Posts Tagged ‘climbing’


Some useful tips on belaying

May 11, 2009

The other day I did an article on stupid mistakes to avoid when abseiling – today it’s belaying’s turn… With extreme sports such as rock climbing, there are so many things that can go wrong, so it is worth reminding oneself from time to time of some of the basic most logical rules which are all too easy to forget, or neglect to do, in your haste to get up there.

This article will be a bit like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs to some of you, but bear with me… it never hurts to be reminded of a thing or two.

Belaying is, of course, the technique of controlling the rope so that a falling climber does not fall very far. The term belay is also used to mean the place where the belayer is anchored; this would typically be a ledge, but may instead be a hanging belay, where the belayer is suspended from anchors in the rock. Control of the rope is achieved through applying friction, which allows control of the speed at which the rope slides past the belayer.

It is one of the most important of the climbing skills and is absolutely essential to all climbers.

So, enough about what belaying actually is. What are the mistakes to avoid?

  • Always pay attention to your climbing partner, and I mean ALWAYS
  • Always double check your harness buckles are double passed
  • Check the tie-in knot is properly tied
  • Check the belay device is properly rigged
  • Check that the locking carabiner is locked
  • Check the anchor set-up and tie-ins are rigged correctly
  • Check that the free end of the rope is knotted or tied into the belayer
  • NEVER take your brake hand off the rope – and don’t hold any other strand other than the brake strand in your brake hand. Thanks to teachmetoclimb for this video.
  • Always keep the rope taut when belaying someone – do not let it pass through the belay device while lowering someone. Tie a stopper knot in the end, or even better, get your belayer to tie in to the end.
  • Get acknowledgement before taking someone off belay. Don’t rush into things. Always get confirmation when taking someone off belay or committing to being lowered.
  • Stand close to the cliff when belaying. Put a helmet on if you’re worried about rock fall. If you are belaying from too far out from the cliff the leader could be slammed into the wall during a fall.
  • Forcing your panicked leader to take a fall because, down at the belay, you allowed a knot to creep into the slack rope. Flake the rope out before beginning belay duty, even if it looks neatly coiled.
  • Getting hit by loose rock or items dropped by your leader. Wear a helmet. Even something as simple as the movement of the rope above you can cause loose rock to come crashing down.

Then of course, there are the terms that are used between the leader and belayer, thank you to expertvillage for their simple but excellent short video.

Remember: “a bad anchor is a dead climber”. That’s a saying worth remembering wouldn’t you say?! And another thing worth remembering is that learning to belay is one of the most fundamental links to successful climbing, so learn it well, learn it right, and never never rush it.


Do you need some inspiration choosing your extreme holiday this year?

April 18, 2009

… if so, please follow this link:


Rambling rock climbing advice for Newbies

March 16, 2009

“I can climb that bigazz boulder…HA! I’m at the top….oh sh!t, how do I get back down!?”

Don’t laugh… this is not an uncommon comment to over-hear at some stage in your rock climbing career!

Bearing in mind that rock climbing is an extreme sport, it is adviseable not to start on your own and try to teach yourself. Courses can be taken, books can be read, and, if you are lucky enough to already know someone who rock climbs – well, then you’re onto a winner…

You don’t need to be young or extremely fit to learn to rock climb. Learning to climb is very much like learning to ride a bike. You’ll never forget the basic moves, but will need years of practice to perfect them!

Climbing is not all about strength. It is also about balance, knowing your body and being able to reposition it in space. It’s about creativity, learning to adapt to what the rock has to offer, and  it’s about concentration and overcoming your fear of heights.

One of the best ways to learn how to rock climb comes from climbing with other people; you learn new tricks and techniques from climbers more knowledgeable than you are and later on, when you become more experienced, you, in turn, will be able to offer something to a partner who has less experience than you.

A lot of beginners are told “Go take a course”. Taking a few classes can help enormously, but most avid climbers will tell you that you will learn more by getting out on the rock with someone more experienced than you.

Reading books can also be helpful. ‘How To Rock Climb’ by John Long is a good one. In fact any book by John long would be a good investment – but there are many other good books out there…

Books offer useful advice, but can’t cover every situation. Written communication has inherent flaws. It is difficult to convey tone and body language in the written word. They can however give you a good start, but it’s not the real thing. You have to be out there, on a rock, with other climbers, following their example, taking advice and learning from them, and from your mistakes.

If you don’t personally know any climbers, try and find a mentor. This can be difficult. There are fewer people out there prepared to mentor someone than there are people looking for mentors. A catch 22 situation. It is worth bearing in mind that people who show determination, reliability and a good attitude attract mentors more easily – stands to reason doesn’t it?

Always ask questions and accept constructive criticism.

So many people just want to climb without taking the time to learn. It needs to be said, and repeated, that rock climbing IS an extreme sport, an extreme sport where  accidents can easily happen. Don’t take risks. Don’t rush. Do it right from the start.

There are so many mistakes that can be made: from the very obvious, although easily forgotten things,  such as forgetting to take water and sunscreen, and not warming up before a climb; to the less obvious and more complicated – like choosing an anchor that is not strong enough, using regular rope and not climbing rope, having shoes that are too loose, not knowing your knots properly, getting to the top of your climb and untying your rope, subsequently losing it –  “Help someone – I’m stuck!” These are just a few of the things that newbies can get wrong.

Climbing is both an individualistic and social sport: when you’re on a rock you can only count on your own skills to get you to the top. However, if you do fall, you will be trusting  your climbing partner with your life. Beyond question. No mistakes allowed. This often makes for very strong bonds and relationships.  Choose your climbing partner with care!

So remember, hands on experience is what really matters. Books and advice on the Internet are useful – but very few learning methods can substitute  hands-on experience. You won’t go wrong by supplementing your book or Internet gained knowledge with questions to experienced people in the real world, but you may go wrong by NOT doing so.

Climbing is a never-ending learning curve. You will astonish yourself by how you will always learn something new on any individual climb.

Get out there and enjoy yourself!


Does Adventure Racing Fit into Extreme Sports?

September 17, 2008

It’s quite a sport –  and certainly extreme, since so many of its disciplines, individually, come under the ‘extreme sport’ bracket.

Adventure racing (according to Wikipedia) is a combination of two or more disciplines, including orienteering and navigation, cross-country running, mountain biking, paddling and climbing and related rope skills. An expedition event can span ten days or more while sprints can be completed in a matter of hours. There is typically no dark period during races, irrespective of length; competitors must choose if or when to rest.

The vast majority of adventure races include trail running, mountain biking and (ideally) a paddling event. Navigation and rope work are also featured in all but the shortest races, but this is only the beginning. Part of the appeal of adventure racing is expecting the unexpected. Race directors pride themselves at challenging racers with unexpected or unusual tasks.

The United States Adventure Racing Association (USARA) states that this is a sport which is growing massively in popularity. It is one of the few sports where just completing a race is often considered a victory. Another driving factor in adventure racing is the emphasis that is placed on teamwork, rather than individual achievement…

Heyho – isn’t that one for the books. They’ve spent years dumping sport out of school curriculums saying that it wasn’t good for one and if you weren’t in a team it was demoralizing and all that sort of … stuff, and now one of the fastest growing sports is a team sport! When will the powers that be ever learn to leave well alone…

A direct quote from “Adventure Racing offers an easy crossover for cyclist, runners and water sport enthusiasts just to mention a few. Adventure races can vary anywhere from 2-5 person teams, with some events now offering solo categories. The disciplines can also vary from race to race. Adventure racing can include shredding through tight single track on a mountain bike or orienteering and hiking through a dense forest. Adventure racers may find themselves ripping down rapids in a canoe and then rappelling off a 100 foot rock face. The races can last a few hours or several days and can cover 10 – 100 miles or more!”

Cruising through Google I see that many countries have one site or more on adventure racing or on a race to be held on their land – South Africa, Namibia, Australia, Canada, USA, UK, Costa Rica, Iceland … and if I spent more time on it I’d be bound to find plenty of other examples.

Enjoy this wonderful adventure racing promo video put on youtube by  SilverBullet1999


All the sites collectively assert that adventure racing is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, that it appeals to many people because it involves different disciplines, many of which people have done individually, but are now looking for a further challenge. Disciplines such as biking, running/trekking, canoeing, orienteering and mystery events. But what really makes this such a unique sport is that you compete as a team, not as an individual, and you do not have to be the best or fastest to be successful. These races test your will and endurance and success is achieved by crossing the finish line.

So what exactly is Adventure Racing?

It can be broken down into 3 types of races: Sprint races – 2 to 6 hours; Middle distance races – 12 to 48 hours; Expedition races – 5 to 10 days. The most common of these is the sprint race, with core events of trail running (2 -7 miles), mountain biking (6 – 18 miles), and paddling (1 – 5 miles). Sprint races also include “mystery events,” which test the team’s ability to complete physical or mental challenges as a group.


Sawtooth Mountain Film Festival & Film-Making

March 14, 2008

On 7th and 8th March Sawtooth Mountain hosted its ninth adventure sport film festival and screened a fantastic selection of international and local films. The festival was originally designed to generate funding for the Boise State University and has become an annual sell-out event.

The film festival is designed to expose the community to a wide variety of adventure sports and draws a broad deomographic of outdoor enthusiasts typically spanning the ages from 8 to 80 !

Viewers were able to see films on such various topics as white water rafting, skiing, snow kiting, mountain climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, snowboarding, skate boarding and many others.

According to a film by J. Clive Jordan, snow kiting is one of the most “earth friendly” activities that can be practiced leaving a nearly invisible carbon footprint! and all this while you enjoy the power of the wind, big air, and miles of untracked powder!

This year Boise even added a daytime rail jam event to complement the films and encourage more participants to come. The mountain came to Mohammed in the form of 5 semi-trucks filled with snow! The rails, jumps and party atmosphere brought out competitors and spectators alike.

So, do you have aspirations of making your own sport films?

If so, you might like to know about Peter Chrzanowski. Peter is an adventurer specializing in high adrenaline action/adventure documentary films, dramas and photo-journalism. As a film-maker he has 25 years experience and is a major content producer with new media. He founded Extreme Exploration in 1983 when he attended the Simon Fraser University for Film and Communications.

On the 13th – 20th April you can attend an intensive week-long adventure ski and snowboard film-making course being held at Whistler in conjunction with the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival (TWSSF). This gives the students plenty of different activities they can shoot.

The pre-requisites are simple – you need to be an upper intermediate skier or snowboarder with relatively good cardiovascular fitness!

If you are interested you need to jump around – the workshop is limited to 10 students and the course costs $1,072 which includes lift passes, meals and accommodation.

So, here are two addresses for you.

If you are interested in the film-making course contact:

And if you are interested in submitting a film for the 2009 Sawtooth Mountain Film Festival, contact:

No cost is required to enter a film, but the entries must be submitted to the Boise State Outdoor Program by 1st December 2008 and should range from 3-20 minutes. The top 20 films will be selected and shown at the festival as well as the Sawtooth Mountain film Festival traveling tour which will be presented at university campuses throughout the country.

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