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Autobelay Death in Texas
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Sep 25, 2013
M Sprague wrote:
Before I start climbing I always grab my rope and pull it away from my harness and check the knot, visually check my belayer's set up and look them in the eye to make sure they are focused on me. These auto- belay things cut a lot of that out, but the pulling the rope taut from your harness ritual would catch all of these screw-ups. How long does it take? One second.


That's exactly what I do, and its become so automatic that its part of what I do when I'm clipped to an anchor, tied in, belaying somebody, or using the autobelay. Habits like this save lives, and they're much more universal than any particular belay technique.
Petsfed
From Laramie, WY
Joined Mar 12, 2002
1,246 points
Sep 28, 2013
I've seen the bad clip-in happen in a gym. A beginner was climbing an easy overhanging route. His belayer was belaying correctly. The climber fell and parted from the biner, falling about 25 feet onto his back. He had no injuries. The gym had a gravel bed covering the floor. No one had any idea how he was attached to the biner or how he became disconnected. Syd
Joined May 21, 2013
0 points
Oct 22, 2013
Will S wrote:
I LOVE the autobelays. And our gym finally bought a couple this year. BUT, and this is a big "but", they are being used largely as a "babysitter" for n00bs that don't know how to belay, and children. I've already kept 3 different folks from bungling the clip-in (which is really, really hard to bungle, and I don't work there - just train). Kids clipping to the wrong place on the harness, or taking off with the gate not closed/with the harness just pinched between gate and biner...stuff like that. Myself and a few others will warmup or do intervals on them, but babysitting n00bs is what I see most. It really winds me up, because they are neglecting what has been THE prime instructional activity for gyms to new climbers...teaching them to belay safely. Now they just take their money and, "oh you don't know how to belay? Here's the autobelay".


Checked out the climbing wall at a local gym here and discovered this to be the case. For the most part the autobelays are set on the easiest routes on the wall. The wall itself was nice for it's size and I enjoyed it but it was very clearly setup as a 'babysitting' technique like you say. And I had the exact experience as you, there was one other person and we would just rotate around doing quick intervals on them and then what followed were noobs who were at times perplexed at even the idea of locking carabiner in use...

Overall I like them though for the freedom they allow, nice for 'running-laps'
Greg J
From Colorado
Joined Aug 26, 2013
1 points
Nov 17, 2016
osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.s... Autobelays
Joined Nov 17, 2016
0 points
Nov 18, 2016
This thread makes me think of the story of The B17 and the way it changed how pilots approach aviation. flyaoamedia.com/aoa/what-the-b...

The takeaway is that you could look at the early accidents and say they were due to pilot forgetting critical tasks. You could say "pilots need to focus more!" or you could ask the question "How can we change this so we reduce the chance of human error?" Some people thought the plane was simply too complex to fly. A simple piece of paper changed all that.

It sounds like there is the exact same problems with auto-belay systems. Some people are saying it's human error and you just have to pay attention better. But clearly very experienced and by all accounts "safe" climbers can still make this mistake. And while it doesn't happen all the time, you could say it happens too much for what should be a low risk recreational activity.

So we need to start asking: How to we make auto-belay setups fool proof? Because it seems to me absolutely nobody should die trying to use these.

I know climbing has inherent risks, but that's out on the rock in the mountains where you can't control things. In a gym you should be able to eliminate sources of problems like this.
gtowey
Joined Oct 27, 2015
0 points
Nov 18, 2016
gtowey wrote:
This thread makes me think of the story of The B17 and the way it changed how pilots approach aviation. flyaoamedia.com/aoa/what-the-b... The takeaway is that you could look at the early accidents and say they were due to pilot forgetting critical tasks. You could say "pilots need to focus more!" or you could ask the question "How can we change this so we reduce the chance of human error?" Some people thought the plane was simply too complex to fly. A simple piece of paper changed all that. It sounds like there is the exact same problems with auto-belay systems. Some people are saying it's human error and you just have to pay attention better. But clearly very experienced and by all accounts "safe" climbers can still make this mistake. And while it doesn't happen all the time, you could say it happens too much for what should be a low risk recreational activity. So we need to start asking: How to we make auto-belay setups fool proof? Because it seems to me absolutely nobody should die trying to use these. I know climbing has inherent risks, but that's out on the rock in the mountains where you can't control things. In a gym you should be able to eliminate sources of problems like this.


It already exists but gyms are too cheap to buy and install them. A gate that protrudes off the wall will stop all accidents. I have seen and used them. Waltopia has a version for their "Funtopia" walls.

Admittedly there's other factors at play to making them 100% safe for gyms, so if anyone is reading and wants more info go ahead and contact me.
Tradoholic
Joined Apr 17, 2004
12,619 points
Nov 18, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Belaying 2nd (or was it 3rd? 4th?) on Turk's Head ...
Very sad. I'm pretty sure I've been to that gym, or if not a different facility of the same franchise when I visited family in Dallas. One thing that I will say is that they're very much into the ";idiot proof setup with Grigris, let's get people climbing right away"; mentality which is problematic IMO. Rather than tying in, people clip in using an auto locker connected to a figure 8 on a bight, and there was no belay test, just a quick ";here's how to belay"; lesson. While it's nice because people can walk in and immediately start climbing and belaying their friends, I wonder if they lose an appreciation for the basic mechanics of a safety system.

This is why I'm also opposed to the latest "hang a Grigri from every toprope" trend in gyms. If you don't know how to thread a Grigri, you have no business belaying me.
Ted Pinson
From Chicago, IL
Joined Jul 11, 2014
188 points
Nov 18, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Colonel Mustard
M Sprague wrote:
I hate those bloody things. A gym loaded with them is a bad sign to me. That is one of the reasons I will drive to Boston, Worcester or even NH to go to a gym rather than to the one in RI pictured above, which is about 20 minutes from me (along with bad route setting and a funky toyland feeling in general).


I'd tend to agree, but I've only been to couple of gyms that use them so take my sample size into account. Two I visited, and the other I was a member of for four years. Bad route setting was almost a given at that home gym sporting the auto belays.

Plugging the kids in and ignoring was a very popular use. And then you wind up with this disjointed scene where people who could be belaying each other and meeting potential climbing partners are plugged into their ipod and douching off in their own universe, frowning at those who would dare enter their auto-sphere.
Colonel Mustard
From Sacramento, CA
Joined Sep 13, 2005
1,469 points
Nov 18, 2016


too bad they couldnt actually say what the complaint was.
T Roper
From DC,VA,NM,UT,CT,MA
Joined Mar 31, 2006
1,054 points
Nov 18, 2016
Hate to admit it, but I too have failed to clip in at BRC in Boulder. It was upstairs on one of the short cracks and luckily I realized it within 10-15 feet or so (about halfway up on those routes). It was a pretty good scare. I still like the autobelays, though, because I can get in some gym time when my partners aren't available. Now, I have reverted very deliberately to what I do outdoors--look at my harness and check the knot before climbing--or the autobelay in this case. Lots of pretty "dumb" things have happened to some pretty smart people (see Lynn Hill above), so no one is immune. Daniel Joder
From Boulder, CO
Joined Nov 9, 2015
9 points
Nov 18, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: en route to wham ridge  Photo by Carl Schnitker
gtowey wrote:
And while it doesn't happen all the time, you could say it happens too much for what should be a low risk recreational activity.

That's the issue. Climbing isn't a low risk recreational activity, regardless of which discipline you practice. People say bouldering is safer than trad climbing. I've seen significantly more people get injured from bouldering than from trad climbing.

Some things can make climbing safer to an extent, such as lowering biners at anchors, but nothing can make climbing safe. Any time you leave the ground you assume the risk that you may not come back down in one piece.
eli poss
From Durango, Co
Joined May 9, 2014
472 points
Nov 18, 2016
eli poss wrote:
That's the issue. Climbing isn't a low risk recreational activity, regardless of which discipline you practice. People say bouldering is safer than trad climbing. I've seen significantly more people get injured from bouldering than from trad climbing. Some things can make climbing safer to an extent, such as lowering biners at anchors, but nothing can make climbing safe. Any time you leave the ground you assume the risk that you may not come back down in one piece.


But you're kind of just proving my point. It's too easy to simply say "climbing is dangerous! That's what you get!" Climbing OUTSIDE is dangerous because there are so many things you can't control.

But inside a gym? On a top rope autobelay system? That is literally insane to me that someone would die in that environment.
gtowey
Joined Oct 27, 2015
0 points
Nov 18, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: en route to wham ridge  Photo by Carl Schnitker
gtowey wrote:
But you're kind of just proving my point. It's too easy to simply say "climbing is dangerous! That's what you get!" Climbing OUTSIDE is dangerous because there are so many things you can't control. But inside a gym? On a top rope autobelay system? That is literally insane to me that someone would die in that environment.


By expecting climbing to be safer or even safe indoors, you have made yourself vulnerable to human error by becoming complacent, whether consciously or subconsciously. Also, we don't make climbing safer by controlling variables; we make it safer by adapting our behavior to manage such variables.
eli poss
From Durango, Co
Joined May 9, 2014
472 points
Nov 18, 2016
eli poss wrote:
By expecting climbing to be safer or even safe indoors, you have made yourself vulnerable to human error by becoming complacent, whether consciously or subconsciously. Also, we don't make climbing safer by controlling variables; we make it safer by adapting our behavior to manage such variables.


the kid is right
T Roper
From DC,VA,NM,UT,CT,MA
Joined Mar 31, 2006
1,054 points
Nov 18, 2016
eli poss wrote:
By expecting climbing to be safer or even safe indoors, you have made yourself vulnerable to human error by becoming complacent, whether consciously or subconsciously. Also, we don't make climbing safer by controlling variables; we make it safer by adapting our behavior to manage such variables.



Do you drive without a seatbelt because it encourages complacency? Ride a motorcycle without a helmet?
gtowey
Joined Oct 27, 2015
0 points
Nov 18, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Old Lady H
What I'm super curious to know, is why Autobelays joined MP, just to post two links on two old threads? With no explanation or comments? Are/were you connected with the company? Old lady H
From Boise, Idaho
Joined Aug 24, 2015
73 points
Nov 18, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: en route to wham ridge  Photo by Carl Schnitker
gtowey wrote:
Do you drive without a seatbelt because it encourages complacency? Ride a motorcycle without a helmet?

Yes I use seatbelts and helmets. I adapt my behavior to manage/mitigate risk. I still understand that every time I get in a car, there's a chance I could die in a wreck. It's a choice I have thought through and I accept the risks involved. Some people, however, want to climb without accepting the risks involved, which is just absurd.
eli poss
From Durango, Co
Joined May 9, 2014
472 points
Nov 19, 2016
gtowey wrote:
But you're kind of just proving my point. It's too easy to simply say "climbing is dangerous! That's what you get!" Climbing OUTSIDE is dangerous because there are so many things you can't control. But inside a gym? On a top rope autobelay system? That is literally insane to me that someone would die in that environment.


People die in safe environments just not as many. All you have to do is not pay attention or use your head. Did you heard about the guy in Yellowstone that was boiled, drown and dissolved in acid?

I just don't understand how people can forget to tie in the auto belay. That thing constantly pulls hard enough to lift 20 or 30 lbs off the ground. I can see how one can get a twist lock carabiners partially close on a belay loop.

And you can unclip yourself from a carabiner especially if you move sideways when there is a bolt at your waist level. It is a good idea to carry a draw with screwgate carabiners
JulianG
Joined Oct 27, 2009
145 points


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