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By TWK
Dec 19, 2012
No, sorry, that wasn't me. The picture of the guy with the fur helmet isn't me.

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By Peter Stokes
From Them Thar Hills
Dec 19, 2012
Wall Street, Moab, UT
As it happens, Friday's accident victim is someone I know and have climbed with. He's well into his 60s and has as much experience as anyone else I've climbed with in Colorado. When I've climbed with him he's always been a safe and attentive partner. A mutual friend was nearby at the time and told me the victim had been using the autobelays when he forgot to attach himself to one of them and then let go near the top of the wall to descend. I don't know what distractions he may have had at the start of that pitch, but I do know that when using an autobelay the climber doesn't usually have someone else checking their setup. The accident resulted in a trip to the ICU with broken spinal vertebrae, internal injuries and more, with the outcome uncertain at this time.

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By percious
From Bear Creek, CO
Dec 19, 2012
Hanging out with some scooter trash.
I climb at movement about 1x per week all winter.

It's amazing the things you see at the gym. When I see someone's skillset is off, I alert staff. They are usually pretty good about checking on the questionable climbers. In one case, the folks were asked to leave. I don't like to be the cause of ending someone's climbing fun, but I don't want to be landed on either. I hope you all do the same.

Having worked at a climbing gym before, it's remarkable the amount of incompetence I have witnessed, and the hubris folks have to believe they won't get hurt. Giving those folks 30 yards is all you can hope to do, inside or outside.

It doesn't surprise me that someone takes a grounder 1x per month at Movement. The place breeds contempt. Gravity is to be respected, and I think it's easy to be distracted with the false sense of safety any gym brings. It's not the gym's fault, they seem to do what they can to mitigate the safety issues. Missing auto-belays I think are an indication of this philosophy. I've seen more mishaps with top-ropers and autobelays than anywhere else. Stick to the overhang and you are probably in better company.

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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Dec 19, 2012
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Pea...
Whenever I use the autobelays at City Rock here in the Springs, the whole process of hooking up to it is so very integral to doing it I'm constantly aware of its presence. I feel the spring tugging on the webbing when I climb. I also like to downclimb instead of pitching off and letting it lower me. Just don't really like trusting it that much.

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By Derek Lawrence
From Bailey
Dec 19, 2012
Cocaine Corner
Could someone explain to me how you could not be clipped into an autobelay yet think you're on belay?? I can see if you didnt complete your knot, you might think all is well as the rope is moving with you. But with an autobelay you're either clipped in or you're soloing. How do you miss the fact that NOTHING is attached to your harness the entire way up the wall???

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By barnaclebob
Dec 19, 2012
Derek Lawrence wrote:
Could someone explain to me how you could not be clipped into an autobelay yet think you're on belay?? I can see if you didnt complete your knot, you might think all is well as the rope is moving with you. But with an autobelay you're either clipped in or you're soloing. How do you miss the fact that NOTHING is attached to your harness the entire way up the wall???


I would like to know this as well, its like someone saying they got in a car crash because they forgot to steer the car... Maybe it didn't have an autolocker and he forgot to lock it?

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By csproul
From Davis, CA
Dec 19, 2012
Summit of Wolf's Head with Pingora in the backgrou...
barnaclebob wrote:
I would like to know this as well, its like someone saying they got in a car crash because they forgot to steer the car... Maybe it didn't have an autolocker and he forgot to lock it?

I have seen people clip them into their harness and have the belay loop webbing caught in the gate, so that the gate did not fully shut and lock. They did not notice before they started climbing and luckily one was stopped by someone else who did notice; the other had the biner come off and the line zip up to the auto-belay, they kept calm and downclimbed before weighting the system. We had an accident here at a local gym and this has been attributed as the likely cause as well.

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By matt davies
Dec 19, 2012
Derek Lawrence wrote:
Could someone explain to me how you could not be clipped into an autobelay yet think you're on belay??

The cognitive dissonance begins in the cerebral cortex. Essentially the subject is temporarily unable to regenerate with accuracy or urgency the immediate past in his/her present consciousness. A false recollection of clipping into the autobelay, readily available to the processes of decision which motivate action by muscle memory and temporally juxtaposed re-creations of said processes in the not-so-distant past, may delude the subject into falsely believing they are good to go. This false pre-suppostion is assimilated into the immediate recall of the subject, and as their attention is then consumed with the action of 'sending, no notice is made of their error.

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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Dec 19, 2012
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Pea...
Nice summation of how it all works in the brain there, Matt. Know this: shit is fucked up. Stupid brains.

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By Dana Bartlett
From CT
Dec 19, 2012
I've been to plenty of rock gyms - as has everyone else here - and it's rare that I don't see some really scary belaying.

I learned to belay with a hip belay (I know, I know, yawn . . . ) as there were no belay devices at the time, and I think it was a good thing. It was drilled into your head that you should never let go with the brake hand. I can't know this, but I think some people get the sense that if the rope is running through a belay device then the climber is belayed - regardless of how sloppy you are, even if you are barely holding on, even if you let go with the brake hand, etc. If you let go with either hand while using a hip belay, it's really clear: that's dangerous.

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By Jon Zucco
From Denver, CO
Dec 19, 2012
yaak crack Red Rock Canyon, NV
TWK wrote:
Sadly, I wouldn't have noticed. I don't know how to use a GriGri, because I use a belay device that is probably impossible to use incorrectly. I've used an outdated, archaic, primitive Sticht belay plate since I bought it when I was 15, in the 1970s. People who don't know what it is laugh at it and me. They were born long after I bought it. I love its simplicity, ease of use, security and light weight. What could go wrong?


It actually might be a good idea to use a gri gri on routes where there is a potential for rock fall. In a situation where loose rock comes down on you, it's nice to know that you can take your hand off of the brake if you absolutely must (or if you get knocked out, you won't drop your partner.)

It is a little disconcerting though to see beginners using gri gris before ATCs in the gym and keeping their hands dangerously close to the camming mechanism and not consistently keeping their brake hand on. I think everyone oughta start out with a simple device to learn the basics. I'm not familiar with the sticht plate, but it seems like the mechanics are the same as the ATC but maybe the device itself is not quite as structurally solid.

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By Tony Hawk
Dec 19, 2012
Partners should ALWAYS double check each other. On every climb, inside or outside, regardless of experience level, age, equipment, free soloing prowess, redpoint level, ball sac size, etc...

That is why the auto belays are so dangerous. No one but you idiot self to help you. I have yet to climb on an auto belay without first climbing up a few feet and weighting the system to make sure it is in working order. I'm surprised they don't come with a tether that you have to release AFTER clipped in. Every time I put it on I'm pretty sure the damn thing is going to slip out of my hand and go flying up.

With experience one gains knowledge, but with repetition one risks carelessness.

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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Dec 19, 2012
At the BRC
To add to Matt's lucid reply-

It's the nature of human brains to automate frequently repeated tasks, that's why folks can drive cars and perform for Cirque de Soleil.

Doing 10 autobelays every lunch hour for weeks will get anyone to automate the task.

When performing an automatic task, the mind can drift elsewhere. In fact, I would say it's impossible to ALWAYS have attention present during these automatic processes. So a certain risk of screwing up is always going to be present. Some habits can decrease the risk, but not eliminate it.

Having a partner check after you've tied in helps cut down the risk, but sooner or later both people are going to screw up. Then if you fall, the pundits will point out how careless you were for not triple checking by posting a cellphone picture of your tie in knot on MP.

Climbing on an autobelay raises the risk, but nowhere near leading hard ice, skiing the backcountry or countless other worthwhile activities.

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By bearbreeder
Dec 19, 2012
csproul wrote:
I have seen people clip them into their harness and have the belay loop webbing caught in the gate, so that the gate did not fully shut and lock. They did not notice before they started climbing and luckily one was stopped by someone else who did notice; the other had the biner come off and the line zip up to the auto-belay, they kept calm and downclimbed before weighting the system. We had an accident here at a local gym and this has been attributed as the likely cause as well.



the gyms i go to usually have 2 opposed lockers ... when yr clipping 2 of em in it reduces the chance of both getting caught .... and you are forced to take the extra time to clip the second one and hopefully pay more attention

self checks are the most important thing of all of course

if one always sees shitty belaying ... the staff should be patrolling the floor to look for that as well ...

i suspect the best way to get gyms to strictly enforce "safe" practices is simply to make it a requirement for them to post a writeup of any accidents/incidents as well as the incidents per visitor stats right on the front desk ...

theyll have a very strong incentive to reduce this as much as possible when the birthday moms/dads come in with their kids and see it ...

itll also be a great learning tool ...

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By George Barnes
From Westminster, CO
Dec 19, 2012
Jones Pk
Clearly what's needed here is to ban auto belays and rewoven bowlines.

;)

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By nicelegs
From Denver
Dec 19, 2012
The humbling realization that every single one of us is human and will make a mistake eventually is hard on the ego. It's easier to call someone incompetent rather than look at your own shortcomings.

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By Matt N
From Santa Barbara, CA
Dec 19, 2012
OTL


New required sign at gyms.

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By TWK
Dec 19, 2012
Matt N wrote:
New required sign at gyms.


I think we need the light up signs reminding us to check our belays at the bases of all routes. How else can we be sure we're climbing safely?

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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Dec 19, 2012
At the BRC
bearbreeder wrote:
simply to make it a requirement


We need more rules, can't ever get enough rules, so that climbing is finally safe.

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By TWK
Dec 19, 2012
Always open to new ideas, no matter how they may be presented, I did a quick search for accidents or equipment failures attributed to my archaic, quaint, and antiquated old-fart laughable Stitch belay plate. Many of the results reported quite favorably on the device, and I could find no reports of accidents or failures in which it was the primary offender, although some sources objectively reported some minor cons with its (and many other devices') use under different conditions.

Like I've said, it's worked well on trad routes, top ropes, and in the gym for me for a long time. Looked at objectively, the ATC is basically just a "better mousetrap" version of the same thing, with the added benefit of being a rappel device.

From thebmc.co.uk/ regarding Stitch belay plates

Intermediate, Slick, Grabbing and Locking devices:

Slick: Such devices rely principally on friction to provide braking. Devices of this type allow smooth, quick rope feed and are less likely to jam when rope is being paid out. They require more care on the part of the belayer in applying and maintaining a controlling force when arresting a fall or during a lower.
Example: ATC

Intermediate: Devices neither particularly slick nor grabbing. Good general purpose devices.
Example: Sprung Stitch.

Grabbing: A device giving a sharp braking effect when suddenly loaded. Likely to be pinching devices. Care needs to be taken to ensure smooth rope feed, otherwise may jam. Have a tendency to lock up easily. Effective at holding falls which may not be anticipated by the belayer and or where a high controlling force is required.
Example: Flat Stitch.

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By PRRose
From Boulder
Dec 19, 2012
Sticht plates work fine as belay devices, but are not as good as tube devices for rapelling. I suspect that is why most plate users eventually switched.

There have been incidents with sticht plates. If the belayer doesn't attach the keeper loop when top belaying, because the plate is a low friction devices it can slide down the rope and make it impossible to lock it down. Of course that was clearly user error, but the point is that there are forseeable failure modes. I've never seen that happen with a tube device. Maybe at the time that sticht plates were common, which was when climbers were transitioning from hip belays to sticht plates, there were more mistakes?

Also, if a grigri is threaded backwards, it has enough friction to function as a belay device so long as you use good technique (at least on thicker ropes).

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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Dec 20, 2012
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Pea...
I used to have a Sticht plate with the spring but had to improvise the keeper cord. It was a PITA and I sold it long ago. So essentially, get rid of anything with "stich" in the name because it's just a pain in the ass. I mean, it might have some good qualities, but...

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By bearbreeder
Dec 20, 2012
Mark E Dixon wrote:
We need more rules, can't ever get enough rules, so that climbing is finally safe.


this rule is simply being open and honest about the accidents that occur ...

its not a particularly hard one as i assume the staff would write up a log of a serious incident ...

making it available for people to read ... whats so bad about that ;)

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By Peter Stokes
From Them Thar Hills
Dec 20, 2012
Wall Street, Moab, UT
Stich wrote:
So essentially, get rid of anything with "stich" in the name because it's just a pain in the ass. I mean, it might have some good qualities, but...


I'd also suggest avoiding any equipment with "stokes" in the name, unless you're the first responder

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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Dec 20, 2012
At the BRC
bearbreeder wrote:
this rule is simply being open and honest about the accidents that occur ... its not a particularly hard one as i assume the staff would write up a log of a serious incident ... making it available for people to read ... whats so bad about that ;)


In the first place, there's no reason to think this will help. I seriously doubt similar signs in factories lead to fewer work site accidents.

In the second place, while I can tolerate insurance company mandated rules (even if they don't always make sense,) requiring gyms to further protect us from ourselves while we pursue a dangerous useless sport seems not really in the spirit of climbing as I understand it.

Don't get me wrong, I share the voyeuristic thrill of reading about other people's accidents and would certainly read any posted reports. But they do leave the punched out footprints in the mats, which should count for something.

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