/ NEW ARTICLE: Ten Top Tips for Better Belaying

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UKC Articles - on 20 Jun 2012
Watty belaying Fi from the snow crevasse at the start of Magic Crack, 3 kbIn this short article UKC Chief Editor Jack Geldard looks at a few simple and not so simple ways of improving your belaying. From soft catches to giving out biscuits, there's some tips here for almost everyone.

"You have your friend's life in your hands. If you mess it up they may die. It is a 'big deal'..."

Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=4727

Mark Collins - on 20 Jun 2012
In reply to UKC Articles: Cheers Jack, great stuff.
lmarenzi - on 20 Jun 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Nice one Mr. Geldard.

The biggest problem I have experienced between belayer and climber are none of the above but (mis)communication and so would add the following.

Sometimes you can't see the leader and might need to rely on shouts. Remember, at any distance, only vowels carry. There are only 4 vowel sounds. Don't mix them up (classic mistake: slack, safe and take will all sound approximately the same after any reasonable distance. So will names like Ron, Don and John).

Communicating by tug and drop of rope is unlikely to be effective at any distance, and getting it wrong spells disaster. After all, an entire pitch of climbing consists of tugs and drops of rope from the leader side.

If you usually climb trad but are doing single pitch sport and the belayer is supposed to lower his partner back to the ground beware the leader who clips the belay and says "safe". The correct response to this is to ignore the command, keep them on belay and pass them slack if they ask for it to thread the anchor. The INCORRECT reply is "off belay", which is what you would say in trad where the second will follow, as you are then only one step away from the leader plummeting to earth.

Plenty more miscommunications to watch out for in them thar hills, so it will pay if you think things through with your partner before you leave the ground.

Luca
Jonny2vests - on 20 Jun 2012
In reply to lmarenzi:

I agree with your points, apart from the tugs. What would you do if shouting was not possible? Saying that, I rarely use tugs, only when climbing with a non-regular partner. With a regular partner you can usually make an informed guess as to whats going on.
M0nkey - on 20 Jun 2012
In reply to lmarenzi:
> (In reply to UKC Articles)
>

> If you usually climb trad but are doing single pitch sport and the belayer is supposed to lower his partner back to the ground beware the leader who clips the belay and says "safe". The correct response to this is to ignore the command, keep them on belay and pass them slack if they ask for it to thread the anchor. The INCORRECT reply is "off belay", which is what you would say in trad where the second will follow, as you are then only one step away from the leader plummeting to earth.

When I was a youngster I dropped a partner about 40 feet because of (almost) this exact miscommunication. It was a clip in lower off when all the routes we had done that day were re-thread lower offs. He said "safe", I started to feed slack to allow him to thread the bolt, and he took a mega whipper. I caught him eventually, but not before I had lost most of the skin on both hands and he had sprained an ankle. It wrecked the sport climbing holiday and I still feel pretty bad about it.
lmarenzi - on 20 Jun 2012
In reply to jonny2vests:

Hi Johnny. Good question about what to do about the tugs, very easy answer I think.

If no 100% reliable communication can be set up the belayer pays out the rope while keeping the leader on belay until all the rope is paid out.

I agree that sometimes informed guesses do work. I use them all the time, for example, I assume that the leader is safe when he goes over the top of Stanage edge and I can't see him any more. When he says "safe" five minutes later I assume not that he is safe, but that he is sat down with a fag in his mouth with the belay set up and wants to pull up the 44m of double rope that is coiled uselessly around my ankles.

Making "informed guesses" in the proper mountains when you don't know the route in question is just asking for trouble. Keep the leader on belay. Schimples. The same applies to the leader btw. After you are safe at the next anchor put your second on belay using guide mode on your plate, or using an Italian hitch. Its easier to pull the rope up and when it goes tight your second is already on belay. No communication is necessary.

I have not figured the above out by myself, by the way. The "no communication necessary" system is what they use everywhere in the world except the UK and US, which is where lots of people climb trad and the problems, and sadly accidents with communications occur.

Keep safe out there.
Ramblin dave - on 20 Jun 2012
In reply to lmarenzi:
That makes sense.

The worst case scenario is, presumably, that they've gone off route or missed a belay and are continuing to move even after running out of rope. In which case you'll be simulclimbing, which isn't ideal, but isn't as bad as having taken them off belay because you thought they were safe when in fact they were just charging up some easy stuff and then hitting another hard bit...

And the basic downside is that pulling up the rope takes rather longer than usual.
lmarenzi - on 20 Jun 2012
In reply to Ramblin dave:

Spot on Dave.

There is a risk of simulclimbing, but you have that if you are out of touch with your partner whatever system you use.

The downside of pulling the rope up through two belay plates is massive at a place like Stanage. But if you are on pitch 6 of a multipitch sport route in the alps you will often have a nice ledge to stand on and the anchor will be right in front of you at chest height. These routes are bolted by guides, don't forget. In that scenario pulling the rope up will take less time and effort for the leader than just pulling it up willy nilly.

I would expect the second to be able to feed rope roughly as quickly as the leader can pull up, but admittedly it is more work. The reward for the added work is that should the rope(s) clusterf*ck it will do so below the plate where you can untangle it, and not ten feet up in the air when it gets stuck in the first quickdraw, effectively stranding the team.

My advice at Stanage or similar would be to climb and then set up a belay so that you can see and talk to your partner. No system is required in that scenario, you can just talk things through. In all other scenearios it is best to hold on to the rope, anticipate the worst, and be pleasantly surprised 9/10.
mullermn - on 20 Jun 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Spend £15 on a pair of radios. Communication problems solved!

I've never understood why so many climbers spend their time bellowing at each other and guessing what their partner's doing. This has been a solved problem for hundreds of years!
cuppatea on 20 Jun 2012
Thanks for the article. I also read the one about dynamic belaying (grigri on trad, food for thought!) which was good but maybe needed to mention that if the belayer's some distance from the bottom of the crag there's a risk that low down runners may pop, but maybe the article was aimed at sport climbers..
cuppatea on 20 Jun 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Does anyone use whistles? Maybe avoiding six blasts with a minutes gap...
lmarenzi - on 20 Jun 2012
In reply to both mullermn and cuppatea:

The UIAA system does not require communication to work.

There is no need for mobile phones, radios, whistles or anything else. Always nice to be able to talk to your partner, of course, but its not essential to guarantee safety.

The UIAA makes it possible for Swiss guides to get punters like me up 1000m of granite in six hours. Not one single call to do the entire Cassin and not one unsafe moment (from a belaying perspective) for either leader or belayer. Impressive.
isi_o - on 20 Jun 2012
In reply to mullermn:
Right up until they fail and folk don't always know how to cope. Saw this with a couple on TR a couple of years ago - neither knew what was happening because the radios had stopped working and as a result they were both waiting for the other person to do something. We were able to help them re-establish comms, but not sure how long they would have stayed there otherwise!!
cuppatea on 20 Jun 2012
In reply to lmarenzi:
Thankee, I shall have s google
tlm - on 20 Jun 2012
In reply to cuppatea:
> Thanks for the article. I also read the one about dynamic belaying (grigri on trad, food for thought!) which was good but maybe needed to mention that if the belayer's some distance from the bottom of the crag there's a risk that low down runners may pop, but maybe the article was aimed at sport climbers..

yeah - this was the exact point that I thought would be one of the main points of the article, what with so many people moving from belaying on bolts indoors to trad gear outside. I see loads of people standing way back, with no idea of the forces generated on the gear by a potential fall and the risk of unzippering gear. (I do try to say something if I see someone doing this, but don't always get a welcome thank-you!)

mullermn - on 20 Jun 2012
In reply to isi_o:

You have a point, but worst case this puts you back in the same situation you would be in without the radios anyway. Nothing to stop you having another system arranged as backup.

In my experience climbing a lot in the Avon Gorge (where verbal communication is basically impossible) very few pairs can actually communicate effectively through the rope. Most seem to scream themselves hoarse and then start climbing when the rope finally runs out, which doesn't really count as a 'system' in my book (not that I haven't used it myself plenty of times).
EZ on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to mullermn:

Another vote for radios.

I have 4 of these: http://www.motorola.com/Business/XU-EN/Business+Product+and+Services/Consumer+Two-Way+Radios/Yesterd...
They accept a karabiner and are easy to handle. Also they take the proprietary battery pack and also alternatively aaa batteries so no risk of running out of power on a one or two day trip if you're a little organised. I am just about to test earbone ear pieces too, so soon I may be able to speak and listen to my partner with just the touch of a button and no actual handling of the radio. I'm looking forward to seeing if the vox facility allows convenient earbone mic conversation without touching anything. I'll be reporting back in the forums when I've got some info to share.
SGD - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to EZ: I'd be very interested to read your review as I was looking at some radios myself. We had real trouble communicating on Lundy last year during very heavy winds, as a result of which we have been looking at various radio sets.
EZ on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to SGD:

I can give opinion about the radios already. They are great. I have recently bought two to compliment the two that I'd had for about 6 years already.

They give clear communication and even in high winds have enough volume to make them audible. As with any radios the mic sometimes needs to be shielded from the wind or the radio turned away from the wind to achieve this.

They are quite capable of poor weather and knocking about. I am sure in a tsunami that they'd get waterlogged and fail, but I personally can't envisage them being needed in such conditions as I'd not be climbing then.

I would describe the TLKR T5 as fit for purpose as a climbers aid. As I say, so happy that I added two more of the same.

I need to get a second earbone before I can test properly but I will start a thread when I've done so.

Oh and have a look on eBay before buying from a shop. I got my second pair for £10 + £5 p&p. Bargain.
Michael Ryan - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

I like Jack's emphasis:

"You have your friend's life in your hands. If you mess it up they may die. It is a 'big deal'..."

There are some people that I know that I will not have belaying me.
Jonny2vests - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to lmarenzi:
> (In reply to jonny2vests)
>

> I have not figured the above out by myself, by the way. The "no communication necessary" system is what they use everywhere in the world except the UK and US, which is where lots of people climb trad and the problems, and sadly accidents with communications occur.

When onsighting big routes with long pitches, I think some communication is inevitable and usually necessary. Don't you think?
bigbobbyking - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to jonny2vests:

Yeah I think some communication is inevitable. I would say "no unnecessary communication" is a better rule. That way your belayer doesn't mistake your verbose description of the crux for something else.
mullermn - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to bigbobbyking:

Regarding radios, my main tips would be make sure you can change the batteries (ie not rechargeable with non standard ones) and buy cheap ones, cos they only have to work over 50m and sooner or later they will make the one way trip to the bottom of the crag..
EZ on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to mullermn:

I haven't dropped or dunked one yet. Better than cheap would be one that can take a karabiner. Or at least some accessory cord.
ericinbristol - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

> "Autolocking' or 'assisted' belay devices (see this UKC video article) are > generally not recommend for trad climbing, as they put more force on trad
> runners due to grabbing the rope and not giving a 'soft catch'"

I don't understand this. Whether using a grigri or an ATC, you don't let rope run through the device. The soft catch is from the belayer moving with the fall. Both these points are made in the UKC article on dynamic belaying:
http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=1844.
althesin on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to lmarenzi: Could you point me in the direction of the UIAA system? I've had no luck with google and have had the odd miscommunication adventure.
lmarenzi - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to jonny2vests:

Johnny, thanks for being inquisitive and having the sense to think things through for yourself, because ultimately that is what all this is about.

In answer to your question: on mountain routes no communication of any kind is necessary.

I have climbed literally thousands of meters of ice and rock with partners who I never had to give a single command to or take a single command from, with no risk of failure of the belay system, and I guess that is the case for most climbers in Europe, but not ones in the UK or US. In those two countries that have their fair share of trad climbing there is a lot of shouting up and down when climbers get to the big hills, which usually just causes noise and confusion and invariably slows them down and on top of that puts them at risk of misunderstanding.

You can talk at the belay and maybe share a cigarette or two if you like, but that's to increase your enjoyment, not to keep you alive.

Now a question for you: I see you are based in Vancouver. I assume that Canadians also do a fair bit of trad, and as a result a lot of shouting around in the hills? Do miscommunications occour there? Do you know of any specific cases?

Anyone know the score in Australia, New Zealand or South Africa?

I had been assuming its just a problem in the UK and US, but maybe its a potential problem wherever Imperial measurements are known and trad is the typical way for beginners to learn climbing. I could imagine that the problem is most acute in the UK where there is very little low grade sport climbing that people can learn on.
lmarenzi - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to althesin:

I don't know where you can google the UIAA system, and I doubt it would be written in English even if you could.

But you don't need to google it because all the information you need is already written above. It really is that simple. But please don't take my word for it. After all, the miscommunication "adventures" you have had in the past were probably the result of listening to people giving you well meaning advice about communications and ending up operating a system that, as you now know, is unreliable in the field.

Figure out a system that cannot fail for yourself, whether you are climbing trad, sport or alpine. Check it. Discuss it with your partner. And go.

Good luck.
cuppatea on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to ericinbristol:
I noticed this too..

In reply to cuppatea:
(grigri for trad, food for thought!)

Is a grigri just a one trick pony that's a waste of weight on a trad rack or is it genuinely unsuitable?
Jonny2vests - on 22 Jun 2012

> Now a question for you: I see you are based in Vancouver. I assume that Canadians also do a fair bit of trad, and as a result a lot of shouting around in the hills? Do miscommunications occour there? Do you know of any specific cases?
>
> Anyone know the score in Australia, New Zealand or South Africa?
>
> I had been assuming its just a problem in the UK and US, but maybe its a potential problem wherever Imperial measurements are known and trad is the typical way for beginners to learn climbing. I could imagine that the problem is most acute in the UK where there is very little low grade sport climbing that people can learn on.

I have climbed in all those places (and many others besides including lots in Europe). Those countries all tend to use verbal comms. As for Europe, I've never really noticed that they don't do shouting, but I guess, why would you?



ads.ukclimbing.com
NorthernGrit - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

9: Wear a helmet

...then feature lots of photos of people, including the author, not doing so. I don't want to open that can of worms again but it really is something that other people are advised to do while no one wants to do it themself.

Good article otherwise. It's good to remind people regularly that such a technically simple task comes with high levels of responsibility.
lmarenzi - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to jonny2vests:

Good intel. Thanks. I intend to pass all this info on to the BMC or something, if I may. They should perhaps look into the issue more systematically than we can.

Don't you feel the old English shouting system smacks of hemp rope and pitons and might benefit from an upgrade?

And also, I am very jealous of where you have climbed!
a lakeland climber on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to lmarenzi:

If you can find old copies of Mountain Magazine check out the piece "With Ding on the Dru" by Damien O'Carrol (I think). Basically the only word that they had in common was "OK". The communication for the entire climb consisted of "OK" in various intonations: "OK!", "OK?", etc.

ALC
jimtitt - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to lmarenzi:
> (In reply to althesin)
>
> I don't know where you can google the UIAA system, and I doubt it would be written in English even if you could.
>
> But you don't need to google it because all the information you need is already written above. It really is that simple. But please don't take my word for it. After all, the miscommunication "adventures" you have had in the past were probably the result of listening to people giving you well meaning advice about communications and ending up operating a system that, as you now know, is unreliable in the field.
>
> Figure out a system that cannot fail for yourself, whether you are climbing trad, sport or alpine. Check it. Discuss it with your partner. And go.
>
> Good luck.

If it is an official UIAA recommendation then you just search their website. It would be in English as this is the official language of the UIAA.

Climbing Calls are required in the syllabus for UIAA rock Climbing instruction.
althesin on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to jimtitt: Had a good trawl on the UIAA website, climbing calls are on the syllabus but nowhere does it state what they are. They do approve climbing courses though, so maybe it's all written down elsewhere. Whilst googling I found this one from south africa:
-on bottom rope belaying
"The climber says: “Sailing”, the belayer says: “Sail away” and lets the climber
down slowly."
I'm definately using this one along with my favorite: "Villie"
(This signifies Eiger type trouble)
Jonny2vests - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to lmarenzi:
> (In reply to jonny2vests)
>

> Don't you feel the old English shouting system smacks of hemp rope and pitons and might benefit from an upgrade?

Perhaps. But if our system is flawed, surely it would have evolved by now if there was something obviously better. I also tend to trust jimtitt who is often the voice of knowledge and reason with things like this.
Neil Williams - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to jonny2vests:

Thinking about it, it probably is better that the acknowledgement of a call should be a repeat of the call in some way, as it usually is in aircraft communication.

The trouble with "OK" is that it doesn't confirm that the *correct* instruction has been heard, just that *an* instruction has been heard.

That said, how often does it cause issues?

Neil
lmarenzi - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to jimtitt:

Hi JIm. Nice to see you commenting on this. Just like Johnny above I am in the "In Jim We Trust" camp.

If you look at the beginning of the thread you will see that I state there is plenty of scope for calls in climbing. We use them all the time, they are very useful. I use"Rope" for more slack, "Take" when I want the rope to go tight and "Me" if I am falling / want to be lowered. You can make up your own, it doesn't much matter which, but please don't forget that sometimes only the vowel sound will travel (see comments above). My partner and I do not have a signal for off belay, and don't believe anyone should have one. Either you can establish 100% positive communication with your leader or keep him on belay. That is the UIAA system - what is there to google?

From my perspective it is immaterial if its in the syllabus for MIA or the UIAA. I happen to know the score on this but its not relevant to the discussion. When you climb you are responsible for your own actions. What is material is that you don't take a brand new 70m climbing rope with a shiny new grigri on perfect bolts with quickdraws made of titanium kevlar alloy to a three point anchor and plummet to the ground just because your partner thought he heard something in the air which made him take you off belay just as you leant back to be lowered.

So what do you think on the issue itself Jim? Do you think someone at the BMC should look into this? Someone like Steve Long for instance?
Robert Durran - on 22 Jun 2012
In reply to mullermn:
> (In reply to UKC Articles)
>
> Spend £15 on a pair of radios. Communication problems solved!
> I've never understood why so many climbers spend their time bellowing at each other and guessing what their partner's doing.

Because using radios will, in some climbers' opinions, make you look like a knob.
Jonny2vests - on 23 Jun 2012
In reply to lmarenzi:

When I haven't heard a 'safe' call, but think one has occurred its because the rope is suddenly travelling much faster than the leader can climb or even walk. My wife and I like to take the rope in fast, which is a signal in itself. In cases like that, I don't think there is any ambiguity and would not keep her on belay. If it was someone I knew less, I'd probably be more cautious.

In reply to Neil. Years ago I was on Avon Gorge, lost, out of view and massively run out. 'Slack' was mistaken for 'Safe', after which I received the dreaded tugs as I was teetering up some slab. I lived to tell the tale, but I stopped using 'slack' that day in favour of give as it has a different vowel sound. Here many use secure, which has two syllables, perhaps that helps... I like your suggestion of repeating calls, I don't think you'd want to do it at a busy crag though.
birdie num num - on 23 Jun 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:
Belaying normally gives most folks a crick in the neck. Plus it's tedious and boring, a bit like footing a ladder. My advice is to follow the example of the sensible chappie in this photo: http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=94789
jimtitt - on 23 Jun 2012
In reply to lmarenzi:

I don´t have an opinion on this, I use whatever is suitable on the day like most climbers and if that doesn´t work I muddle through.

Being dropped from a sport route is a sign that you failed to communicate what you where going to do before leaving the ground, that your belayer didn´t understand and that you were a fool for letting go of the rope/unclipping before there was tension from the belayers side.

The BMC (as well as the UIAA) are there to represent the interests of climbers not teach climbing, In the UK that is the remit of the MLT and they already have various systems which are applied when suitable, I doubt there is much to look into.
Steve Waters, Mynydd - on 23 Jun 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:
Thanks for the great points in the article and the discussion.
Another thing that in some circumstances makes belaying a leader safer is the use of Belay Glasses - This allows the belayer to watch the leader (if visible) with a comfortable neck position allowing 100% concentration on belaying rather than being distracted and fidgetting due to a sore neck.
I have been using a pair of Belay Glasses for a couple of years now. They take a little bit of time to get used to, but I now really miss them when I forget to bring them to the wall. We have taken the glasses out to the crags this year and in many circumstances they are effective there too - particularly on single pitch crags.
In my experience, most people are sceptical until they try them. At our local wall (Awesome Stockport) they are now very common.
lmarenzi - on 23 Jun 2012
In reply to jimtitt:

Thanks Jim. Your quote here:

Being dropped from a sport route is a sign that you failed to communicate what you where going to do before leaving the ground, that your belayer didn´t understand and that you were a fool for letting go of the rope/unclipping before there was tension from the belayers side.

Let's take a typical sunday afternoon at the crag. The leader just manages to get to the chains and clips in. Exhausted but delighted, he shouts out what he is finally feeling after 20m of leading a tricky route: "safe". The belayer looks up: yup, the leader is clipped by a sling straight into the chains, the rope is slack. He takes him off belay so he can pull up slack thread the anchor and be lowered down again.

Some people who read this are probably thinking "so what's wrong with that?". They should read the paragraph again, because this is what might happen next: The climber threads the anchor, undoes the clip, checks all the knots good, leans back and is dropped down at 9.8 m/s squared.

I think there are three incidental mistakes here: saying safe, taking off belay, and not testing the tension of the rope before committing to the rope. You think they are fools for this. I also believe they are fools, but not because of what happened on the day. The essential mistake was to agree to use a system in which this train of events, so very forseeable and understandable, became possible. So I say: keep your leader on belay! That is the UIAA system - what is there to google?

As you state the BMC represents the interests of climbers. I think staying alive is in their interest. The BMC already publish guidelines on good belaying and other things on their skills pages, and on the poster they publish. Steve Long, who I mentioned above, is Technical Director of MLT. He sits on a working group with the BMC (more details on BMC website for those interested), which is pretty much what you would expect.

Dangerous situations arising from "miscommunication" in all its guises is quite common. Sadly it has killed in the past and will do so in the future, and it is quite avoidable.

See the recent "Mistaking Safe for Take / Half Deaf Belayers" thread here on UKC

Also, if you want to see the confusion about who is to "blame" in miscommunication accidents, and for evidence that it is not specific to the UK, look at

http://www.rockclimbing.com/cgi-bin/forum/gforum.cgi?do=post_view_flat;post=2498972;page=1;sb=post_l...

Jim, Johnny, its a shame we can't just go out and climb a few pitches together because then everything would become very clear - and I am sure climbing with you would be very safe and very fun. Putting it all in words is not my strong point. I am rushed and distracted. But it has become obvious that its a big problem that has killed plenty of people and that is why I urge everyone to use their common sense on this and think ahead on this issue.

Don't take my word for it - and don't take anyone else's word for it either. Ultimately its your life on the line and up to you, and your partner. Do your homework now - you are going to need it on the hill.

Fraser on 23 Jun 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Good article, but just to clarify point 7: From memory, Dave was belayed from half way up the crag at the foot of the Requiem crack when he was trying Rhapsody. Cory however belayed Sonnie from the deck, ie about 15m further down: more rope out so more rope stretch and a softer fall. But in principle I agree about giving softer catches.
jimtitt - on 23 Jun 2012
In reply to lmarenzi:

To be honest I don´t know what you are going on about!
I certainly have little or no interest in what the UIAA thinks about belaying, have climbed with Steve Long who is as flexible and able to suit the demands of the occasion as I am and after more than 40 years of climbing with the current President of the BMC doubt that he is going to push for a dogmatic rule on cummunication between climber and belayer.
lmarenzi - on 23 Jun 2012
In reply to jimtitt:

Sorry I don't understand you this time, but its to be expected in this format I suppose. No dogmatic rules asked for, quite the contrary, just some common sense. I do get the feeling its a bit of a blind spot for many people that some experts should look at. The systems we use as climbers evolve and hopefully improve over time, but only if some effort is put into evolving and improving them.

Being a very experienced climber seems to be no help though: Being dropped after miscommunication reportedly happened to Martin Crocker, and it apparently also happened to Phil Powers. According to the link on rockclimbing.com I have given above:

"Phil is Executive Director of the American Alpine Club and has a distinguished record as a climber."

Thanks again for your input Jim. Like I said, at the crag I think we would very much be in agreement, and words might be getting in the way here. Other engagements press and I don't want to hog the thread any more than I have already, but I do intend to pass our discussion on, who knows, maybe something positive will come of it.
Jonny2vests - on 23 Jun 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

> Let's take a typical sunday afternoon at the crag. The leader just manages to get to the chains and clips in. Exhausted but delighted, he shouts out what he is finally feeling after 20m of leading a tricky route: "safe". The belayer looks up: yup, the leader is clipped by a sling straight into the chains, the rope is slack. He takes him off belay so he can pull up slack thread the anchor and be lowered down again.

> Some people who read this are probably thinking "so what's wrong with that?". They should read the paragraph again, because this is what might happen next: The climber threads the anchor, undoes the clip, checks all the knots good, leans back and is dropped down at 9.8 m/s squared.

I too am confused. Your scenario regarding keeping people on belay and avoiding 'safe' before being lowered is just common sense and not really what i assumed we were talking about.
lmarenzi - on 23 Jun 2012
In reply to jonny2vests:

Last post on this from me Johnny, it was nice to mull things over with you.

Sorry to be unclear. At the beginning of the thread we were talking about roped climbing in general, then multipitch climbing (the granite). We also talked briefly about single pitch trad (grit at Stanage). Now we are talking single pitch sport at, say, Portland. In the quoted scenario I am exploring how the (mis)communication system works there.

The calls system that we know is based on trad, and on teams moving up. Leader gets to belay, calls safe, is taken off belay, pulls up rope, puts second on belay who follows and gets gear out and leads next pitch. Now if you take that basic understanding to single pitch sport you have a problem because the leader is not going to stay up and belay from the top of the pitch, he is going to get lowered. So the very plausible and correct sounding "safe" and "off belay" are in fact mistakes. Is it common sense to avoid doing this? Of course it is. But it appears in the threads referred to above (Half Deaf Belayer and rockclimbing.com) and from my own experience that plenty of people are making exactly this mistake in practice, with serious consequences. When you point it out to them they don't get it and that is why I have called it a blind spot.

If you always (in all forms of roped climbing) operated a system in which you never take your partner off belay and in which communication is possible but not necessary, you don't have the misunderstanding problem and the leader can say essentially whatever he likes, and the belayer can interpret it to mean whatever he wants, but it will never lead to the belay system being deactivated when it might be needed, and you will have less climbers taking unwanted flying lessons. Deactivation is possible, but only when you can have a normal conversation, at which point no system of calls is necessary.

I think the calls system needs to be taken forward now (2012) because people pursue a more diverse spectrum of roped climbing than in the past, specifically (low grade) sport climbing, and with cheap flights the big hills in Europe and beyond are far more accessible than they were. Pitches tend to be much longer there, and speed is usually an issue. Gear is better (with lots of bolts and pitons) and also ropes have become longer. If pitches become longer then calls will become less effective and misunderstanding will be far more likely than over the 30 ft pitches you traditionally have in the UK.
Jonny2vests - on 24 Jun 2012
In reply to lmarenzi:

Ok, fair enough, I understand your point regarding the safety of the leader, but what about the safety of the second? If we said nothing, the second might start climbing before he was on belay or maybe we wouldn't know if the seconds rope was tight onto them or some random piece of rock.
lmarenzi - on 24 Jun 2012
In reply to jonny2vests:

The leader should put the second on belay as soon as he gets to the next anchor with the plate in guide mode. Pull up rope and keep pulling it up. When it comes tight on the second, he is good to go. Notice there are no commands. The steady pull on the rope is a bit uncomfortable, and sometimes its tricky to undo the belay device and dismantle the anchor, but you cannot mistake it in practice. More about this in posts 1 to 10 above, and the exceptional situation of very short single pitch climbing (Stanage type)

As Ramblin Dave pointed out at the beginning of the thread there is a chance of simul-climbing, but I think you have this risk whenever you lose touch with your partner on a multipitch climb. Happy to hear from anyone who has had a problem with this, as I am unaware of any examples.

Best

Luca

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