One of these buckles can kill you or your friend. Time to cut it off, and here’s why: To me, safety in anything in life starts with attitude toward the task at hand. Being vigilant, aware that we all make mistakes, expecting unforeseen change, humility, trained competence and open communication are all critical parts of staying alive. But surprising errors happen to good people all the time. If a small change can fix that then I believe it’s good to examine the change.
The old double-back system was solid when that’s all we used. I rarely heard of deaths or NEDs (Nearly died is a “NED” moment). But newer harness buckles don’t work or look the same, and I think that’s leading to problems. In the last few years I’ve heard of at least five NEDs or dead people due to them not doubling their old-style buckles back properly. You could loudly write these off as lazy dumb f@ckers not paying attention, but two of them were in institutional settings where the harness was scanned by some people I really trust. In one case the NED ended up hanging upside down by his leg loops 100 feet off the deck. In another the waistbelt popped and the guide caught the guest by the arm before he could fall upside down. I’ve caught multiple experienced climbers with incorrectly threaded buckles. We all make errors. A double back harness buckle is prone to errors, especially in a non-double back world.
So, if you have an old-style double back harness, cut it up. If your partner climbs with one spend $60 (that’s all a budget harness costs) on them if they’re too cheap ass to buy one, as I did recently with an old friend of mine who was climbing on a POS from the 90s. This is the first of three small changes I’ve made in my own gear this season, two more to come. I hope people find this interesting or useful.