Dangling from ropes and a harness (Cliffhanger Style…Sly Stallone reference…check!), jumping for holds that rip the screams outta your throat, and taking epic falls are just a few of the reasons we love rock-climbing ( It also makes us look cool, which is obviously the main reason we do it). Though the people who participate in this pastime (gotta love alliteration) may seem coo-coo for Coaco Puffs, as far as extreme sports go, rock-climbing is relatively safe when some basic precautions are observed (and it’s not attempted by complete outdoor idiots). Even so, there are still some very basic and very deadly errors that climbers make on a semi-regular and boneheaded basis.
You are Not Adam Ondra…Not Even Close.
As climbers, we love to take risks, push our limits, and get a rush. Hell, that’s what most of climbing is about. But being honest with yourself about your actual abilities and knowing your limits is key. Should you really be free soloing that 5.11d multipitch? Is it wise to only place one piece of trad protection every 20 ft? Are you really gonna basejump off the top of your project or are you gonna rappel down like a sane person? Don’t get us wrong, we want you to enjoy the thrill of climbing and push yourself. We just don’t want you to push yourself to death.
If you’ve been climbing for years, you might skip the basics: Like checking to see if you’re doublebacked, making sure your belay partner’s carabineer is locked, making sure your figure 8 is all prettylike and that your rope is through both slots on your harness. A word to the wise: Don’t get too comfortable. We have climber friends who’ve gotten half way up a route without being doublebacked or others who’ve only put the rope through one slot of the harness. No beuno. Kapish?
Learn to Take the Fall
According to Wikipedia (an extremely reliable and scholarly source for all knowledge…ever), learning to take a lead fall well can prevent many injuries up to and including breaking your pretty little neck. We happen to know for a fact that Wikipedia is on to something. Falling “correctly” means different things to different people, but a general consensus is that you don’t grab the rope when you fall, you brace yourself with your hands and feet, and you lean forward just enough to where you won’t flip upside down once the rope recoils. Do this and you can prevent injuries such as rope burn, whiplash, minor or major abrasions, and even death. Check out this instructive Youtube video for further instruction.
The Gear God Giveth and He Taketh Away
Gear, glorious gear! Shiny, colorful trad gear, dynamic ropes, well-worn harnesses that make your bootay look oh-so-nice. Gear is grand and we couldn’t climb without most of it; however, gear has to be well-maintained and retired. If your rope is frayed, puffed out, brittle, or otherwise damaged, retire that shit. Turn it into a nifty rug (seriously, it can be done). Keep your harness dry, out of the sun, and always check it for tears/rips…On. Every. Climb. Yep, your heard us. Every climb. This might seem like overkill but you’ll be crag-kill (similar to road-kill) if your harness fails. Also, the rule of thumb for trad gear is that, if it hits the ground, it’s retired. Now we understand that trad gear is uber expensive and it might hurt your climber heart (and wallet) to retire a piece simply because it took a few knocks down the wall. Use your best judgment but, please, don’t be like some fools who forget pieces of trad, only to have their buddies toss them up the route 7 or 8 times with the gear hitting the ground and its integrity being compromised each time. That = S.T.U.P.I.D.