Safety technique

Thinking outside the box: other countries – different customs.

Best practice applies to us climbers in terms of safety technique. While in German-speaking countries we follow the relevant recommendations of the DAV Safety Research with its doctrine (based on accident statistics), in other countries there are often deviating solutions. These are partly based on tradition, but often there are also other safety approaches and interesting findings from which we can learn. The world is not black and white …

Belay anchor construction: Methods in the Eastern and Western Alps converge

Up to now, the doctrines on the subject of belay anchor construction in the Eastern and Western Alps have differed quite widely: While in the East, belaying on belay anchors has been taught as a basic method for a long time and body belaying in multi-pitch routes is only recommended with great restrictions and under special conditions, in the Western Alps – especially in France – body belaying has so far been considered the measure of all things. In a video published in August 2017, employees of the French national mountaineering and ski training authority ENSA show how they came to the conclusion that body belaying in many cases poses a considerable risk potential for the user.

Source: and ENSA Chamonix

American belay anchor systems

North America has its own rope techniques, favoured knots and belay anchor systems. Have you heard of Quad anchor, Shelf, BHK or Magic X? You can find a good overview of these topics on the website of the AAC American Alpine Club at …

The self-unsnapping quickdraw

It is crucial in which direction one climbs above the bolt: Ideally, the carabiner gate opening of the quickdraw should always point away from the climber in order to eliminate this problem.

Sneaky rope bag loop

Tying off the ends of the rope is a standard measure because it prevents unintentional abseiling beyond the end of the rope and thus a possible fall. The fatal mistake in connection with a rope bag occurs when the end of the rope is knotted directly to the rope bag by a granny knot or figure of eight. If you stand on the rope bag during lowering and tension comes on the end of the rope, the knot will automatically come undone! It is better to tie off the end of the rope freely with enough remaining rope (at least 40 cm) and place it beside the rope bag – this makes it also easier to visually check the end of the rope during the partner check!

Belaylock carabiner with anti-twist protection

The idea in photo 1 was to make a toprope belay as safe as possible by using a Belaylock carabiner with anti-twist protection, in order to avoid the effort of directly tying in several climbers (e. g. as part of a taster course). When changing climbers, the rope accidentally unhooked as seen in photo 2. The mistake (see photo 3 compared to photo 1) was not noticed by the next climber, a partner check was not made. The next climber in the route was only tyed in with the rope through the metal stirrup as shown in photo 3. Photo 4 and 5 show how the climber fell when loaded with his own body weight. Therefore it is better – as recommended anyway – to always tie directly into the climbing harness. The devil is in the detail!

Rappel safely: Tests of joining knots

Different knots are required depending on the used rope material.

Source: ENSA Chamonix

Classic dangers in climbing

Many climbing accidents can be traced back to recurring mistakes: worn-through express sling, rope on rope, ground-in carabiners, or open gate loading.

Source: YouTube, BoulderamaTV

Properly tied in?

Reconstruction of an accident in a climbing gym. Eyes on the partner check!

Rope shearing on a sharp edge, statically belayed

This rope shearing occurred on the route Elder Statesman (HXS, 7a) at Curbar, Peak District. The climber survived this fall.

Source: YouTube, UKClimbing

Failed bolt due to stress corrosion cracking

A typical problem that often exists in coastal climbing areas. But the problems are also complex in the Alps, as demonstrated by self-made bolts, Sigibolts, contact corrosion due to different precious metals or poorly mixed mortar mass. Strength can be checked by a lever test with a jammed carabiner. If in doubt, test it out!

Source: YouTube, Titan Climbing

Carabiner fixing of a sling

Carabiner fixing of a sling best via clove hitch knot. Fixing with a Petzl String or similar often causes fatal accidents – those rubbers are only intended for fixation in Express Sets. Failure occurs already when loaded with less than 20 kg.

Read more

Learn more about Training