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Wearing a climbing helmet – Tip #42

Wearing a climbing helmet

(You can learn more about wearing a climbing helmet and other safe rock climbing practice on one of our courses with a fully qualified rock climbing instructor.)

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 obviously includes not dropping it on the floor. It’s also best not to carry 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.  Falling equipment is also a danger, 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” though it can safer than other forms of climbing. 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. It’s a good idea for them to wear a helmet at the foot of many sports crags even if the climber doesn’t.
  • 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. However, they are killed by falling rocks or falling off themselves. 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.