Man Sustains Injuries From Fall At Rock Climbing Facility

Victoria Negron

Written by
— Updated on January 10, 2022

Rock Climbing Expert

This case involves a man who was injured while on a climbing wall at a bouldering-only rock climbing facility. At the facility in question, harnesses, ropes, and belaying are not allowed. The facility had mats beneath all bouldering walls but did not provide helmets to climbers. The man was climbing near the top of the wall when he fell with his leg locked in an unnatural position. He shattered his knee cap and injured his back upon impact. An expert in rock climbing was sought to discuss the safety requirements of a bouldering-only gym.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your experience working at rock climbing facilities.
  • 2. Does a facility have a responsibility to allow or provide safety equipment for climbers?
  • 3. Does the concept of bouldering meet recreational safety standards?

Expert Witness Response E-096744

The reason why we have the harness, helmets, and ropes as climbers is to prevent the falls. The irony of bouldering is that it is much more likely to injure participants, and the safety measures don’t rise enough to meet the increase in risk. I looked at the waiver that the facility has provided; my guess is that the facility is paying lip service to its customers. They require spotting, which according to the American Mountain Guide Association is an advanced skill set. Unless this was a bouldering competition, say, with high-end climbers who know how to fall and how to spot, it likely didn’t meet safety standards. When you make bouldering difficult on a wall such as this one, it is no longer a recreational activity and comes with a different level of risk.

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