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Do a Buddy Check When Climbing

5 Safety Tips Before Climbing


Brian Shelton climbs a stout crack at Pinnacle Peak near Phoenix, Arizona.

Before you leave the ground, do a buddy check and you'll climb safer.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

You’re out rock climbing with your buddy at the New River Gorge. You’re at the base of a route and getting ready to climb. The rope is flaked out on the ground. You’re tied into the end of the rope. Your partner has you on belay.

It’s best to remember that your climbing partner and you are buddies so follow the “buddy system,” just like the buddy system you use when diving and swimming. Buddies look out for each other and keep each other safe. Buddies offer another pair of eyes and ears to help keep you safe. They check and double check all the climbing systems so that any mistakes you might make are corrected. Climbing is dangerous. Being buddies lessens the dangers and keeps the fun in climbing.

Before you start climbing, run through this short checklist with your buddy to make sure you’re both safe and tied-in properly.

  1. Check your harness. Is the buckle doubled back and threaded back correctly? Are the leg loops and tie-in loop not twisted?

  2. Check the rope and your harness. Is the rope properly passed through both the leg loops and waist belt on your harness?

  3. Check your tie-in knot. Is your figure-8 follow-through knot properly tied? Is it secured with a back-up knot? Remember that the figure-8 follow-through knot, the best tie-in knot, is easy to check since each side of the knot is a clone of the other. Also remember that there should be at least six inches of tail or extra rope at the end of the rope after you’ve tied the knot. This keeps the knot from accidently untying and coming apart if you fall on it.

  4. Check your harness buckle and tie-in knot as you climb. If you’re doing a long climb, your partner and you should double check both the buckle and tie-in knot before you start the next pitch. Both can loosen up as you climb. Cinch them down again and continue upward.

  5. Don’t get annoyed. Okay, it can seem unnecessary and annoying if your buddy is always checking you and the safety system out. Don’t let it get to you. She’s only trying to make sure that you’re both safe. Mistakes happen. People get careless. Look out for each other and be best buddies and come back alive.

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