On the Rock
Crucial part, no mistakes; check and recheck, and before they start climbing, have another good look.
If you've opted to tie the Modified Colorado harness yourself, you have to be sure of two things. One, the harness must be sufficiently tight. A loose harness can cause injury; any discomfort caused by tying it tight will soon disappear as it stretches. Two, when you tie the climbing rope to this harness, make sure a locking biner has hooked the waist strap and leg loop sections together, and that the rope encompasses the same the waist and leg loop sections. Make sure that the last knot you've tied on the waist strap, the half hitch after the water knot, is tied.
On an adjustable harness, adjust the leg loops to fit the child's thigh high enough so the loops disappear into the crotch area when they are standing, facing you. Now it's time for the buckle.
There is one way and one way only to thread any buckle on any harness. The free end of the strap threads through the buckle like any buckle/belt combination. Make sure any folds or twists are out of the strapping, and pull it as tight as possible. Some harnesses have a thick nylon loop mounted on the front for tying in to a belay or anchor when you're off the rope; the strapping is threaded through this as well.
Next, thread the strapping through the other side of the buckle, leaving a small loop in the center of the buckle. Get rid of any remaining slack by pulling on this loop. If your child says it's too tight it's just about right. You want it as tight as possible, without having your child turn an odd, unhealthy-looking color (their eyes will be wide open, anyway, so that's no way to determine tightness).
Here comes the crucial and most important part. The strap must be re-threaded back through the buckle where it first entered. No matter what, it must, it must, it must be re-threaded over, back and out. It is the only way to ensure that the belt will not release in a fall. Whatever length is left over, and it may be considerable, should be wrapped back around and tucked into the belt to avoid interfering with all the action that will soon be going on in the front of the belt.
Petzl's children's full harness allows the entire harness to be adjusted by means of two buckles located about chest level; these must be threaded the same way as was previously discussed for the waist buckle. The child dons the harness much like a pair of overalls, and then the final adjustments are made. The harness is hooked together with a locking biner for now.
By the way, before you go through any of this, have the kids make sure their bladders are empty!
Me (as we approach climbing area):"Anybody got to go to the bathroom?"
Me: "Right. Let's stop over here."
Considering all the musts I've used, let's move to another must. Tying into the harness is done with one knot; the figure-eight-on-a-bight or threaded figure-eight. Rather than attempt to have you visualize the tying process through words, I refer you to the illustration on this page. Again, the knot is tied into the harness and not attached to the harness by a biner or anything else.
I have to reiterate this point. Do not attach the rope to the harness via a biner, locking or otherwise. The rope is threaded through the entire harness, both waist and leg loops. That's the way it's done, period.
Have the children practice this knot before you head out to the crags. There's no reason why they can't tie themselves into the rope; it's a skill that has to stay with them for as long as they are climbing. Your responsibility is to make damn sure the knot is tied correctly, which includes the safety tie-off of the loose end. Never be so sure of your or anyone else's knot tying ability that you don't check and recheck the knot.
Always double check your tie-in knot. If there's any question at all, untie, then retie it.
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication