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10 deadly mistakes that kill Rock Climbers

#1 - Forgetting to tie in

Surprisingly common, even amongst experienced climbers. It normally occurs when climbers become distracted when tying in, leaving the knot unfinished.

Example: Legendary World sport-climbing champion & badass Nose-freer, Lyn Hill, survived a 70ft fall into trees when she left her knot incomplete.

Solution - Check before you deck! Always check yourself, and your partners knot before you climb.

#2 - Abseiling off the Ends of your rope

Year upon year many climbers abseil off the ends of their ropes, plummeting to their demise.

Example- Speed climbing record holder Brad Golbright recently tragically died, when he abseiled off the end of his rope.

Solution - Knot the ends Take an extra moment, to stick a knot in the end of your ropes (A stopper knot or overhand will do), that way you can’t slip off the end!

#3 - Falling on easy terrain

When you're trying hard, normally that’s when you're super focused, placing lots of protection, and the terrain is steeper (i.e. probably safer to fall off). Surprisingly, it’s falls on easy terrain where we see a lot more deaths. Why? Well, when people are comfortable on the terrain, they might take less care, and place less protection; resulting in much longer and more dangerous falls.

Solution - Always move very carefully when run out, and place protection encase of an unexpected slip or hold break.

#4 - Getting hit by rock fall

It would be a grim way to go, but what can we do to mitigate? Solutions - Avoid climbing under other parties. Try to choose belay positions on multi-pitch climbs and abseils that are off to the side, out the line of fire. Stand to the side when pulling abseil ropes (and try to flick stuck ropes, rather than pulling with force). Avoid unpopular routes at chossy crags! Wear a helmet. No excuses with how light they are nowadays. Example - The only time I’ve ever been hit on the head by a rock, was standing at the bottom of a Sport climbing crag in Spain, where most other climbers were not wearing a helmet, luckily I was, and escaped with only a broken helmet. No-one was above me. #5 - Getting lowered off the end of the ropes

This most commonly happens when climbers have underestimated the length of a single pitch sport climb. Example - Climbing’s superstar Alex honnald recently got lowered off the end of his rope whilst sport climbing; luckily he was only high enough to sustain a relatively minor spinal compression fracture. Solutions - Always put a knot in the end of your rope. Also pay attention to how much rope is left when lowering (Slowly), and route vs rope length when selecting a climb.

#6 - Getting dropped by your belayer

Worryingly common. And not something that is exclusive to novice belayers. Solutions - Use assisted braking belay devices (properly) and Seek qualified instruction on how to catch falls safely. Be quick to befriend, but slow to trust unfamiliar climbers.

#7 - Falling off Surprisingly leader falls account for a significant proportion of climbing related deaths.

Solutions - Personally I try to not fall off trad climbing, unless it’s a “super safe fall” i.e. very well protected and I have a very trustworthy belayer.

#8 - losing control whilst abseiling

This can happen on tricky terrain (Slippy, traverses, swings etc), or if the abseiler lets go (because they need to remove stuck ropes or attach to anchors, or get knocked unconscious by rockfall).

Solutions- Use a back up e.g. a prusik knot. Give a ‘fireman's back-up’ to your partner. During multi-pitch abseils keep the ropes secured to the next belay whilst your partner descents (Only unattach once they are secure).

#9 - Anchor Failure

Thankfully quite rare, more common in Novice climbers. Example - in 06’ Jean-Christophe Lafaille was forced to perform one of the finest self rescues the world has ever seen, when his climbing partners single abseil-anchor failed, causing him to plummet the vertical mile of Annapurna’s South face with all the ropes and gear.

Solutions- Build good, redundant belays (Seek qualified instruction). Always inspect in-situ anchors & if in any doubt add & improve.

#10 - Fall when Soloing

Unroped falls are rare, but when they happen they are more often than not fatal. The majority of climbers who have made a career of soloing have died.

Solutions - Don’t solo. If you are going to solo anyway, then choose: perfect conditions; solid, dry, unpolished, familiar rock. A familiar route, that you are 100% confident you can solo without fear. No living things that can cause rock fall above you. Bring lots of chalk, and leave the ego at home.

If you have any more points or handy tips, then please leave a comment below. Also check out our range of Climbing courses, adventures and Holidays:


Written by James Monypenny

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