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Watching the inexperienced crater

9:32:08 AM
So last night I was at an indoor wall in Canberra's southish, introducing an already nervous family member to the world of climbing. This bit was great. I mean how much fun is it to help others discover our world? Taking a newbie and carefully stripping away the common fears and misconceptions, I think is strangely rewarding. That is until the c--ky, arrogant and inexperienced gym hounds worm their way into our world.

Okay so what happened? Let me set the scene. Take two guys around 35, probably about 120+kgs (for the climber, now I'm not being cruel here but weight was a factor), one equiped with his own harness, hire shoes and bag, the other with hire harness and sneakers. The climber had a c--ky 'I know what I'm doing ' arrogance. The belayer just looked uncertain of himself. They climbed three or four times each without incident.

The wall is new and has only been open a couple of months. As far as walls go it's not too shabby. Good gear, belay anchors, great grippy wall surface ect. But lets face it, gym ropes get flogged to within an inch of their lives. Some feed as if there is no friction while others seem to give the belayer a better workout than the climber. The rope in question was new.

Okay so the climber scrambles up the wall quickly and awkwardly to the top. Once at the top, the belayer instantly changes his grip to one hand on the rope (slack end) and one hand on the belay device. Calls out 'got you' with slack still in the climbers end and the climber lets go of the wall. With the climbers weight falling into the loose rope, the climber starts to drop fast, the belayer only holding the rope with one hand tries to slow his friend and gets rope burn. Then like most humans when they feel pain, he lets go of the rope. In the second or so the inexperienced belayer that has no idea of what to do, just watches his friend drop like a sack of potatoís with one hand on the belay device.

The climber falls the 7m from the top of the climb and hits the floor. Hard. Thank who ever that the gym has 4 inch rubber matting under every climb. In fact their whole floor is rubber matting. The climber bounces with a grunt and thankfully gets to his feet in a hurry. Mean while I've unclipped (was just about to head up a climb) and rushed over to offer them any assistance. The climber was gibbering, brushing the whole thing off and saying it's happened before and he's fine. The belayer was white as a sheet and about to break down in shock. Saying over and over 'I couldn't hold him.... I tried but my hand.... Friction......' Poor bastard. I doubt he'll climb again. I tried to calm them down and get them to sit for a second and swallow their hearts which I suspect were firmly lodged in their throats. They brushed me aside (well the climber did) packed up and left. Understandably too.

Now the staff at the wall are lovely people, but I think this... no wait... I know this could have been avoided if they paid more attension to what people were doing. Bouldering aside, there were only four people climbing in the gym (including myself and my partner). The two staff members were nowhere to be seen. Opting for the warmth of the office. Even my sister in law remarked on how she had little idea of what to do after the belay introduction by the gym. After they were finished I spent the next ten minutes showing her what to do.

Every other gym I have been to have had the staff roaming watching everyone, even the climbers experienced, just to make sure everyoneís doing the right thing. This gym seem not to care past the indemnity form and the introduction. I guess I just wonder what itís going to take for them to take their job seriously. In the end, my mission was accomplished. I introduced someone to climbing. Thankfully she wantís to come again. But it a very sobering experience to watch someone crater. Iím just glad it was in a gym and the guy was fine. Albeit a little shaken. I for one, will be keeping an eye out on safety. Mine, my partners and everyone elseís.

10:15:30 AM
Do they have slo-go's?

10:26:20 AM
Not too sure what a slo go is, but the belay set up is: 2 Steel beiners about 60cm apart at roof, floor anchor and belay device. The device is like a ATC and a non mechanical Gri gri. Pull on the lever side to allow rope to pass through. If that's a slo go. Then yes it was a slow go.
11:46:03 AM
A slow go is a type of pulley usually used at the top of the wall. friction prevents the rope from moving to quickly. Sounds like, without seeing the setup, there is no provision for safety backup once the brake hand has let go of the rope.

As far as the staff are concerned poor judgement on their behalf that they didn't monitor the climbers in their gym. Getting them to sign a form and giving them a 5 min 'crash' course in belaying is not enough.

On a side note, I like the idea of the spaced carabiners at the top. Makes it alot easier to move from one side of the rope to the other with out having to contort yourself mid move. I would though use a much bigger radius for the sake of the rope. The two 'biners are go to flog a well used rope in no time. Doesn't even have to be pulleys. Two large radius ie. bigger than 25mm fixed sections of pipe/tube would do the trick.

12:31:18 PM
Yep a slo-go is a one way pulley at the top that the toprope passes through. I'm surprised they don't have them, I wouldn't run a gym without them. They dont make belaying totally fool-proof - you can still forget to take up slack - but for other belayer mistakes they minimise the consequences.
2:01:49 PM
Slo-gos are a bit of a pain when belaying kids - my 25kg daughter has barely enough mass to drop back to the floor.

3:28:56 PM
What? Are there indoor climbing gyms in Canberra? Silly people, should just stick to the real stuff. They could have been climbing this instead, and only 10 minutes from Hume:

5:07:55 PM
On 1/08/2008 gfdonc wrote:
>Slo-gos are a bit of a pain when belaying kids - my 25kg daughter has barely enough mass to drop back to the floor.

Get her to wear a weightbelt. That will make her stronger too.
8:07:12 PM
Your a hard man simey.

There are 9 messages in this topic.


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