Wearing a climbing helmet
When to wear a helmet? Ultimately it comes down to this – look around; think; be aware; make your own risk assessment and decisions; and ignore what anyone else around you is doing. Make sure you can justify in your own mind why you are not wearing a helmet.
Here are some of my own usual practices (not “rules”).
- Your helmet will look after your head; so it’s a good idea to look after your helmet. This includes not dropping it on the floor, and not carrying it dangling from the outside of the rucksack in such a way that it will swing about and hit things, or potentially fall off.
- As soon as you arrive at the foot of a crag, you are at risk from falling rock (and falling equipment, if there are climbers above you!). It’s a good idea to put on a helmet as soon as you arrive.
- For that reason, I carry my helmet at the very top of my rucksack (but still safely inside it).
- Sports climbing is not inherently “safe” and limestone (a popular sports climbing rock-type) is both notoriously slippery and prone to breaking. The belayer may be at more risk than the climber so I will usually wear a helmet at the foot of many sports crags.
- Scrambles in particular demand respect, as they are often in areas with more loose rock than harder rock climbs. Nobody has ever been hurt or killed by a scrambling grade, but they have by falling rocks. Grade 1 scrambles are not inherently safer than Grade 3 scrambles – especially if they are popular, busy routes and there are other groups ahead and above you. I often wear a helmet on busy Grade 1 scrambles for this reason. Don’t base your decision to wear, or not wear, a helmet solely on the grade of a route.