Near miss at Rockface

Home Forums Accidents, near-misses and mishaps Near miss at Rockface

This topic contains 22 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Elliot Press 12 years, 6 months ago.

Viewing 23 posts - 1 through 23 (of 23 total)
  • Author
  • #3344 Reply


    I recently had a near miss at the rock face that I would like to share with you so you dont put your life at risk as I did.

    I had just tied in and was about to lead when one of the young employees ran over and stopped me.

    He asked if I could see anything wrong and asked me to untie and re-tie in, which I did. My tie in was with a figure of eight knot with 50cm of tail.

    He said that because my I failed to tie a “back-up” half fishmans ontop of the figure of eight I had failed the “tie in test” and I would not be allowed to lead…..

    In my experience such a backup is unnecessary, and I dont recall any of the classic rockclimbing texts requiring a backup knot, although some climbers do a half hitch to get rid of the slack.

    This is typical of the gym mentatily – these chaps have no proper training in rock climbing and clearly cant teach or maintain a standard approach – I was so annoyed pulled my membership from this gym. I wouldnt trust the belaying instruction they provide either – they are appalling.

    #3345 Reply


    Hi climber,

    It is a good idea to put a stopper on any knot. Second, a 50 ml tail on a 9 millimetre rope is not a lot. It’s highly likely you would have been all right, but the gym’s legal duty of care requires a certain erring on the side of caution.

    Safe climbing,


    #3346 Reply


    I Agree. You don’t NEED a half hitch after a figure 8 follow through, it just looks good and does clear up the tail. Different people have different ideas. I’ve been lucky to learn from some very very experienced instructors and some very dodgey ones. It is scarey some of the knowledge, or lack of it, being passed on. The Rockface person wasn’t wrong but neither were you. I had an experience in Kalbarri when the Raid Series was being held. I was lucky enoufg to “Test” the flying fox across the gorge (Bloody awesome). The French Alpine guides in charge of the event tied a larks foot through my belay loop with two tails with crabs attached. What scared me is they only wanted one of the crabs to be tied in to the pulley and took offence when i insisted BOTH crabs be used. I got my way and survived.

    I wonder if you use a bowline follow through if they insist on using a half hitch for the tail. Be interesting to hear from other climbers / instructors.


    #3347 Reply


    Hmmm, I always tie a stopper knot, but I thought I was tying it so the excess rope didn’t get in the way – if my figure eight failed, I definitely wouldn’t want to rely on my stopper knot to catch my fall!! I also thought the safety element wasn’t the stopper knot, but the length of rope left over from the figure eight. Anyway, surely the idea in the gym is to tell you and then let you get on with it with your new stopper knot:-) When I started leading at the Rockface I was clipping in wrongly, and they just showed me the right way, then let me get on with it.

    #3348 Reply


    50ml is not but 50cm is a lot of extra rope. If you were making high steps you could step on it, it could get caught in cracks, etc. I think it’s more just to prevent those annoying moments than any real danger. That said a half hitch doesn’t take any extra effort and it just gets rid of unnecessary risk. I guess, with that much excess it could be likened to walking around with your shoe laces untied.

    As an added point to get yelled at for, it’s considered basic climbing technique to be able to tie-in to the rope with minimal excess.

    Adventure Out teaches you how to tie-in without much excess left and also, if there is excess, either tying it off with a follow thru back into the figure 8 or if there is heaps then a half hitch or two.

    I tie any excess off. I do it because it is neater which doesn’t sound important, I agree. But, if/when you start climbing outdoor climbs, most especially trad climbs, and you’ve got all these slings, crabs, cams, and god knows what else hanging off your body. The last thing you want is another piece of rope swinging around and getting tangled up when a simple half hitch can be tied. It’s just good practice…

    In the gym is it necessary? Probably not but as Toc said, The Rockface is a business with insurance and liabilities. If something goes wrong and you get hurt that one tie-off can cost them a lot of money. It’s not risking it’s future just because you can’t be bothered tying off.


    (Climb smart – Climb safe)

    #3349 Reply


    With regards to insurance, this single issue is destroying adventurous activities. Public liability and all the crap associated is out of control. I take full responsibility for my actions and would not blame rockface, hangout etc for any injury I take. Insurance companies have become greedy bastards. When I was an assistant instructor I had to have a minimum of 50 million dollars liability cover. Premiums for this amount are pathetic and make companies viability very borderline.

    When I worked on a mobile climbing wall for many years we used a double crab (Steel) tie-in. We recieved a letter a few years back from a Sydney mob telling us in order to stay safely covered we needed to use a primary tie in, in the form of a Figure 8 follow through with a crab backup (exactly how the Hangout do). This was due to a major accident over east where (I Think) crabs failed and someone was hurt quiet badly. Apparantly crab gates can fail at well below the force exerted during a fall.


    #3350 Reply


    I agree that the reaction of the employee was a little over the top and, as has already been mentioned, it would have been better if you were alerted to the problem, allowed to rectify it and then allowed to carry on.

    You take issue with the fact that “these chaps can’t teach or maintain a standard” – that’s exactly what this guy was trying to do – maintain a standard. The standard of Rockface (as with quite a few indoor gyms and commercial organisations that I have worked for) is: a follow through figure of eight, a back up knot, and an amount of tail (in the vicinity of 15cms) – short enough so it won’t get caught anywhere and long enough that the know will have less chance of working itself out.

    I agree that, as a personal climber on your own trip you can do whatever you like as long as it doesn’t endanger another person’s life. However, when you choose to climb at a facility managed by a company or on a natural rockface managed by CALM (or any other agnecy for that matter), you do so under their operational policies and you should not only adhere to these but respect the fact that you climb at these places by accepting these policies. Yep, insurance companies are what they are but there has to be a little bit of give and take depending on the circumstances.

    Hope you enjoy the rest of your climbing.


    #3351 Reply

    also a climber

    Hmm, sounds like maybe you gave the guy a bit of ‘tude! The Rockface guy may have been young but it doesn’t mean he was inexperienced and clueless as you insinuate!

    Climbing can kill you, gravity works just as well in the gym as outdoors, and if you have such a crap attitude that you aren’t open to learning how to be safer, then I for one am thrilled to bits that you will no longer be climbing at the gym I frequent.

    Less chance of you mucking something up and falling on top of me.

    -A climber with over a decade of experience who is still open to learning better techniques to stay alive.

    #3352 Reply

    Mike Webb

    If you look at a *properly* tied figure 8 follow through (and the on-the-bight) from an engineering point of view and from a tested out-in-the-field-with-rescue-loads point of view, it really does not require a stopper knot.

    From what I have observed in many gyms around Australia, I think the practice of stopper knots is warrented. e.g. Young Dude gets his 10 minute induction by the staff, manages to demonstrate follow through 8 with help from staff, staff pats on back and says “go get’m tiger”, Young Dude goes around the corner and proceeds to munt every tie through from then on untill stopped and corrected 10 climbs later.

    If push comes to shove when I am at a gym, I am not going to argue the point about to knot or not to knot, I’ll just tie the dam backup and get back to my fun. The staff are there to help and they intervene ’cause no one wants to have an accident occure

    #3353 Reply


    I might be wrong but over the course of about 6 years climbing at the Rockface I cannot remember anyone being in charge that did not have good knowledge of climbing. I would also add that most, if not all have experience relating to indoor and outdoor climbing. They do a bloody good job, think of the responsibility they have when supervising in a gym which offers climbing access to the general public.

    I was always taught to dress the knot properly and have a little length left after the figure of 8, say 15cm. Too little is not good, too much is a nuisance and a liability so needs tidying up.


    #3354 Reply


    Someone asked about Bowline follow through ?? thats the knot I tie in with, Its easier to untie especially if fallen on BUT I strongly recommend using a stopper knot, (I make it like a half fishermans with about 2-3 turns depending on how much tail I have)

    Personally I’m happy to see someone at the gym taking notice of safety there, I’ve seen a few unsafe practices go un-noticed. Perhaps the way it was pointed out could use some work.

    #3355 Reply


    Greetings CAWA’er-ites:

    As a registered “outdoors” rockclimbing instructor ( ARIA not ASCF ) I should speak on this issue.

    Regardless of the sports climbing standards, to my knowledge there is no requirement in the manufactures instructions for a fishermans backup to a “properly tied” figure of 8 (see petzel links etc). However you need to get the tail length correct and have the knot CORRECTLY tied and packed. If you are having trouble with either of these issues have a look at the attached links or seek instruction:

    I am not surprised that gyms require the fishermans (although if you cant tie in without one I wonder if you should be climbing let alone leading! ), however I also think its unfair to praise the high standards of gym climbing safety – most of the outdoor accidents I have been been unfortunate enough to be close to were gym climbers taking their indoor skills outdoors assuming they would be transferable….I guess its also unfair to blame this problem on the gyms as they are not claiming to teach or promote skills for outdoor climbing.

    #3356 Reply


    Huh, tempting topic, must chip in.

    Fig8 normally does not need a backup, but a bowline does. I also use a bowline, it is easier to untie, like someone said before. 50cm tail seems excessive.

    HOWEVER – gyms are private businesses and what they say goes. Even though I’ve been climbing for ages, if someone inexperienced but working in a gym asks me to tie 2 backups + carabiner (!) then why not. It’s their business and extra safety is cool with me. (Outdoor I do what I want, as long as climbing buddy is happy.)

    If you are stong person you should go back to the gym and explain situation to senior staff, apologise, point out that you did not appreciate the way you were approched and then go climb. There is no shame in blowing one’s top occassionally, or making bad explanations on a busy day etc., no big deal.

    #3357 Reply


    One quick note on the how to tie a figure of 8 so its easy to untie.

    Rather than looping the rope through your harness once, loop it twice.

    The extra friction will place less load on the knot and make it much easier to undo.

    Another option that I like is never to fall !

    #3358 Reply

    falling climber

    If your not going to fall why not solo?

    #3359 Reply


    My statement about falling was just a joke directed to Ross, but there are many people who like leading but not falling.

    For example I have a good friend with a pacemaker who climbs but a fall could be very serious if the device were to be impacted….

    When I was younger I used to do fair amount of soloing (ropped and unropped)… Its great fun, but not the kind of thing you do when you are unfit or in the wrong frame of mind.

    #3360 Reply

    Good Entertainment Value

    So are you suggesting soloing is a good idea for those of us that are fit and in the right frame of mind. End of debate about the figure 8 stopper folks – let’s all get soloing. Thanks for imparting your wisdom to us Glenn!

    #3361 Reply


    Whats wrong with soloing?

    Its part of climbing and its a personal choice (I would never advocate soloing to anyone else and I dont solo at present – too unfit and not inclined that way i.e. wife and cat to support and I need my brain intact to earn a living).

    It worth noting that soloing is a requirement for certain rock climbing guiding qualifications – and is regarded by many as a necessary skill in mountaineering environments.

    We are effectively climbing unprotected for part of the time when we climb at many locations anyway?

    Roped soloing is actually pretty safe if done properly with the correct equipment and its very satisfying.

    #3362 Reply


    Soloing is sort-off where climbing started unless you consider hemp ropes and rock pebbles reliable.

    There was a detailed discussion on this topic in the past so no need to repeat all the emotional angst here, me thinks.

    #3363 Reply


    re the use of a stopper knot as a backup knot, with the emphasis on backup. i would not argue that the figure eight does not measure very highly on the scales of stregnth and reliability the purpose of the stopper knot is to conform to the principle of redundancy it does not add strength or reliability to the knot but it does minimise the affects of human error. it is human nature to make mistakes, in the event that the figure eight was tied incorrectly the back up knot will be most welcome. this principle is used elsewhere throughout a top rope system, tying to more than one anchor point in circumstances when common sense indicates that one is enough, similarly two ropes over the edge at the top and two caribiners even though each has a 3 ton breaking strain which is stronger than the rope passing through them, redundancy is a very important feature in climbing safety and the stopper knot supports that principle. this view is supported by the fact that this method of tying in is taught and recommended by the australian climbing instructor association, the proffessional association of climbing instructors, the south australian rock education association, and the rock climbing instructor association of queensland, the victorian and new south wales climbing instructor associations before they amalgamated to form the australian climbing instructor association, and lets not forget the tasmanian climbing instructor association all recomend and teach tying a stopper knot as a backup.

    #3364 Reply

    Good Entertainment Value

    To Ross Specifically,

    Dressing up in fur and living in a cave is kind of where mankind started off – doesn’t really make it a good idea now though!

    Also, I was not involved in and have not read any of the “detailed discussion” about this in the past so I reserve my right to comment as and when I choose. Note that I have absolutely no angst about the subject at all – amazing what you appear to be able to read into through the screen.

    Finally, this website and forums are for comment and entertainment etc. so please don’t discouarge folks from providing their input – me thinks!

    #3365 Reply


    Sorry to come in late on this.

    The Association Of Experiential Education, based in the USA but with an international membership, publishes a set of guidelines for all outdoor activities. It is a leading international organisation that sets standards for the accreditation of outdoor programs. In ALL of the roping activities (except for some exceptions in high ropes courses) they specify a tie in connection to the harness with a back up knot.

    As a FYI, I think the Emergency Services Vertical Rescue Manual (by no means an overwhelmingly authoritive source of information) specifies a minimum tail of 100mm.

    With regard to providing some more information on the previously mentioned gym incident in the eastern States, I believe the reference is to the prosecution of an ACGA gym over the injuries suffered by 15 year old Jade Francis who was badly injured in a fall where a single crab was the only connection betwen the rope and harness. The ACGA and IRGOA (now amalgamated?) went hammer and tongs at each other and, to cut a long story short, Justice Miller decreed that a single crab was an inadequate connection. There were many side issues to this case and not all of the relevant information may have been heard by Justice Miller.

    The Rockface is one of the few surviving gyms that survived from a plethora of gyms that started in Western Australia in the mid 90’s. The horror stories emanating from gyms during that period were almost comical as the frequency and nature of the incidents was totally unacceptable. One supervisor was even hospitalised when a falling climber landed on top of them.

    The Rockface does not seem to be insisting that anyone do anything that is less safe than what climbers would normally do in the conduct of their activities.

    I was not there to witness the tone and nature of the exchange between the climber

    and the staff member so I will not comment on what might have been the case there.


    #3366 Reply

    Elliot Press

    If you don’t want to follow a gyms set of rules and standards than you shouldn’t be welcome there.

    Do what you want when you’re on an ourdoor wall, but remember that a gym dosn’t want to get in trouble because you don’t want to follow their standards. Wether the staff member over reacted or not can be up for debate but you clearly have an attitude problem for being told what to do by someone who clearly has the right to tell you what to do.

Viewing 23 posts - 1 through 23 (of 23 total)
Reply To: Near miss at Rockface
Your information: