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Multi-Pitch Safety 13 things you should know

Thirteen things climbers can do to prevent common problems on multi-pitch routes.

1) Communicate Effectively. Poor communication is the leading cause of climbing accidents. ”Take up the slack”, “ready?” and “OK” are not effective commands. A misinterpreted command is often worse than no communication at all. Use standard verbal or non-verbal commands and make sure everyone understands what they mean before climbing.

2) Carry an emergency rappel kit. Rappel anchor failure is the leading cause of death in climbing. A 9/16” tubular webbing belt and a tiny duct-taped sandwich of rap rings and a razor blade in your pocket is a cheap and light lifesaver everyone will have with them, no matter where the rack is.

3) Bring a headlamp. A good rule of thumb is ½ mile from your vehicle or one rope-length high. Beyond that… one tiny headlamp can be the difference between a casual nighttime stroll and a full-blown epic disaster.

4) Double-check your food & water supply before leaving your vehicle. If someone else is carrying your portion of food or water, make sure they have enough. Bring durable & convenient food. Don’t bring food that spoils, is easily crushed, or requires bulky containers.

Multi pitch safety while climbing

5) Understand your team’s descent strategy before climbing. Will the belayer lower the leader from the top anchor? Will the leader belay from above? Will the leader rap the route before anyone else climbs? Never assume anything. Do not wait to talk about it after the leader is at the top of the pitch and you are shouting back and forth.

[page] 6) Keep the rope in front of your appendages. “A rope behind your leg on lead is your ticket to intensive care, indeed.” When a rope comes taught, it can rip the skin, and even muscle tissue, right off the bone. Just keep that image in your mind and it won’t be a problem.

7) Keep hair and clothing tucked. People will not check your knot and buckles as frequently if they are hidden by loose clothing. Loose clothing and/or long hair can also get stuck in your belay/rappel device, creating a dangerous situation. Keep your shirt under your harness and your long hair tied back.

8) Follow manufacturers’ instructions. This might seem like a “No Brainer”, but many climbers are completely oblivious to or simply ignore manufacturers’ instructions. Case in point… Harnesses. Many climbers clip into their harnesses in a manner not in accordance with the instructions, bypassing the belay/rappel loop, altogether. Proper use of the belay/rappel loop extends the belay/rappel device away from your body (so it is less likely to get clothing stuck in it), orients belay/rappel devices in such a way as to facilitate effective braking with either hand and loads the critical belay carabiner along its major axis. These are all good things.

9) Keep your excess gear packed. Trouble always seems to find climbers with gear, clothing and food strewn at the base of their route. If you are not carrying it up, pack it away. It will be easier to find all your stuff in the dark. Your stuff is less likely to be stolen or blown away. Everything stays drier. Water stays cooler. And you will always be ready to move.

10) Wear a helmet. A helmet is your only protection from falling objects and will probably make the difference in a fall. Still not convinced? Here is some food for thought: A common glass marble dropped from 300 feet will easily penetrate a human skull.

11) Bring a lighter or matches. A safe walk-off might not be possible and it's a lot lighter than extra clothin.

12) Make sure your partner is also up to date with such things and also make sure you don't go multi-pitch climbing with someone you do not know well.

13) Bring a copy of the route description for the ascent and descent and talk it over to ensure all parties know the way up and down especially when a newbie is in place!


Posted on: 18/04/2011