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Can climbing be too safe?
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By Ryan N
From San Louis Obispo
Oct 5, 2012
RJN

I've been climbing for some years now. I have come to accept the risk that my adventure seeking behavior comes with. During a recent trip to a climbing gym both my leading style and my belaying style were put under heavy critique while taking a lead test. I'm not an unsafe climber myself, and while climbing rock, ice, and alpine routes all over the western US I have never had an accident. I have had a number of close calls and mini epics but have always got myself and partner out with no physical harm( sometimes a hurt ego), but always got home safe. There are many different ways in climbing to do it the "right" way. So is it more important to use the method that you are more comfortable with, or the newest "accepted" way of climbing? My point is I believe that climbing can become too safe at a risk to the climber by putting too much attention on mundane details and not enough on the situation at hand. Being able to be versatile in my climbing techniques allows me to choose certain methods for certain situations. Thoughts?

I know I'm gonna die.


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By kiff
Oct 5, 2012

too safe=boring in my opinion


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By csproul
From Rancho Cordova, CA
Oct 5, 2012
Summit of Wolf's Head with Pingora in the background

What specifically did they think was unsafe?

Gym rules can be ridiculous, but hey, it's their gym and their rules. I can understand that for a gym it is hard to determine who is proficient and who is faking it, so it is often easier to standardize.

On the other hand, it is often the most experienced climbers I see with the worst belay habits. They are also often the ones who take criticism the worst...because they have been doing it that way for decades without an accident.


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By Josh Kornish
Oct 5, 2012
The Roach

I'll just add that if Snake Dike was bolted every 10 feet it would be pretty boring and not worth it. Having the huge run outs is what made it fun.


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By Monomaniac
Administrator
From Morrison, CO
Oct 5, 2012
Insurrection, 5.14c.  Photo Adam Sanders.

I think gyms take on a lot of unnecessary liability when they force customers to conform to their arbitrary standards. I don't think the climber's resume is relevant, but the gym staff should be able to quickly tell if the climber is using a safe belay method. When you force someone to learn a new belay technique, chances are they will screw it up frequently until they have a few hours of solid reps under their belt.

It would be one thing if all the gyms could agree on a universal standard; then we would know if you want to belay in a gym, you need to put in the time to learn said technique. As it is gyms are all over the map: some only allow Grigris, some forbid grigris, some demand the "Bus Method", etc.

It would be interesting to see the aftermath if someone got seriously hurt or killed because a gym member required an experienced, safe climber to arbitrarily change their belay method.


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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Oct 5, 2012
Stabby

You're going to equate gym rules to the overall world of climbing!?! Seriously!?!
Now we get to watch page after page of blowhards spouting off how big they think their balls are.
That said, the kid that runs the wall at my gym is a frikkin nazi retard. He always asks what the '5 critical statements to make' before taking off are with every belay test, but also monitors that we do that. I once had my daughter on a tr but pulling up a rope too to practice clips and he shut us down as 'she needed to be taught' this by a certified gym dude. And yes, I've been climbing longer than he's been alive.


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By Ryan N
From San Louis Obispo
Oct 5, 2012
RJN

The specific critique that got me upset was when I was belaying a leader, the staff member noticed that my brake hand was not close enough to my hip to be properly safe. It was on about 3-5 in under the belay device. That is what sparked the thought in my mind. I understand the liability a gym takes on, but maybe in some instances when a climber shows they are proficient at climbing/ belaying they might be safer doing it their way? It's not too hard to weed out a rookie or someone who hasn't been climbing for a while.


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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Oct 5, 2012
Stabby

Ryan N wrote:
The specific critique that got me upset was when I was belaying a leader, the staff member noticed that my brake hand was not close enough to my hip to be properly safe. It was on about 3-5 in under the belay device. That is what sparked the thought in my mind. I understand the liability a gym takes on, but maybe in some instances when a climber shows they are proficient at climbing/ belaying they might be safer doing it their way? It's not too hard to weed out a rookie or someone who hasn't been climbing for a while.

Just out of curiosity, are you talking about LFT in Parker?


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By Ryan N
From San Louis Obispo
Oct 5, 2012
RJN

Living in Escondido,CA right now not Parker. But LTF in Parker could be a candidate for this same issue. I was a member there for 4years before quitting not because of climbing, but because it's a dirty ass place.


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By Buff Johnson
Oct 5, 2012
smiley face

What did they say when you pulled out the belay knife?


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By cdec
From SLC and Moab, ut
Oct 5, 2012

Ryan N wrote:
the staff member noticed that my brake hand was not close enough to my hip to be properly safe. It was on about 3-5 in under the belay device.


Um, that would put the rope in the breaking position and would be safe IMO. Taking the hand to the Hip could be considered better but what you did was not unsafe.

I would have asked for an explanation of why what you where doing wasn't properly safe.


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By Blissab
Oct 5, 2012

Ryan N wrote:
The specific critique that got me upset was when I was belaying a leader, the staff member noticed that my brake hand was not close enough to my hip to be properly safe. It was on about 3-5 in under the belay device. That is what sparked the thought in my mind. I understand the liability a gym takes on, but maybe in some instances when a climber shows they are proficient at climbing/ belaying they might be safer doing it their way? It's not too hard to weed out a rookie or someone who hasn't been climbing for a while.


Most and many gym staff are not blessed with common-sense, in so much as, what is considered safe and not safe, as opposed to what is considered a different style of safe climbing practice.

There are many forms and variations of safe climbing practice that are used by many climbers of different age generations. The problem stems from the fact that the gym teaches one style of climbing practice in accordance to insurance and gym policies to the typically inexperience and clueless staff member.

Then armed with this new-found information, this inexperience staff member religiously and rigidly mandates that all gym members, from hardcore ascentionist to the soccer moms, adhere to these regulations.

I would suggest that if you want to climb at a particular gym, just suck-it up and climb at the gym by adhering to the policies as best possible...it's better than not climbing at all in the off-season.


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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Oct 5, 2012
Stabby

Something I absolutely hate at the gyms is when they insist on that f'd up belay method where you lift the brake hand waaay up to 12:00 and do that stupid pinky lock to drop it down and pull slack. Everyone who not only teaches it that way but insists on it need to have crows pluck their eyeballs out


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By Crag Dweller
From New York, NY
Oct 5, 2012
My navigator keeps me from getting lost

I've seen more than one instance in which the gym staff's critique was based on a checklist rather than the most critical safety elements.

In one instance, I was dinged for not tying a finishing knot on my figure 8. At another gym, I was told that I couldn't pass the test using a Yosemite finish.

I also climbed with a girl who'd learned to climb at a gym on the East coast. She was absolutely dogmatic about the importance of a finishing knot but I had to point out that her harness was so loose that she'd come out of it if she happened to flip upside down.


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By Ben Brotelho
From Albany, NY
Oct 5, 2012
Epic free solo with a pack on

one word: liability.


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By Alex Mitchell
From Utica, NY
Oct 5, 2012
Me Climbing

El Tigre wrote:
Something I absolutely hate at the gyms is when they insist on that f'd up belay method where you lift the brake hand waaay up to 12:00 and do that stupid pinky lock to drop it down and pull slack. Everyone who not only teaches it that way but insists on it need to have crows pluck their eyeballs out


+1


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By ChristopherAust
From Ohio
Oct 5, 2012
omg

El Tigre wrote:
Something I absolutely hate at the gyms is when they insist on that f'd up belay method where you lift the brake hand waaay up to 12:00 and do that stupid pinky lock to drop it down and pull slack. Everyone who not only teaches it that way but insists on it need to have crows pluck their eyeballs out

Huh?


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By DannyUncanny
From Vancouver
Oct 5, 2012

I work at a gym, the belay instruction is tied to the insurance policy. There is a document (I have no idea who wrote it) that outlines exactly what goes into every belay lesson or belay check. If the insurance company can prove that we are not following that document, they could have grounds to not cover our liability in the event of an accident.


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By Dankasaurus
From Lyons, CO
Oct 5, 2012

The cynic in me says:


Nothing can be too safe in our sissified, overly lawyered, overly surveilled, self-centered, greedy, godless, pathetic mainstream culture.




Vanilla answer:

Climbing is a very personal activity. Climbing can quickly become too safe or too dangerous, depending on the individual on the sharp end, his or her partner if present, and the situation.





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By cdec
From SLC and Moab, ut
Oct 5, 2012

DannyUncanny wrote:
the belay instruction is tied to the insurance policy. There is a document (I have no idea who wrote it) that outlines exactly what goes into every belay lesson or belay check.


And there's the problem insurance companies setting the standard for teaching proper belay technique.


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By skeeter
From Lakewood CA
Oct 5, 2012

I went to a gym here in So Cal recently for the first time, and the employee told me he was too busy so didn't make me sign a waiver...he also didn't bother to check or share any belay "advice" just wanted my $$$

edit: It still felt too safe


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By Dom
Administrator
From New Brunswick Canada
Oct 5, 2012
Moby dick 5.11-

Crazy how gyms in North America make you jump through hoops to be able to climb Meanwhile in France, the gyms I went to didn't require a belay test and everything was lead only.

What pisses me off with Insurance companies,(someone from that domain correct me if I'm wrong) is they put Mountaineering, trad climbing, soloing, sport climbing, gym climbing, etc. in the same equation. There's a world of difference between Walking on Snow at 25 000 FT. and climbing a bolted route.


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By Baumer
From Boulder, CO
Oct 5, 2012
Easy Lieback

Ryan, did you drop Elena AGAIN?!?!


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By Ryan N
From San Louis Obispo
Oct 5, 2012
RJN

^^^good one Rob. Elena is fine. Though I did consider dropping her to prove a point once. She's safe for the moment...


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By "H"
From Manitou Springs
Oct 5, 2012
Axes glistening in the sun

I think gym rats have to treat everyone the same. I've been tying my figure 8 the same since 1991, taken many falls and never had an issue with it. (I may have bounced off ledges and banged some ice, but never an issue with the knot). I went to the fairly new gym here in the Springs once and had my knot questioned.

Back in college I worked at a gym back on Long Island. Me and 3 other people had "real world" climbing experience. (I liked the pro deals) The rest of the workers never climbed outside.

Don't take it to heart. If you've survived this long you must be doing something right.


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By "H"
From Manitou Springs
Oct 5, 2012
Axes glistening in the sun

Dom wrote:
Crazy how gyms in North America make you jump through hoops to be able to climb Meanwhile in France, the gyms I went to didn't require a belay test and everything was lead only. What pisses me off with Insurance companies,(someone from that domain correct me if I'm wrong) is they put Mountaineering, trad climbing, soloing, sport climbing, gym climbing, etc. in the same equation. There's a world of difference between Walking on Snow at 25 000 FT. and climbing a bolted route.


Insurance companies do just that. I'm in the business. One of the questions they ask... "In the next 2 years will the proposed insured engage in any motorsports racing, boat racing, parachuting, skydiving, hang gliding, base jumping, rock or mountain climbing?" Even hiking a 14'er is considered "mountain climbing."

They live by statistics and want to minimize their risks. I can't blame them, but it leads me to wonder how statistics on climbing accidents are gathered. Reason I'm curious is generally the news will call some tourista who got hurt a "climber." Happens quite often in GofG's. To me if that is counted then the #'s will be skewed.

When I got new health insurance, I guess there was something in my medical records about ice climbing. I've never been hurt climbing to the point it required a hospital visit or doctor's visit. They questioned where I climbed, how high, gear/ropes used, how long i've been climbing and some other funny questions.


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