Margin Of Safety

Besides observing the standard safety precautions, the climber can avoid catastrophe by climbing with a wide margin of safety. The margin of safety is a protective buffer the climber places between himself and potential climbing hazards. Both subjective (personnel-related) and objective (environmental) hazards must be considered when applying the margin of safety. The leader must apply the margin of safety taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of the entire team or unit.

a. When climbing, the climber increases his margin of safety by selecting routes that are well within the limit of his ability. When leading a group of climbers, he selects a route well within the ability of the weakest member.

b. When the rock is wet, or when climbing in other adverse weather conditions, the climber's ability is reduced and routes are selected accordingly. When the climbing becomes difficult or exposed, the climber knows to use the protection of the climbing rope and belays. A lead climber increases his margin of safety by placing protection along the route to limit the length of a potential fall.

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