Climbing Calls, do we need them?
I once spent a few amused moments listening to a cacophony of misunderstanding and confusion floating quite audibly down from Dow crag.
People were, slimeing, miming, rhyming, ready, not ready, holding, not holding and all sorts of other nonsense. What they clearly were not doing was communicating effectively about the process in which they were engaged. Arguably they weren’t even climbing; they were just stood on steep ground shouting a lot.
This could be seen as being funny or of little consequence were it not for the fact that on three separate occasions I have witnessed climbers unclip their lead partners, whilst still climbing, as a result of having mistaken a name bellowed from above as coming from their partner.
“SAFE DAVE” Dave unclips but he is the wrong Dave. The first time I saw this happen the Dave in question was negotiating some tricky moves high up on Equs on Gimmer.
The second time, coincidentally on Gimmer crag, the lead climber was on the crux of Intern, so for a brief moment in time until their partners were informed of the mistake they were solo climbing blithely unaware of their predicament.
The third time it happened was on White Ghyll and when informed that he had just unclipped his mate, who was still climbing, the incredulous second said, “but I heard him call my name”.
So there you are, three completely separate incidents all of which could have had serious consequences and all brought about by the less than perfect system of climbing calls.
I find it hard to believe that I am the only person who has witnessed this and I suspect it happens with depressing regularity.
I am not against climbing calls per se but I would ask climbers to think it through.
Do we really need them? I have climbed for years using a system of rope tugs that so far has worked very well. In fact the only time I raise my voice on a crag is when things are going wrong, oh and on one occasion as I was just arriving at a stance on Haste Knot Direct when someone not more than a few metres away bellowed SAFE! So loudly that I nearly fell off.
What happened to climbers thinking for themselves, instead of subscribing to the “taught way” of doing things. Oops! I think that lets a cat out of a bag and last but not least what happened to the quiet enjoyment of the hills?