/ Low runners
On higher pitches an early runner prevents a fall straight onto the belay (factor 2), which is usually a bad thing
You mention multipitch. On a multipitch climb you want to place a runner to protect the belay as soon as possible. This turns any fall into an upward pull on the belay and avoids a factor 2 fall.
On single pitches, or first pitches, it is mostly psychological unless you're trying to protect a short-lived awkward move. Most of the time everything can be a bit easier without a low runner.
Hope this helps,
If your belayer is stood away from the foot of the wall, and you fall off, there could be some horizontal pull on the bit of gear you've placed - i.e the rope could pull on the bit of gear and tug it towards the belayer, and possibly pull it out (this has happened to me once).
If in this sitaution you had put in a low runner beneath the main bit of gear, the rope would exert a downward pull on the higher bit of gear you've placed, as the lower bit should take the horizontal pull (if placed well). This should stop the higher bit of gear being ripped out.
Cant think of any other reason to have low runners, unless its multi pitch of course, where a low runner above a stance will stop a factor 2 fall from skocking the belay anchor and rope..
It can catch a tumble down the approach slope.
Even short falls can really hurt.
It can prevent nearby runners lifting out in a fall.
It means you can take in more slack faster by stepping back.
It could be purely psychological.
It reduces the severity of a fall onto the belay.
Upward-pull falls are much easier to catch.
A point to note and a general rule the yanks seem to aide by is to place something multi-directional as a first runner.
s to stop the runners being popped from bottom up, rather than top down. Will check with leader but thanks for explaining.
How low is low?
> If your belayer is stood away from the foot of the wall,
... then you need a more competent belayer who understands the difference between trad gear and bolts, because otherwise ...
> A point to note and a general rule the yanks seem to aide by is to place something multi-directional as a first runner.
It's an easier rule to abide by when climbing a splitter crack with a rack of cams.
In the UK the general rule is to place whatever you can, if anything!
I've fallen repeatedly on gear placed at about 2.5 metres before now and it prevented injury and stopped me touching the ground and worked much better than spotting (with no matt) would have. People who say it serves no purpose for protecting moves are over generalising. Especially when the landing is bad or the body position of the climbing wouldn't allow easy landing on your feet.
This doesn't apply to all routes but in many situations your first runner, and especially a low runner, has an important role to play to help prevent higher marginal runners from ripping.
So for falls higher up the route that first runner will almost always take a upward force therefore a good cam or pair of wires equalised for the upward force at the start can worth the effort.
Another advantage of a really solid cam or equalised wires low down at the start means that your belayer can safely run or jump down in the event of a ground sweeping fall and the low runner will create maximum advantage to the ropework with little risk of the gear ripping.
A belayer with a brain can often keep a leader off the ground. A standing position close to the wall is a vital starting point. When the leader falls a well timed step backwards combined with dropping to a sitting position may save his ankles. Sadly I often witness completely clueless belayers with no understanding of physics who are a danger to themselves as well as their leader. So the common faults are ...
1. No chance the rope will even tighten before the leader decks because the belayer hasn't thought it through.
2. Light belayers with heavy leaders who stand well back with no understanding they are going to be launched headfirst into the rock/or their falling leader
3. Standing well back unless the first placement is bomber outward pull. On routes like the Embankment Walls at Millstone it is easy to unzip the entire pitch when the top piece is weighted. The belayer needs to be surprisingly close to the wall to prevent this.
I was at Millstone at the weekend and saw exactly this happen at the embankment: the first piece blew, flew down the rope and hit the belayer square in the face. Luckily he didn't let go. Hopefully a lesson learnt.
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