Date of Incident
I was about to begin my climbing session at the local indoor climbing wall. it was late evening and there were only a handful of people around. On my way to the toilet, I noticed a belayer using a Petzl Gri Gri to belay a climber on a steep leading route. The climber was about half way up (about 5 quickdraws up).
The belayer was not holding the dead end of the rope and were completely disengaging the cam by placing their left hand over the top of the device to enable them to pull the rope out with their right hand. They were positioned close to the wall and were attached to a sand bag.
I initially dismissed it but on my way back from the toilet, they were still doing it. It was at this point I intervened because it was clear they weren't aware their actions were likely to lead to the climber taking a ground fall and potentially give them (the belayer) serious rope burns if they slipped off.
I explained to the belayer that what they were doing was unsafe and why. I provided some guidance on how to pay the rope out safely. Meanwhile, the climber was still struggling to pull enough rope up to clip so they decided at this point to be lowered off from the route. As they were doing this I noticed that the rope was very twisty which undoubtedly added to the belayer's difficulty to pay out.
I tailed the rope as they were lowered to the ground and explained to the belayer that they were not to blame for their inability to use the device safely and suggested they take further instruction.
I mentioned the above to the duty manager of the wall and they confirmed that the belayer was signed in by the climber as a novice and should not have been belaying without supervision.
I believe that the belayer had been instructed poorly by someone (possibly the climber). The climber was putting far too much faith in the device's capability as an assisted braking device. The belayer was attached to a sandbag despite having an Edelrid Ohm in their possession which would have allowed them more freedom to move to enable a more efficient belaying action. Their rope pile was positioned a distance behind them and I don't think it was flaked out properly adding to the belayer's difficulties. The rope was twisting on itself
Climbers need to ensure their belayers are competent and should not rely on an assisted braking device in lieu of competence. Ropes should be flaked out fully before use to prevent twists and tangles as you pay out. If ropes are twisting considerably, they probably need to be pulled through a few times to remove them. Wall staff should be performing regular walk arounds to ensure safe use of their facility even when it is quiet and close to closing time.
Belaying failure or error
Rescue Services Involved?
8 May 2022, 06:43:45
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All reports are self-submitted and have not been edited by the BMC in any way, so please keep an open mind regarding the lessons and causes of each incident or near-miss.