A WORD ON SAFETY
Climbing is inherently risky. The need for safety systems beyond reproach is obvious. The equipment developed by the climbing industry doesn’t fail when used properly. But the system is passive—participants must engage. Thus, personal responsibility is essential for the sport we love to exist indoors at all. Your safety is our concern, but your responsibility. The primary purpose of our liability release is to establish an agreement on this principle. Without this agreement, we cannot allow the use of our facilities.
Touchstone has developed guidelines of review, and rules during climbing, that we feel minimize the chance of injury to a participant. Our tests are not certifications or training. We have found the primary cause of a mistake on the part of a climber to be inattentiveness. Our philosophy regarding the safety protocol for climbing and belaying is to focus on principle, and not the specific method—the brake hand must not leave the rope, for instance, but how you do that is somewhat up to you.
Regarding lead climbing—if climbing is risky, lead climbing is simply dangerous. While Touchstone supports this form of climbing by placing draws on most walls, lead climbing in our gyms should not be practiced by anyone but experts.
Below is a summary of the criteria we use to assess an individual’s ability to climb and belay safely. All participants must be able to satisfy these requirements to climb in our gyms. We are happy to remind those who need a refresher—allowing them to climb for the day while reinforcing good practice. Please do not be disappointed if we require you to test multiple times before we issue a long-term card; we are merely attempting to create as safe an environment as we can.
Personal Responsibility. Top-roped climbing involves risk—lead climbing even more. All climbers and belayers must be willing to take personal responsibility for their own safety.
Minimum Requirements for Safe Top-Roped Climbing
Touchstone Climbing will issue a belay card and allow climbers to retain the belaying privileges only if the individual demonstrates the following safety items at all times:
- All participants must sign a waiver releasing Touchstone Climbing from liability and acknowledging their own personal responsibility for safe climbing.
- All participants must use industry-manufactured belay devices and harnesses.
- Belayers must remain attentive and stand while belaying.
- Harnesses must be snug with the belt above the hips and tied in securely with the buckle doubled back.
- Figure 8 follow-through knot must be tied through the waist belt and leg loops.
- Tie-in must have a minimum 6-inch tail, with an additional safety knot optional.
- Belay device must be set properly, and the belay carabiner must be locked.
- Belayer must never drop or let go of the rope with the brake hand.
- Belayer must switch between belaying and lowering without compromising the brake hand.
- When lowering, brake hand must not go above the 3 o’clock position (or 9 o’clock if you are left-handed)
Minimum Requirements for Safe Lead Climbing
All lead climbers and lead belayers must be lead checked by gym staff by climbing a route that we select. The leader will be required to take a fall as part of the test for both the leader and the belayer. Don’t lead climb if you don’t expect to fall. The lead test must be on a 5.10b route (or harder) that is unfamiliar to the climber. The reason for this requirement is that only a 5.10b or harder has no rests. We want to ensure that a climber will make the correct safety choices even when fatigued.
- Belayers must be confident and appear confident while belaying.
- Lead belayers must sign into the Lead Check-In Log at the front counter each day.
- All regular belay rules above must be followed (e.g. harness doubled back, belay hand always on the rope, etc.).
- Belayers must remain attentive to lead climbers at all times and stand while belaying.
- Belayers must keep minimal slack—rope must not dip below the knees.
- Belayer must take the leader fall without losing control and with minimal rope play.
- Belayer must belay immediately underneath the first clip until climber has clipped at least the 4th quickdraw and even after, must stay within a reasonable distance from the wall.
- Lead climbers must appear safe and confident while leading.
- Lead climbers must sign into the Lead Check-In Log at the front counter each day.
- Lead climbers must bring their own lead rope.
- Leader must clip all quickdraws, in order.
- Leader must clip carabiners in the correct direction, without trouble.
- Lead climbers must clip between their waist and head level, or higher if safe and in control.
- Leader must be willing to take a reasonable fall.
The popularity of bouldering has grown rapidly in recent years. With that growth has also come increased awareness of and emphasis on safe bouldering techniques for both the climber and the spotter(s). Even though you may only be a few feet off the ground while bouldering, climbers and spotters must still take precautions to ensure their own safety and the safety of other people in the bouldering area. If you have questions about etiquette or safe practices, check out our Bouldering Safety Video below. Still have questions? Don’t hesitate to ask!
Personal Responsibility. Bouldering involves risk. All falls are ground falls. All boulderers must be willing to take personal responsibility for their own safety.
Safety Requirements for Bouldering
- Don’t boulder unless you know how to fall—feet together for strength, or springy and apart if stable.
- Don’t break falls with your hands or arms.
- Use a “spotter” for difficult moves.
- Know how to “spot.” Be active and poised to orient the falling climber correctly onto padding.
- Ensure the safety of your fall zone before you climb including the safety of the landing, placement of floater pads if in use, and that it’s free of people and other potential hazards.
- Do not boulder on the climbing walls beyond 17 feet in height (hands).
- Roped climbing has priority over bouldering on main climbing walls.
- Do not boulder in areas of heavy top rope and lead climbing.
- The bouldering area is for adults—children must be supervised.
- Children may not play on the foam under the bouldering walls.