay be lost because of irresponsible use of auto belays? Plus if you remove auto belays it's just a slippery slope to banning lead climbing and bouldering. The next thing you know, we'll only be allowed to TR, even outside. 

I agree. I just see so many people listen to headphones while pounding out auto-belay routes. At least those should be banned, perhaps. I feel like they distract considerably from safety checks, etc.

I think climbing is changing so much for the younger generation now too. Now it is a typical youth sport for kids. The media climbing is getting can contribute to how competitive kids feel to climb hard and climb a lot, consequently cutting corners on safety with tunnel vision.
FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Becca Joy wrote: Today at the gym we witnessed a teenager fall 30 feet from the top of an auto-belay. He didn't clip into the auto-belay, then sat back to be lowered at the top. He hit the ground around ~12 feet away from me.

My friends and I are pretty shook up about it... the poor guy was howling in pain for the 30 minutes we stayed after the fall. Both his wrists were mangled, at least one bone piercing through skin.

I've seen other small injuries and falls take place in climbing (mostly bouldering). This is by the far the biggest accident I've personally witnessed. I know, obviously, the cause was user-error. It's just insane to see how severe our bodies can get messed up from this sport.

I'm also mad and baffled at this gym. Apparently there's been another auto-belay fall this year also. Why haven't they gotten rid of the auto-belays by now?

Terrible thing to witness, but how is failing to clip in to the auto-belay an "auto-belay fall"?

Erik B · · New York, NY · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 91

When you say he didn't clip into the Auto-Belay, I don't full understand how that could happen. The ones I've used have a locking biner put on your harness and if you mess that up it goes to the top on it's own with you just standing there, and is obviously not attached to your harness.

It seams pretty binary, either clipped or not. But I agree with Todd above, I like having autos in my gym for days I have a limited amount of time and want to run some laps up and down without bothering someone else for my shitty "workout."

Jay Dee · · Summerville, SC · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

How did he not clip in and then not realize it while climbing? And how is that an issue caused by an auto belay?

Todd Berlier · · Sacramento, CA · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0
Becca Joy wrote:

I agree. I just see so many people listen to headphones while pounding out auto-belay routes. At least those should be banned, perhaps. I feel like they distract considerably from safety checks, etc.

I think climbing is changing so much for the younger generation now too. Now it is a typical youth sport for kids. The media climbing is getting can contribute to how competitive kids feel to climb hard and climb a lot, consequently cutting corners on safety with tunnel vision.

Sorry for the snark...and I agree with you. I do think personal responsibility trumps all here, but that some sort of certification system would at least take the gym's responsibility away for these accidents.


Edit: my gym uses the flap that you have to unclip from and then clip into your harness and I have not heard of an accident there--Granite Arch in Sacramento 
that guy named seb · · Britland · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 210

This has never happened at the gym in my closest city (someone died last year from 24ft because he forgot to tie in) nothing has ever happened on a auto belay though and I don't see how this can actually happen. 

HughC · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 15

You can lead a climber to an auto belay, but you can't make him clip in...... This is not only a beginner's error. A long term climbing partner, let's call him Duheim,  just recently admitted to not clipping in on TWO separate  occasions to the auto belay. One time necessitating him traversing at the top of the wall to another line to lower down on. Oh, and he had a weight vest on too.

Bill Shubert · · Lexington, MA · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 55

Becca, does the gym have the triangular tarps that cover the start holds before you clip in to the autobelay? A gym I went to installed autobelays, had weekly failures to clip in, then installed the tarps and never had another. I can see how somebody could space out, just start climbing without clipping - but when the holds are covered up, it's a lot harder to make that mistake. As pointed out above, if you detach the carabiner but don't clip in, then it flies to the top of the route, which hopefully will also clue somebody in that they aren't on belay.

Greg Miller · · Westminster, CO · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 30

Had a friend make it to the top of the wall after forgetting to clip in, as others have said above. One of his scariest experiences in climbing.

Joe Trabucco · · Boulder, co · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 0

Autobelays are safe.  It’s usually user error, like not clipping in...

Logan Hulstine · · Rexburg · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 36

I currently work at a gym where the same accident just happened. I was very shook about it as well, it'll probably keep you shaken up for a bit but over time you'll be good. Take it as a lesson that you didn't have to pay for...

Logan Hulstine · · Rexburg · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 36
that guy named seb wrote: This has never happened at the gym in my closest city (someone died last year from 24ft because he forgot to tie in) nothing has ever happened on a auto belay though and I don't see how this can actually happen. 

People are idiots... it happens.

wendy weiss · · boulder, co · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 10

It's a surprisingly easy mistake to make, especially because you think YOU could never make it. The BRC has those triangular flaps to block the route (after several serious accidents), but they're not foolproof. People detach them to lead or TR a climb and then don't reattach them.

Which gym did this happen at?

Eli W · · New England · Joined May 2016 · Points: 5
Ryan Williams · · London (sort of) · Joined May 2009 · Points: 1,265

I know it’s a dumb thing to say, but I just don’t see how this is possible. I mean, top roping and especially auto-belays are so fucking annoying that I can’t imagine planning to do it and not noticing that I haven’t.

Fucking up your tie in knot or not double backing, and then leading a pitch? I can sort of see how that is possible. But walking up to an auto-belay, climbing 30 feet without being clipped in, and then just letting go? How does that happen? 

Becca Joy · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 15
wendy weiss wrote: It's a surprisingly easy mistake to make, especially because you think YOU could never make it. The BRC has those triangular flaps to block the route (after several serious accidents), but they're not foolproof. People detach them to lead or TR a climb and then don't reattach them.

Which gym did this happen at?

I’m on a vacation in the southeast right now, it happened at a gym over here

Josh Gates · · Wilmington, DE · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 4
Ryan Williams wrote: I know it’s a dumb thing to say, but I just don’t see how this is possible. I mean, top roping and especially auto-belays are so fucking annoying that I can’t imagine planning to do it and not noticing that I haven’t.

Fucking up your tie in knot or not double backing, and then leading a pitch? I can sort of see how that is possible. But walking up to an auto-belay, climbing 30 feet without being clipped in, and then just letting go? How does that happen? 

I also wonder just about the harness feeling - I always feel like the autobelay pulls up really hard, so I think that I'd notice its absence. In any event, I'm an always-checker, so I yank the autobelay down and make sure that it pulls back up and that it bites before I start, like a partner check.

jg
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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