/ Assisted braking belays: can any be used for trad?

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RobbieNClimb - on 19 May 2013
Hello, I'm using a click up belay device. I was told assisted devices shouldn't be used for trad climbing, because they lock up too quickly and don't absorb the force of falls too well.. placing too much pressure on gear. I'm wondering if this is true of ALL assisted devices, and whether the click up is any exception. Can it be safely used for any climbing apart from sport? I am not planning on doing any climbing other than sport climbing for a while but I am just curious really. Thanks.
highclimber - on 19 May 2013
In reply to RobbieNClimb: Can't comment for the click-up but the Gri Gri shouldn't be used for the reason you describe, Neither should the Eddy but it's not categorically wrong to do so so long as you are aware of the potential issues of using them in that context.

The reason for not using them is that they are a lot more expensive and heavier than the much simpler 'traditional' belay devices.
perranman - on 19 May 2013
In reply to RobbieNClimb: I use the alpine up in click mode all the time for up to HVS in Cornwall . Hard routes on marginal gear may be different but I Iove the safety factor. It also means I can be belayed with a more novice climber and know I am safe.
rgold - on 19 May 2013
In reply to perranman:

It's been discussed to death in the case of a gri gri.

http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=448144

http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=547784

http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=513534

http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=73102

Personally, I use an Alpine Up in assisted braking mode with half ropes on all the trad I do.
highclimber - on 19 May 2013
In reply to perranman:
> (In reply to RobbieNClimb) I use the alpine up in click mode all the time for up to HVS in Cornwall . Hard routes on marginal gear may be different but I Iove the safety factor. It also means I can be belayed with a more novice climber and know I am safe.

You allow novices to belay you on hard, unprotectable routes? good luck
IanC - on 19 May 2013
In reply to highclimber:
That's not what he's said.

I just got a Mega Jul from Edelrid, been using it for a trad and some wall climbing. I'm finding it really good, not had anyone fall on any device when out doing trad so can't really give any experience based comment there.

In terms of belaying I can recommend the device: quick pay out, nice locking action- helps at the wall if someone heavy is taking a long rest, simple to use,

I would however recommend with all these devices to search out the manufactures instruction video on all the different configurations.
jkarran - on 19 May 2013
In reply to RobbieNClimb:

I use my GriGri. Whether I should or not is up to your interpretation of should. The manufacturer doesn't endorse this use so far as I'm aware.

jk
needvert on 19 May 2013
In reply to highclimber:
> (In reply to perranman)
> [...]
>
> You allow novices to belay you on hard, unprotectable routes? good luck

On an unprotectable route I'd not be overly concerned about my be layers ability ;)

RobbieNClimb - on 19 May 2013
I have wondered that even if the click up does place more force on the gear, that the risks of that could be less than the risks of making a mistake with an ATC.
highclimber - on 19 May 2013
In reply to RobbieNClimb: The only mistake you can make with an ATC that might cause 'problems' is letting go of the rope, but the belayer shouldn't be doing that with any device, really!
IanC - on 19 May 2013
In reply to highclimber:

Only clipping the wire not the rope can cause 'problems' too. Although this usually becomes apparent before the climber gets too far!
The Ex-Engineer - on 19 May 2013
In reply to highclimber:
> The only mistake you can make with an ATC that might cause 'problems' is letting go of the rope, but the belayer shouldn't be doing that with any device, really!

That's not exactly true.

You could make the mistake of taking a factor two fall whilst being belayed with an ATC (when the belayer isn't wearing belay gloves).

That is pretty much guaranteed to cause problems.

Using an assisted braking device in the same situation just potentially poses a different set of problems.
highclimber - on 19 May 2013
In reply to The Ex-Engineer: The mistake there is not clipping a higher anchor at the earliest opportunity. I know that sometimes that isn't possible immediately and does increase the risk of a F2 fall but I still stand by my initial comment as it is that that is most likely to cause problems!
3 Names - on 20 May 2013
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:
> (In reply to highclimber)
> [...]
>
> That's not exactly true.
>
> You could make the mistake of taking a factor two fall whilst being belayed with an ATC (when the belayer isn't wearing belay gloves).
>

The result of which being...?

David Coley - on 20 May 2013
> (In reply to The Ex-Engineer)
> [...]
>
> You could make the mistake of taking a factor two fall whilst being belayed with an ATC (when the belayer isn't wearing belay gloves).
>
>The result of which being...?


You stand a good chance of being dropped.
3 Names - on 20 May 2013
In reply to David Coley:

Yeah because the belayer lets go of the rope.
rgold - on 20 May 2013
In reply to Vince McNally:

I've posted these thoughts elsewhere, but maybe repetition isn't a bad thing. Apologies for the length, but I think a simplistic approach to these issues is a really bad idea.

First of all, most of the time it isn't going to matter whether you are using an ATC or an assisted locking device. The ATC will, in some situations, lead to lower protection loads as a consequence of the rope running through the device under tension. If this doesn't happen, and for most climbing falls the rope doesn't slip through the belay, then the peak loads aren't going to be any different for the two types of devices. I know full-time climbers with an international resume who have used ATC's for their entire career and never had the rope slip through the device, so it is entirely possible to use an assisted locking device for years and years without encountering circumstances that would result in higher anchor loads than an ATC.

There are, however, relatively rare situations in which the rope would slip through an ATC and result in lower loads than would be obtained with an assisted locking device. Moreover, as ropes get thinner, the potential for slippage has increased, since the thinner ropes are harder to hang on to. This is even more true for half ropes, since the belayer may be handling them in a way that does not involve all four fingers grasping each strand. Moreover, ATC devices are marketed for ranges of rope sizes (excessive ranges in my opinion), and are typically not going to do as well on thinner ropes.

Taken together, I think these developments mean the historical absence of rope slippage cannot be viewed as a good future predictor. Thinner and thinner ropes used in barely adequate broad-range devices are going to result in more and more slippage.

Now slippage is supposed to be a good thing, the safety valve that lowers anchor loads. But I think it more likely that the load reducing effect of slippage will, on balance, be outweighed by its extremely unpredictable effects on the belayer. The potential for much longer drops, and with the danger of the falling leader hitting things along the way, seems to me at least as likely, and in fact more likely, then the loads on the gear being too high.

We U.S. old-timers grew up actually practicing dynamic belays with dropped weights. We learned that the impacts involved in really serious falls are much worse than you might imagine. Nowadays, the fact that people regularly experience difficulty controlling rappels with their ATC's, yet continue to imagine that they can deal with the far higher loads involved in holding a severe fall, illustrates an almost willful disregard for the potential loads in belaying. We also learned that if you don't have control in the initial milliseconds, you won't ever get it back, and then the leader is going for a very long, possibly terminal ride.

No one does this kind of belay practice any more, which means that most even highly experienced climbers have never had to hold a really severe fall. It is beyond peculiar that we speak of "competent belayers" in view of this almost universal lack of experience with really severe situations. Because of this, the question isn't really whether assisted devices are a good thing for new belayers, because almost everyone is a new belayer if a very severe fall occurs.

U.S. climbers abandoned dynamic belaying when ropes improved and testing made it clear that the enormous variation in individual performances made it questionable whether even those who had practiced a lot could perform successfully---and this is under test conditions, not real-life scenarios on the crag. Taken together, these experiences mean to me that if a really bad fall does happen, there is a pretty good chance that the ATC belayer will end up letting far more rope slip than is needed for load reduction and will end up endangering the falling leader and very possibly severely injuring themselves, in view of the fact that a minority of ATC belayers use gloves.

For these reasons, if you are using thin single ropes or even thinner half ropes, I think one of the assisted locking devices is, on balance, a safer alternative, even if it results in higher anchor loads a small fraction of the time. Moreover, all the newer devices have the ability to be used in "ATC mode," so if the protection is known to consist of brassies, ball nuts, and microcams, the team always has the option to keep rope slippage in the equation if the belayer is gloved and the protection system seems to merit it.
Olli-C - on 20 May 2013
In reply to rgold: Nice reply. I agree, I see how rope slipping through an ATC could reduce peak load on the gear, but it must be a very small proportion of cases where the gear will only hold as a result of this small reduction. I don't understand how people don't see the rope slippage - rope burn - letting go of the rope situation as a larger concern. Giving a dynamic belay through rope slippage is not very controllable in my opinion (I have felt the rope slip while holding a fall - it shocked me and was unnerving as it wasn't intentional) I also see many sport climbers consistently giving dynamic 'soft catches' while using assisted locking devices just by a well timed hop, I'm not saying that this is practical on trad routes or multi pitches just that it is a better option on long single pitch routes such as in Pembroke. If you're concerned about hitting the ground a gri gri allows you to take in rope much quicker and run downhill with a little more confidence in my opinion. People belay aid with gri gri's, their gear is worse than ours.
Jonny2vests - on 28 May 2013
In reply to jkarran:
> (In reply to RobbieNClimb)
>
> I use my GriGri. Whether I should or not is up to your interpretation of should. The manufacturer doesn't endorse this use so far as I'm aware.
>
> jk


I wish some suitably equipped professional would just do some impact force tests on different plates so we could put this to bed once and for all.
Kafoozalem - on 28 May 2013
In reply to rgold:

Thank you for such a well informed post.
scott titt - on 28 May 2013
In reply to Jonny2vests:
Jim ias on holiday otherwise I am sure he would have replied.
Have a look here (not impact force but braking force-which is what is being discussed here) http://www.bolt-products.com/Glue-inBoltDesign.htm
and scroll down to "Belay device, theory testing and practice"
Jonny2vests - on 28 May 2013
In reply to scott titt:
> (In reply to Jonny2vests)
> Jim ias on holiday otherwise I am sure he would have replied.
> Have a look here (not impact force but braking force-which is what is being discussed here) http://www.bolt-products.com/Glue-inBoltDesign.htm
> and scroll down to "Belay device, theory testing and practice"

Thanks Scott.
Neil Williams - on 28 May 2013
In reply to IanC:

I always do a forceful "lock off" pulling on both sides of the device before I say "climb when ready", which would identify this situation having occurred. Similarly I always pull hard on my knot before setting off, which would hopefully catch most cases of it being mistied such that it would fail.

I'd suggest this kind of habit is a pretty good one to get into.

Neil
jimtitt - on 29 May 2013
In reply to Jonny2vests:
Iīm not on holiday any more, the weather was challenging!

Thereīs a few problems with just doing a few tests, the first is expense since to test all the locking assist devices out there would cost a fair bit plus a range of ropes.
The main difficulty is though that you need to to test quite a few different scenarios with varying numbers of runners, rope friction on the rock etc and different fall factors. The only people with a set-up that can reasonably do this are the CMT in Italy who have a suitably high test facility.
Using the simpler braking force tests for the belay plate isnīt any good for the impact force because the peak force on the top piece isnīt simply related to the pure power of the belay device. We donīt anyway have any data for the modern generation of locking assist devices like the Click Up, Smart etc in either a pull test or a dynamic situation.
All one can say for sure is that with an assisted locking/braking device the load on the top piece can be higher and is very unlikely to be lower than with a normal plate. Whether this is good or bad is another matter.
willworkforfoodjnr - on 29 May 2013
In reply to rgold: Superb post!
Jonny2vests - on 29 May 2013
In reply to jimtitt:

I had a feeling it wasn't as simple as I'd imagined. Thanks as always.
Robert Durran - on 29 May 2013
> In reply to rgold:
> ....Moreover, as ropes get thinner, the potential for slippage has increased, since the thinner ropes are harder to hang on to. This is even more true for half ropes.........

> .......Nowadays, the fact that people regularly experience difficulty controlling rappels with their ATC's, yet continue to imagine that they can deal with the far higher loads involved in holding a severe fall, illustrates an almost willful disregard for the potential loads in belaying.

I agree entirely; if it takes any effort to lock off a plate while abseiling, then it's not safe for belaying. The pretty ubiquitous ATC (even the "toothed" one) and other similar devices simply aren't up to the job any more with thinner single ropes let alone shiny new dry-treated skinny half ropes. They are accidents waiting to happen.

Belay devices need to keep up with modern ropes and they mostly aren't. I have a narrower HB one, but even that struggles with some ropes. My DMM Buguette is the only one I know of adequate for all ropes.

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