10 Tips to Keep You Safe While Rock Climbing

Overhead view of climbing equipment on wood floor.
Manuel Sulzer / Getty Images

Climbing is dangerous. You need to do everything you can to mitigate the effects of gravity and falling. Redundancy is key. Always back-up every important piece of gear with another piece of gear and use more than one anchor at a belay and rappel station. Your life depends on it. Beginner climbers are most vulnerable to accidents. Always use sound judgment; respect climbing dangers; don't climb over your head; find an experienced mentor or take climbing lessons from an experienced guide to learn how to climb safely. Remember that most accidents happen because of climber error. Use the following 10 tips to keep safe when you're out rock climbing.

01
of 10

Always Check Harnesses

Person with periodic table shirt on while rock climbing.

Adam Kubalica / Flickr

After you've geared up and tied into the rope at the base of a route, always check that both the climber's and belayer's harness buckles are doubled back. Make sure the leg loops are also snug; most harnesses have adjustable leg loops. 

02
of 10

Always Check Knots

Person holding rope with knot.

Patrick Lane / Getty Images

Before you start climbing, always double check to make sure that the lead climber's tie-in knot--usually a figure-8 follow-through--is tied correctly and finished with a backup knot. Also, check that the rope is threaded through both the waist loop and the leg loops on the harness.

03
of 10

Always Wear a Climbing Helmet

Surprised man wearing climbing helmet.

Stewart M. Green

A climbing helmet is essential if you want to live long and prosper. Always wear one when climbing or belaying. Helmets protect your head from falling rocks and from the impact of falling. Remember that your head is soft and the rock is hard. Head injuries from falls and rockfall are serious life-changing events. A helmet keeps your head safe.

04
of 10

Always Check the Rope and Belay Device

Bill Springer holding a belay rope and paying close attention to climbers.

Stewart M. Green

Before you lead a route, always double-check to make sure that the rope is properly threaded through the belay device (especially if it is a GriGri). Also, always make sure that the rope and belay device are attached with a locking carabiner to the belay loop on the belayer's harness.

05
of 10

Always Use a Long Rope

A knotted belay rope against rock face.
A stopper knot.

Stewart M. Green

Make sure your climbing rope is long enough to reach the anchors and lower back down on a sports route or to reach a belay ledge on multi-pitch routes. When sports climbing, if you have any doubt that the rope is too short, always tie a stopper knot in the tail end to avoid being dropped to the ground.

06
of 10

Always Pay Attention

Focused young girl rock climbing.
Daniel Milchev / Getty Images

When you're belaying, always pay attention to the leader above. The leader is the one taking the risks of a fall and leading the route. It is smart to never visit with other climbers at the base, talk on a cell phone, or discipline your dog or kids while you are belaying. Never take the leader off belay unless you are absolutely certain that he is tied into the anchors and safe and he communicates clearly with climbing commands to you that he is safe and ready to lower or rappel.

07
of 10

Always Bring Enough Gear

Climbing equipment displayed against wood floor.

Georgijevic / Getty Images

Before you climb a route, always eyeball it from the ground and determine what you equipment you need to bring. You know best. Do not rely strictly on a guidebook to tell you what to bring. If it is a sports climbing route, verify visually how many bolts need quickdraws. If in doubt, always bring a couple more quickdraws than you think you need.

08
of 10

Always Climb With the Rope Over Your Leg

Person climbing cliff.

Buena Vista Images / Getty Images

When you are leading a route, always make sure that the rope is over your leg rather than between them or behind one leg. If you fall with the rope in this position, you will flip upside down and hit your head. Wear a climbing helmet for protection.

09
of 10

Always Properly Clip the Rope

Carabiner with ropes attached against rock face.

skodonnell / Getty Images

Make sure you always clip your rope through carabiners on quickdraws correctly. Avoid back clipping, where the rope runs front to back rather than back to front in the carabiner. Make sure the carabiner gate faces opposite to your direction of travel, otherwise the rope can come unclipped. Always use locking carabiners on important placements.

10
of 10

Always Use Safe Anchors

Carabiners on an anchor attached to cliff.

NickS / Getty Images

At the top of a pitch or route, always use at least two anchors. Three is better. Redundancy keeps you alive. On a sports route, always use locking carabiners if you are lowering down to top-rope climb off the anchors.