/ Crap belays

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mikekeswick - on 05 Sep 2012
How would any of you go about telling somebody you climb with that their belays are really bad....eg. never equalising anything,using slings then wrapping them around their stomach to adjust the length instead of just using an overhand,using piss poor hexs in a crack when there is a huge bomber thread 5 feet away etc....
I don't want to offend but it's getting to the stage when if i'm 2nd'ing i'm in the same mindset as if I were soloing.....
It's a shame because we've had some great times together climbing but I jusy know he will spit his dummy.
Any ideas??
Franco Cookson on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick: when you mantel onto the ledge just exclaim 'bloody hell, that's a bit dodgey'. Then explain why.

Hope this helps,

Franco
stonemaster - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick: If partner does not feel belays cannot be improved on, it's time to get a new partner....or go soloing. <Unless the partner is also a significant other> Good luck.
Jamie B - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

If it's real and not imagined, you have to tell it like it is. Painful and awkward, but easily preferable to continuing to climb with the spectre of catastrophic failure hanging over you.

If you want to soften the blow, why not suggest going halfers on a day or two out with an MIA? It would evidently be in your interests too, and it does sound like that's what he needs.

Alternatively, just wait for him to read this thread and let him draw his own conclusions...
rocky57 - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

Two solutions.

Use a 'shit sandwich'. Basically, say something good, ie I always like to see it when you've used the rope as part of the belay. Then give the critisism, ie perhaps you should have looked a bit further back, that thread would have been bomber, next time try going for something a bit better, It'll give me a warm feeling while I'm climbing. Then finish on something positive, ie great belaying by the way, just the right amount of slack for me, just how I like it.

So, nice bit of bread, shit filling, nice bit of bread. He/she probably won't even notice the negative, but will take it on board. Keep doing it to reinforce what you are after.

Or.

Whilst taking a break (lunch, or while waiting to get on a route) at the bottom of the crag. Suggest a belay building activity, where you rate each others (ie 4/10, 9/10), sell it as exchange of knowledge, and how it is never too late to learn something new. Then give the reason that you think it deserves the score you give it. The benefit of this is that you can reasonably give honest feedback in a safe situation. And secondly, when he talks avbout your belay, you can get across the reasons why you do it the way you do, and the safety benefits of it.

Of course, we'd like feedback of how it went with him/her.
The Ivanator - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick: Don't pussyfoot around - it is a potentially life threatening problem for BOTH of you. Be blunt and let him know, if he doesn't like it, tough.
Plenty more climbing partners out there. Ask him "Do you really think those anchors would hold a fall?" if he is under the illusion that they would then set him straight about what is wrong.
Does he really want to plummet to the bottom of the crag?
Safe belay building is not exactly rocket science and if someone doesn't get the basics pretty early in their climbing career I would personally not climb with them again. He needs to learn fast or quit before he hurts himself or someone else.
martinph78 on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to stonemaster:

I agree. When we top out I always ask my partners to tell me where I could improve my anchor. They always say it is good (as in safe, otherwise I wouldn't use them) but often offer an alternative which may have been quicker/easier to set.

I appreciate the tips. I can't imagine climbing with a partner who I couldn't talk to, especially about something so critical to both of our safety.



mikekeswick - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick: Many thanks for all the ideas.
The way I see it a belay should always be good enough to be relied on no matter what the situation (in an ideal world!). Is it fair enough to expect the people you climb with to know the basics about rescue's, escaping the system etc...??
I know a guy who is an mia so that might be an idea.
There are a few people who we know that have just started climbing and I was thinking about showing them how to build belays/place gear etc when he was around.
I hear the point about just being blunt about it...thats normally my way!
Kevster - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:
Ask your MIA mate on a 3 some.

Prep MIA guy. Let him take the flack IF there is any, keep friends with improved partner.

Buy MIA guy a few beers.

Sorted.

If your mate doesn't take it on board. Boulder with them only. New lives are harder to come by than new partners/mates.
Simon Caldwell - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:
You could always try starting a thread on UKC and hope he reads it :-)
MeMeMe - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:
>
> I hear the point about just being blunt about it...thats normally my way!

It's the best way, if you get to the top and he's put a sling around a loose block or his belay consists of a single wobbly nut in a crack just go 'what the hell is that?!' and make it clear if he doesn't care about making a safe belay you don't want to climb with him.

I wouldn't necessarily tell him how to make a good belay unless he asks because it can just sound patronising and he probably knows anyway but just can't be arsed.
GrahamD - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

On something like this you have to be blunt. You have to say "I'm sorry, I'm really not happy with this belay". The longer you leave it the harder it will be.

Of course we are all replying on the basis of what we read - are you 100% confident in your ability to judge what is unsafe and why as opposed to something that is simply not according to the latest text book ?
abseil on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

I wouldn't climb again with anyone who is lax or very lax with safety matters and that includes belaying and other ropework, abseiling, kicking rocks down the crag, etc. Life's too short (literally). So as others have said, I would tell them once only, then find someone else if they didn't change fast.
Owen W-G - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

Definitely talk about it

If you partner isn't doing a perfect job on things that affect your safety they will know about it.

If they don't want to learn/self-improve, making a point about their stubornness, then don't climb with them.

needvert on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

Take photos, post on UKC, link to thread.
Al Evans on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to Owen W-G: I remember on a new route on Cilan Head arriving at a ledge to find the only belay was a pile of seagull shit, I duly sat a sling round it and brought up Keith Myhill who due to an oversight was carrying the bolt kit.
"Thats a pile of shit"
"It's all there was"
"Oh well I'll put in a bolt runner as soon as I can get stood"
20ft higher up Keith placed the hand drilled bolt runner on the lead, got 10ft higher and announced he was going to jump off, I was really unconvinced about a 60+ft fall onto my pile of seagull shit if the bolt failed.
" No Keith climb back down to the bolt and lower down , please"
"Can't, I'm off"
With that, on an overhanging wall, Keith lept down and sidewards and caught the sling on the bolt in passing, it held. We came back with a better bolt kit a few weeks later and reinforced the pile of seagull shit with a nice solid bolt.
Milesy - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:
> The way I see it a belay should always be good enough to be relied on no matter what the situation (in an ideal world!).

Unless you are winter climbing then you should assume all belays are crap unless specified otherwise ;) Get to the belay and you are on a tied off clump of heather sticking out the rock ;)
jkarran - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

If it's that bad and he's going to take it badly whatever you say then I'd go with something along the lines of:

"That's dogs**t, what on earth are you playing at! Has anyone ever actually shown you how to do this safely? Here's a couple of simple building blocks..."

If he doesn't take it on board and get over the embarrassment at least it won't be you that gets hurt when he cocks up properly :(
jk
JH74 - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

Try jumping/falling off when you're a couple of metres off the ground and ping him face first off the top. That'll learn him sharpish.
jkarran - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

> Is it fair enough to expect the people you climb with to know the basics about rescue's, escaping the system etc...??

Depends where you're going and what you're doing:

Stanage on a summers afternoon: No. Knowing how to belay and use a phone is just fine.

Somewhere remote and big in the highlands than I'd want a partner with really good problem solving skills rather than escaping-the-belay training.

> There are a few people who we know that have just started climbing and I was thinking about showing them how to build belays/place gear etc when he was around.

That's a nice approach. If he's understanding it at least he'll be able to observe and manage his embarrassment privately. If he's not understanding it then you might be better cutting your losses.

This is all presupposing you're right and he's wrong. That's not intended to cause offence but it's worth a second thought.

jk
wilkie14c - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick: Just tell them that their belays are crap and they need to get their head in gear. Climbing partners should be able to trust each other with their lives so don't worry about hurting their feelings!
NottsRich on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to JH74:
> (In reply to mikekeswick)
>
> Try jumping/falling off when you're a couple of metres off the ground and ping him face first off the top. That'll learn him sharpish.



That's exactly what I was going to suggest!
_MJC_ - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick: Ask him if he would be happy to fall on the belay if he was climbing and if he would be happy to be pulled off the top of the route if he was belaying. It gets right to the point without being patronising i think. You aren't questioning his ability, and you're not telling him that his belay is shit. He should realise it for himself. Maybe he does not appreciate the consequences because of never actually having to hold a fall. I can't imagine anyone genuinely being aware of what they are doing as being life threatening (to both themselves and the climber), although I'm sure such people exist.
NIGBEE on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

Make him abb of the belay as set up without changing anything. If he wont then he knows its crap.

Then dont climb with him again.
aultguish on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick: Buy him an instructional book/DVD as a present. Just tell him someone got you one recently and it's brilliant blah blah blah :-)
GrahamD - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to jkarran:

The OP only has 1-3 years experience according to their profile. We don't know, of course, that they really know how to build and, more importantly, improvise belays.
SCrossley on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:
You have only been climbing for a short time so you can use your own inexperience to open up the conversation.
"Hey, is that okay, I`m not learnt up so not dissing you but can you show me why that's okay, as I would have thought xyz would have been the correct way"
deepsoup - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to needvert:
> Take photos, post on UKC, link to thread.

Great idea. Folk here are so friendly, helpful and tactful that probably is your best chance of not falling out over this. :O)
Jim Walton on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick: Talk, don't "tell". Consider, don't "judge".

You could try a conversation like this;

"I'm wanting to improve my belay set up skills can you talk me through your belay set up?"

It may spark a conversation about it where s/he doesn't lose face. They may try and laugh off their anchor choice with excuses, which is fine, you can then nudge him in the right direction with questions like

"Fair enough, how would you normally do it if you didn't have the (bullshit reasons s/he gave before) restrictions?"

If you get no change then perhaps try;

"I was looking at doing it this way (show him/her your idea), do you think that would work?" - await response.

PebblePusher - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to NIGBEE:
> (In reply to mikekeswick)
>
> Make him abb of the belay as set up without changing anything. If he wont then he knows its crap.
>
> Then dont climb with him again.

I like this, see if he is useless (can be remedied) or lazy (stay away from him!)
GrahamD - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to Jim Walton:

My worry about the softly softly approach (again assuming the OP is 100% confident in their own judgement) is that fundamentally the person does not have the mindset that they have responsibility for both of their lives at that moment. If they haven't already grasped that then there is a problem.
CurlyStevo - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to Jim Walton:
Nice approach Jim.

I would say that protection techniques are lost on some people though, this isn't so bad when they realise it, but when they don't it can be a real problem - especially when coupled with an over estimation of their climbing skills. If this proves to be the case I'd find another climbing partner.

I know someone that nearly died becase of this, AFAIK they still haven't addressed the protection issues although I think their over estimation of their climbing skills atleast is now not a problem.

jhw - on 05 Sep 2012
Am I going to be the only one to admit to having been a builder of crap belays in the past?

My more experienced partner kept his cool but pulled no punches in pointing out the issue. I was sufficiently mortified about it that he didn't have to lay in too hard.

Further down the line, my belays were better but still not as good as they could have been. An instructor on his day off came over as I was preparing to bring my friend up and politely tore me a new arsehole. I appreciated it. He was doing me a favour.

Just weekend before last, another partner queried my belay, a big sling around a single massive boulder. I thought it was perfectly robust, but the grievance was that I hadn't backed it up with a second thing. That's a legitimate point, I suppose, and the more important thing is that my partner have confidence in my belays, so I took the point on board on that basis.

My point is only a c0ck of a partner would react badly to this kind of feedback. You're doing him a favour by raising a concern. Free tuition mate.
johnjohn - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

bit of an elitist discussion.

the best belayer's the one having the most fun...
Al Randall on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to jhw: A single sling or the rope around a large boulder, or tree for that matter, is perfectly adequate in many cases.

Al
climber666 on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick: Do NOT climb with this person!!
jhw - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to Al Randall:

Thanks! I thought so too :) I didn't argue about it as at Stanage it's no skin of my nose to fire in a nut or something.

Had it been on something more time-critical like a long Alpine route, I'd have disputed the point (and also asked myself whether partner appreciated the speed that's required there)
GrahamD - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to Al Randall:

> (In reply to jhw) A single sling or the rope around a large boulder, or tree for that matter, is perfectly adequate in many cases.

Quite. If the boulder fails, then being tied to something else is the last thing you want as it trundles your way. More seriously the dogmatic approach taken by some people worries me sometimes - especially those who feel they need to spread their 'wisdom' to others.
CurlyStevo - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to GrahamD:
It CAN be perfectly adequate and I would argue the case for doing this in SOME situations. Ofcourse you perhaps may not have inspected your sling properly (I once had it pointed out to me that one of my slings had started strangely unweaving its self on the lateral fibres quite badly after I'd used it on a belay!) or perhaps the boudler can tip and release the sling, or you haven't realised the sling isn't as held as well as you thought or there are some unseen sharp edges etc.

Personally if it's not a time critical route and there is a reasonable chance the second may fall off and there is an easy to place redundant second anchor, I would generally argue the case it's worth placing it. Unless ofcourse you are certain of the integrety of the boulder section of the belay.
GrahamD - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo:

I take your point. You also tend to place a second anchor simply because the one 'bomber' sling isn't in line with the direction of a fall for instance. I was more making a point about not being totally dogmatic in approach than by a specific incident, however.
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stonemaster - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to Al Evans: Like....:)
LastBoyScout on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

Start giving him marks for his belay?

Not as daft as it sounds - an instructor course I once went on talked about an idea for setting top-rope anchors where you gave each anchor a score out of 5 (1 = marginal and 5 = bomber) and the total must add up to at least 11.

And make sure they're all equalised.
In reply to LastBoyScout:
>
>
> Not as daft as it sounds - an instructor course I once went on talked about an idea for setting top-rope anchors where you gave each anchor a score out of 5 (1 = marginal and 5 = bomber) and the total must add up to at least 11.
>

So that would be two bomber belays and a marginal one 'for luck' - sounds daft!


Chris

stonemaster - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to Chris Craggs: or 11 marginal ones......:)
Andes - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:
If he's on UKC he may already know!
Jim Walton on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to jhw:
> Am I going to be the only one to admit to having been a builder of crap belays in the past?

In complete agreement. Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone. I've built some absolute shockers in my formative yrs. With the my ex-geography teacher (who basicly taught me) pointing out my errors. One comment comes back to me, when I'd belayed us both to a tree. He took one look and said;
"Jim, I've played snooker with bigger trees than that!"

There is a saying in construction
"Nobody dies from bad ground collapsing", they die because they thought it was good. The same can be applied to belays.
Al Randall on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to Jim Walton: It's the depth of the root system that's important, not the diameter of the trunk but the comment was amusing and obviously worked. My mate once fell 20 feet onto a tied off tree, perhaps twig would be a more accurate description as it was only an inch or so in diameter. It held his fall with very little sign of damage to either him or the tree.

Al
mikekeswick - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to GrahamD: I've been climbing for around 9 years. I've fallen on my gear plenty of times so know how to place good single pieces. When I did my spa a few years ago I did it as a way of 'proving' to myself that I was doing things properly. The mia who did the course said I could go on and do the mia no problem. He also asked me to work for him afterwards so must have been happy with my gear/belays/ropework etc.
Again thanks for the ideas everyone. This has been helpful to me.
JJL - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

Get them to ab off a couple.

One of you will be right.
rurp - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

Tell him to jump off the cliff onto his belay to check it before you second.

If he is not confident to do it don't climb till he is.

Don't die coz your too polite to say anything.

if he can't take an honest attempt to help him and you live longer then you don't want him on your side.

forward all these emails to him!

Jamie B - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to Milesy:

> Unless you are winter climbing then you should assume all belays are crap unless specified otherwise

This is a dangerous myth which too many people buy into - in 16 years winter climbing I have used only one belay which could be genuinely described as shit.
biscuit - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to Jamie Bankhead:
> (In reply to Milesy)
>
> [...]
>
> This is a dangerous myth which too many people buy into - in 16 years winter climbing I have used only one belay which could be genuinely described as shit.

And therein lies the problem. You've only even bothered to use a belay once in 16 yrs and even then it was shit ;0)

I agree with your initial point btw I like to go home to my family after a days climbing. if i thought something was actually dangerous i wouldn't do it.

Back on topic i think some of the 'softer' approaches mentioned are brilliant. Try that first and then if he doesn't get the hint you may have to get stronger.
JohnnyW - on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to aultguish:
Kili'd tell him straight, like ;o)
Goucho on 05 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick: Got to ask a stupid question, but why would you want to climb with someone who a) can't rig a proper belay, or b) will chuck their teddy out of the pram if you point this fact out to them.

I get this problem sorted now, instead of waiting to have the discussion in the back of an ambulance.
stonemaster - on 06 Sep 2012
In reply to Goucho: or at the pearly gates...:)
GrahamD - on 06 Sep 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:
> (In reply to GrahamD) I've been climbing for around 9 years.

Methinks you need a profile update :-) that was what I based your experience on.
Alex Slipchuk on 05 Oct 2012
In reply to biscuit:
> (In reply to Jamie Bankhead)
> [...]
>
> And therein lies the problem. You've only even bothered to use a belay once in 16 yrs and even then it was shit ;0)
>
> I agree with your initial point btw I like to go home to my family after a days climbing. if i thought something was actually dangerous i wouldn't do it.
>i think you'll find your comment would only be correct if jamie used a comma
> Back on topic i think some of the 'softer' approaches mentioned are brilliant. Try that first and then if he doesn't get the hint you may have to get stronger.

aultguish on 05 Oct 2012
In reply to JohnnyW:
> (In reply to aultguish)
> Kili'd tell him straight, like ;o)

Just seen this now John, brilliant!! ;-))
mrchewy - on 05 Oct 2012
In reply to mikekeswick: A new partner critisized one of mine the other week - then proceeded to add as nut some 10 feet away before he led through. I took it on the chin, if he's not happy then we need to sort it and fairplay to him for saying. I had a fat cordelette round a huge boulder sunk into the ground and that was backed up with, in my opinion, an unnecessary hex. It was getting dark and we still had a pitch to go. I'd pretty much ran pitch 5 out as time was becoming an issue - he was what I'd politely call 'considered'. Not a chance of me ever doing alpine or winter routes with him, being that 'considered' could get you into all sorts of trouble.

Everyone has different opinions of what a safe belay is - if it's bothering you, then you're going to climb within yourself and that too could be dangerous. Say something.
Jimbo C - on 05 Oct 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

If my partner had built a belay I wasn't happy with I would simply point at each piece saying 'That's a bit shit' (without malice). I would hope that any partner of mine would do the same if I had brought them up on a shit belay.
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gethin_allen on 05 Oct 2012
In reply to Jimbo C:
Yes Jimbo, your belays used to be about 8 bits of gear if you could find it. Fortunately you're getting better. :-)
Murko Fuzz - on 05 Oct 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

Regardless, it's potentially your LIFE.
shaun stephens - on 05 Oct 2012
In reply to mikekeswick: Try saying, 'your belays are shit and my health depends on them" if this doesnt work find a new climbing partner. Simple!!!!!!!!!!!!
Kevin Woods - on 05 Oct 2012
In reply to mikekeswick: Cant remember if i posted here before.

Anyway, I thought my partners belays could be better. So I told him and now he's the anchor master.
Bobling - on 06 Oct 2012
In reply to mikekeswick:

No room for politeness, your life (and his) depend on it. Tell it like it is and then find another partner if he does not improve sharpish. I now await incoming from anyone for whom I have built a cr*p belay.
Jimbo C - on 06 Oct 2012
In reply to gethin_allen:

Tsh, you exaggerate. Have you belayed off any good gorse bush roots recently?
Offwidth - on 06 Oct 2012
In reply to Al Randall:

I agree, samplings can be surprisingly strong I wouldn't choose one if something better was around but with a good braced belayer position a 1 inch sampling wouldnt worry me too much. As for crag-top boulders, some quite big ones can rock surprisingly easily (eg the one above Chequers Buttress). People worry about the wrong things at times.

In reply to Al Evans

Why not pull the rope through and throw it down for the bolt kit?
gethin_allen on 06 Oct 2012
In reply to Jimbo C:
> (In reply to gethin_allen)
>
> Tsh, you exaggerate. Have you belayed off any good gorse bush roots recently?

Those roots were bomber, no climbing done recently due to broken wrist. Not climbing related I'll add.

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