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Auto-Belay Gym Accident
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madriver


Sep 20, 2004, 6:58 AM
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nirvana wrote:
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Well, at the risk of sounding stupid, I'll 'fess up: I forgot to clip in on autobelay and managed to get about 30 feet up before I realized my mistake. Coincidentally, I happened to be at azontherocks. I was pretty shaken, mostly 'cause I couldn't figure out how I could possibly forget to clip in. But the fact is, I'd had a long day at work, I was preoccupied, and I spaced out. The space out factor can happen any time and any place.

Believe me, I check and recheck before I climb on autobelay now!

...done it. Working on a route I had unclipped, taken a short break. Went back to the route totally focused on the sequence I had to do. Got abot 20' feet up and realized I had not clipped in.

I now feel like I can comment in "Free Solo" threads... 8^)

bob


beesty511


Sep 20, 2004, 7:12 AM
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Auto belay accident?

I heard the climber decked because of a catastrophic harness failure: his harness failed to clip itself into the auto belayer.


boulderman


Sep 20, 2004, 7:22 AM
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This doesn't make sense.

I climb at ET 3 days a week and am familiar with their auto belay system. How did this kid walk up to the auto belay, unclip it from the wall and them forget to clip in? Only one thing happens when you don't clip in after unclipping it from the wall. It zips up to the top of the wall at about 50mph and makes a lot of noise. Then the whole gym looks at you and laughs. Now, someone has to tie into a rope and retrieve it. So if he continued up the route after that, he was deaf, blind, and dumb! The only thing that would make sense to me is that he clipped in but not carefully. Maybe the self locking carabineer closed with a piece of harness webbing in the way keeping the carabineer open, then when he weighted the carabineer, it opened. Maybe he only ran the carabineer through the belt of his harness and that failed. I saw a kid tie into just the belt loop the other day and luckily someone called him on it when he was 5 ft. up. Anyhow, I will talk to some people and find out what really happened.

ET used to use a two-carabineer system. It was a pain in the a$$, but the redundancy may have been a good idea for the young inexperienced climbers. At least you remember to “go through” that pain in the a$$!


boku


Sep 20, 2004, 7:31 AM
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Re: Auto-Belay Gym Accident [In reply to]
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I've seen a similar accident at the gym I go to, where it appears that the auto-locking clip got stuck open by a strap or shirttail and then disengaged from the harness. The young man fell some 15 or 18 feet to the padded floor, but later got up under his own power and seemd none the worse for wear.

And several times I've gotten to the top of an autobelay climb and remembered that I'd done no serious safety check of my harness when I clipped in. The saving things there are that I'm pretty serious about how I put my harness on before the first climb, and that the auto-locking clips on the autobelay make it pretty easy to solidly clip in.


jman


Sep 20, 2004, 8:02 AM
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From what I was told from folks working and climbing at the gym that day, it was a pretty serious accident with multiple broken bones.

How it happened from my understading was the person clipped in to climb, realized they had not tied their shoes, unclipped to tie shoes, then started climbing without reattaching to the auto belay. The person involved is a adult.


jakemojo13


Sep 20, 2004, 8:05 AM
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Same thing happened at local gym. Employee was running up something easy (to tighten a hold I think) and forgot to clip in to auto-belay. Realized she forgot as she was getting ready to descend and grabbed the ropes (adjacent to auto-belay). Sustained major rope burns to hands but otherwise got off lucky.


crimpandgo


Sep 20, 2004, 8:08 AM
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Quote:
This doesn't make sense.

I climb at ET 3 days a week and am familiar with their auto belay system. How did this kid walk up to the auto belay, unclip it from the wall and them forget to clip in? Only one thing happens when you don't clip in after unclipping it from the wall

response:
I dont recall anyone saying he unclipped from the wall... I think one root cause is that many gyms let people boulder on the walls up to a certain height (usually the first clip). As someone said earlier I can easily see how you could transition from bouldering mode to climbing mode and forget to clip in. most people are babbling away with their friends not paying the proper attention to what they are doing. Especially if you go to the gym alot. frequency can breed laziness. I am also surprised the gyms let kids run around on the autobelay units unsupervised. I just think it is an accident waiting to happen. I like the autobelay devices because you can climb without a partner. But I just think that kids under a certain age should have to have a parent watching. I go to the gym and you see kids running around everywhere.... it scares the crap out of me when they are hookin in by themselves...


jman


Sep 20, 2004, 8:42 AM
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ET does not typically allow "kids" to clip themselves to an auto-belay. The person involved in the original accident is an adult.


euleto


Sep 20, 2004, 8:51 AM
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Exactly why climbing places should either use ATCs or gri gris. They then ensure (hopefully) that 2 people check knots.

Auto belay devices are bad. Auto Belay devices kill people when they dont work, and People kill themselves with auto belay devices when they have a brain fart. Its better to just never use auto belays


crimpandgo


Sep 20, 2004, 8:58 AM
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Quote:
ET does not typically allow "kids" to clip themselves to an auto-belay. The person involved in the original accident is an adult.

Response:
I was not referring to ET. I was referring to climbing gyms in general. I have climbed at ET when I was out on travel. I was impressed with the level of control and the degree of attentiveness of the staff. Other gyms I have been to do not show the same degree of attentiveness :(


overlord


Sep 20, 2004, 9:03 AM
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they shouldnt use grigris, they should use ATCs.

sounds like its was going to happen sooner or later. and its probably going to happen again.

thats the worst part about autobelay, you dont have anybody to check your knots.


crimpandgo


Sep 20, 2004, 9:15 AM
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Partners will not solve this problem entirely. I would not want some of the newbs checking my KNOT. I hear questions like "how do I do this knot again???" I think the new folks in the gym need closer attention from the gym personel until they are more proficient. A few minute lesson in the beginning is not enough.


boulderman


Sep 20, 2004, 10:15 AM
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In response to the ATC/gri gri thing:

Yes, ET is a gym, but they are more than a recreational gym, they teach proper and safe mountaineering/climbing/bouldering techniques and training methods. They are also a "mountaineering school". They also teach proper use of the ATC and gri gri. 99% of the wall routes there are roped not auto belay. 50% are lead routes. So most of the time people are belaying with an ATC. I think one of the original purposes for the auto belay at ET was that of convenience for experienced climbers who want a lap workout. Bottom line, climbing is dangerous, gyms are not a place to be fuc$ing around in. There is nothing a gym could of done to prevent this except take the entire wall or auto-belay down. Some very experienced climbers like to use the auto belay to work out or warm up.

The problem with the Auto belay is there is no buddy system. You don't have a partner to back you up. This is bad news for beginners/recreational climbers. They are not as focused or don't have that check system "regiment" in their head. Maybe a good gym rule regardless of the situation is: Don't climb routes without a partner; including auto-belay :roll:
Actually, no.... that's stupid, how about: STOP: CLIMBING IS DANGEROUS, YOU COULD BE KILLED OR SERIOUSLY INJURED WHILE CLIMBING. CHECK AND RECHECK YOUR SYSTEM. THEN..... CHECK IT AGAIN WHILE CLIMBING! How about some individual responsibility people, not the gym should do this or that.


grayhghost


Sep 20, 2004, 10:23 AM
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Can someone who climbs at ET please explain
this whole Auto-Belay system in detail because
I have never seen it in use and would very much
like to get an idea of what it looks like/does?
thanks


crimpandgo


Sep 20, 2004, 10:32 AM
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Autobelay devices are not specific to ET. They are used in many gyms. You can find a picture of one in the back of the climbing mags. One of the makers usually has an ad. basically its a device (big metal looking canister) that controls the release of the webbing/rope (that attaches to the climber). The speed of descent is probably dependant on climber weight but is pretty constant.

How you use it? You hook in (attach webbing with biner to harness), climb. When you reach top just lean back and the unit lets you down at a slow, smooth rate.


jman


Sep 20, 2004, 10:33 AM
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Here's a link to an auto belay system manufacture that show a system sim to the one used at ET.

http://www.edgewalls.com/AutoBelay.htm


madriver


Sep 20, 2004, 10:41 AM
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...I think the more important issue concerning ET is WTF AREN'T YOU HOSTING PETL/ROC comp this year!!! RANT...sorry guys...just expressing my humble opion :lol:

ET is probably one of best staffed and safety concious gyms in the country btw. IMHO the best gym facility in the country. Clearly the accident was just that, human error on the part of the climber.


paulv7


Sep 20, 2004, 11:58 AM
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I talked to a couple friends that work at ET after the accident. The person was an adult and indeed broke both legs and I heard "most likely his back." Both his legs suffered open fractures, so it was bad. This guy was knocked unconsious when he hit.

The version I heard (short of it) was the guy forgot to put on his shoes unhooked (clipped auto-belayer back to the wall) Didn't hook back in, climbed, fell.

The auto belay system is a tension system that applies 10lbs. of upward pull on a piece of webbing attached to your harness by a locking biner. So it's kinda annoying and very noticable while climbing. When you fall it pays out and the further it pays out the webbing the more tension it creates so as you get closer to the ground you slow down. I'm not positive on how the entire system works you can find more I'm sure on one of the links above.

(Quick side story) We hooked one of my friends small children up to it and it pulled her about 5ft. off the ground then she just hung there.

The reason ET stopped the 2 biner and having leashes on the auto-belayers to retrieve them when people let them go to the roof is because it was twisting the webbing badly.


crimpandgo


Sep 20, 2004, 12:03 PM
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So, was there two accidents involving autobelays in a short period? someone else posted saying someone fell with no injuries?


paulv7


Sep 20, 2004, 12:12 PM
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I believe so but do not know this for sure. One of the people I talked to from ET wants nothing to do with auto-belayers. They said several people had been hurt recently on them but I didn't ask about it. They did say it was all user error and the system worked fine.

I have been climbing on these things since they were put in at ET and have never had an issue with them.

ET may get rid of them after this and I can't blame them. Personally I like them because it allows me to run in by myself for an hour climb routes vs. boulder. But if it's going to cause bad publicity and lawsuits for ET they need to get rid of them. There are to many stupid people out there that can't follow a picture on the wall. I suggested they put a picture of the guy that fell with his shins sticking out of the legs and a warning "This could be you, think before you climb."


jaybird2


Sep 20, 2004, 12:15 PM
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In reply to:
I can understand forgetting to lock a 'biner or forgetting to double back or whatever, but just climbing over an autobelay route on a regular belay is always annoying as hell, 'cause the stupid autobelay rope is in the way, clipped in taut at the bottom!

Many gyms tie 15-20 feet back from the wall (bottom anchor, not the machine itself) so that the rope is nowhere near the wall.

Auto-Belays Don't Kill People. People Kill People.


plund


Sep 20, 2004, 12:32 PM
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It's a bummer the guy was hurt, and I hope he makes a fast & full recovery. That said, I think beesty511 has it right - OBVIOUSLY a catastrophic harness failure...

Reminds me of the news items titled "Climber injured / killed at (insert crag name here)" & it turns out to be hikers who scrambled themselves into the sh1t & plummeted. Tragic - yes, but not a "climbing accident".

Gotta do the double/triple-checks, especially when you're alone....

Again, hope the guy recovers, and the gym isn't bent over a barrel....


diana


Sep 20, 2004, 12:49 PM
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In reply to:
Auto belay devices are bad. Auto Belay devices kill people when they dont work, and People kill themselves with auto belay devices when they have a brain fart. Its better to just never use auto belays

That's just silly. People do stupid things with climbing equipment all the time. Are you going to say ropes are bad and we shouldn't use them when someone misuses a rope? Or that harnesses are bad and we should never use them when someone doesn't finish doubling back and falls out of them?

If he had used the auto-belay, it would have worked exactly the way it was supposed to. The only auto-belay fatality ever reported was one of unforgivably poor maintenance by the owner.

Don't blame the product when it's not used in the intended way.
Diana


robmcc


Sep 20, 2004, 12:51 PM
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In reply to:
Auto-Belays Don't Kill People. People Kill People.

Gotta agree with that. If this report is correct and the climber just simply didn't clip or tie in at all, it's 100% pilot error. Sucks when it happens and surely no one is immune, but any time there's a safety system present and you don't use it, it's no one's fault but your own.

I'll just wish the climber a speedy recovery and suggest he (she?) not do that again. :P

Rob


crimpandgo


Sep 20, 2004, 1:16 PM
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IT will be unfortunate if gyms stop using the autobelay devices. I understand the reasons... If they get sued too often, there won't be a gym to climb at... but I have just started making use of the autobelays for those days that I cant get a partner. It sure is nice to get that extra climbing in when not able to get outdoors to the real rock.

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