/ Skinny ropes and belay plates

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Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
Are belay plates (or at least their use) keeping up with the use of ever skinnier ropes?

I suspect not. One or two things recently have made me question whether people are using belay plates with which it is too difficult to hold a fall (and specifically in winter in gloves or mitts and shiny everdry ropes). If it takes any real effort hold an abseil locked off, then I would say the belay plate is not suited to belaying with the same ropes. I suspect a lot of people use the same plate whether with a single or double ropes - if I can fit a single rope through a belay plate then I would not use it with half ropes (whatever the manufacturer says). I evn sometimes respectfully ask a belayer to use my skinny belay plate if I'm unhappy with theirs.

CurlyStevo - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
yeah I have two belay plates for my skinny ropes, first thing I do is give someone my buggette to use.
jon on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Do you include a Reverso as a belay plate, Rob? I've just thrown mine away as it was just too hard to pull a couple of 8.2s through it. I now use an old belay plate to belay a leader - with no problems even with ny Mammut 8mms and use an original NewAlp Magic plate to belay my seconds.
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to jon:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> Do you include a Reverso as a belay plate, Rob?

I was thinking of traditional belay plates.
Michael Gordon - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Depends how skinny the rope(s) is/are? The one I use (Black Diamond ATC) is fine with 8mm-10.5mm (not used anything less than that) so not noticed any problems myself.
jon on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Well, as I said I now use one in preference to the Reverso. It's an old Betterbrake and I can't say I've had problems holding a fall with it. True sometimes my hands have got rather hot whilst abseiling on hot days, but overall no real problems.
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Michael Gordon:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> Depends how skinny the rope(s) is/are? The one I use (Black Diamond ATC) is fine with 8mm-10.5mm (not used anything less than that) so not noticed any problems myself.

That is just the sort of thing I am thinking of. There is no way I would use (or be happy with my partner using) an ATC with 8mm ropes.

jon on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to jon:

But of course, just to put it in perspective, I never had a problem when we used to use a fig 8 in 'rapid mode' for sport climbing - not much friction there...
The Ex-Engineer - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> Are belay plates (or at least their use) keeping up with the use of ever skinnier ropes?

Belay plates are. The newest ones like the Petzl Reverso 4 are great when belaying a leader with thinner ropes. [In fact, as pointed out by another poster, they are almost too good and are now too stiff with thicker ropes or in autolocking mode.]

As to a small minority individual climbers being blinkered or ignorant fools when it comes to equipment, probably. As ever it was and will be.

Although to be honest, the fact that many of the less experienced climbers are overly obsessed with buying the latest shiny gear probably means the there isn't actually that much of a problem. If they have super skinny ropes they are also likely to have a newer design belay plate and not just an ATC.
ianstevens - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran: Double up on the screwgate (i.e. use 2) for some extra friction if its that bad?
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to ianstevens:
> (In reply to Robert Durran) Double up on the screwgate (i.e. use 2) for some extra friction if its that bad?

I would if necessary, but lighter and simpler to carry a skinnier belay plate.

Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> If they have super skinny ropes they are also likely to have a newer design belay plate and not just an ATC.

This is what I doubt.

John2 - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran: I've held a factor 2 fall on an ATC with admittedly well-worn Mammut Phoenix ropes. The device locked perfectly and holding the fall was no effort (though I did get a little whiplash).

If the ropes had been new, of course, it might have been a different story.
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to John2:
> If the ropes had been new, of course, it might have been a different story.

Yes, the state of the ropes can make a huge difference.

John2 - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran: My problem with using a Bugette is that they are too small to use on a static ab rope for sea cliff climbing.
The Ex-Engineer - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> This is what I doubt.

I've seen no increase in evidence of this.

In fact I think a bigger issue is essentially the opposite. I have seen far more inexperienced climbers buying newer belay decives (i.e. Reverso 3s/4s, ATC Guides) and then using them in autolocking mode in various potentially inappropriate situations.
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to John2:
> (In reply to Robert Durran) My problem with using a Bugette is that they are too small to use on a static ab rope for sea cliff climbing.

This is a problem. I abseil on an ATC, then haul it up on the ab rope and belay with a skinnier device.

sebrider - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to The Ex-Engineer: I agree.

I have used an old ATC for years with thinner ropes with no problems, in fact they are nicer to use like this. Also, for several reasons I like some degree 'slip' in a belay device, especially in winter climbs.

Typically, although not usually loaded at the same time, if you are using a thinner rope it will one of two going through the plate which often increases friction.

Just my experience though.
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to sebrider:
> (In reply to The Ex-Engineer) I agree.
>
> Also, for several reasons I like some degree 'slip' in a belay device, especially in winter climbs.

Mmm. I just like to be absolutely sure it will lock off!
jon on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to sebrider)
> [...]
>
> Mmm. I just like to be absolutely sure it will lock off!

Is there something you want to tell us, Rob?
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to jon:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> Is there something you want to tell us, Rob?

No. And I havn't dropped anyone - I just don't want to do so (or for anyone else to do so!).

jon on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Do you know of instances of people being dropped? I must say, I don't think I have - with any type of device.
neil the weak - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon)
> [...]
>
> That is just the sort of thing I am thinking of. There is no way I would use (or be happy with my partner using) an ATC with 8mm ropes.

Neither would I. In fact I actively try to mention when selling them that they are quite inappropriate for use with thinner diamaeter ropes due to the lack of friction. We mainly sell them these days specifically for indoor use on fat insitu topropes where the slippiness is a positive.

Wierdly, the instructions that come on them say that they are OK down to 8mm. The instrucions are wrong. As for wanting "slippage", I hope those folk wear gloves!
neil the weak - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to jon:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> Do you know of instances of people being dropped? I must say, I don't think I have - with any type of device.

3 deckouts in Ratho in the last 12 months. Two were straight drops of the climber, both involving old style ATC's and skinny ropes though maybe best not to read too much into that. The third was grigri user error.

A guy got dropped in the Norries the other week too - fell onto the belay and the belayer lost control of the ropes as I gather.

Happens more than you might think.
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to jon:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> Do you know of instances of people being dropped? I must say, I don't think I have - with any type of device.

I have seen two people dropped this year (though, not being aware of the details of the situations or the belay plate being used, I would not want to criticise anyone). Fortunately the consequences were not too serious, but easily could have been far, far worse.

jon on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to neil the weak:

> 3 deckouts in Ratho in the last 12 months. Two were straight drops of the climber, both involving old style ATC's and skinny ropes

Why would you use skinny ropes at a wall? Or have I misunderstood?
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to neil the weak:
> (In reply to jon)

> 3 deckouts in Ratho in the last 12 months.

Yes, one of those landed right next to me. Not nice.

> A guy got dropped in the Norries the other week too - fell onto the belay and the belayer lost control of the ropes as I gather.

This is the other one I witnessed.


Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to jon:
> (In reply to neil the weak)
> Why would you use skinny ropes at a wall? Or have I misunderstood?

Some skinny singles are, in my opinion, too skinny for comfortable ATC use!

jon on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Just shows, I must go around with my eyes shut! I suppose though, for the last twenty odd years I've spent most of the time sport climbing in France. But as I said above, a lot of that time - and the last few years of the 80s - people used fig 8s with the rope simply through the krab, so you'd expect to have seen a few drops. Does this point maybe to newer and more numerous climbers, perhaps, rather than less friction?
Rick Graham on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran

> Some skinny singles are, in my opinion, too skinny for comfortable ATC use!

I agree.

This issue has been discussed since about the time of the ATC being first produced. (late 80's ?) I am aware of its limitations but its still my favoured device.
At a BMC Technical conference (probably 20 years ago) no one had figured out how to devise a standard test for the holding power. I get the impression this still applies and user recommendation is only subjective.

Nobody has yet mentioned the climbers weight.

jon on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Rick Graham:

> Nobody has yet mentioned the climbers weight.

Ah, mustn't be fattist, Rick.
neil the weak - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to jon:
> (In reply to neil the weak)
>
> [...]
>
> Why would you use skinny ropes at a wall? Or have I misunderstood?

I meant thin single ropes in this case ( < 9.4mm) rather than 8mm doubles but it's the same thing really. And why? Our wall is quite tall, with many clips so lots of drag on some routes.

I agree about there being lots of contributing factors to overall grip needed, rope diameter, climbers weight, gloves or not, frozen / wet rope, rope drag etc etc. The important thing I think is to be aware of how the system you are using will work in various situations. Simply owning a low friction device and using it in all scenarios regardless is potentially adding needless risk for me.

I wonder if we are hearing about more of these things just because of greater participation numbers, or whether it's just that things are reported better. both maybe, who knows. People do hit the ground with the rest of the saftey chain still intact though, and quite often. Not all inexperienced climbers either, the guys in the Norries were grade VI regulars and the most recent ratho drop was an ex PYB staff member.
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to jon:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> Just shows, I must go around with my eyes shut! I suppose though, for the last twenty odd years I've spent most of the time sport climbing in France.

I suspect people get dropped far more often on indoor walls than on crags - more distractions, more complacency.
jon on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to neil the weak:

Yeah, by skinny ropes I thought you meant 8mms, hence my question. I suspect you're right... more people, internet etc etc.
John2 - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to jon: Come to think of it the closest I've come to droppping someone was using a borrowed belay device with smaller grooves than an ATC and an almost new (hence slippery) 10 mm rope. I was holding the rope in the correct position when the climber fell and was surprised to feel it running through the belay device. I grabbed it hard and halted the climber just above the ground at the expense of a small rope burn to my hand. It seemed to me that in this case the rope was possibly too thick for the belay device (which I think was a Reverso or something of that ilk).
Neil Adams - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Hi Rob.

I suspect I know one of the incidents that prompted this post.

I'm not sure the choice of belay plate was inappropriate - I've held a similar fall on an icy ATC. But when the belay is cramped or awkward, the belayer is knackered and the ropes & gloves are icy, the margin for error reduces. Maybe a different plate would have made a difference but I suspect other factors - a bit of complacency on my part, rigging the belay on the assumption I would be belaying, not giving my mate enough time to recover after a pretty tough pitch - all contributed at least as much.

Having said that, you probably had a better view of what happened than me...
Big Lee - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

I use a Bugette with my 8mm ropes. I've used a normal size belay plate in the past but ab'ing off always needed a very tight grip on the rope. I came to the similar conclusion that belaying with a regular plate could be potentially dangerous. Else leave a hefty rope burn if trying to hold a big fall. If I am ab'ing into sea cliffs on static rope then I carry two belay plates.
MG - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran: I think you have a point. I abandoned my ATC after finding it hard to control abseils. I am quite heavy ....
dave crookes - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:
> Are belay plates (or at least their use) keeping up with the use of ever skinnier ropes?
>


Hi Robert. I would agree that skinny ropes in standard belay plates are not a good combo having had a hairy experience abseiling at Sharpnose some years ago on a single 9mm rope [most definitely NOT recommended]. However I would need to check with Brian if recent experience of using skinny ropes in a winter fall situation was compromised by using a standard belay plate.
Michael Gordon - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Robert Durran:

Come to think of it it's actually an ATC XP which I definitely prefer to a normal ATC.
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Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Neil Adams:
> I suspect I know one of the incidents that prompted this post.

I hope you are recovering ok...

> But when the belay is cramped or awkward, the belayer is knackered and the ropes & gloves are icy, the margin for error reduces.

True. So when other factors are less than ideal ideal, I think I would at least like to know the belay plate was as easy-locking as possible.

> Having said that, you probably had a better view of what happened than me...

I just heard a yelp and looked round to see you plummeting...

Monk - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Michael Gordon:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> Depends how skinny the rope(s) is/are? The one I use (Black Diamond ATC) is fine with 8mm-10.5mm (not used anything less than that) so not noticed any problems myself.

I can categorically state that an ATC is not capable of holding well with thin ropes (less than 8.5). I literally couldn't hold my second's weight on a single strand of shiny 8.5mm. It was an unusual situation in that all their weight was on a single strand with nothing to add friction in between -no gear and no rubbing on rock. It really opened my eyes. I've never had any problems holding falls before, but that convinced me that a high factor fall onto a single stand would be nigh on impossible to hold with an atc.
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to dave crookes:

Hi Dave, I hope you are recovering ok too.....
Monk - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Michael Gordon:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> Come to think of it it's actually an ATC XP which I definitely prefer to a normal ATC.

In that case, it makes more sense. The grooves on the XP really do help. I've left my original reply up though as I think it's a useful warning to others.
Robert Durran - on 25 Nov 2012
In reply to Monk:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon)
> The grooves on the XP really do help.

A bit, but I still wouldn't choose to use one with 8mm ropes.

needvert on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:
...
> In fact think a bigger issue is essentially the opposite. I have seen far more inexperienced climbers buying newer belay decives (i.e. Reverso 3s/4s, ATC Guides) and then using them in autolocking mode in various potentially inappropriate situations.

Curious, inappropriate how so?


I have an ATC Guide as my standard belay device, BD says 7.7-11mm. Use it with newish 8.3mm doubles without drama, never caught a high FF fall with it though. Am curious as to other peoples experiences too.
jimtitt - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to Rick Graham:
> In reply to Robert Durran
>
> [...]
>
> I agree.
>
> This issue has been discussed since about the time of the ATC being first produced. (late 80's ?) I am aware of its limitations but its still my favoured device.
> At a BMC Technical conference (probably 20 years ago) no one had figured out how to devise a standard test for the holding power. I get the impression this still applies and user recommendation is only subjective.
>
> Nobody has yet mentioned the climbers weight.

The problem for the UIAA to establish a performance test for belay devices is the need to have a "standard" rope for the laboratories to use which is effectively impossible. In the industry we (some) use a reasonably fast pull test which has been correlated to an extensive series of drop tests done by a guy called Randelhofer for the DAV/UIAA many years ago and some tests from the CAI.
Industry being a touch more inventive just use a standard ATC which has been around for a long time as a bench march to get a rope coefficient for the relevant rope being tested and we can get pretty accurate results this way.
And then donīt actually give the results, just general indications as the biggest variable is the belayers hand strength.
The way itīs done is down the bottom (section 7) of this page http://www.bolt-products.com/Glue-inBoltDesign.htm

Iīm climbing on 7.8īs this week and we are using plates you canīt buy, the default position is always the DMM Bug which is as good as it gets at the moment for this sort of rope.
CurlyStevo - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to jimtitt: do you mean the dmm bug or bugette ?
jimtitt - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo:

Sorry, your right. The Buggette is the one for thin ropes.
CurlyStevo - on 26 Nov 2012
In reply to jimtitt: yes i have one buggette and one hb air Marshall for thin ropes. Both good for thin ropes although the hb is nicer to use. My view is non specialist devices may work but they are not as effective so why take the chance.

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