Rock climbing is classed as an Extreme Sport, where the consequences of getting things wrong can result in grave injury. To believe otherwise is delusional. The purpose of fall protection gear presented on the Downbeat Website is to reduce the risk of a big fall, and thereby reduce the degree of injury consequent on the fall. Whilst this objective is unambiguous, there are factors associated with the use of fall protection gear which can negate its effectiveness. It is important that the user be aware of such factors before putting the gear to use. The following provides information and guidance on this matter.

The Downbeat Website is about fall protection gear, but it is important to appreciate that this gear is a component part of a roped safety system which comprises several other safety-critical parts, all being interdependent in a manner akin to links in a chain. From a fall arrest aspect, this means that all parts of the chain must be fully operational for the safety system to be effective. The principles underlying roped safety systems in rock climbing are well documented and published, and taught by instructors. It is an essential prerequisite to practising the sport that the climber be familiar with both the safety system employed, and the role of all parts within the system.

Though the Downbeat Website contains explicit instruction on placement procedure for the Hotnut and Shellnut, this information cannot of itself guarantee a secure lodgement of the nut when placed, because rock-face features providing possible sites for nut placement vary considerably, and it is the judgment skill of the climber, borne of experience in the placing of nuts, which is usually decisive in whether the placement is sound or not. Such experience must be gained, and from a safety aspect, especially for the beginner, this is best acquired in a relaxed, non-serious, situation, e.g. deliberately climbing at lower grades, or by seeking ‘trial’ placements at the cliff foot. There are two useful indicators that a nut placement is secure; firstly, the nut fits the crack over a large part of its possible contact area, and a determined pull on the nut sling produces a retained friction-lock bond between nut and rock; secondly, the rock wall structure adjacent the placement is adjudged sufficiently sound to withstand the high cleavage separating forces developed in fall arrest.

Finally, fall protection gear is unavoidably subject to “wear and tear” degradation in use over time. Inspect the condition of gear on a regular basis, in knowledge that degraded gear is less reliable gear, and if in doubt remove gear from service.