Best Practices - Outdoor Climbing

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Whether you're new to the sport or more experienced, we sometimes skip a few steps in the excitement of hitting the real rockface on the first few outings of the season. Here's a quick guide to remind you of some essential points for your first outdoor climbing trip so that everything is in order for a safe and fun outing.

1. Integrity of the equipment

Depending on how often you climb, it is crucial to take the time to check your equipment a few times per year. Some items wear out more quickly and can put climbers at risk.

The rope and harness have a maximum lifespan, but this can vary depending on the frequency of use, exposure to certain external elements (water, sun), the type and number of falls... Here is an article written by MEC to guide you on the choice of rope, the lifespan and to recognize when it is necessary to replace it

Here are some key points about the lifespan of climbing ropes:

  • Average duration of 5 to 7 years for a use of 1 or 2 ascents per month
  • Two years for regular weekend use
  • Three months for every day use
  • Up to 1 year for part-time use, even if the climber has many falls

The same principle applies to your harness! Here are a few key points to check (all the verification steps on the PETZL website)

  • Beware of used harnesses: you need to know their history (use, falls, exposure to extreme temperatures, etc.)
  • Do not exceed the maximum lifespan of 10 years (therefore, it is vital to know the beginning of the life of the said harness)
  • Compare your harness to images of outdated or worn examples to assess whether you need to change it.

2. Equipment checklist

To avoid unpleasant surprises when you arrive at the climbing site, make sure you have all the necessary equipment for the climbing you want to do. No matter what kind of climbing you want to do, you must have at least this equipment. Here is a small checklist:

  • Harness
  • Rope
  • Belay device (e.g. Grigri, ATC etc.)
  • Helmet
  • Topo (Map of the place visited)
  • Anchoring material
  • Climbing shoes
  • Chalk 
  • Lunch and snacks
  • Water, lots of water
  • First aid kit
  • Warm clothing for climbing at the beginning and end of the season.

3. Once at the site: climb well!

Double validation: Before each climb, it is essential to double-validate the climber's knot and the belayer's carabiner. Pay attention to this step, even if you are on your 350th knot...

Communication: when handling, it is essential to communicate in a simple and clear manner. Sometimes the climber is out of the belayer's sight, and the external elements make the voice much less audible; communication according to established standards is important in these situations. Here are some examples of the jargon to use:

  • "Climbing": The climber signals that he/she is starting the route
  • "Belay On": The belayer confirms that he/she is committed and ready
  • "Up Rope": The climber wants the belay rope to be under tension
  • "Slack": The climber tells the belayer to release the tension in the rope
  • "Off Belay": The climber signals that he is hooked on an anchor and no longer depends on the rope.
  • "ROCK: Refers to any debris that falls from the wall (shouted by those who see the obstacle fall)
  • "Belay Off": Belayer indicates that the rope is no longer in the belay system

* Avoid using long sentences and the word "OK" which can be confusing

Stay focused on the climber: When belaying, it can be tempting to engage in conversations around you; however, you need to keep your focus on the climber at all times (Refrain from creating your Instagram stories until you are done belaying).

Wear your helmet at ALL times

These are habits that can be lost over time, but can make a big difference in the safety of your practice. Happy climbing!

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