Day 113 – A little rant & A big climb

Sunday 4th November 2018

The following photo was actually taken on Saturday 3rd November but I was too busy wittering on about Magdalenas to post anything remotely sensible. It is a one photo lesson in bad climbing practice…

How not to belay

Climbers reading this will (I hope) concur with my guess that this man has never been belaying someone who has taken a lead fall. Non-climbers will be thinking, “belaying?”, “lead fall?”.

It’s Mr P explains time again. The man sitting down, enjoying the sun and seemingly taking no notice of the rope he is attached to is the only thing between his partner, 15 metres up on the other end of said rope, and, if she falls, death. His sole job is to manage the rope as she climbs and, if she falls, arrest that fall by use of the belay device he has attached to the rope and his harness.

My biggest issue with this is not so much that he is not really paying attention, this is not such a big deal, we all look around a bit while belaying (though he barely ever looked up). My issue is with the fact that he is sitting down.

Climbing ropes have a certain amount of stretch to reduce the fall factor but a lot of the force involved in any fall must be absorbed by the belayer as well as the rope.

Comfy it may be but, if your partner falls the pull on the rope can be immense. A few weeks ago we saw a climber take a lead fall and his much lighter female partner, who was paying attention and was standing up, shot about 6 feet up in the air before the fall was checked.

If this man’s partner falls, no matter how strong he is (unless of course he comes from the planet Krypton), he will be dragged sideways and upwards across sharp rock, dirt, grit and prickly bushes before his weight can slow down and stop the fall. If however, at any point during his brief, violent and unexpected journey he inadvertently lets go of the belay device his partners fall will continue unchecked. He will not be able to stop it.

Now, there is a device called a Grigri which will arrest the fall even if you do let go. He wasn’t using one and, even if he had been, it certainly wouldn’t stop him being dragged across the ground and his partner falling an unnecessarily long way down lumpy, bumpy, sharp rock.

Ironically this mans partner was wearing a t-shirt from a climbing safety convention. Even more ironically, she belayed him in exactly the same way.

Lead climbing by the way is where…

…the rope runs directly from the belayer to the climber who clips the rope into bolts fixed to the wall or removable pieces of trad gear.

On this “sharp end of the rope,” the lead climber must move above a bolt or piece of protection in order to move up the route. If he or she falls before clipping the rope into the next bolt or piece of equipment then the fall will be at least twice as long as the distance above the last piece of gear. E.g. A fall 1 metre above the last bolt mean a fall of two metres, plus a little bit more due to rope stretch.

Abridged from an article on the REI website

I have very rarely fallen lead climbing. Mostly because I am way too scared to ever let go but, on the couple of occasions that I have fallen Mrs P has checked my fall in exemplary fashion.

She always stands, she always pays attention and she is always the prettiest belayer at the crag (Christmas is coming. Got to get that brownie point count up).

The prettiest belayer at the crag


So, Sunday 4th. We went multi-pitch climbing at our favourite crag so far in the Costa Blanca region. Sierra de Toix.

Picture the scene. Sunrise…

Any excuse for a pretty picture

…and Mr & Mrs P are eager to go climbing even getting up early enough to take a picture of the sunrise. They rush around, drinking tea, eating breakfast, drinking more tea, faffing… drinking another cup of tea. Driving the 20 minutes to the crag (stop en-route for a pain au chocolat). Park up. Eat pain au chocolat. Walk 10 minutes to bottom of climb. Finally arrive at 12.30! What happened to the morning!? The slowest we have ever got ready. We are strangely proud of ourselves.

Mr P at the bottom of the climb. Is it lunchtime yet?

The climb is called Oma Sus (I’m sure it means something to someone). It’s four pitches long, grade 4+/5 (not too hard) and a total of just over 100 metres high (about 330 ish feet in old money.)

The only way is up. (Can you see Mr P? He’s up there somewhere. Pretending he knows what he is doing)

The bolts (protection) on this climb are few and far between. From 8 to 10 metres apart in some places. I had some trad gear but only managed to place one piece in the very compact (no cracks) rock.

…and up (this time looking back towards Mrs P)

There are some pretty shoddy, old, sun damaged bits of tatt along the way to clip on to. More psychological than real protection…

Hmmm. Should I trust it? Yeah. It’ll be fine.

More stuff in a generally upward direction…

Mrs P cruising up one of the lower pitches

And, eventually, the top.

At the top the following brief conversation took place. I only include Mrs P’s words since Mr P’s can easily be deduced;

Now, how do we get down?

Where’s the path?

What do you mean; ‘there is no path?’

How many abseils?

I haven’t had lunch!

Well, at least the rope eating tree is above us.

ASIDE: If you want to read some funny stuff about multi-pitch climbing, how not to abseil and the rope eating tree check out the Gandalf on tour blog from way back on day 11.

So, down we go. Love these next 2 shots.

Mrs P, in close up, starts the descent
Mrs P smiling because her head is back in proportion
Mr P bounds down the rock like a bald Bear Grylls on junior Asprin

That evening we found a great spot for free camping on the edge of Altea and right by the sea.

Check out the reflection in Gandalf’s window in the below picture. I can assure you that this was luck not judgement.

Cool, free camping

Tomorrow. It rains. I’m sure I’ll think of something to talk about.

2 thoughts on “Day 113 – A little rant & A big climb

  1. With protection so far apart a lead fall could be up to 18m before the rope even starts working, looking at some of the ropey bits of protection I admire your confidence. Looks like a long climb, how long a rope do you use. Finally Mrs P is looking very happy and comfortable on the rock.


    1. Ah, confident because I am climbing well inside my ability. 4 and 4+. The rope we use for sport climbing is more than 70 metres long. At 9.5mm it’s pretty heavy so we also have a much lighter one for alpine style stuff. 25 m and only 8.5mm. Super light. Mrs P is always confident.


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