/ Belaying near disaster
I was off for a long weekend Spanish trip with a few mates and we saw someone drop their mate from 20m off a route at Gandia. A bush and a lot of good luck saved his life.
From what we could tell, the belayer didn't have his hands on the rope and when his mate fell the rope was moving too fast for him to commit to grabbing it. I was maybe 15ft from the guy who hit the floor like a sack of spuds, it was a sick sound. When everyone was rushing to help the fallen climber the belayer was just staring down at his stitch plate in disbelief.
Anyway it stuck in my mind to never, even for one second, take your eye off the ball when belaying. I know none of us would deliberately risk someone's life, but i guess it is easy to become distracted when you are doing something so important.
The guy was lucky. Let's hope a lesson has been learned.
Out of interest, what nationality was the belayer?
I've been climbing in Germany quite a lot over the last year, in fact I'm there right now. The germans that I've been going climbing with tried to teach me how to belay. Now, bearing in mind that I've been climbing for well over 40 years, you can imagine my surprise. I've actually stopped climbing with any germans now as I always felt a bit uneasy about the belaying. That's not to say all german climbers are not good belayers.
I asked the original question because you said you were in spain, I suspected that the belayer would not be a spaniard as they all use GriGri's, and in my experience they don't know how to use a normal belay device. In fact a few years ago I was belaying someone at a busy crag, and a few people gathered around to stare at my Reverso3. I overheard one of them asking a friend what it was and how it worked, and how could it automatically stop someone that was falling. Makes you wonder.
It was actually a Sticht plate? (As in you've not just used that as a generic term) Surprising - they're normally pretty grabby.
This is why I think grigris should be used for sport climbing where people are taking falls very regularly.
There's always that risk that something like this could happen with an ATC, OK it shouldn't if the belayer is paying attention but say the belayer slips and loses contact with braking hand out of no fault of their own then this situation mentioned above could occur. Embrace technology.
Was it an error whilst leading or was the climber at the top re threading ?
I have been scared by the American way of belaying where the rope is held in the un-locked position for much of the time.
Different nationaliies do things differently and in my experience many Spanish do know how to use all different types of belay device. However there are some who don't and some i would never let belay me even if they did ;0)
There's also the fact that ropes are getting thinner and the belay device (Sticht, ATC or Gri-Gri) needs to be compatible. Using a 20yr old belay device with a modern thin rope isn't going to behave in an optimum manner. Also there's the difference between the slickness of new and old ropes.
Something that's just occurred to me: was the ATC in the accident on a long retaining cord? I've found that it's better if they are on a short cord, no more than 15cm, so that if the climber does fall then the plate gets pulled back to the belay krab and starts to lock of its own accord.
> This is why I think grigris should be used for sport climbing where people are taking falls very regularly.
> There's always that risk that something like this could happen with an ATC, OK it shouldn't if the belayer is paying attention but say the belayer slips and loses contact with braking hand out of no fault of their own then this situation mentioned above could occur. Embrace technology.
On the other hand you could argue that if they learnt with or were used to GriGri's it has made them lazy and they have come to rely on the device to automatically catch.
Anything's possible but I've never witnessed that myself.
I'd argue that on the most part, people who sport climb a lot are much better at catching falls and most will use a grigri (from what I've seen myself).
When I'm out sport climbing I usually catch many falls during a session, hundreds per year. I've spoken to many trad climbers who've fallen off of a route once, twice in their entire climbing career and most of them use ATC style devices. If used properly a both style of devices are safe but a grigri can catch a fall in unpredictable situations, such as being knocked unconscious by falling rocks, hand slipping off of the rope, etc. I know what I prefer my belayer to use, it's just a shame that there isn't a double rope version.
Alternatively they could just learn how to belay properly in the first place, and not let go of the bloody rope.
If I can't trust someone with a stitch-plate I would not trust them with a GriGri either.
When did "catch" replace "hold a fall"? And why? Just out of interest.
> Alternatively they could just learn how to belay properly in the first place, and not let go of the bloody rope.
> If I can't trust someone with a stitch-plate I would not trust them with a GriGri either.
^^^^seconded. And then some.
> When did "catch" replace "hold a fall"? And why? Just out of interest.
Catch = sport.
Hold a fall = trad.
I'd have thought you'd have known that.
Looking at how badly some belay, "catch" would be the operative word! :-) It would certainly be a more useful action as often the lead climber is effectively soloing.
Fully agree with you, I've had many people 'hold my falls'? with an ATC with no problems but I'm assuming that something went hideously wrong in the situation the OP was discussing and that the belayer wasn't just being lazy.
Anyway, I never really meant for this to be an ATC vs. Grigri thread. Carry on with your days, I'm off climbing now!
Do ATCs just go wrong? It is a bit of metal with two holes in, I am going to call lazy belayer.
Enjoy you climbing, unfortunately bad back and a cold means I am stuck in all weekend.
He meant something happening to the belayer, not the ATC.
ie. You're mate as been so long on the route that you fall asleep, or a bee flies up your trousers, or whatever.
How do you know he was using an ATC?
> Catch = sport.
> Hold a fall = trad.
> I'd have thought you'd have known that.
Really? I had no idea! Has it always been "catch" for sport? Have I been using the wrong word all these years?
I was watching the Spanish belayers (when I wasn't belaying myself) and they mainly had gri gri or similar. They were pretty focused and paid a lot of attention to giving a soft catch, one guy was crouched like a cat ready to jump whenever the lead popped off.
The Mammut Smart is an assisted belay device and comes in a double rope version called the Alpine.
I don't care what my belayer uses (well, I might draw a line at a shoulder belay) so long as they are paying attention. Auto-locking and brake-assist devices are all very well but do not substitute for paying proper attention.
FWIW, people are often slow at feeding slack and rough at lowering with a Grigri, because they make those tasks awkward. So if anything I'm happier if someone belaying me on lead uses an ATC, Bug, sticht plate or whatever.
That's why I always insist on my belayer wearing bicycle clips. Can't be too careful.
I am German myself and have learnt most of my climbing skills in the UK - now does that make me a better or a worse belayer than Germans having learnt in Germany???
Yeh, the apline up is an unbelievable bit of kit. A much better shape for trad climbing than the smart alpine as well. Doesn't seem to have really hit the UK yet either...
A canyoneering belay plate can be used for holding the leader for long periods.It has wrap around projections to lock rope off.Normally I prefer a simple Sticht type plate.If your neck is aching and you are not watching,then at least hold the rope below the plate,in case your mate pops off. There are German lenses available which means you don't have to look up at a leader,but can look straight ahead and not crick your neck.
I do have a Gri-gri so trying not to sound like a complete fanboy, paying out takes a little getting used to and lowering smoothly is a black art. Having a new thinner rope seems to help.
I've just been looking at these alpine up jobbers.... Is it easy to give a soft catch in autolock mode, or do you have to be a bit more mobile than you do with a standard belay plate?
The reason I ask is that on the 'instructional' video it looks like it locks up pretty hard and fast when the climber falls off.
I bought mine in Italy, and I've not seen one here, it's made by CT Technology.
Lowering is the big problem with a gri-gri, if you want to do it smoothly without repeatedly stopping you can't have one hand statically holding the dead rope 100 per cent of the time, and the lever is awkward to get in exactly the right position for the speed of lowering you want. Also, it's counterintuitive in that if you grip the lever hard it will release.
I see the point of them, but they are not exactly a masterpiece of design.
Prevents a forceful swing into the wall, which is almost as bad. Obviously, as you say, it's not a good idea if there are protruding bits or the climber is low down.
>...And even people who pay attention aren't immune from lapses of concentration and judgement -- human error.
Yes, though those lapses have have consequences, just like driving where a brief lapse can cause disaster.
I like the rest of your post.
> I am German myself and have learnt most of my climbing skills in the UK - now does that make me a better or a worse belayer than Germans having learnt in Germany???
Yes. But why not make it better?
> I've just been looking at these alpine up jobbers.... Is it easy to give a soft catch in autolock mode, or do you have to be a bit more mobile than you do with a standard belay plate?
> The reason I ask is that on the 'instructional' video it looks like it locks up pretty hard and fast when the climber falls off.
Yeh, it locks pretty hard when on auto-lock mode, which it has to in order to lock! You don't have to be too mobile to make it soft again though, a couple of feet should do.
An interesting feature, which I've never seen any reviews of the Alpine Up highlight, is the 'fixed' position of the tube when on 'dynamic mode'. This means it functions exactly like a normal bug, only that you don't get the back and forth action that sometimes locks tradtional belay plates up. It just feels bomber - can't commend this bit of kit highly enough.
Cheers Franco. Having never used one of these brake assisted devices I'm totally in the dark, but was already mulling over the idea of a GriGri for sport climbing. Sounds like I might have to give this a whirl instead.
> An interesting feature, which I've never seen any reviews of the Alpine Up highlight, is the 'fixed' position of the tube when on 'dynamic mode'. This means it functions exactly like a normal bug, only that you don't get the back and forth action that sometimes locks tradtional belay plates up. It just feels bomber - can't commend this bit of kit highly enough.
I've looked at the single rope Click-Up and was pretty impressed (I can't cope with the (to me) totally unintuitive Gri_Gri!). Can the Alpine-Up be used in a mode where it is effectively just a double rope version of the Click-Up? I'm not sure that I'd carry something this heavy on a alpine route though.....
One of my regular climbing partners uses the single rope Click-Up for sport climbign and is very hapy with it. He bought the double rope version for the Alps but then rarely carries it, largely because of the weight.
I don't have any problems lowering smoothly with a gri-gri (crappy wall ropes that look like a string of bum beads excepted) although one of these can help keep the rope running smoothly: (read as 'compensate for vague brake hand positioning' if you want to)
> Alternatively they could just learn how to belay properly in the first place, and not let go of the bloody rope.
Obviously I could not be certain from the TV, but all to aware of the risks associated, I always make sure I watch and new belayer for myself until I'm comfortable with them, whatever device.
Same here. I might do it by choosing something solo-able to climb, though, so it isn't necessarily visible.
Yes it can. And you're right, the main draw-back is that at 175g it's on the heavy side when compared to the Guide which is only 90g. Where it pulls back though is on time saving- no prussics needed (which also potentially saves weight) means of course that you don't need to spend that extra minute tying a prussic at every rap point.
As with the guide, you have the option to magic plate, but unlike the guide, you can also be doing things on belays whilst belaying (a bit like when magic plating). If you were redpointing something at height, or aiding it could have applications too.
Ultimately there's a lot of swings and roundabouts. Weight and price are the main disadvantages, but it sort of makes up for both of these by being such an incredibly good bit of kit.
It's going to revolutionise hard, bold trad headpointing.
I'm just reading a study in the latest DAV Panorama magazine. They conducted an observation survey of belaying practices at German climbing walls, and found that the rate of dangerous belaying errors was four times higher with ATC-style devices versus semi-automatics (GriGri, Smart, Click-Up). A little over 0.5 dangerous errors per observed session with ATCs (eek!) versus about 0.12 with grigris etc.
My entirely speculative interpretation of this: (1) some of the numerous errors it is still possible to make with semi-automatics are less dangerous than with ATCs (2) semi-automatics tend to be used by more experienced climbers who are more aware / careful about what they are doing.
Possible counter-arguments against (2): (a) a previous study found no correlation between more experience and safer belaying practices (b) the error rate with the munter hitch was no lower than with ATCs, and it's mostly crusty old alpine traddies who use the munter hitch indoors these days.
> Yes it can. And you're right, the main draw-back is that at 175g it's on the heavy side.
That's a substantial portion of pasta...... or an extra Gold Camalot...... I think I might get a Click-Up to lend to my worryingly lighter belayers to give me more confidence when sport climbing, but stick to my buguette when weight is an issue.
Walls usually won't allow the use of a munter hitch because it knackers their ropes.
To weight them down? ;)
More seriously, a slicker device is better for a lighter belayer, as some rope slip will cause them to be dragged up in the air a bit less.
> More seriously, a slicker device is better for a lighter belayer, as some rope slip will cause them to be dragged up in the air a bit less.
Are you joking? Rope slip is never, ever desirable. I thought that myth had been killed off. The rope provides elasticity, not dangerous belaying. If my belayer is getting dragged around, I don't want them bashed into the wall/rock and letting go of the rope resulting in my death.
I'll be carrying prussiks anyway. I don't know where you 85g from? A minute to tie a prussik?!
"Are you joking? Rope slip is never, ever desirable."
A very small amount of it rather than a dead stop can help make the belay more dynamic.
Can you provide a reference saying this, or is it just your opinion?
"The rope provides elasticity, not dangerous belaying."
A small amount of slip through the device (not the belayer's hand) is not "dangerous belaying".
"If my belayer is getting dragged around, I don't want them bashed into the wall/rock and letting go of the rope resulting in my death."
Maybe they need a weight bag or ground anchor if they're not used to the idea of being pulled in the air and how to control that happening?
> Are you joking? Rope slip is never, ever desirable. I thought that myth had been killed off. The rope provides elasticity, not dangerous belaying. If my belayer is getting dragged around, I don't want them bashed into the wall/rock and letting go of the rope resulting in my death.
Nonsense. Rope slip softens the catch, stopping the belayer being dragged around and preventing the climber from slamming the wall and being injured. It also helps prevent runners pulling out - otherwise we'd see people using locking devices for trad.
As a light climber, I appreciate belayers who learn to soften the catch way beyond the dynamism the rope provides... you can do this with a locking device too, but it's much easier when the device doesn't grab the rope instantly.
>I never understood the logic behind the "soft Catch" surely it just opens up more things for the climber to smash into as they fall ?
I think this is a misunderstanding of what a soft fall/catch is. With a soft catch you will not "smash" back into the wall anywhere near as hard and therfore in most situations is safer.
Obviously if there are obstacles on the way down or if there is a chance of decking out then this is a different situation but if it is just a normal safe well protected fall then a soft catch is by far preferable. I doubt many people who actually take a lot of falls will disagree with this and personally I have on the same route at the same point fallen with 2 different belayers - one who took the rope in tight and gave me a horrendous sharp bone crunching swing back into the rock and one who agve me a nice pleasant soft lob. I know which I preferred.
Personally i think that rope slip thing is tricky. I prefer someone who just jumps up and softens the fall that way rather than tries to feed out more as I get caught. I just think it introduces an element of thinking, skill and intuition that doesn't need to be there and has too much potential for error. Certainly with an ATC or similar device I would much rather someone just locked it off and jumped up a bit as my weight comes on the rope rather than feathering some rope through the device. Even if you are good at this it does not take a large mistake to allow the rope to run a bit faster than you wanted and for it then to get away from you and....
Most times I just prefer people using a grigri to be honest but this is just a personal preference and I would happily be belayed by someone with an ATC or the like if I was happy they could belay well. If we were doing a sport route my only query would be why use an ATC? especially for working a route a grigri makes more sense.
> Nonsense. Rope slip softens the catch.
Yes, but I'd rather have a slightly harder fall than this dangerous nonsense about letting the rope slip through the belay device risking a very soft catch up until the point that I die on the ground when they lose control. If anyone belayed me like that I ould give them a piece of my mind. It is bollocks, although, dmittedly, orryingly common bollocks.
> Yes, but I'd rather have a slightly harder fall than this dangerous nonsense about letting the rope slip through the belay device risking a very soft catch up until the point that I die on the ground when they lose control. If anyone belayed me like that I ould give them a piece of my mind. It is bollocks, although, dmittedly, orryingly common bollocks.
I kind of agree with this. Personally I don't like the idea of someone allowing the rope to slip through the device whatever it may be. With an ATC this could quite easily get away from you especially if you are pulled up a bit and with a grigri I certainly don't like the idea of someone opening up the automatic locking mechanism as I get caught. That seems to me like a recipe for disaster.
I generally think that if someone is alert whilst belaying moving close to the rock and jumping up when the pull comes on the rope is a nice safe method to give a soft fall.
A gri-gri is fine if the belayer is alert and knows what he's doing with it, but I've had one broken toe from a heavier belayer with a gri-gri who didn't move on a routine sport fall... I don't tie in with him unless he's using an ATC now.
If that's your view, if I ever climb with you make that clear and I'll just stand still on the floor and lock off. But unless you're quite heavy, you'll get a rock hard catch, swing in and smash against the wall. Not likely you'll lift me up!
By the way, I have never dropped anyone or even come close.
But it's your opinion. Myself I prefer a soft catch, though I usually get one by default because most people I climb with are much lighter than me.
> "Are you joking? Rope slip is never, ever desirable."
> Can you provide a reference saying this, or is it just your opinion?
It is my strongly held opinion.
Have you tried it? It really isn't hard to control the rope with a bit of practice.
> I kind of agree with this. Personally I don't like the idea of someone allowing the rope to slip through the device whatever it may be. With an ATC this could quite easily get away from you.
Absolutely. No doubt with a really alert and experienced belayer it might be ok, but anyone can have a momentary negligence; the grabbier the belay device, the better. I have just bought a Click-Up specifically for sports climbing. It will give me greater confidence both in my own belaying and that of those I lend it to when they belay me.
Yes, there are much safer ways of softening the fall in a situation where this really seems necessary than this potentially downright dangerous mythical nonsense about lettng rope slip through the belay device
If you're not confident in your belaying, you could get someone to give you lessons at your local climbing wall?
> A gri-gri is fine if the belayer is alert and knows what he's doing with it, but I've had one broken toe from a heavier belayer with a gri-gri who didn't move on a routine sport fall... I don't tie in with him unless he's using an ATC now.
I don't understand what would be different with the ATC in this situation? Your belayer didn't soften the fall enough and you didn't absorb the impact enough with your knees.
So, you don't like his belaying with a device that automatically locks off and requires him only to be alert to your potential falling and then jump up but you are happy for him to use a device that doesn't automatically lock and which he will then try to feather the rope through the device?
Strange choice! I do a lot of sport climbing and have done for a long time. I would be personally uncomfortable about trying to feather the rope through an ATC. I don't think it is very difficult to do I just think that the potential for disaster outweighs the small benefit here.
I just think that when belaying it needs to be simple as everything happens so fast. Simply be alert, recognise when the person is going to fall, lock the device off and soften the fall by jumping up. Straightforward and difficult to do anything dangerous with that strategy.
Once you start asking someone (or yourself) to let a bit of rope slip through a device in a situation where everything can seem like it is going in fast-forward you are asking for problems.
The above is just my opinion based on being alive, never having decked out, never having had anyone drop me and doing a ton of sport climbing with a lot of different people over a large number of years.
> If you're not confident in your belaying, you could get someone to give you lessons at your local climbing wall?
I am confident in my belaying, but, as I said, anyone can make a mistake or get distracted, so better to have a belay device and belaying technique which is forgiving of a momentary negligence. It might only takes one such moment for someone to get killed.
Actually, I think that belaying accidents are far more likely to happen at an indoor wall with all the potential distractions and routine repetitiveness of training than outside; I certainly worry much less outside than in.
> If you're not confident in your belaying, you could get someone to give you lessons at your local climbing wall?
Yer, but don't ask this guy.
I have posted this before, but it still makes me smile, so I've posted it again.
*I expect Gri-Gri's etc are different and "grabbier" due to cam action.
> I don't understand what would be different with the ATC in this situation? Your belayer didn't soften the fall enough and you didn't absorb the impact enough with your knees.
Even if you try to lock down hard with the ATC there will be some slippage, so it softens the catch.
No, I wouldn't expect or ask him to allow extra rope slippage, just what the device provides (I'll leave the advanced techniques to my more profficient belayers).
The benefits may be bigger than you think - say your climber gets himself sketched out on a traversy runout, catches a foot behind the rope and comes penduluming head-first at speed towards a tufa... if you haven't practiced it, you're not going to have the presence of mind to drop them and catch them again when they've cleared it. If that sounds unlikely, I was that climber, and was glad my belayer had the practice and presence of mind.
Rope slippage isn't something you do, it's something that happens. Nobody can think that fast.
The amount of rope won't stop you swinging into the wall. For that you need a little slack at the belayer which reduces the radius of the arc the climber traces through the air.
My my, but there's a lot of dogmatic stuff here. By and large I'd have thought that whatever device the belayer is most comfortable/proficient with is going to be the safest. For instance, I've used ATC for about 20 years without problems and I'm very happy with it. Most of my climbing partners also use them. I also have a gri gri which tbh, maybe because I'm clumsy or thick, I don't really get on with. I like it for belaying on top ropes, especially if someone is working a route but otherwise I find the ATC perfectly fine and less of a faff and I can feed rope out more quickly and more easily.
We have, however, just bought a Click-up because Mrs C has taken up climbing and we had our first go with it today. Seems an excellent bit of kit which took very little getting used to and so far seems to have all the benefits of a gri gri without the faff. It suits us because Mrs C is 37pc lighter than me and she feels happier having an assisted device rather than using the ATC. Because she was never completely happy with the ATC I confess I had qualms about her with ittoo but am perfectly happy with the Click-up.
Before anyone says is she is not super confident with a device she should not be using it there is the chicken-and-egg problem that to become confident she needs to use it. So being very cowardly I always made sure someone was tailing the rope. With the Click-up I was happy for her to operate alone and she very quickly became confident and a good time was had by all.
As for soft catch v hard catch there are times when each is appropriate and inappropriate, often on the same route unless it is some relentlessly overhanging horror show all the way. Just use your brain to assess each situation.
Hmmm... that is not really what we have been discussing. In that situation feathering the rope through and letting slippage occur with the device is not necessary. The belayer simply needs to be aware that if you fall you may hit something and he has to decide how much slack to keep out. This is something that I would expect most belayers to do and to be thinking about when belaying. It is a fairly common situation that there are obstructions in the fall zone and the belayer may have to decide whether to make the fall short (and a bit hard) because this is safer or if a longer fall would be necessary. In these situations I have generally discussed it with the climber beforehand or my belayer if I was climbing. It really just comes down to being aware of the situation.
As someone else has stated rope slippage just happens as things are going too fast when the fall occurs.
As I have said personally I would rather the belayer was alert, judged the fall correctly, locked the device off and did not try to mess around with letting more slack through.
Anyway each to their own
He's obviously an old-school Southern sandstone climber. ;o)
The gym in the video likely had these installed:
No harness or belay device necessary. (That system is a bad idea IMHO, but at any rate the guy in the viedo is not necessarily a complete moron.)
> The gym in the video likely had these installed:
> No harness or belay device necessary. (That system is a bad idea IMHO, but at any rate the guy in the viedo is not necessarily a complete moron.)
Oh, so that's why everyone is taking sly video footage of him and making comments like "I'm trying to get pictures of how to belay". Not to mention the concerned looks from all the other people that have not yet realised that the gym has installed a system that they have not noticed, or know how to use. You might be right after all and the guy is not necessarily a complete moron, in fact he might well end up having the last laugh. However, I'm edging towards the complete moron, based on the visual and audible clues that are there. That is just my considered opinion though.
I just watched it again. The climber is doing a pseudolead and is attached to some sort of autobelay. You can see this when the camera pans up very early on.
Yes. You are right that's what it looks like. Pardon me everybody for getting it wrong.
Easy to say when you've been around the block a bit.
> Easy to say when you've been around the block a bit.
Ah yes, experience - the name we give to our mistakes, eh?
> Ah yes, experience - the name we give to our mistakes, eh?
Good judgement comes from experience....
....and experience comes from bad judgement.
I also like:
There are very few hard and fast rules in climbing, just decisions.
Seems like You ve put in to this simple event whole philosophy of belaying.
Well he did not have his hands and eyes where he should have place them... and this is VERY common mistake whatever device is used or whatever nationality the ass is. I suggest You guys observe Your belayers and pin their bottoms if they do not pay attention to your life on the other end of the life stitch.
Sometimes when I climb indoors I stay and observe how people belay what gives me a lot consciousness about trust, real skills neglect and mindlessness. Cheering!! Let's go climbing!!!
> Can you provide a reference saying this, or is it just your opinion?
Actually,I think the Rockfax sport climbing book dismisses the common misconception that dynamic belaying is about letting the rope slip through the belay plate.
> I have posted this before, but it still makes me smile, so I've posted it again.
Given that the climber is only top roping (downclimbing at that), I struggled to see a problem. Presumably the bit that makes you smile is right at the end when he checks out the girl's arse. But,let's face it, that's pretty normalindoor belaying behaviour anyway.
You know. Pin their bottoms if they do not pay attention to your life on the other end of the life stitch...
> Hmmm... that is not really what we have been discussing. In that situation feathering the rope through and letting slippage occur with the device is not necessary. The belayer simply needs to be aware that if you fall you may hit something and he has to decide how much slack to keep out. This is something that I would expect most belayers to do and to be thinking about when belaying.
It was a really weird fall, I wouldn't have anticipated how much slack was going to be needed beforehand either.
Really? I generally discuss the route/moves and trust my belayers to make these decisions as I climb.
> As I have said personally I would rather the belayer was alert, judged the fall correctly, locked the device off and did not try to mess around with letting more slack through.
And if they realised they'd judged it wrong, you'd rather they stuck with the plan, even if it meant splitting your skull open on a tufa? Each to their own indeed, but that sounds plain nuts to me.
Yes I do. Seems obvious stuff here to me. If I think there is a section where the fall looks dubious I mention it. Generally though I do just chat about the moves but to me judging what is likely to happen on the route is part and parcel of being safe.
> And if they realised they'd judged it wrong, you'd rather they stuck with the plan, even if it meant splitting your skull open on a tufa? Each to their own indeed, but that sounds plain nuts to me.
If they were watching you as you climbed and being attentive this situation would not have just crept up on them. They would have seen the likly fall and any obstacles, they would have seen you struggling and then planned accordingly. You also as the climber are responsible for communicating how things are going as well. If all of this is done each time you belay there is no need for split second decision making and use of dubious skills that have a large potential for error.
To me this is a numbers/statistics thing. I have climbed for a long time and wish to climb for a long time still. I do a lot of sport climbing and therefore fall a lot. I wish to minimise the risks of falling as I do a lot of it and if my belayer does something that requires skill, dexterity and precise reactive judgement in a split second situation then eventually something is likely to go wrong. If my belayer watches what happens, constantly evaluates the fall and my likelihood of falling and then when I fall simply locks the device off and jumps up to give me a soft catch then there is much less likelihood of something going wrong.
Anyway it is up to you how you wish to be belayed, personally I prefer a boring safe approach where someone has been paying attention to me and gives me a routine catch. It isn't glamorous but it works.
I don't see how you can make that judgement from a stranger's description of the situation over the internet. I'd taken several falls from the same spot previously, and just happened to put myself in a dangerous position this time round with a wild lunge and an awkward fall over the rope. The unexpected is how accidents happen.
And what about the day it doesn't work? What if you're relaying on a single brass wire to keep you off the ground and want the impact on that runner minimised? I'm not saying every catch should be some complicated affair, just that having a variety of belaying skills to complement the standard catch is useful for unusual situations.
I'm struggling to imagine how an extra 6 inches of rope slipping through the belay plate can soften the catch to any measurable amount.
How much slipping are we talking about? 2 or 3 feet? Surely this just adds to the risk?
Couple of inches if that. I would mainly achieve it by holding the dead rope a bit higher than you would for a quick lock-off, then as everything pulls into place you get a progressive braking rather than the kind of sudden one you get with a Gri-gri.
Thanks for a straightforward answer :)
Unless the rope is held tight and locked off there's always going to be a bit of slack in the system.. for example the belayer's harness coming tight and riding up.
I suggest you compare falling off a high boulder problem with and without a bouldering mat to compare what difference an extra 6 inches of deceleration can make to impact reduction in a fall*
*No liability for broken ankles accepted ;-)
But in that example the mat is the only energy absorbing material.
In a leader fall there's the stretch of the rope, fiction over all the karabiners, lifting of the belayer, tightening of the harnesses etc. without worrying if the slip of the rope through a belay plate is going to cause any skin burning droppingness.
I'm not saying that I think that it's a good or a bad idea to have the slippage. I'm just saying that adding an extra 6 inches deceleration distance to a system may make a noticeable difference when on marginal gear - that's how screamers work after all, and they reduce the peak force by a few kN, so I'd image this would have a similar effect though not as pronounced.
As for if it's safer or not once everything is taken into account, that's a different question entirely!
> I suggest you compare falling off a high boulder problem with and without a bouldering mat to compare what difference an extra 6 inches of deceleration can make to impact reduction in a fall*
Obviously the mat can make the difference between a broken ankle and a totally safe fall. But the analogy is irrelevant. The elasticity of the rope ensures that no injury is ever going to result from the deceleration caused by the tension in the rope anyway; the only issue is this thing about not swinging into the rock so hard, but, if necesary, that can be achieved by other methods than the dodgy business of letting the rope slip through the belay device.
Fair enough, I see what you mean re every little bit helping. If we were talking helmets not ropes then one inch would make a large difference.
I never realised that screamers absorbed that much energy, I always thought they were just one of those things that people paid over the odds for. Given how often trad climbers fall off (here we go!) it could be argued that all trad extenders should be of the screaming variety, and then binned after use.
I only have what you describe the situation to be so that is how I am making the judgements. I still disagree with the need for your belayer to let the rope slip through the device. If he was watching and was aware of what was happening I still reckon he could judge that things were going wrong. Obviously I wasn't there and can't really know but I do know that I have personally never needed to try and let the rope slip through my belay device and I have held a lot of pretty awkward falls.
Firstly we were not talking about single brass wires keeping any one off the deck, we were talking about a sport climbing fall. Secondly even in that situation I am still not sure that trying to feather the rope would be better than just moving forward/up with the rope pull.
Finally I really don't think there is any need for more belaying skills than the ones I have described earlier. I just don't see the need to introduce the danger of your belayer letting the rope slip through the device too fast and then losing control of it. As I have said I reckon if you keep it simple then there is less to go wrong in those split second situations.
Anyway, it is up to you what you fancy doing and what you feel safe with in terms of belaying techniques.
Ps: if you are going to quote me, can you try and quote the whole paragraph/section as I do with your replies? It just seems like you are being fairly selective in the bits you like to reply to
> Fair enough, I see what you mean re every little bit helping. If we were talking helmets not ropes then one inch would make a large difference.
> I never realised that screamers absorbed that much energy, I always thought they were just one of those things that people paid over the odds for.
It's not so much about absorbing a lot of energy, it's about increasing the time taken to decelarate, and so reducing the peak force.
Cheaper to just learn to use your belay device as a re-usable screamer ;)
Sport Climbing+ extract saying rope slip is a myth.
Screamers do work by absorbing energy, same as a rope would, except it's permanent. It also increases the time to decelerate, they're linked.
Peak force of ~5kN, Yates gives a length of a screamer as 22cm. Assuming the peak force is constant over the extension of the screamer, total extension of 44cm, gives a 2200J absorbed. For a 70kg climber that would be equivalent to having 3m less of a fall.
Always nice to read the research of others, thanks for the links.
> Sport Climbing+ extract saying rope slip is a myth.
From that article:
"Arresting a fall requires an almost instinctive response, there isn't enough time for the fine motor skill required to allow for controlled rope slippage, the risk is you will drop them altogether (note: this can be done but requires gloves, a figure of eight as a belay device, and preferably a back-up belayer.)"
I regularly do this without gloves, or a figure of 8, or a backup belayer. I have been doing so for several years, and I've never came close to dropping anybody. I've also got friends who do it, and seen instructors doing it at the wall, and haven't seen any of them coming close to dropping someone.
You can argue about whether it's good practice or not, but to say it's a myth is demonstrably wrong... people are out there doing it and not dying.
> Firstly we were not talking about single brass wires keeping any one off the deck, we were talking about a sport climbing fall.
We were talking about belaying... why limit the discussion to sport climbing?
Well I don't have a setup to test it, but I'm fairly certain the peak force on the runner can be reduced further by extending the length of deceleration longer than a jump (and gravity) allows.
Sorry, not trying to take anything out of context, just highlighting the points I was trying to counter (that "Please don't quote the entire original message. Delete the lines that aren't relevent!" thing).
> You can argue about whether it's good practice or not, but to say it's a myth is demonstrably wrong... people are out there doing it and not dying.
Obviously no-one is saying that it is a myth - just that it is a myth that it is standard practice or sensible practice.
> From that article:
> "Arresting a fall requires an almost instinctive response, there isn't enough time for the fine motor skill required to allow for controlled rope slippage, the risk is you will drop them altogether (note: this can be done but requires gloves, a figure of eight as a belay device, and preferably a back-up belayer.)"
I haven't read the article but the bit you quote clearly says it is a bad idea and basically says what I have said a load of times.
Fair enough. If you belay that way and you feel safe and in control then that is up to you. Personally I would not let you belay me in that fashion. Another thing is that I have never seen anyone actually doing what you describe nor has anyone I know ever tried to belay in this manner. I sport climb a lot, see a lot of fall etc. and only ever see the method I have described. Occasionally I see some crap belaying but mostly at the wall and mostly by people who don't sport climb outdoors. Obviously this is a generalisation.
Do you do a lot of sport climbing and do you regularly fall/hold falls? I only ask because I have looked at your profile and you seem competent and therefore I am surprised at your responses.This isn't a challenge to an argument just a genuine question about background.
Okay it's not a myth. People do lots of things in terms of belaying that I personally don't like and most don't die. Personally I don't believe it is good practice.
I was just going to post the same thing. This debate crops up now and then on here, and there's always a few who defend this rope slip method, but I remain unconvinced, and I'm definitely not interested in being belayed that way.
> Do you do a lot of sport climbing and do you regularly fall/hold falls? I only ask because I have looked at your profile and you seem competent and therefore I am surprised at your responses.This isn't a challenge to an argument just a genuine question about background.
Yes, I was exclusively a sport climber up until last year. I've always used falling practice to keep a good head, so make sure I'm lobbing pretty much every time I tie into a rope - not always in trad, but I've tried to take that ethos across, so I do falling/catching practice well protected routes too.
Probably going back about four years that we first started practising this method of dynamic belaying. Some of the instructors at the wall were doing it with the kids in the performance squad, so me and a mate realised it would be useful for his wife (she's so light it can be difficult to give a dynamic catch). After a few goes, we figured it was a quite useful tool so started practising catching bigger lobs on each other.
Like any other skill it takes a bit of practice to drill into muscle memory, then gradually locking off becomes as much second nature as instantly locking down.
I like being caught that way, although I'd never ask someone to do it... whatever technique the belayer is comfortable with is fine, as long as they're giving a dynamic catch in one way or another.
In reply to the original post: Taking your eye of the ball is one thing. Taking your hand off the rope IS QUITE ANOTHER.
I've herd of this sort of thing happening before. I know people it's happened to, and it should never happen. Whenever i teach folk how to belay (i have taught a fair few) the first thing i ever say is whatever you do ALWAYS keep the dead rope in the locked position. Needs to be second nature. Then even if you do loose concentration (and im certainly not recommending it, but it can happen) you will still hold a fall! Glad to here the guy was OK...
> Whenever i teach folk how to belay (i have taught a fair few) the first thing i ever say is whatever you do ALWAYS keep the dead rope in the locked position.
Yeah, but belaying necessarily involves periods of not having the plate in the locked position. Just saying.
I just read on another forum that the DAV is considering ditching the teaching of ATCs in beginners' courses: too many people dropping each other at climbing walls.
Rumour is they're switching to Smart or Click-Up as the recommended first device to learn with.
Seems like a reasonable idea: both are relatively cheap and more intuitive to handle compared to a GriGri but offer some insurance compared to an ATC against momentary lapses of attention, falls at the exact moment of giving out slack etc.
I suppose their reaches a point when it becomes daft to ignore advances in technology, if that's what they are. I've got no experience of the smart or the click-up, but the Grigri has pitfalls that don't make it a great to learn lead belaying with.
I had a go of the click-up a while ago and it's a great device. I bought the alpine-up yesterday and I'll be trying it out at the weekend.
Advances in technology are great, my only concern would be the teaching of reliance on technology.
To me, starting out with an assisted locking device is kinda like teaching someone to navigate in the mountains with with a GPS instead of teaching them to navigate with a map and compass, and then saying "here's an easier way, if you prefer to use it".
> I suppose their reaches a point when it becomes daft to ignore advances in technology, if that's what they are. I've got no experience of the smart or the click-up, but the Grigri has pitfalls that don't make it a great to learn lead belaying with.
Just bought a Click Up. It is brilliant. It operates exactly like a normal belay plate, so none of this unintuitive gri-gri stuff, and with even the slightest grip on the dead rope it locks straight off, so, as well as being very forgiving of a lapse of concentration, if you are pulled of your feet or into the wall/rock it will have already locked before anything happens which might make you lose your grip.
You could say the same thing about waist belaying versus conventional belay plate though.......
GPS is a poor analagy, because there are no real aesthetic/ideological issues with which piece of metal you belay with.
Another example is modern non-double-back buckles. So long as there are still double-back buckles left, walls should teach using the older type, as that way you avoid the situation of someone encountering one later on and getting themselves killed.
So even if the click-up etc still exist, people need to know how to use an ATC, Grigri etc so far as possible.
> You could say the same thing about waist belaying versus conventional belay plate though.......
> GPS is a poor analagy, because there are no real aesthetic/ideological issues with which piece of metal you belay with.
You could indeed. I might not go that far, but I would suggest it would be a good idea to teach how to belay with a munter hitch - then say "it twists your ropes so now you know how it's done, don't do it again unless you drop your assisted locking belay plate half way up a multi-pitch."
Not sure what aesthetics and ideology have to do with learning to be safe in the mountains either, but if you prefer a different analogy it's like teaching someone to drive in an automatic car with parking assist... fine if they can always get hold of a vehicle with these features, but not so good if they're stuck without the option. Teach them to drive a standard manual car, and they won't have a problem with an automatic when it comes their way.
> You could indeed. I might not go that far, but I would suggest it would be a good idea to teach how to belay with a munter hitch - then say "it twists your ropes so now you know how it's done, don't do it again unless you drop your assisted locking belay plate half way up a multi-pitch."
You've got to give people some responsibility for their own learning. Otherwise you'd have the people going on climbing courses learning more stuff they don't use than stuff they do. And inevitably they'll forget most of the former within 5 minutes.
As far as you could reasonably go is to ask them what they'd do if they dropped their belay device, and other such scenarios, and suggest a few books they could go read to further their knowledge on this that and the other. If they were so inclined then there's a good chance they'll practice it and try it. There's a pretty good chance that if they do this they'll remember it. And share it with their mates. etc.
Having more than one arrow in one's quiver certainly isn't a bad thing in the long run, but you're missing the ponit that my comment was about the DAV deciding what is the least confusing/risky first thing to teach to complete beginners. Overwhelming them with every possible belaying method that has ever been tried in the entire history of mountaineering would most definitely not be constructive.
I've belayed with a waist belay, munter hitch, every generation of plate/tube device from sticht to reverso 4, and currently mostly use a GriGri. They're all valuable to know, and I was very glad to be able to teach my partner how to build a karabiner brake when he dropped his ATC on Stance Two of an eleven pitch abseil in the alps last summer. But for somebody who is at a climbing wall for the first time and may well never find themselves at Stance Two of an eleven pitch abseil: choose one.
In that case I'd go for ATC as the most common (and least fail-safe) device in use at such places.
Yeah, all that.
> Not sure what aesthetics and ideology have to do with learning to be safe in the mountains either.
I am ideologically opposed to GPS in the mountains on the grounds of the aesthetics of self-sufficiency.
That is a much better analogy.
The good thing about the Click-Up is that the actual belaying is identical to an ATC or such like so, unlike a gri-gri, conversion is easy. But yes, learn to use an ATC first.
Having learned to climb on waist belays and having used most things from Munter hitches. andfig of 8 to grigris though mostly ATC for the last 20 years of so the Click-up is the first newcomer I have embraced wholeheartedly and on my (admittedly short) acquaintance have yet to to find serious shortcomings other than weight and bulk which are more than ATC but still less than a grigri
You mean the stuff at the bottom of this page? http://www.bolt-products.com/Glue-inBoltDesign.htm
Everyone should read that page!
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