Rock Climbing Tips & Safety

Many climbing areas in West Virginia are remote, and this can result in a significant delay and a complicated response during a rescue. Climbers should therefore use sound judgment during the approach as well as on the rock, and inexperienced climbers should seek professional instruction before attempting a climb. Our list of rock climbing tips is by no means exhaustive: use common sense when scaling rock, no matter how high from the ground you may be.

Gear: Inspect all gear prior to use to ensure that it is in good working condition. When lead climbing, make sure to take enough gear is available for a climb. Too much gear is always better than too little.

Safety Checks: Use routine safety checks before every climb: it only takes a minute and should be a standard practice.

Climber: Be sure that harness buckles are doubled back and that the waistbelt is high and tight atop the hip bones. See that rope is tied directly to the front of the harness and through both the leg loop and waist loop. Double check that the rope is properly tied with a figure-eight follow-through knot and that a sufficient tail of six inches remains. Be sure that the helmet is properly fitted and buckled.

Belayer: Be sure that harness buckles are doubled back and that the waistbelt is high and tight atop the hip bones. See that the rope is properly attached to the belay device and that the locking carabiner is locked (pinch test). Be sure that the helmet is properly fitted and buckled.

Communication: Climbing is a partnership. Use clear communication and standard belay commands, including “On belay?” “Belay on,” “Climbing,” “Climb on”. Use names with belay commands to avoid confusion. Loudly and clearly use simple one- or two-word standard commands, as many areas can be loud due to wind, other climbers, trains, traffic.

Rope Length: On long rappels, tie knots in the ends of ropes to avoid rappelling off the ends. When lowering a climber, make sure there is enough rope for the climber to safely reach the ground. Close the system by tying a knot in the end as a precaution.

Preparation: Be sure of your climbing route, and consult a guidebook and other climbers for approach and descent information. Guidebooks sometimes contain errors, so climb at your own risk. Always carry plenty of water, and stay hydrated. Bring snacks, extra layers of clothing, and a headlamp in case you get caught in the dark. Carry a well stocked first-aid kit and always be prepared for self-rescue, especially in remote areas which may or may not have cell phone service.

Know Your Limits: Know your limitations as a climber, and never compromise safety. Never get into a situation that is too difficult for you to deal with. Whether you are building top-rope anchors, getting on a difficult lead climb, route-finding on a multi-pitch climb, or negotiating a technical descent, every climber is responsible for his or her own safety. It is imperative that you are honest with yourself and entirely certain of your capabilities.

Don’t Grow Complacent: A fine line exists between being laid-back and careless. Many accidents occur when climbers grow nonchalant. Regardless of your skill level, climbing allows little room for error. Experienced climbers and novices alike must treat this sport with respect to evade accidents. Pay attention at all times, and avoid growing too casual.

Sponsored by New River Climbing School

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