/ Direct belay with tube device
Recently wandered up, seconding, to find a reverso being used at about chest height, not in guide mode, no redirection.
I commented on it, partners reply was roughly if I fell he'd lift the brake hand above his head. I made mental note to not fall.
About a week later I spied the party behind us (different climbing partner) doing the exact same thing.
A munter hitch seems a far safer alternative to me.
Seems pointless and sounds dodgy to me,I wouldn't be too happy being belayed that way.
Essentially you were belayed thru jyst a karabiner, relying on his reactions when a device designed for it was ignored. As you say, munter would be far far better.
Way sketchy. I'd pretty much guarantee that if a fall happens and the belayer misses the fall moment by even a fraction of a second, once the rope is running they aren't going to be able to get in control.
Although it is quite awkward to manage, at the very least the brake strand should be run through a carabiner on the anchor that is higher than the device. This works for lowering, but it is hard to take the rope in efficiently with this set-up.
Either use a Munter hitch, get a guide ATC or gi-gi plate, or use a Grigri. Or better yet, learn to belay effectively off the harness.
I've seen this a couple of times; it's utterly moronic.
It seems that people have seen others direct belaying with an appropriate device, and aped the technique with an inappropriate one. Natural selection at it's worst.
> Recently wandered up, seconding, to find a reverso being used at about chest height, not in guide mode, no redirection.
The guy is either an idiot or was just too embarrassed to admit that he didn't know how to use the device in guide mode.
Now, we all make mistakes from time to time and we should always be looking to learn different ways of doing things, but your partner needs a reality check as what he was doing was dangerous.
I'd refuse to climb with him unless he used the device properly - either in guide mode correctly or from his harness in non guide mode.
Totally agree. Doesn't matter how well the guy can climb; if he's not willing to reconsider his unsafe belaying practices it's time to look for a new climbing partner.
If you can then it is fine, if you can't then use guide mode. The height doesn't matter in itself but you need to consider the angle when it is holding the fall and that depends on all sorts of things.
That was what I was thinking. I've seen it done (and used the setup myself) where the rope was tied into the anchors with a fig 8 on a bight for the plate, and had the plate roughly where it would be if it was on your harness or the rope loop, near the edge of the crag. Worked OK because the anchors were very low, an Italian hitch would have been awkward.
In this case it was done because we only had one person's gear (and so one harness) but wanted to climb something anyway!
I agree that if you can't get a proper lock-off it's unsafe, though.
I've also seen the reverse - someone sitting and trying to belay with a device in guide mode with it below waist level.
However, using a tube device with a direct belay is an extremely useful technique when done properly - i.e. with the powerpoint and device at harness level. For example, it would be my preferred option if instructing and I was top-roping numerous students up a route where I only had low anchors available and I would need be belaying from a sitting position at the top of the crag.
> I'd refuse to climb with him unless he used the device properly - either in guide mode correctly or from his harness in non guide mode.
Or just teach him to position the device so that he can lock it off properly.
Why would you ever set up a direct belay with a guide plate, not in guide mode?
I wouldn't go as far as looking for a new partner immediately, but if he chose to continue to ignore your feelings (that you want to be belayed properly), then I'd look for someone new.
I disagree as it will be very hard to get a lock off once the second gains any speed. Also to my mind good belay practice is when the rope is locked off for as much time as possible, using this technique the opposite would be true.
There is no way you should ever "belay" like that. I explained this at length to the person in question and the mistake wasn't repeated but it was a bad start to the day for sure.
In this case your partner needed a redirect, guide mode, or reposition the belay device. Nothing more complicated than that really.
I don't use a guide plate and manage to bring my seconds up safely all of the time, either: directly off the anchor, off my harness, with a redirect, or whatever else is needed.
Regardless of the device the position is the important thing. Rope needs to be taken in and locked off easily, and it needs to be comfortable when weighted. Simple.
Give your mate a quick lesson on positioning the device and you're done.
Sometimes I clip a normal ATC XP direct to the anchors but it would be positioned in front of me so in effect it would be almost identical to belaying from my harness (ie it would be locked off most the time and taking it would be a very similar action). one advantage of this is I'm removed from the system so if the second falls off it doesn't load the rope over my leg.
after reading your post i thought to my self... how should you do this?
so i found this
hopefully useful for ppl like me who haven't done this yet :-)
I think this thread is discussing two different things but I think we all agree:
On the nah sayers side there appears to be a "never use a belayer plate in an inappropriate manner (when you can't get lock off)" - I don't think anyone disagrees.
On the yea sayers side there appears to be "you can use a belayer plate (without guide mode) in a direct belay so long as you can achieve lock-off easily" - it is safe and there are circumstances when it is appropriate to do this - it is awkward to set up safely and done badly complications from finding it difficult to feed through to finding it difficult to hold falls can arise.
I suspect that some of the nay sayers here have never tried it and plenty of people have seen numptys belaying using a direct belayer and a plate badly - however this doesn't mean it can't be done properly.
Martin1978 and CurlyoSteve are both correct here. I'd add to CurlyoStevo's reasons that in circumstances where there is an awkawrd stance that might pull an indirect belay off balance or where there is a big difference in the size of the climbers it is a very useful technique but you have to get the geometry right.
I guess if your belay method is really useless, a brisk lower off back to the start of the pitch may be educational too. This does assume that both parties are tied together etc.
B*gger, probably blown any chance of finding a holiday climbing partner with this post!
What worries me is not the increasing use of a guide plate (whatever that is) but the apparent increasing use of direct belays; if peple got the idea that a direct belay was the norm, rather than a method only used when it is clearly completely safe to do so, it could potentially lead the inexperienced into very dodgy situations.
> Or just teach him to position the device so that he can lock it off properly.
I guess I was looking at a situation where my 'belayer' has a Reverso plate, which can be used in guide mode, and then set it up as a direct belay in an unsafe manner. When questioned he refuses to admit there is anything wrong with what he's doing.
I would call bullsh*t.
I completely agree that you can set up a direct belay using a standard plate (or guide plate in standard mode) as long as the plate is between you and the 2nd - and would be happy with this in any situation I would be happy having a direct belay with a guide plate.
Also, you CAN use a standard plate above you if the rope is redirected as has already been mentioned - but it's more faff and why bother if you have a guide plate?!?
The setup in the OP is dangerous IMO - partly because it uses a different way of locking off to when the belay device is positioned correctly which wont be instinctive in the same way as locking off normally.
> What worries me is not the increasing use of a guide plate (whatever that is) but the apparent increasing use of direct belays; if peple got the idea that a direct belay was the norm, rather than a method only used when it is clearly completely safe to do so, it could potentially lead the inexperienced into very dodgy situations.
Agree 100%. Belay needs to be 100% bomber. And then a bit more!
PS Guide plate is being used to refer to a belay device that can be set up in autobloc mode.
There is a lot of bullcrap being talked on this thread.
I agree there has been a rise in people using direct belays in the UK now that guide plates are available. Prior to that you only ever saw them being used in Europe from bolts, bomber ice screw or other suitably bomber usually fixed belays.
Seems a lot of people over here now think this is a perfectly normal, safe and standard method of belaying, with little idea that it places all the force directly onto the anchors rather than the semi direct way of belaying which for 99.999% of UK situations works fine for.
If your in a position to properly belay off a plate in 'normal' mode that has been clipped directly to the anchor and can be used safely, then your in a position to clip the plate directly into your belay loop. If the power point is behind you and you still want a direct belay, you should be using guide mode.
I think a lot of this is to do with showing off at the crag....''oooh look at my new fancy belay technique'' and little to do with common sense.
Or by French guides on clutches of dodgy looking pegs that I'm already clipped to....
Yes, though actually I think it more that a lot of people don't realise just how little force is actually transmitted to the anchors with a good stance and the belay device clipped into the harness loop.
Ideally, but not always possible and certainly not for a pull in any direction. The incorporation of the belayer into the chain allows for a wider range of angles to be safe.
"If your in a position to properly belay off a plate in 'normal' mode that has been clipped directly to the anchor and can be used safely, then your in a position to clip the plate directly into your belay loop."
I wasn't, because we only had one harness with us, and logic suggested that that should go on the climber.
Some would say don't climb then, but what we did (with an absolutely bomber belay involving two large trees) was perfectly safe.
"The setup in the OP is dangerous IMO - partly because it uses a different way of locking off to when the belay device is positioned correctly which wont be instinctive in the same way as locking off normally."
This is true. It's also less safe to have a situation where the lock-off requires an action rather than being the default, IYWSIM. This is why US-style palm-up belaying is crap, IMO.
However, it's not true that there isn't a safe way to set up a direct belay using a non-guide belay device. There is, I've done it. It's just that it has a very limited set of applications, mainly relating to situations involving bomber, low-down anchors and a lack of harnesses.
I'll have a talk to him about it. At the time, with 2 pitches left, I didn't feel it was a time to be having a debate about safe belaying.
The belays were bolted with bomber bolts. I was direct belaying, too, with munters. Had an ATC-G but with my aging 10.5mm rope, the munter is less work.
But that isn't always possible.
If I got to the top of a pitch at South Stack of on the Lleyn and found my partner bringing me up on a guide plate I'd be less than impressed.
I remember once getting to the top of the last hard pitch on Passchendale Direct on the black ladders. The only belay was both my axes whacked into frozen turf, a tied of warthog and a bulldog. I equalized them all, stood in a braced position with my leg ready to absorb most of the force, and instructed both my seconds not to fall off. Half way up Gareth announced that he had hot aches and needed a rest. I held him fine. I shudder to think what would have happened if I'd have been sitting down guide plating.
Reversos are a great, but they require a far greater degree of judgement than setting up a normal indirect belay. I would never recommend one to a beginner.
I think many belay anchors are suitable for a direct belay, though I agree that judgement is called for. And let's not forget that if the purportedly braced belayer is pulled off their stance, the anchor that was supposedly being protected will be subjected to a higher load than it would have been with a direct belay.
Personally, I usually belay off the anchor, but not in the usual sense. I belay off the rope tie-in loop at my harness, and always adjust the tie-in so that it is taut to the anchor. Any load that comes on the belay device is transmitted by the tie-in to the anchor. This still allows for bracing to reduce some of the load (because the tie-in stretches). If for some reason slack builds up and the second takes a "leader fall," the belay is partially protected by the stretching of the tie-in strand, rather than having to take the full impact directly.
But the main reason I do this is I hate being belayed with guide plates and have no desire to inflict the miserable experience on my partners. As a second you are always being pulled, and if communication is bad you can't step down. If you are climbing over roofs or are on traverses, the inability to reverse a move might make you fall off.
Moreover, there are certain circumstances, such as when the anchor is at the back of a corner, when the belay plate, when loaded, will be forced against the rock in a way that will make it impossible to unload, and then lowering, if that is called for, can only be accomplished by a full-on belay escape that unweights the plate and removes it from the system. (I know of at least one situation where this has occurred.)
Speaking of lowering, it is clear from numerous accident reports that a significant number of users of the plates do not know how to safely lower a climber, with the result that climbers are sometimes left hanging or, more typically, are dropped. The shenanigans required to unload a plate and safely lower are truly hilarious and surely belie the superficial appearance of simplicity the plates afford.
I've also noticed a form of tunnel vision among those trained to belay directly off the anchor with plates. In constructing an anchor, they look for locations suitable for the direct belay, and I've personally witnessed some questionable anchors constructed to respond to the demands of a direct belay when far better options were available that were, not, however, at all suitable for direct belaying.
Some people say the guide plates are better for belaying two followers simultaneously. This is just plain false; you can do a much better job off the harness belaying in the usual fashion, especially if one follower is moving up while the other needs to step down.
The plates have a devoted following among alpine and big wall climbers whose interest in speed has the belayer seriously multi-tasking at the belay. Just how good an idea it is for the belayer to be repeatedly dropping the ropes to do other things is a matter for a separate debate, but forgetting those issues, there is no good argument for using the plates in that way on smaller climbs where the few moments gained by the belayer eating or changing clothes while belaying are just not significant.
The final joke seems to be on the guides themselves. Quite a few of them develop elbow tendonitis from continually hauling ropes through the plates, which impose more resistance than the usual configuration at harness level.
Its very common that the belay anchors are not well situated to belay from directly, though.
In the U.S., I see direct belays off an anchor as the method of choice for inexperienced climbers, who I suppose were either taught this by guides or are imitating the procedures used by guides. The fact that, on internet blogs and postings, some highly experienced climbers tout direct belays off the anchor as the method of choice probably also influences novices. Whatever the reason, the technique is very far from being the province of experienced climbers only in the U.S.
The U.S. seems to be following Europe in having more and more bolted belay anchors, a situation that is ideal for direct belays. It may be that in time the construction of a proper belay anchor with gear will be a skill practiced only by alpine climbers (who aren't climbing in "the alps").
If you have a half decent stance, the forces are much greater, not marginally greater. Anyway, I just don't think it is by any means always that easy to get a good enough belay, especially if by good enough you mean allow for considerable redundancy (just like, if I'm abseiling, I want a belay which I reckon would hold many times bodyweight to allow for the unexpected).
And that, I think is a very big issue.
I find this move towards direct belaying decidedly worrying.
Another thing - surely direct belaying is just plain inconvenient when leading through.
Necessary in winter and any big route where you need to keep hands warm and do other stuff (arrange gear, drink, read, change cd etc).
Sorry, just think you are overplaying this question of extra force. If the user is using the plate as it should be, there is no issue. Of course you are also regarding the magic plate as completely static - it is to an extent intill it's holding force is overcome. This is not actually that high a force - I could find the results Jim did somewhere. It's by no means desirable that it gets to a level that slips, but it is well below the force at which any belay should begin to fail. Well below what any single piece should take in fact. So really the only issues as I stated before are:
If you put in a pap belay, it may fail. Well in that case you should know it's a pap belay. It's just not that hard to tell.
If you put in a belay which is directional, in which case you should know as long as you're not an idiot.
And you state directional belays are a very big issue. How so? Surely if the loading is correct then it doesn't make the blindest bit of difference. And if the loadings aren't right, then you're going to have serious problems whether you're using a guide plate or not because your belay will fall apart. Yes you need to be more cautious when setting up a directional belay, but that is true of setting up any directional belay. It's a last resort - you wouldn't do it unless you had to.
And no, it's not desperately inconvenient. You belay your second up. He clips to the strong point of your belay with a lanyard or a sling temporarily. You take the belay plate off the anchor and you clip it to your harness. He unclips and continues climbing. It doesn't require a rocket scientist.
Just think all of this thread needs tempering with a bit of reality. Yes, if you are a moron and set up you gear wrong, then there is a high chance of you killing yourself. That is true of any gear - before you get into a dangerous situation in which you rely on ANY equipment you should know it's limitations by reading it's instructions. Generally they give you a pretty damn good idea. Let's face it, this whole thread started because someone was using a standard belay plate incorrectly. Not because someone used a guide plate incorrectly. You can be a moron and only own a standard belay device too you know...
As I said earlier, I think people underestimate how much the force on the belay can be reduced with a reasonable stance; try sitting on the top of a crag with your legs over the edge and someone hanging below - the anchor is hardly weighted at all.
No, I think the unexpected can happen. So why take the risk for the dubious advantages of a direct belay?
> If you put in a belay which is directional, in which case you should know as long as you're not an idiot.
Or inexperienced. And there's a lot of inexperience about. And indeed a fair amount of idiocy. It just worries me that there might be a trend towards a feeling that a direct belay is the default and that can only lead to trouble.
> And you state directional belays are a very big issue. How so? Surely if the loading is correct then it doesn't make the blindest bit of difference. And if the loadings aren't right, then you're going to have serious problems whether you're using a guide plate or not because your belay will fall apart. Yes you need to be more cautious when setting up a directional belay, but that is true of setting up any directional belay. It's a last resort - you wouldn't do it unless you had to.
Sorry, no idea at all what you are talking about.
Not really, as with most things you can create a system for it. I have my partner snug on the guide plate while he takes the rack, then take his belay plate and put him on belay below the guide plate. I then take the guide plate off and give it to him for the next pitch. Simples.
Yep, inexperience too. Trouble is though with that theory that most beginners I come across are very keen to seek out all the knowledge and information they can, reading books, learning from others etc. And I know that the default is still belaying indirectly in most instances, certainly as far as teaching is concerned. And very often its more experienced climbers, as in the OP who are out there making really rooky mistakes when they should know better. I'd say for the greater part, this IS about idiocy...
Don't worry about not understanding - I don't get me either half the time ;)
If there seemed a non negligible risk of falling on the belay (no solid more or less immediate runner) and I didn't think the belay was good enough, I would probbaly be looking to bail out anyway as the lesser of two evils on the less than perfect belay. As always, a judgement call.
> Not really, as with most things you can create a system for it. I have my partner snug on the guide plate while he takes the rack, then take his belay plate and put him on belay below the guide plate. I then take the guide plate off and give it to him for the next pitch. Simples.
I agree, no big deal at all. I do it differently - he clips in with a cow's tail while I move the device from the anchor to my harness. Both ways are quick and easy.
It's even more basic than that: The forces are compareable to the forces during abseiling. If you can't trust the belay enough to hold a falling second, you can't trust it to abseil off*. In other words, yes, if you are well and throughly f*cked, with no good way out, using a guide plate is not a good idea. In all other cases its a perfectly fine option whose main advantage (autolock, 2 seconds, belayer out of the system) has to be weighted against the disadvantages (more faff lowering).
Beginners are far more likely to trap themselves beneath the live rope, forget to pay attention or, as per the OP, fail to redirect the rope than end up with the worst case scenario above. With the plate they need to know how to lower someone, without it they need to know how to escape the system.
* FFS, people can and do belay seconds without anchors, just their own body.(not recommended) How do the people "worried" about the forces on the anchor(s) suppose that is possible?
Yes, of course. I think the issue is what should be the default, especially where the inexperienced are concerned and, in my opinion, it would be best to play safe and use an indirect belay unless the anchors are clearly bombproof beyond any doubt. It would worry me if a direct belay came to be seen as the norm. Anyway, I think a surprising number of (usually inexperienced) people are actually quite bad at placing and judging the security of gear. Best to play safe.
Not sure what your point here is.
Because, with direct belaying, a missjudgement of the quality of the anchor is more likely to have disastrous consequences. Simple as that.
I take my second up to set top-rope anchors with me, and explain my anchors when he arrives as a second. I then let him lead and set an achor for me on easier climbs that I know can be easily rigged and I'm unlikely to fall on. I critique his anchor when I get there (or he shouts me and I walk round to have a look if he is unsure) and he learns some more.
Doesn't everyone start by learning how to build a top-rope anchor, how to place gear, and then how to build a belay anchor?? Surely it's a progressional thing that naturally develops knowledge and experience along the way? I haven't met a novice climber who leads and set's up complicated anchor systems right from the off, and I wouldn't let someone lead unless I knew they could rig the belay at the top.
I don't agree with Robert that there are more novice climbers wrongly setting anchors and directly belaying of inadequate anchor systems. I haven't read of a steady increase in deaths or injury because of such instances and with lack of any other evidence I don't believe it is happening. There will always be the odd one or two occassions when someone does something wrong, but that doesn't make it a worrying increase.
Direct loading of the belay is probably not that much of a concern most of the time. You have to work pretty hard to set up a three-piece anchor that won't hold twice bodyweight, and even a fairly unsophisticated user will probably be able to detect that situation. However:
(1) As I said earlier, reliance on the direct belay encourages novices to construct anchors suited (in terms of position) to direct belaying, thereby overlooking, in some cases, the best anchoring possibilities. I've seen several occurrences of this. Although the anchor may work for the direct belay of the second, it becomes more questionable when it has to serve as the party's ultimate protection for the next pitch.
(2) Lowering issues are not easily dismissed. I know of several nasty accidents in which a novice belayer lost control of the person they were lowering. You can write this off as a "danger of the practice," but this is an additional danger that ordinary belaying doesn't share, and when things go wrong, they go seriously wrong.
(3) As I mentioned earlier, the device can be pulled against rock features and make lowering impossible. At that point, the novice belayer has to be fully experienced in a range of self-rescue techniques to extract the party from its predicament.
(4) As I said earlier, direct belays are often an unpleasant experience for the second, but when they pull the second off because the second can't step down or step back, they create epics that, if nothing else, create the possibility that something else will go wrong.
(5) Novices (well, all climbers actually) are encouraged to multitask while direct belaying, which has got to increase the chance that the second will take a leader fall because slack has accumulated while the belayer was doing something else. This is a classic example of extreme techniques used by experts who are generally committed to a higher level of risk migrating to mundane circumstances where the extra risks are not balanced by any significant advantages.
I don't know, but is any sort of formal instruction the norm? Antway,they presumably take responsibility for themselves at some point and their skills of setting up anchors will presumably improve with time. Guidance and instruction is one thing, experience another.
I do see people who are poor at placing gear and with poor mechanical common sense regarding direction of pull and so on, usually inexperienced, sometime surprisingly experienced. And if they start regularly using a direct belay, it is asking for trouble. Having said that, I don't think the direct belay thing is at all common yet, but I do get the impression it might be catching on for some reason.
1. Reliance implies no alternative. I don't see why showing someone how to use a direct belay correctly necessarily encourages it's use in inappropriate situations. In fact the opposite could be true.
2. An ordinary belay may not share the specific dangers but presents others.
3. This should all be part of teaching the practice correctly.
4. I've seen epics with ordinary belays when people get their leg or hair or garment trapped. You could argue that direct belaying decreases these risks.
5. I don't see why it should "encourage" novices to multi-task it just allows this to happen more conveniently.
I've forgotten what we are debating. I think that all I am doing is defending direct belays in the appropriate conditions. I certainly have not encouraged novices to use it and in anything other than exceptional circumstances I would be unlikely to do so. I will continue to use direct belays where appropriate and no one has said anything that would discourage me. I am a very experienced climber (almost 50 years) who has in the past operated at E4 and F7a as well as climbing many difficult alpine routes. I was also an instructor some time ago. In short I know what I am doing and talking about.
We have pretty similar resumes, allowing for some differences in continent of origin. For example, I wouldn't claim to have done "many" difficult alpine routes, unless I get to count the sort of thing we call back-country rock-climbing in the U.S. I'm a few years ahead, with 56 climbing years and counting at present.
So let's stipulate that we both know what we are doing and talking about, and we probably don't actually disagree about much if anything. Direct belays are fine in certain contexts---I too use 'em from time to time. But my point was that the training people seem to be getting in the U.S. inclines them to use direct belays in almost all contexts, and when this happens the downsides of the direct method are exposed, the more so because the users do not always seem to be aware of some of the potential pitfalls, and also do not always seem to have the additional skills at rope and device faffery to get themselves safely out of the pickles they get into.
Your responses to my points, at least the first four points, certainly indicate there is room for debate, especially if the debaters are coming from different points of view. Your last response is really weak, and wonder if you actually mean it or if you were just trying to counter everything I claimed. In any case, it is of course not the device doing the encouraging, but all the people using the device, and there you will find, if you don't already know about it, a substantial array of opinion, much of it expert, extolling and encouraging the multi-tasking approach to belaying, often without any caveats about appropriateness.
Maybe, but inexperienced climbers will copy what they see experienced climbers doing without necessarily undertanding when a technique is appropriate, sometimes even when you would have thought it was blindingly obviously dangerous. For example, think how often you see people belaying at indoor walls when the climber is only at about the third bolt with so much slack in the system that a fall would result in a ground fall.
I don't think we disagree really. I'm all for people taking responsibilty for themselves. I just sense that direct belays might be being a bit overpromoted without enough emphasis on the potential dangers.
For an example of direct-belay stupidity, I offer the following:
The shot is Red Rock sandstone, in a white rock section (the white rock is less reliable than the darker varnished stuff.
The guy posting thought it was cool. I'd give it a 20% chance of failure under twice body weight, more if it had rained recently.
I notice how he didn't think it was "cool" enough to clip himself into it ;-)
> A munter hitch seems a far safer alternative to me.
Without getting drawn into the whole question of when it's suitable to use a direct rather than an indirect belay I figured I'd answer the OP.
Tube style device: highest friction is with the dead rope held behind the device so it makes sense to use it in a way that naturally puts your brake hand behind it (eg clipped to the front of your harness or on a system that extends in front of/level with you).
Munter/Italian hitch: highest friction is with the dead rope held in front of the knot so it makes sense to use it in a way that naturally puts your brake hand in front of it (eg on a system that you are in front of). Awkward to use with a pair of ropes.
So yes, in this case it sounds like your partner would have been better of with a Munter, bringing the system further forward, or moving himself further back.
> No sadly, is something an "experienced" climber did (and proudly posted a picture for "inexperienced" climbers to learn from). He got bawled out for it, but never admitted it might be wrong.
I can't find the bit where the climber made. any claim to their skill set. Still not ruling out troll/joke. For someone able to think out of the box like she did there is enough there to make a perfectly safe anchor, direct or otherwise.
Of course if you are unable to build a safe strong anchor you should belay off your harness. Thankfully these ocassions are rare. Most climbers should be able to do both.
Well, it could be a troll; it's so dumb it's hard to imagine anyone really thought it reasonable. But he doesn't act like a typical troller...
In any case, I've seen things like that sandstone disaster. A year ago I came upon a guy who had set up a direct belay on an anchor consisting of two brass nuts in a seam and a black Alien. This was all you could get at eye level, where, I guess, he wanted his direct belay to be located, but down at ankle level were bomber placements for key-holed stoppers and medium cams.
He could have sat on the ledge and belayed off his tie-in loop and a bombproof anchor, instead he chose something maybe even less reliable than the sandstone nubbin tie-offs in the link above. And this was almost certainly because he was so fixated on setting up a direct belay that he didn't even notice the far superior placements at his feet.
The point being, to quote Robert Durran's understatement, "...direct belays might be being a bit overpromoted without enough emphasis on the potential dangers."
> In any case, I've seen things like that sandstone disaster. A year ago I came upon a guy who had set up a direct belay on an anchor consisting of two brass nuts in a seam and a black Alien. This was all you could get at eye level, where, I guess, he wanted his direct belay to be located, but down at ankle level were bomber placements for key-holed stoppers and medium cams.
Yes that does seem like another example where sitting on the ledge and belaying off the harness would have been better.
>And this was almost certainly because he was so fixated on setting up a direct belay that he didn't even notice the far superior placements at his feet.
I think being fixiated on any one method is a problem that can get you into trouble.
I do not think this is understated, to be honest most people in england are outcrop climbing so have no choice but to belay off their harness. I do not think the direct belay is inherently dangerous. Yes the anchors have to be strong enough, but I have not yet come across a situation where they have been so weak that I have been forced to adopt a braced position. That being said, I do belay indirectly 90% of the time due to the single pitch nature of the local climbing and thus would be able to belay indirectly if an extra 1-2 kn strength was needed to safely bring the second up.
In the U.S., I think many, perhaps most instructors are teaching it. And guides use it almost universally, so clients conclude it is the method of choice. And big-name climbers promote it.
For example, here's Kelly Cordes on the subject: (from http://kellycordes.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/multi-pitch-efficiency-the-auto-blocking-belay-plate/ )
"It’s hard to imagine why anyone would climb a multi-pitch route these days with a regular tuber or figure-8. Auto-blocking devices, an evolution from plaquettes or “magic plates” previously used mostly by savvy climbing guides to manage multiple clients, absolutely rule. They’re exponentially more efficient, addictively so (I haven’t used a non-auto-blocker on a multi-pitch climb in over a decade). They’re safer, too. They rappel and feed-out rope to the leader like normal, but, when configured correctly, they automatically lock-down if the second falls. Magic."
Canada too. It's the default for many. People get used to them because there's often fixed anchors in perfect positions for it. They then assume that it is suitable for all gear anchors too.
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