A 52-year old woman fell to her death Sunday, while she was rock climbing at the Summit Climbing Gym in Grapevine. Police said Susan Mailoux was wearing a harness, but the harness was not attached to an auto-belay, a piece of equipment designed to help slow-down climbers if they fall. The facility’s website states every person must fill out a liability release before climbing.
Yet, with the insurgence of rock climbing as a popular sport for recreation and exercise, Nightcap wanted to know how much danger does this extreme activity pose?
We recruited the knowledge of Jeff Lee. He is the climbing director at the North Texas Pursuit Center in Carrollton. The facility is located inside the city’s old silos and has been in operation for the past two years.
“Our focus here is to get people climbing outdoors, so we take that perspective,” Lee said of his operation.
“We take the approach of getting people trained, the gear they’re going to use if they’re getting into the sport for the first time.”
“From a physical stand-point, really anybody can do it. How difficult is it? It’s going to be different for everybody.”
Lee acknowledged the sport could be categorized as extreme, but recently it has grown in popularity by the masses.
“Do I think it’s dangerous? No. Do I think it has the potential to be dangerous? Absolutely.”
Lee said like any sport, the potential for danger and harm exists. Yet, he said the sport must be approached with a level of seriousness.
“There’s top rope climbing – which is the kind you’d see in a gym; like this a rope that goes from the ground up to an anchor down to the climber. That’s extraordinarily safe.”
In rock climbing, a harness acts essentially as the climber’s lifeline, and should be worn at all times.
“If you’re going to do any sort of climbing above your shoulder height, you should be harnessed up. There’s no reason not to be.”
“It’s very unfortunate what happened to that family; I can’t even fathom what they could be like, but I don’t think it’s something that would be widespread by any means.”
Lee said although the incident in Grapevine was tragic, that should not be a deterrent for anyone wishing to pursue rock climbing as a sport.
“There’s always going to be risk in anything you do – it doesn’t matter,” Lee explained.
“But receiving proper instruction is key for any sport.”