Cleaning a single pitch route might be one of the most dangerous and stressful parts of a day at the crag. The process of cleaning presents the moment that a climber often must untie from their rope at the top of a pitch, thread it through the lowering hardware and retie into their harness. In recent years there have been many advancements to make this process at a crag safer.
Accidents in North American Climbing is a resource that is helpful in tracking accidents, injuries and rescues in climbing and why they occurred. From 2003 - 2013 incidents pertaining to lowering are made up of 56% rope too short, 22% of miscommunication, 12% of belay error and 10% anchor failures. Lowering off a route after cleaning the anchor is one of the most common scenarios that leads to injury or rescue. It is important to simplify this process as much as possible.
Mussy hooks are becoming more popular in the USA thanks to the American Safe Climbing Association's Lower-Off Initiative where they are equipping crags with lower-off hardware that increases the safety of the climber by allowing them to stay tied in at all times.
In the past couple of months GMG has been working with the ASCA in their Lower-Off Initiative to install mussy hooks in our own community. Next time you're climbing in Prescott, be sure to keep your eyes out for the crags that have newly installed mussy hooks! And remember: they are not for top-roping.
While installing mussy hooks at crags contributes to a safer and more accessible climbing environment, it is important for us (all climbers alike) to take on a personal responsibility of maintaining this hardware as long as it is safe. To accomplish this goal, it is crucial that mussy hooks are only used for the last person in your group to lower off.
As mussy hooks become more common, and seeing their resemblance to quick draws, it is has become an issue where climbers want to top-rope off of these mussy hooks. This puts unnecessary wear and tear on the hardware which shortens their lifespan.
An easy solution to preserving our beloved mussy hooks is to build simple, safe, and strong anchors. Below is a video from the AMGA of several different two-bolt top rope anchors and how to clean using mussy hooks. Feel free to reach out to us directly if you have any questions, or sign up for our Gym-to-Crag Course or Intro to Lead Climbing Course to learn more!
As helpful as online resources can be, always remember to SEEK. QUALIFIED. INSTRUCTION.