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Auto Belay Malfunction
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marteneb


Nov 8, 2012, 11:39 AM
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Auto Belay Malfunction
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My husband and I were recently climbing at an indoor facility. He was at the top of the wall (about 40 ft) when he let go but his auto-belay didn't catch the rope and he free fell to the floor. Is this something that anyone else has seen or experienced happening? He broke a bone in each leg but is otherwise alright. Just wondering if the auto-belays malfuntion frequently???


Rudmin


Nov 8, 2012, 12:48 PM
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Re: [marteneb] Auto Belay Malfunction [In reply to]
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The way you wrote your post without any details and tagged a provocative question to the end, it sounds like something you made up. Can you elaborate?


marteneb


Nov 8, 2012, 2:43 PM
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Re: [Rudmin] Auto Belay Malfunction [In reply to]
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I wish seeing my husband fall 40 feet was made up. Unfortunately, it isn't and neither are his injuries. The auto belay is attached at the top of the climbing wall, it automatically keeps the rope tight as you climb and is supposed to lock in the event that you let go of the wall. Then it lowers you slowly, basically taking the place of having a human belaying for you. We saw others using it before he did, and a staff member checked his ropes and carebeaner before he climbed, everything was working fine. When he reached the top and was ready to lower back down he let go of the wall but free fell instead of lowering slowly. The staff there said this has never happened there before and should never happen because these mechanisms are used on construction sites and other similar industries. I have seen recalls on auto belays from other companies but not the one that manufactured this particular belay system. Just wondering if there is anyone out there who has experienced a similar situation with the equipment malfunctioning?


petsfed


Nov 8, 2012, 3:28 PM
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Re: [marteneb] Auto Belay Malfunction [In reply to]
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Rephrase rudmin's question:

Where did this happen? What gym? What brand of auto-belay?

I know you're traumatized, but your question amounts to "I got a flat the other day. Do flat tires happen often?" without any additional information.

Do autobelays fail? Yes. Most of the time its user error. Not the least of which is people failing to clip them to their harness. This happened to Rob Kelman, and his post is floating around somewhere. They also fail mechanically (although much more rarely), vis the auto-belay recall some years back. But we can't even speculate which is the case if you don't tell us more.


csproul


Nov 8, 2012, 3:29 PM
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Re: [marteneb] Auto Belay Malfunction [In reply to]
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There have been recalls in the past, the one I remember hearing about was the MSA Redpoint auto-belay. I think there was also a case of an outdoor auto belay breaking at the cable (rusted, if I remember) a while back. I have not heard of any recalls recently. I have heard about a few "failures" in the last couple of years, but they seemed to have turned out to be a case of user-failure rather than auto-belay failed...meaning that the climber didn't clip in correctly. If you believe their literature, the newer TrueBlue magnetic auto-belays are supposed to lock up when the mechanism fails instead of dropping the climber. It'd help if you knew what auto-belay it was and can describe exactly how it failed.


USnavy


Nov 9, 2012, 1:49 AM
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Re: [csproul] Auto Belay Malfunction [In reply to]
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Auto belay systems should NEVER fail - period! I am not talking about user error, I am talking about physical failure due to improper maintenance, improper installation, or manufacturer defect. Assuming the information the OP wrote is true and accurate in the manner it was written, it sounds like the gym or the auto belay system manufacturer could easily be held liable for this unfortunate accident.


durangoclimber


Nov 9, 2012, 8:48 AM
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Auto belay systems do fail, but so do humans. I managed a HUGE gym in texas. After moving to CO one of the auto belays failed and a guy broke his back. It went to court and all the way to trial. "Gross negligence" (if that was the case) is something that can be pursued. It's unfortunate and I wish the injured well. It's also unfortunate that these things to go to litigation. NO DISRESPECT AT ALL..but climbing is dangerous, has always been, will always be..can't steralize it.


marc801


Nov 9, 2012, 9:17 AM
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Re: [durangoclimber] Auto Belay Malfunction [In reply to]
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durangoclimber wrote:
Auto belay systems do fail, but so do humans.....but climbing is dangerous, has always been, will always be..can't steralize it.
+1
Auto belays shouldn't fail, but they do.
Ropes shouldn't get cut, but they do.
Cams shouldn't fall apart, but they do (well, did)
Bolts shouldn't fall out, but they do.
Biners shouldn't break, but they do.
The list goes on.......


csproul


Nov 9, 2012, 12:22 PM
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Re: [durangoclimber] Auto Belay Malfunction [In reply to]
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durangoclimber wrote:
Auto belay systems do fail, but so do humans. I managed a HUGE gym in texas. After moving to CO one of the auto belays failed and a guy broke his back. It went to court and all the way to trial. "Gross negligence" (if that was the case) is something that can be pursued. It's unfortunate and I wish the injured well. It's also unfortunate that these things to go to litigation. NO DISRESPECT AT ALL..but climbing is dangerous, has always been, will always be..can't steralize it.
Yeah well...if an auto-belay fails because the owners have failed to follow routine maintenance, or have been stupid enough to let the cable rust through, or continue to use a model after a recall, then I don't feel too bad for the gym owner that gets sued.


shimanilami


Nov 9, 2012, 1:18 PM
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Re: [marteneb] Auto Belay Malfunction [In reply to]
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It seems like there is a report of auto-belay failure on RC.com every 6 months or so. I'm sure you could do a search to read up on other incidents. Are you thinking of suing or something?

At any rate, there have been enough incidents with auto-belay failures that I have developed a serious mistrust in them. Fortunately, the point is moot for me since I won't climb at those kinds of gyms, amusement parks, or carnivals.

BTW - I'm glad your husband wasn't hurt worse.


(This post was edited by shimanilami on Nov 9, 2012, 1:19 PM)


marteneb


Nov 9, 2012, 2:10 PM
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The manufacturer is Perfect Decent and after speaking with them we found that the gym has maintained service and inspections regularly. Apparently that belay had just come back from being inspected and it passed. Thank you everyone for your input. I was curious if anyone knew someone this had happened to, where it was NOT a user error, and if they pursued the accident further. I know he has a case but I wanted to know if this happens often because it seems only the most extreme cases show up when I search it. Thanks again!


majid_sabet


Nov 9, 2012, 9:13 PM
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I smell lawsuit


Syd


Nov 10, 2012, 11:44 AM
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I recall a similar failure in a gym in Sydney, Australia a year or two back.


jomagam


Nov 10, 2012, 12:04 PM
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marteneb wrote:
The manufacturer is Perfect Decent

That's one of the funnier misspellings I've seen.


jomagam


Nov 10, 2012, 12:05 PM
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majid_sabet wrote:
I smell lawsuit

Can't really argue with the plaintiffs there.


marteneb


Nov 10, 2012, 5:03 PM
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Haha true, my bad.


JasonsDrivingForce


Nov 12, 2012, 7:50 AM
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Re: [marteneb] Auto Belay Malfunction [In reply to]
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If the climber is on the floor still properly attached to the auto belay with two broken legs sustained do to a ground fall then the auto belay is at fault. It could be the manufacturer or the gym that is at fault for its failure. However, that scenario can't happen without the auto belay failing. Its whole function is to prevent that from ever happening.

I know it sounds horrible to think about. However, was there any footage or pictures of him just before or while he fell? That goes a long way in proving exactly what happened.

There was a recent incident in our area where an experienced climber claimed the auto belay failed. However, there wasnít any footage, pictures, or witnesses to say whether she was secured in properly or not so I donít think the belay company or gym was ever held liable.

I donít like it when people sue for no reason. However, if the auto belay failed and injured someone then the company should pay for the expenses. I wish your husband a speedy recovery.


(This post was edited by JasonsDrivingForce on Nov 12, 2012, 7:52 AM)


SylviaSmile


Nov 29, 2012, 11:04 PM
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I am petrified of auto-belays and this thread is confirming me in my fear.


SylviaSmile


Nov 29, 2012, 11:05 PM
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marteneb wrote:
The manufacturer is Perfect Decent and after speaking with them we found that the gym has maintained service and inspections regularly. Apparently that belay had just come back from being inspected and it passed. Thank you everyone for your input. I was curious if anyone knew someone this had happened to, where it was NOT a user error, and if they pursued the accident further. I know he has a case but I wanted to know if this happens often because it seems only the most extreme cases show up when I search it. Thanks again!

I am glad your husband survived and wish you well in pursuing legal action!


patto


Nov 30, 2012, 1:28 AM
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If I am climbing with a partner then I choose my partner wisely and if they stuff up and drop me then I'll be angry but not expect compensation from them.

There is no reason why an autobelay cannot be engineered that is 100% reliable if operated correctly. In the same way that buildings and bridges are don't fall down, I expect autobelays to be similarly reliable.

They are not complex devices. They just need to be manufactured and maintain with the upmost care and quality.


JasonsDrivingForce


Nov 30, 2012, 2:07 AM
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patto wrote:
If I am climbing with a partner then I choose my partner wisely and if they stuff up and drop me then I'll be angry but not expect compensation from them.

There is no reason why an autobelay cannot be engineered that is 100% reliable if operated correctly. In the same way that buildings and bridges are don't fall down, I expect autobelays to be similarly reliable.

They are not complex devices. They just need to be manufactured and maintain with the upmost care and quality.

Things like elevators and bridges get inspected regularly. I don't believe there is anything required like that for auto belays. Even still Bridges and Elevators fail sometimes.

When an elevator fails there are usually backups to prevent anything catastrophic. That isn't so easy with a bridge. The newest auto belays are said to have a fail safe backup. However, even that could fail if not properly maintained/setup.


acorneau


Nov 30, 2012, 5:43 AM
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JasonsDrivingForce wrote:
Things like elevators and bridges get inspected regularly. I don't believe there is anything required like that for auto belays.

Yes, there is. The owner is required to send them in for inspection and maintenance once a year.


healyje


Nov 30, 2012, 5:56 AM
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Autobelaying is both an oxymoron and a flawed [commercial] concept.


Partner camhead


Nov 30, 2012, 9:56 AM
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jomagam wrote:
marteneb wrote:
The manufacturer is Perfect Decent

That's one of the funnier misspellings I've seen.

Not as funny as "carebeaner."


Tfinney110


Nov 30, 2012, 10:17 AM
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Over-priced pieces of failure for the already lazy person to be even lazier

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