St peters climbing death
A young man was killed after falling 43ft from an auto belay-equipped path at the Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym, St. Peters. Although the victim’s identity is unknown, he was believed to be in his 30s. He fell at 11:30 AM on Wednesday, October 13. The victim died on the spot.
After the incident last week, the gym was closed. It had been reopened two days earlier after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
The Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym was reopened in October, but without auto belays. “[The accident] was caused by an autobelay failure,” said the gym on Facebook, Instagram before reopening on Oct 21. All autobelays at St. Peters have been removed and will no longer be available. Other equipment was not involved. We ask everyone to refrain from speculation out of respect for all involved.
Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym also removed autobelays from a sister facility near Villawood. Before the reopening, gym staff had “undergone a comprehensive program inspection and testing of equipment.”
Syndey Indoor Climbing Gym claims to be the largest indoor climbing gym in Southern Hemisphere with more than 12,000 feet of climbing and over 400 roped routes. There are also routes that reach 82 feet high. The oldest climbing gym in Sydney, it has been open since 1993. It was not possible to reach the gym for comment.
Recent accidents have brought Autobelays under scrutiny. Some were horrific (such this “anal implolement” incident), and even fatal. These accidents can lead to catastrophic lawsuits. Most of these incidents were caused by user error. A 73-year old man fell 30 feet to his death at Makak Climbing Arena, Warsaw, Poland on September 3.
Many gyms across the United States have taken down their autobelays due to the injuries, including Edgeworks Climbing+Fitness (Washington)
Auto belays can be safe when used correctly and have almost no failure rates. However, most gyms do not require top rope belay testing or have low (or absent) age requirements for autobelay usage. Auto belays can be a good choice for novice climbers. Auto belays are a solo climbing option. Users are often alone and have no one to check that they are properly harnessed and clipped in to the belay line.