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CB BLAK: A Mnemonic to Save Your Ass

About 20 years ago my partner and I were inspecting the route “Sequential” in the Kloof Alcove in Eldo. I rapped off first and, just when I had gone into free-hanging mode about 5′ below the edge of the roof, one end of the rappel ropes ran through my brake hand.There I was hanging free in space, 40′ off the deck with most of the rope on the ground but only 5″ of tail of one of the strands in my hand. Holy SH*T! My partner, who unlike me, still had his sh*t together, grabbed both ropes up at the anchor and squeezed like hell to keep them from sliding around and I was able to quickly rapped down on the single line.
So here’s what I do now, EVERY TIME I go on the rope, either to climb or to rappel. I repeat a mnemonic (like SEReNE but actually useful. See my post here.) I made up: CB BLAK. I say it every time. It’s my mantra and I repeat it to myself before I climb up, lower off, rappel or anytime I make any transition move. CB BLAK. Every time.
Stands for Check Buckles, Belay, Landing, Anchors, Knots
Buckles
Duh. Make sure they are buckled correctly and that your harness is snug.
Belay
Confirm that I’m on belay. I do this, not just when I’m about to lead or TR a pitch, but also when I’m about to take and lower at the top of a sport or gym route. Eye contact with your belayer is good.
Landing
Good one for starting a rappel. Can you see BOTH ENDS of the rope ON THE GROUND? If not, tie knots.
Anchors
Check all that are appropriate. Keeps me attentive at the top of a sport route and makes me check one last time before I start to rap. If you’re starting to lead a route high up on a multi-pitch route, is the belay secure for an upward pull? Based on what I see at the crags, I’d say usually not.
Knots
Check all of them all the time.
Climb safe,
Mal

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