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Belaying with a cast
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By Will Copeland
Sep 18, 2012
view off the 4th belay

My partner is getting wrist surgery today. We are on a road trip and are going to try to keep me climbing. Are there any suggestions for him belaying me with an above elbow cast. We have a grigri on the way but have two weeks between now and then.


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By Marc H
From Lafayette, CO
Sep 18, 2012
The Cathedral Spires in RMNP, left to right: Stiletto, Sharkstooth, Forbidden Tower, Petit Grepon, The Saber, The Foil, The Moon & The Jackknife.

Yer definitely gonna die.

It seems like your partner's ability to belay is going to be dependent on how much ROM he has with his hand/fingers. If he's having surgery on his wrist, I'm going to guess that his hand is going to be pretty much immobilized. It's my understanding that they generally try to immobilize the joints on either side of the affected joint. So he'll probably be immobilized from his elbow to at least the last set of knuckles. But since the next set of knuckles is so close to the last set, I wouldn't be surprised if they just casted him all the way to his finger tips just to be safe. YMMV.

If he's having surgery on his brake hand, he should learn to belay with his other hand with a tube-style device. A Grigri may not really help you in this case, unless he's having surgery on his left hand.


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By John D
Sep 18, 2012

I'd say it all depends on the cast. I've had 2 broken bones, one in my hand and one in my wrist. I broke my scaphoid and the cast included my thumb and went above the elbow. It was between hard and impossible to belay with that, even with a gri-gri.

The broken hand left the thumb out but included all the other fingers, it also stopped below the elbow. It was alot easier to belay with that one, although it did take some trust on my partners part.

My advice would be do some bouldering or top rope soloing. I hated doing approaches with a recent wound, the heart pumping made it throb and really hurt. Good luck to you and your partner.


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By Guy Keesee
From Moorpark, CA
Sep 18, 2012
Big Boulder, just a bit downhill from Temple of Kali. Alabama Hills, CA.

My Good Partner healed his broken wrist in 50% of usual time.

How?????

Tons of up-hill big hiking..... like 5,000 foot days...get o2 pumping, his docs are now doing a study.

Belay one handed


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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Sep 18, 2012
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.

I kept climbing with a broken wrist. I only broke my triquetrum though... I was comfy in the cast and at little risk for paralysis if something went wrong. Break the scaffoid and crush the carpel tunnel and you have a different problem.

If you took a hard fall and he mashed up his wrist inside that cast as a result of getting pulled into the wall, tangled in the belay line, or whatever due to being partially incapacitated, how would you feel about it? And your partner?

Up to you, but I measure risk in 2 vectors - probability and consequence. When the consequence is paralysis of the hand, my tolerance for probability approaches 0 to keep the product of the 2 low. My requests for asking others to take risks is most certainly lower than my acceptance of my own. While I am not my "belayer's keeper," I'd certainly loathe to be a stumbling block for him/her as well.

In 1995 John Cioci fell off of the top of Fiddler On the Roof. His top piece pulled and he went right past me at the belay, rebounding back into the roof from below. SNAP. His wrist started swelling and he suspected a sprain. He said we could finish the pitch, but I had to lead it. (I'd asked to lead it, but lost the coin toss.) I looked at the wrist and told him we were bailing. I asked him to go put it in the creek to "ice it" while I packed up our stuff.

After X-rays, his then-future-surgeon said we made the right call. He has use of the hand still, in short.


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By Mike McKinnon
From Golden, CO
Sep 18, 2012
Bunny pancake

Tony B wrote:
I kept climbing with a broken wrist. I only broke my triquetrum though... I was comfy in the cast and at little risk for paralysis if something went wrong. Break the scaffoid and crush the carpel tunnel and you have a different problem. If you took a hard fall and he mashed up his wrist inside that cast as a result of getting pulled into the wall, tangled in the belay line, or whatever due to being partially incapacitated, how would you feel about it? And your partner? Up to you, but I measure risk in 2 vectors - probability and consequence. When the consequence is paralysis of the hand, my tolerance for probability approaches 0 to keep the product of the 2 low. My requests for asking others to take risks is most certainly lower than my acceptance of my own. While I am not my "belayer's keeper," I'd certainly loathe to be a stumbling block for him/her as well. In 1995 John Cioci fell off of the top of Fiddler On the Roof. His top piece pulled and he went right past me at the belay, rebounding back into the roof from below. SNAP. His wrist started swelling and he suspected a sprain. He said we could finish the pitch, but I had to lead it. (I'd asked to lead it, but lost the coin toss.) I looked at the wrist and told him we were bailing. I asked him to go put it in the creek to "ice it" while I packed up our stuff. After X-rays, his then-future-surgeon said we made the right call. He has use of the hand still, in short.


LOL that is my cousin. I have heard that story - except in a more dramatic fashion:)


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By PTZ
From Chicago/Colorado
Sep 18, 2012
Where? Wouldn't you like to know. You have to buy me a beer, then I will tell you.

Go bouldering, and soloing.
I bet he could spot better than belay, and he could hurt that wrist spotting or drop you belaying, not really worth it. looks like you got a cameraman out of the deal. The trip will now be well documented.
Good luck with the trip. Sucks when that happens.


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