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Safety Rules in Rock Climbing

By Stephanie Dube Dwilson

Each year in the United States, approximately nine million people participate in rock climbing. With so many people rock climbing, injuries are inevitable. Unfortunately, the amount of rock climbing injuries is rising rapidly. The Center for Injury Research and Policy has noted a 63 percent increase in the number of injuries treated in the emergency room from 1990 to 2007. The most common type of injuries related to rock climbing are fractures, and more than 75 percent of them occur as the result of a fall. Following some basic safety rules can help reduce the risk of injury.

Understand the Risks

Before heading out to climb, check the weather for the location where you are going. Know approximately how long the climb will last, and pack a helmet, lights and extra food, even if you plan to return before dark. Wear well-fitted safety gear, including a helmet and climbing harness, and check them regularly for signs of wear.

Climb With Others

The buddy system greatly increases safety while climbing. The climbing path you choose should be one that the least experienced member of your group feels comfortable climbing. You never know when an accident will happen, or to whom, so each member of the climbing party should carry first-aid essentials and know how to use them. Know and use commands that will improve communication on the trail (see Resources).

Know What You're Doing

It is important to understand how to properly anchor a rope, tie a belay assembly and rappel down a cliff. Don't count on others to tie your knots or navigate the climb. Take your time and test each hand and foothold before putting weight on it. Watch for loose rock in these holds, which can cause your hands or feet to slip, leading to a fall.

Look Out For Others

It is important that you are aware of your surroundings, particularly on a crowded trail. Hikers above you may throw rocks down the trail--accidentally or on purpose--leading to a head injury. Understanding the rules of climbing etiquette, such as not pressuring others to hurry along the trail, and not using someone else's ropes, increases safety for everyone.

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