scouts-l Mail Archive for November of 1999: Re: Climbing Safety - long, but comprehensive
Mario Suarez (Steam0235@AOL.COM
Thu Nov 11 1999 - 12:16:15 CST
Castigate? Nope, I'm glad that you agree that scouts will end up letting go
of the rope, most people will often think a scout that rapells will be able
to remember not to let go, but tehy don't.
As for a seperate line top belay, I've done this when the route dcitates
it, but I make sure that in a top belay situation I, the instructor, am the
only one who does it. I find that Top bealys are dangerous. I prefer to have
top roped belayes for rappellers. Keep in mind that I'm doing this at our
council camp's climbing tower so anchoring is not a problem it's been
designed for such use. I find that the top rope situation allows for the
belayer to be out from underneth the rapeller. and as and added plus it gives
my scouts some more practice belaying.
To be honest we quite often do use firemen, (pulling on the rope to stop
the rapeller). I'm going to be a bit bothered when the new reguations do go
in to effect.
I can see however why BSA would say that such a thing is not allowed. The
rules are not for those who know what they are doing they are for those who
don't. There is and there will be people who pull out 20 year old 8s and
brake bar sets and they will take scouts rapelling. and when some one gets
some speed on one of those it can be very hard for a firemen's belay to stop
them. Over all I am glad that BSA now has regulations for climbing. although
they may be a bit bothersome and cumbersome to those of us who have been
running a successfull and safe program, I know that it will improve alot of
Climbing for BSA. I've been to several council camps and troop climbs that
honestly need some more regulation.
(shamefull plug alert) Nor will I say many bad things about Climb ON
Safely as I am in most of the climbing shots in that packet.
In a message dated 11/11/99 3:51:53 AM Mountain Standard Time,
> Several items in the Boy Scout methods of climbing safety have
> bothered me for years, the idea of suing a second rope for belay is
> one. I am a vertical rescue technician with 23 years of experience
> teaching Boy Scouts, other youth groups, and cavers to climb and
> rappel. I have a perfect safety record. And I have never used a
> second rope on a person who was rappelling.
> It was determined early on in the development of vertical rope
> techniques, by people far smarter than the lawyers at the BSA, that a
> second rope on a rappeller caused more problems than it would
> solve. It got tangled in the rappel rope. It added rigging problems.
> The belayer can't see the rappeller without being at the edge
> himself...even roped off, this is not a good place to be. And with a
> proper bottom belay, it was unnecessary. (Rescuers will use a
> second rope for belay when lowering litters because of the increased
> load on the lowering ropes.) Of course, bottom belayers are in the
> "fall zone", but proper helmets and training in what to do when you
> hear "ROCK ROCK ROCK!!!!!!" alleviate most of these problems.
> And by the way, the probablibilty that a Scout will not be paying
> attention on the rope and letting go or otherwise dropping is higher
> than you think. The last outing I had we had a Scout let go...his
> belayer caught his out of control rappel within 10 feet. No injury, just
> some bruised ego. I doubt a second rope could have caught him any
> quicker, and if he had had one on, it would have been wrapped
> around him since he spun around once as he slid. Then we would
> have had to untangle a scared Scout before he could have continued
> down. As it was, all he had to do was get his feet back under him,
> and continue the rappel.
> I, and all of the people whom I consider even greater experts in the
> field, use a bottom belay: a second person at the bottom of the drop,
> ready to put downward pressure on the rappel rope in the event the
> rappeller goes out of control. Failures of rappel ropes are so
> incredibly rare as to be non-existent - unless the rope is poorly cared
> for or so worn that it's obvious to a neophyte that it's bad. If there is a
> question as to the ability of the rappel rope to support the load, it
> shouldn't be used in the first place. And if the instructor does not
> know how to properly protect ropes from abrasion at the lip and other
> spots where the rope may contact rock, he's going to be so slack in
> other areas, too, that something else will fail long before the rope is
> sawed through. Oh, and if the instructor is using anything other than
> properly cared for climbing rope or caving rope, you also have
> problems (if you can't tell the difference, you need to get educated).
> Most rappelling accidents are caused by poor attention to details
> such as the actual rigging into the rope with a descending device, not
> a failure of seat harnesses, carabiners, descending devices or ropes.
> As to belaying in top-rope situations (where the belayer is on the
> ground beside the climber, the climbing rope goes up thru a double
> carabiner, then back down to the climber), use modern belay devices
> such as Petzel Grigris or Stops, even ATC's...not the wrong end of
> an 8-ring, or odd-ball carabiner rigs. They are not fool-proof, but
> offer a lot of protection against the "only one hand on the rope"
> Another good idea: Have a qualified adult supervising the belayers to
> make sure they are paying attention, NOT talking to their buddies or
> watching the beautiful rock-bunny who just walked by.
> One last note: Army rappelling methods are fine for exiting
> helicopters - if someone dies in the drop, you just send down another
> one. Tactical rappelling is likewise: speed and surprise is paramount,
> safety is secondary. Use caving and climbing techniques accepted
> in the real world of climbers and cavers to teach Boy Scouts...that
> way, if they decide they really like this stuff, they will be accepted
> into the world of climbers and cavers when they join up with groups
> to learn more about rocks, caves, and ropework. And if they've been
> taught real techniques, they're less likely to get hurt when they want
> to rappel out of the oak tree in the back yard while mom and dad are
> at work.
> For any one who wants to learn about every vertical technique
> worldwide, read the "bible" of vertical rope techniques, I suggest you
> get a copy of "On Rope, New Revised Edition". Some large
> bookstores carry it (make sure you get the New Revised Version...if
> it doesn't say this on the cover, it's the first edition - good, but not as
> good as the new one), or you can order it from the National
> Speleological Society's web site at
> I'm sure there will be those who will castigate me for preaching
> against the BSA policies...go ahead, but with my track record, I
> simply don't think that the way I, and many, many others outside the
> BSA teach climbing and rappelling is wrong. If we were, there'd be a
> lot more dead and injured cavers and Boy Scouts.
> Tray Murphy
> Summerville, SC
> Ass't. Scoutmaster, Venture, BSA Troop 750
> http://www.jgmurphy.org (OA Resources)
> http://personal.lig.bellsouth.net/~jgmurphy (Scouting Resources)