5

Given:
- A single pitch climb
- Top roping only, belayed from below
- Limited number of helmets (assume only 1 for a climber/belayer pair)

Is it more important for the belayer to be protected from falling rocks, or for the climber to be protected from hitting the rock face?

(I understand that it would be best practice for all involved to be wearing a helmet. This is for the case of not everyone having a helmet, apportioning protective gear where it will be most effective or needed).

  • 1
    To whoever has been downvoting; I'm fully willing to improve my question, but I need to know what you think needs to be improved. – fyrepenguin May 13 '18 at 1:38
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    Why can't everyone just bring a helmet? It is a standard piece of climbing safety equipment. – Qudit May 13 '18 at 6:19
  • @Qudit Helmets are a much less standard piece of safety equipment for people who only climb indoors. While I do own one, I know others who do not. – fyrepenguin May 13 '18 at 22:17
  • Your question is about outdoor climbing, so what is standard indoors is not really relevant. I would be sceptical of the safety practices of someone climbing outdoors without a helmet and would probably not climb with them. – Qudit May 13 '18 at 22:22
  • @Qudit I have climbed outdoors. I have friends who have not, who I would like to bring outside. I do own a helmet, I do not believe that some of my friends do. I wouldn't want to force people to buy helmets for what could be a one-time thing, though I would suggest that it is recommended to have and use one. I do have a helmet that can be borrowed, but not enough if there were two ropes at one time. I am asking this question to solve a hypothetical future problem that I could run into, in the event that there are not enough helmets for everyone to use. – fyrepenguin May 13 '18 at 22:50
12

To appease the (correctly) security minded: Just don't forget the second helmet ;)

This depends on the specific situation in the crag:

  • Is there potential rockfall from above the routes?
    If there is nothing above the routes (cliffs, flat above, ...), then that's not a problem. If there is steepish terrain above, possibly with a path or animals up there, then it is definitely a risk.

  • Are the routes themselves crumbly?

  • Is the belayer protected somehow?
    E.g. below an overhang or protruding (massive) rock feature.

  • Top-roping? Given in your case. Belayer has lots of freedom to move, e.g. can get away from the wall and/or line vertically down from the climber.

In many scenarios for single-pitch routes it is generally a judgment call whether to wear a helmet or not. Again, it is always recommended to do so, but it's not like suicide if you don't, if the factors above are positive and the crag is very used. Having said that, I still didn't answer the question.

In general the belayer is "more important". Imagine a "mild" accident of a rock causing a bleeding wound and concussion: The climber will fall, can then be lowered and treated (even if unconscious, that's possible, while shit). The belayer will probably let go of the rope and cause the climber to fall -> you have a concussed belayer and a likely severely injured climber.

TLDR:
When in doubt, don't climb without the helmet - if you still climb, give preference to the belayer.

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