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Pongoose climbing blog - Buddy checks, a life saver? Image of two climbers doing buddy check

Buddy Checks - A Life Saver?

January 24, 2019

DISCLAIMER – This blog is intended only to increase awareness of the importance of buddy checks and in no way does the author take responsibility for the actions of other climbers or any events that may occur whilst sport or trad climbing. The author is not a qualified climbing instructor and all climbers should ensure they have the skills, training and equipment necessary for climbing before embarking on the activity. All climbers enter into the activity of climbing at their own risk and should always be aware of the possibility of serious injury or death as per the BMC participation statement that can be found on their website.


Picture the scene: it’s a beautiful day at the crag, you’re there with your mates, chatting and laughing, you’re keen to get climbing so you rush through tying your knot and jump on the rock ready to crush… but have you done your buddy checks? Have you tied your knot correctly with a back-up stopper knot? Is your belayer ready with their device and equipment set up correctly? Is everything OK with your rope and have you got enough quickdraws for the route? Do you have the correct gear for tying off at the top of the route?

This blog is intended as a reminder to carry out your buddy checks before you start climbing, and applies to indoors and outdoors where a knot and rope is involved. We could all do with the reminder to do buddy checks, despite how experienced we are. It’s easy to get blasé isn’t it? We’ve all been there, I’m sure. I know I have!

Rob and I have always made a habit to do buddy checks but one day last year, for some reason unbeknown to me, or him, I forgot to put the rope through the belay device before he started climbing. I was distracted, chatting to other people on the crag, as was Rob at the same time as clambering up the steep bank to start a nails route. On this occasion, neither of us checked his knot or my belay device. After he’d climbed two metres and was ready to clip, I went to pay out rope and realised with absolute cold horror that I was simply holding the rope in both hands and it wasn’t through my belay device at all. Needless to say, I’ve never snapped a rope into my GriGri so fast in my life. We were lucky that time but I got the biggest shock of my life at that moment. Obviously, I’m a complete idiot for making this ridiculous mistake, but that’s why it’s so important to look out for each other as a pair; if one misses something, then hopefully the other will pick it up before something bad happens.  


Pongoose climbing blog - sausage dog watching the belayer

Photo: If in doubt, train your climbing sausage to remind you to do your buddy checks by barking (Dog model: Tilly)


Sadly, others have not been so lucky. For example, the death of an experienced climber last year at an indoor wall and a recent accident at Portland only days ago (photo below of Coastguard helicopter rescue), with both climbers falling from the top of their routes to the ground. The facts of these events are known solely by the people involved and it is not my place to speculate on the details, however it is important to be aware that these accidents can happen, if only to prevent future incidents.


Pongoose blog - buddy checks image of Coastguard air rescue of injured climber

Photo credit: Portland Bill Coastguard Rescue Team


Going forward, what can you do? Remember your buddy checks for a start. The list is probably exhaustive but here are a few basics to remember:

  • Climb with someone you trust. If climbing with a new person, always communicate with them before you start climbing, especially about yours/their skills, level of experience and ability to belay safely. Never assume someone knows what they are doing;
  • Ensure you know how to tie a safe and appropriate knot;
  • Check your climbing partner’s knot and safety knot before each route;
  • Check your belayer has your rope through their belay device and it is secured correctly before each route;
  • Conduct general equipment and quality checks; harnesses, ropes, quickdraws, belay devices and slings/cams/nuts etc;
  • Ensure you know what to do at the lower off and how to tie-off correctly;
  • Concentrate at all times and try to limit chat or music that might distract others;
  • Be as informed as possible about the risks of climbing and never assume it is completely safe;
  • If in doubt, take a course with a qualified instructor if you’re a beginner or want to brush up on additional safety skills.


Written by Katie Rendall.





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