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. This dictates the need for personal responsibility to allow the sport we love to exist indoors at all. Our liability release’s primary purpose is to agree on this principle. Without this agreement, we do not allow users in 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 specific method—the brake hand must not leave the rope, for instance, but how you do that is somewhat up to you. If we can stress you, during a test, to drop your brake hand, well, chill, let us give you pointers so that you can climb safely for the day, and please appreciate that we care.
Regarding lead climbing—if climbing is risky, lead climbing is simply dangerous. Touchstone supports this purest form of climbing with draws on most walls, some terrain simply too hard to do anything but, and course setting that allows clipping safely. Lead climbing in our gyms should not be practiced by anyone but experts. If we pull your lead card, please realize that we’re still most likely allowing you to continue top rope climbing, and that we may be saving this most cherished aspect of our sport from elimination.
Below is a summary of the criteria that 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 and allow them to climb for the day, and reinforce good practice. Please do not be disappointed if we require you to test multiple times before we issue a permanent 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 belt above hips and tied-in securely with buckle doubled back.
- Figure 8 follow-through knot must be tied through waist belt and leg loops.
- Tie-in must have a minimum 6 inch tail, with additional safety knot optional.
- Belay device must be set properly and belay carabiner must be locked.
- Belayer must never drop or let go of the rope with brake hand.
- Belayer must switch between belaying and lowering without compromising the brake hand.
- When lowering, brake hand must not go above 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. 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 climbing.
- 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 rope, etc.).
- Belayers must remain attentive to lead climbers at all times and stand while belaying.
- Belayers must keep minimal slack—rope must not touch ground.
- 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.
- 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 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 the increased awareness of and emphasis upon 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, do not 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 brake falls with your hands or arms.
- Use a ‘spotter’ for difficult or risky moves.
- Know how to ‘spot.’ Be active and poised to orient falling climber correctly onto padding.
- Position foam crash pads beneath crux moves to cushion a potential fall.
- Do not boulder on the climbing walls beyond 14 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 in the bouldering cave.