Climbing partner safety checks

CheckEverything you do has a teachable moment. Between most articles written, there isn’t much (if any) out there with information on “additional” climbing partner safety checks during lead climbing. We gathered some feedback and a few miscellaneous items that often get missed and want to share them with you.

Additional things you can add to your climbing partner checks before starting your lead climb:

  • Quickdraws – Sometimes, people are so used to climbing in a gym, they forget that real rock walls do not have fixed quickdraws like the ones you find already hanging at the gym. Double check you have quickdraws before you start climbing, make sure you have enough to complete your route and set up an anchor. I have seen people pull rope to clip, before they even put a quickdraw up on a bolt, because this is the habit they learn at their local gym.
  • Excess gear – You may love training with weight to build strength, but when doing the real deal it is always best and more efficient to carry only what you absolutely need, and maybe a few extra items you may need to build an anchor. Extra items you will not need, such as; too much gear, excess number of carabiners, water bottles, your favorite stuffed animal, your cell phone, your wallet, etc. All those things may not weigh much individually, but little by little they can add up to great disappointment when you are hanging on a tiny crimp or flake to make that next clip.
  • Helmet –  We all love safety, but a helmet check is almost never done. Make sure your helmet and your partner’s helmet is on properly. People get hot and bothered with the loops and unclip them from under their chin just to get some air between climbs and can forget to lock them back up when they start climbing again. Helmet should fit correctly, not be shifting towards the back of your head exposing your forehead or shifting to the sides.
  • Shoes – Make sure your shoelaces are tied in… YES, just like some can get distracted and forget to lock their carabiners or finish their figure eight knot, others forget to finish tying in their shoes. It can be frustrating to be in the middle of your best climbing day ever, to come to the realization you can’t lock that heel hook because your shoe may pop off (oops!).

Most common basic checks:

  • Climber and belayer harnesses are double backed in waist and leg loops
  • Climber is tied in both points of their harness (waist and leg loops)
  • Climber’s figure-eight knot is tied in correctly (follow thru)
  • Rope is threaded thru the belay device properly and looped thru the belay carabiner
  • Belayer’s carabiner is clipped to the belay loop and is locked
  • Making sure the carabiner is never cross-loaded

There is also a great article, 50 Common Climber Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them), written by Laura Snider for the Climbing Magazine which contains real life stories that have served as learning experiences and teachable moments.

Nobody is perfect, that is why we have climbing partner safety checks. As you continue your outdoor climbing education, make sure not to ignore those little things that come up and can be used a learning moments for you and others. It may not seem like a big deal at the moment, but if ignored – they can become a worse problem in the future.

Stay safe. Climb on!