Climbing Classes

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Rock Climbing Safety Guidelines

for Outdoor Programs and DOC Climbing Activities including PE classes

  • All instructors should read and be familiar with the Dartmouth Climbing Companion, available from OPO. Participants should receive a copy. Get these from the Director or Assistant Director of Outdoor Programs.


  • Equipment is stored in the OPO climbing gear locker. [2019W - Gear storage spaces are under renovation. Ask OP staff for help.]
  • All equipment must be signed out on the clipboard inside the door each class, without exception.


1. Bouldering activities will not exceed safe spotting limits.

2. Participant spotters must be briefed by staff on spotting techniques and demonstrate those techniques.

3. Hard hats will be worn.

4. Emphasize the risks involved in bouldering and the limitation of spotting (high incidence of broken and sprained ankles).

Rock climbing, belaying, rappelling

The head Instructor has personal responsibility for the safety of student lives at all times.Safety protocols/procedures include and are not limited to:

1 All participants will wear an approved helmet while near the bottom or top of the crag even when not actively participating.

2. Instruction in climbing techniques will be progressive from basic to advance.

3. Climbing above 5-feet will include a toprope belay. All rappels will include a back-up belay on a separate rope.

4. Climbing rules, procedures and signals will be reviewed for participants before each climbing day. Review the Daily Activity Safety Briefing checklist.

5. All climbing areas will be reconnoitered and cleaned by staff before students may climb.

6. Climbing signals will be uniform throughout each course.

7. It is the responsibility of the instructor to make sure that climbers follow proper safety check prior to each climb. The check may be delegated to a properly trained student. Safety check: helmets fit and buckled, harnesses fit and proper buckling, correct knots tied properly into harness points, any carabiners are locked or oppsed and reversed.

8. It is the responsibility of the lead instructor to see that appropriate emergency gear is available.

9. Equipment will be examined at the beginning of each climbing day.

10. No one will climb with students without permission of the Director or Assistant Director of Dartmouth Outdoor Programs.

11. Climbing areas will not be overcrowded. There will be an adequate instructor/participant ratio specified by the Director of Outdoor Programs.

12. Closed system: The belayer must tie into the end of the rope or secure the end to the anchor, or tie a large knot to close the system. If not, the rope could run through their hands and they could drop the climber.

Top Rope Curriculum

Top Roping Instructors should demonstrate competencies in these domains prior to the start of a course. Students taking a top-roping physical education course will develop familiarity with these domains but do not need to demonstrate proficiency to pass the course for PE credit.

  1. Know how to properly select, size, put on, and care for a harness.
  2. Know how to select, coil, and care for a climbing rope.
  3. Know how to set-up (ATC) and back up (belayed, fireman’s, auto block) a rappel.
  4. Know how to rappel competently on varied terrain (double strand, single stand).
  5. Understand the components of the belay.
    1. Use of Belaying Equipment: ATC, GriGri and a Munter Hitch.
    2. Attaching the climber to the climbing rope
    3. Fundamental Principles of Belay
    4. The Belay System
    5. Belaying a Top Rope
    6. Use of Ground Anchor
    7. Know how to bottom belay and bottom belay with an ATC, GriGri, and Munter Hitch
  6. Know the signals used to communicate in bottom belay and top belay situations.
  7. Know how to tie and when to use a girth hitch, figure-eight on a bight, figure-eight follow-through, bowline, clove hitch, water knot, stopper knot, and a double fisherman’s knot.
  8. Know what constitutes a good anchor. Understand the concepts of vectors, pulleys, multiplication of loads, equalization, and prevention of extensions.
  9. Demonstrate the ability to properly use and connect natural, fixed, and removable anchors for bombproof toprope anchor systems (both top belay and bottom belay situations), including the use of extensions, and the proper use of carabiners.
  10. Demonstrate an understanding of basic climbing movement (edging, smearing, jamming, laybacking, stemming, bridging, chimneying, and finding/using rests).
  11. Know what equipment to purchase for top roping.
  12. Demonstrate an understanding of the dangers inherent in top roping.
  13. Know how to select and manage a safe top rope site.
  14. Demonstrate a conservative approach.
  15. Know how to use a guidebook.
  16. Understand the YDS for rating difficulty and the grading system for rating time required to climb a particular route.
  17. Be able to identify various cliff features.
  18. Understand cliff etiquette.



Should adhere to SRENE: they should be, Solid, Redundant, Equalized with No Extension.

1. Should be strong, bombproof and without question.

2. Staff must be completely confident with all anchors.

3. Whenever participants are operating around removable protection, check periodically to ensure that they have not reduced the security of the system.

4. Consider the direction properties of your anchor.


1. Participants should be thoroughly familiar with the hand coordination for belaying before participating in an actual belaying situation.

2. Demonstrate and practice the stitch plate belay, stressing: • Taut anchor line, attached to front of harness.

• Stable, braced position

• Importance of brake hand

• Use of primary climbing signals:




As well as:







3. Belaying through a fixed anchor can reduce the forces transmitted to the belayer if a fall occurs. Unattended anchors used for directional belays must be doubled.

4. Before each climbing session, the following will be covered: appropriate safety rules, hazards of particular sites (such as loose rock), ascending and descending trails, cliff edges, difficulty of climbs, and expectations of participants.

5. All belayers will be anchored.

6. When participants are belaying, staff will be in a position to arrest the belay rope if necessary. Use of a stacker or rope handler with beginning belayers is the rule. With more experience and with the approval of the climber in charge, the stacker may be omitted.

Staff Responsibilities

The "climber in charge" will be solely responsible for the session and its content. Essentially, the instructors and climbers, not the rules, keep the climbing safe and positive. It is important that the climber in charge communicate well beforehand what individual responsibilities are.

Sport Class Skills Checklist

Belaying the leader…. be supportive; pro-active.

Safe lowering…two hands.

Anchoring the belayer…pros and cons.

Belaying with a gri-gri.

Tie in using figure eight knot.

Communication…standard climbing calls.

Rope handling.

Equipment care.

Use of a climbing guidebook.

Stick clipping the first bolt.

Safe clipping….no back clips; no z-clips!

Efficient clipping….see handout.

Footwork and climbing techniques.

Finding clever rests.

Anchor clipping options.

Cleaning a sport route.

Emergency bail off a route.


Belay take-over.

Counterbalance ascend to assist a climber….rescue or assist the climber.

Rappel with an accident victim.

Multi-pitch sport climbing.

Stretching recommendations.

Slacklining PE Classes

a. Trees used must be 1 foot in diameter and be protected with burlap, rugs, etc.

b. The ground around the line must be inspected for rocks, branches, glass, metal, and any sharp objects at the start of each session

c. The area surrounding the line should be as flat as possible

d. The line should be inspected at the start of and during each sessions for any signs of wear

e. The line should not be higher than 3 feet off the ground

f. Newbies should be started at 1 foot off the ground (at it's lowest point when weighted)

g. Appropriate use of spotters should be employed

h. The area must be inspected for low hanging branches/twigs that might poke someone in the eye

i. Only one person on the line at a time

j. No running, stunts, or tricks on the line at any time