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10 Tips for Safe Climbing

Follow These Basic Safety Tips for a Safe Climbing Adventure


Climbing is dangerous. You need to do everything you can to mitigate the effects of gravity and falling. Redundancy is key. Always back-up every important piece of gear with another piece of gear and use more than one anchor at a belay and rappel station. Your life depends on it. Beginner climbers are most vulnerable to accidents. Always use sound judgment; respect climbing dangers; don't climb over your head; find an experienced mentor or take climbing lessons from an experienced guide to learn how to climb safe. Remember that most accidents happen because of climber error. Use the following 10 tips to keep safe when you're out rock climbing.

1. Always Check Harnesses

Adam Kubalica/Flickr
After you've geared up and tied into the rope at the base of a route, always check that both the climber's and belayer's harness buckles are doubled back. Make sure the leg loops are also snug; most harnesses have adjustable leg loops. 

2. Always Check Knots

Photograph © Stewart M. Green
Before you start climbing, always double check to make sure that the lead climber's tie-in knot (usually a Figure-8 Follow-Through) is tied correctly and finished with a backup knot. Also check that the rope is threaded through both the waist loop and the leg loops on the harness.

3. Always Wear a Climbing Helmet

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

A climbing helmet is essential if you want to live long and prosper. Always wear one when climbing or belaying. Helmets protect your head from falling rocks and from the impact of falling. Remember that your head is soft and the rock is hard. Head injuries from falls and rockfall are serious life-changing events. A helmet keeps your head safe.

4. Always Check the Rope and Belay Device

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

Before you lead a route, always double check to make sure that the rope is properly threaded through the belay device (especially if it is a GriGri). Also, always make sure that the rope and belay device are attached with a locking carabiner to the belay loop on the belayer's harness.

5. Always Use a Long Rope

Photograph © Stewart M. Green
Make sure your climbing rope is long enough to reach the anchors and lower back down on a sport route or to reach a belay ledge on multi-pitch routes. When sport climbing, if you have any doubt that the rope is too short, always tie a stopper knot in the tail end to avoid being dropped to the ground.

6. Always Pay Attention

Rob belays Brian on "Footloose and Fancy Free" on Grey Rock at the Garden of the Gods, Colorado.
Photograph © Stewart M. Green

When you're belaying, always pay attention to the leader above. He is the one taking the risks of a fall and leading the route. It is smart to never visit with other climbers at the base, talk on a cell phone, or discipline your dog or kids while you are belaying. Never take the leader off belay unless you are absolutely certain that he is tied into the anchors and safe and he communicates clearly with climbing commands to you that he is safe and ready to lower or rappel.

7. Always Bring Enough Gear

Erick Christianson climbing Tanks for the Huecos at Penitente Canyon, Colorado.
Photograph © Stewart M. Green
Before you climb a route, always eyeball it from the ground and determine what you equipment you need to bring. You know best. Do not rely strictly on a guidebook to tell you what to bring. If it is a sport climbing route, verify visually how many bolts need quickdraws. If in doubt, always bring a couple more quickdraws than you think you need.

8. Always Climb With the Rope Over Your Leg

Brian Shelton works up a slab at Hornet's Nest Wall in Colorado's South Platte climbing area.
Photograph © Stewart M. Green
When you are leading a route, always make sure that the rope is over your leg rather than between them or behind one leg. If you fall with the rope in this position, you will flip upside down and hit your head. Wear a climbing helmet for protection.

9. Always Properly Clip the Rope

Photograph © Stewart M. Green
Make sure you always clip your rope through carabiners on quickdraws correctly. Avoid backclipping, where the rope runs front to back rather than back to front in the carabiner. Make sure the carabiner gate faces opposite to your direction of travel, otherwise the rope can come unclipped. Always use locking carabiners on important placements.

10. Always Use Safe Anchors

Use anchors bolts on sport climbing routes for safe anchors.
Photograph © Stewart M. Green
At the top of a pitch or route, always use at least two anchors. Three is better. Redundancy keeps you alive. On a sport route, always use locking carabiners if you are lowering down to top-rope climb off the anchors.
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