By Dena Rao
How many of you have one? How many of you wear them even if you do have one? I have a helmet. A pretty blue Black Diamond one. And I really dislike wearing it while I’m climbing because I seem to bump my head on things a lot more often. Most of the climbers that I see in the great outdoors don’t seem to wear this basic piece of safety equipment.
But you know what? After having an extremely close call with a moderate sized rock at Churchman’s just a couple of days ago, I will be making sure to wear my helmet which is really what everyone should be doing. In this case, I was belaying a leader who found herself hanging on by one hand when the rock she was holding onto parted company with its buddies. I didn’t even have time to move and my shoulder took the full force of the rock. So, it missed my head by only a few inches. And yes, it hurt. A lot. Granted I didn’t have my helmet on because I was trying out a new neck brace. However, this would not have helped me if the rock had struck my head rather than my shoulder. It really scared me, gave me the kind of warm tingly feeling in my arm best reserved for other parts of my body and could have put an end to my Arapiles trip before it even got started.
I will certainly be a lot more diligent about wearing my helmet from now on, even though I do hate how it feels. If that rock had knocked me out, I would have let go of the rope with disastrous consequences for the climber. Think it won’t happen to you? Think you are too cool for a helmet? If fashion is really that important to you, there are some really sleek funky designs around. Consider that your decision not to wear a helmet will potentially impact (no pun intended) not just on you, but also on your climbing partner. And let’s face it, it won’t be much fun if one of you ends up unconscious or worse. Climbing partners are hard to come by, so make sure you look after yours.