/ Banning belay plates indoors

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JimboWizbo - on 24 Oct 2013
I recently started climbing with a guy who just moved over from California. He tells me that the climbing walls over there ban the use of belay plates, forcing you to use self locking devices (I.e. grigri).

Does this seem a bit backwards to anyone else?
Neil Williams - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo:

Given how awkward a Gri-gri is to lower with for a novice I can certainly see issues with it. But I believe it is the case for *some* walls in the US, and many in Australia as well.

I'd bet on a not insignificant numbers of incidents of people being dropped on lowering.

Neil
GridNorth - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo: Interesting. I mentioned this as a possibility on another thread but some did not seem to think it likely. I have to say it would not surprise me one bit. After all many walls ban Bowlines and that is equally questionable.
andic - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo:

I've never used a grigri, how safe is that?
alooker - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo: I heard this was a requirement by some insurance companies over there. Doesn't make sense to me!
tom_in_edinburgh - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo:

I climbed at a couple of walls in San Francisco. One was OK with ATCs the other had pre-threaded GriGris set up and insisted you used them. The second wall also had very specific rules about the belaying hand movements and handed out little paper 'belay certified' strips to stick on your harness to prove you'd taken their test.

This is for top roping - to get to lead you had to take a course which got you a different colour of paper strip.

The bouldering was good though ;-)
martinph78 on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to alooker:
> (In reply to JimboWizbo) I heard this was a requirement by some insurance companies over there. Doesn't make sense to me!


Why doesn't it make sense? Insurance companies will have looked at the stats, seen most accidents happened using a belay plate and therefore decided they won't insure venues using them.

Eventually the statisticians will also realise that the majority of incidents also included people wearing harnesses/chalk bag/sticky shoes, so expect to see a ban on those also.
Neil Williams - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to GridNorth:

"many walls ban Bowlines"

That many? I'm aware of it at one wall but have never actually encountered it.

Neil
Neil Williams - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

I suppose providing pre-threaded Grigris (ground anchors perhaps?) avoids the chance of one being threaded backwards, which if done makes it roughly the same as a very low friction Bug (I'm told, never tried it).

Neil
Dandan82 - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo:
So do you think I would be ok with my Mammut Smart device? It's a locking device but not mechanical, where does that put it?
GridNorth - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to Neil Williams: Perhaps I should have said some. Ones I know of are Gloucester, Evesham, Worcester and one further north but I can't for the life of me remember which one. I feel sure that there are others that I haven't visited.
winhill - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to GridNorth:
> (In reply to JimboWizbo) Interesting. I mentioned this as a possibility on another thread but some did not seem to think it likely. I have to say it would not surprise me one bit. After all many walls ban Bowlines and that is equally questionable.

Yes, you introduced the idea by making up a rumour that

"cases where inexperienced belayers let go of the rope seem to be occurring on an increasingly frequent basis"

now many walls ban bowlines, when not really many do at all (some reverted when the HSE report said mm, things happen).

It all sounds very paranoid.
Martin Davies on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo: I'd been using belay plates for as long as I've been climbing, never had an issue. First time using grigri with my gf I decked from the 4th clip (luckily landed on rope bag so was fine, still had full immobilisation, CT head/neck/back in A&E). Lots of factors - brand new rope, brand new grigri, inexperience using grigri, me thinking it was a good idea to 'test the system' by letting go without telling her!! Ironically we bought the grigri because it would add a layer of safety!
I think mandatory click ups would be a better idea - an autolock without any moving parts.
Grigri's are not automatically safer. They have issues and need experience to operate properly.
Morgan P - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo: Canada is like that too, the walls have to make you use the grigris to be covered for insurance. Sucks though because I feel less safe being lowered on an ill-fitting grigri (you know when the rope is too big and it just jumps and jerks as you're lowered) compared to a basic belay plate.
Plus, it's an even bigger leap for people to make to climb outdoors if they can't even belay using a plate.

New Zealand seems to be a bit of each, the walls all have grigris pre-threaded and clipped via slings to bolts on the floor (just clip in and belay) but you can belay with a static plate at some walls if you like.

Canada doesn't even let you use a belay plate if you take a test. All leading is done with a grigri (difficult for us brits!)
r0x0r.wolfo - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo: Kaylmnos festival had a auto-locking only belay policy.
GridNorth - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to winhill: I didn't make it up a guy who owns several walls in the states told me. Rumour spreading, OK I'll take that one on the chin. Being paranoid about these matters? Absolutely. :-)
Jimbo C - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo:

Very strange policy if it's true. A plate is a simple piece of technology which is much more obvious in how it functions to a novice. Not to mention that a plate costs a lot less, this kind of practice could exclude people based on start-up costs (unless the walls are providing the belay devices)
Neil Williams - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to Morgan P:

"All leading is done with a grigri (difficult for us brits!)"

I've been using a Grigri for the past couple of months for extra grab due to a broken finger which still won't move far enough towards the palm to grip the rope properly (though I can grip it with the other 3 fingers it doesn't feel 100% right). (Yes, I shouldn't be climbing with an injury like that, but hey :) ). I've found that lead belaying with a Grigri has taken a while to get used to, but I'm getting reasonably slick at it now.

Neil
Bouldering Ben - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

> Kaylmnos festival had a auto-locking only belay policy.

What do people use then? The Gri Gri isn't auto locking it's "a belay device with assisted braking"

http://www.petzl.com/en/outdoor/grigri-experience

andrewmcleod - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to Neil Williams:
> (In reply to GridNorth)
>
> "many walls ban Bowlines"
>
> That many? I'm aware of it at one wall but have never actually encountered it.
>
> Neil

Quay Climbing centre in Exeter requires figure 8 tie-in.
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alooker - on 24 Oct 2013
Yes, I understand how insurance companies conduct risk assessments...! What I don't understand is the conclusion that gri-gris are safer, as many don't on this thread.

What neither of us know if how the data was collected or analysed. Additionally, as a climber I think they have come to the wrong decision.

What insurance companies (read: climbing wall staff) should be pushing is making sure belayers are safe. Bad belaying is the cause of the vast majority of accidents in my experience, not the device when correctly used.

The way I look at it is a good belayer is just as safe with a plate as with a gri gri, bad belayers are marginally safer with a gri gri and things can, and do, go wrong. Marginally better bad belaying isn't something I look for in a belayer, however.
r0x0r.wolfo - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to Bouldering Ben:
> (In reply to r0x0r.wolfo)
>
> [...]
>
> What do people use then? The Gri Gri isn't auto locking it's "a belay device with assisted braking"
>
> http://www.petzl.com/en/outdoor/grigri-experience

Yes I was waiting for this reply. All belay devices 'assist' with braking though surely! Or we wouldn't bother. I assume for purposes of the climbing festival/walls anything that has a good chance of stopping or 'automatically locking' the climber in place if the brake hand doesn't engage during a fall. I get that petzl want people to take more care and believe this different terminology will aid this but it still doesn't stop the gri gri being a gri gri.
GridNorth - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo: Has any one got any old magazines? I'm sure that that when Petzl first advertised GriGri's they used the words "auto locking" and "failsafe" and it was only later that they backed away from that. Willing to be proved wrong however as it may just have been our interpretation as they were so radical. I really would love to know.
ex0 - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to Neil Williams:

> Given how awkward a Gri-gri is to lower with for a novice

Hold the rope with one hand and pull the lever with the other. What's difficult? Confused.

The only problem I've had with teaching newbies to belay via grigri is letting out rope quickly.



Neil Williams - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to ex0:

Because you can't use the standard rule of "always have one hand holding the rope firmly" (because one is on the lever) you're left with needing to slide the rope in some way, during which you need the lever not to be all the way down or you'll lose control/get rope burns.

Neil
Howard J - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo: Surely people are safer using the system they're familiar with? I've nearly 40 years' experience of holding falls with belay plates, and body belays before that. I've never used a gri-gri, and while after 10 minutes instruction I might be able to pass a test I don't believe I'd be as safe with one as I am with my usual device.

I tie in with a bowline too. They won't let me through the door.
Simon2005 on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to Howard J: Yeah. With you there. Belay plate and bowline every time. The only item my local wall baulked at was wearing my old Whillans harness!
UppityClimber - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to Neil Williams:

I rarely see people who "always have one hand holding the rope firmly" regardless of the type of belay device. I use a GriGri for sport every time and have never got rope burns. I think people get overly concerned by GriGris based on bad practice rather than a failure of the device itself.

Bad belaying is bad belaying and if you do it with a GriGri you stand a chance of dropping someone but I truly think it less of a chance than bad belaying with a non mechanical plate such as an ATC. For example if I let go of the rope entirely and my climber falls, the majority (but not all) of the time the GriGri will catch them. If I do the same with an ATC it will NEVER catch them.

Now if I treat the GriGri as if it were a normal plate and always hold the dead end it will catch my climber every time but when they want to sit on the rope for a bit I don't have to take any pressure with my hands. The GriGri will hold them and as long as I don't let go they will be safe. Working routes is so much easier for the the belayer with a GriGri.

Most of the times I have heard of people being dropped it was bad practice with a "normal" plate or because people let go after getting rope burns with a "normal" plate. In which case your climber falls. Let go in the same situation with a GriGri and your climber might fall, unless you also let go of the lever, at that point the GriGri will normally grab the rope and save the climber.

Those who have never used a GriGri seem to be making judgments based on a device they don't know and have heard of a few cases of bad practice where accidents have happened. It can't be any more than have happened with other devices.

Rant over.

highclimber - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to UppityClimber:
> (In reply to Neil Williams)
>
>
> Bad belaying is bad belaying
>
> Those who have never used a GriGri seem to be making judgments based on a device they don't know and have heard of a few cases of bad practice where accidents have happened. It can't be any more than have happened with other devices.
>
> Rant over.

I agree, but these forums wouldn't be any fun if people didn't make assumptions based on hearsay and misconceptions!
pec on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to UppityClimber:

> ...Most of the times I have heard of people being dropped it was bad practice with a "normal" plate or because people let go after getting rope burns with a "normal" plate. ... >

Won't most falls be on "normal plates" because most people use them?
Nothing against gri gris per se but I think most people will be safest with what they are used to.


Neil Williams - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to UppityClimber:

"I rarely see people who "always have one hand holding the rope firmly" regardless of the type of belay device. I use a GriGri for sport every time and have never got rope burns."

You're experienced at using one, then. No problem. I was talking about novices! My opinion stands that a simple ATC type device is easiest to start with.

"I think people get overly concerned by GriGris based on bad practice rather than a failure of the device itself."

I have no particular problem with them, I use one from time to time myself, including for 3 hours or so this evening. But I don't see how you could deny that while they are (mostly) failsafe they are more complex to use (particularly lower) than an ATC.

"Most of the times I have heard of people being dropped it was bad practice with a "normal" plate or because people let go after getting rope burns with a "normal" plate. In which case your climber falls. Let go in the same situation with a GriGri and your climber might fall, unless you also let go of the lever, at that point the GriGri will normally grab the rope and save the climber."

True, though letting go to make the device grab is slightly counterintuitive. A likely panic move is to pull harder. While it wouldn't work with the design of the Grigri, it would be far more intuitive if, like some ascenders, the cam gripped when fully released *and* when fully pulled, with the release position in the middle.

"Those who have never used a GriGri seem to be making judgments based on a device they don't know and have heard of a few cases of bad practice where accidents have happened. It can't be any more than have happened with other devices."

I'm making judgements based on regular use of one. I don't have a problem with people using them, I just suggest they have risks for novices. Practice with someone watching/tailing if necessary will reduce or remove those risks, of course, because the user is then not a novice.

Neil
Neil Williams - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to pec:

Exactly my concern. Or if you make the comparison - a belayer using a Grigri that is used to a Grigri is going to be safer than a belayer using an ATC that is used to an ATC. But pick up a Grigri for the first time and you'll be slow paying out and might well screw up lowering.

Neil
Andy Long - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo:
When I saw the title of the thread I first thought they meant that we were to go back to waist belays. I'll go with that!

needvert on 24 Oct 2013
A think an important part of the learning process is being aware just how violent falls can be, for those unaware that during a lead fall that rope is going to be pulling with a lot of force, I'd prefer to be belayed with a grigri.

I sometimes look down and see belayers with tube devices with hand positions that I'm not sure would catch a hard fall, whether their reaction to a fall is to rectify this I don't attempt to test. Some old timers mention in their day you practiced belaying with a big weight. Seems a good idea.

Overall I'd prefer to be belayed by someone who could belay, but for various reasons one doesn't always get that.
Neil Williams - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to needvert:

"A think an important part of the learning process is being aware just how violent falls can be, for those unaware that during a lead fall that rope is going to be pulling with a lot of force, I'd prefer to be belayed with a grigri."

Doing some deliberate falling/catching practice with someone tailing the rope is an important part of learning. As I'm quite heavy I am quite particular about this - the forces involved in a heavy fall with me at about 17 stone on the end (lost a bit of weight recently, but still heavy!) are rather large. I have on a few occasions used progressive falling practice (going a bit more above the clip each time) to prove to someone they were too light to belay me even with a belay bag, for instance.

Without said practice, there's a good chance the belayer will get hurt (the first time I caught a heavy lead fall I was slammed against the wall quite painfully - was pleased that my reactions were to hold onto the rope and not put my hand out to protect me, though!) and I'd feel a bit guilty for not having ensured they were ready for it.

Neil
andrewmcleod - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to UppityClimber:
> I rarely see people who "always have one hand holding the rope firmly" regardless of the type of belay device. I use a GriGri for sport every time and have never got rope burns.

I always keep one hand tight on the rope when lowering with my Bug (no sliding), mostly because one of my (indoor) climbing partners enjoying being lowered at somewhat breakneck speeds, and if I was sliding my hands a) I would have less control, and b) I would probably burn my hands (with obvious consequences).

The one (or maybe two?) times I have used a gri-gri I was most unimpressed with having to slide my hand along the dead rope. As someone else mentions, professional descenders lock up on 'panic' pulls, unlike a gri-gri.
Minneconjou Sioux - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to Morgan P:
> > Canada doesn't even let you use a belay plate if you take a test. All leading is done with a grigri (difficult for us brits!)

This isn't true. SOME walls in Canada (which is a big country) do insist on Gri Gris only but i use a plate at my wall.
puppythedog on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo: I disagree that a plate is easier than a GriGri to learn. it's just what people learn first and therefore it seems easier. i think I picked up the physical nouse/musclememory/whatever for the gri gri as quickly as I did with a plate. I don't think there is anything wrong with using a plate but having seen someone dropped from the top of the wall recently and breaking their back because of practice with a plate that with a GriGri/Smart/etc would not have resulted in the injury i cannot see why not to use them.
If I was buying again I would probably get the Smart.

Regarding the bowline ban didn't somewhere in south wales ban them too?


I'm surprised I mentioned the Smart before Gridnorth thuogh :-)
paul walters - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to andrewmcleod: So do Dynamic Rock in Swansea and Boulders in Cardiff.... as far as I remember.
When I trained as a Commercial Diver, we used a bowline in all situations where a man was attached to a rope..... Figure 8's are used I think as it's obvious if it's tied wrongly.....
Neil Williams - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to paul walters:

With a followed-through fig 8 you can tie it spectacularly wrong and it will still hold, even if you forget the stopper. With a bowline, get one thing wrong or omit the stopper and it's dangerous. I think that's at least in part the thinking, anyway.

Neil
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puppythedog on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to Neil Williams: Woah there, this is the belay plate thread, the bowline figure of eight thread is not currently running :-)
Neil Williams - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to puppythedog:

:)

Well, I used a Grigri and a bowline when climbing last night...where does that put me? :)

Neil
Donnie - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to Martin1978:
> (In reply to alooker)
> [...]
>
> Eventually the statisticians will also realise that the majority of incidents also included people wearing harnesses/chalk bag/sticky shoes, so expect to see a ban on those also.

In defense of statisticians. Absolutely not - some manager higher up the chain will ignore a statisticians advice that banned x, y, z because they don't understand statistics.
johncook - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo: In my experience belay devices are as good at the operator. A lousy belayer is a lousy belayer and they will screw up whatever device they are using.
For eg. you have an iffy piece of gear 15ft up and your belayer walks 30ft to get a light off someone! There is enough slack in the rope to let you deck from the fourth bolt! I sometimes climb with these type of people, but only lead/second/toprope what I normally solo, purely because I like to be out in the hills. This is a bit off topic, so back to it.
The panic response is to pull your hands towards you and grip. If the belayer has hold of the lever, or is feeding out with a Gri Gri they are going to open the cam, or keep it open. These seem to be the common cause of belayer accidents in US gyms where Gri Gri are specified. Another cause seemed to be the climber sitting gently on the rope and the cam not locking at all. The belayers response to all these, the ones I have been near, was "Ithought it locked by itself if you weighted the rope" or words to that effect.
With plates, in the USA I saw a lot of belayers using the palm up method (pinch and slide). Trying to explain that for most of the time they were in an unlocked position and it would be difficult to get back to the locked position for an effective belay stop would be difficult, was often responded to with "it's easier to take the rope in this way".
In the club I was in, the two 'instructors' always taught 'pinch and slide'. One of them dropped me, on a toprope, the first time I climbed outdoors with him. Apparently it was my fault for not warning him that I was going to fall! I have never let them belay me since and have made a great effort to warn all new members of their failings!
Belay equipment is only as good as the person holding it. With a new piece of kit, it should be practiced with in a safe environment and the person whose life will depend on it should have the final say.
If you have the smallest doubt about the abilities of your belayer, don't put your life in their hands!
GridNorth - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo: I think the key word is potential and IMO the GriGri has greater potential for misuse than any other device but in the right hands is as good if not better than most.
Kieran_John - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo: I'm rubbish with a Gri Gri on the occasions I've used them so I tend not to bother (or not for anything other than top-roping).

I've a friend that uses one and I'm a bit nervous about him lead belaying for me. He uses the 'push-the-thumb-on-the-barrel' trick to pay out the rope. Is that right? It seems to me to sort of defeat the purpose.

I'm simple and cheap, I'll stick to my ATC.
Neil Williams - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to Kieran_John:

The recommended way involves pushing the thumb on the barrel and sliding the rope through your hand as you pull it out. A slightly safer if slower one is to slide your right hand down the rope, bring it up still firmly holding the rope, put your thumb on the barrel, pull that through while keeping hold with the right hand, then repeating if more rope is required.

Neither is likely to result in you being dropped *if* the belayer is used to it and doesn't panic and grab the device - again, this is the counterintuitive aspect of the Grigri - grabbing it tightly or pulling hard on the lever results in release, not tightening.

Neil
dpm23 - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to Kieran_John: I use that method only when you need to pay out rope quickly as if you don't use your thumb, the Gri-Gri locks up. Once my climber is no longer near the floor then I have no problem feeding rope through slowly and, with a step forward, have no problem giving enough rope for a clip. Not having a thick hairy rope helps!
dpm23 - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to Neil Williams: I think learning to belay with an ATC type device is a good thing as instinct when holding a fall is to lock off with the brake hand and, for me anyway, hold the live rope with my other. So when using a Gri-Gri my instincts mean I never tough the device.

Lowering is another matter of course but the panic grab the handle thing seems a bizarre reaction, not that is couldn't happen though.
needvert on 25 Oct 2013
Maybe we should ban belayers....Solo top roping is already a more reliable belay in my experience.

Not sure if silent partners are more reliable in the leading stakes, though I reckon its more reliable than some climbers I've met.
Neil Williams - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to dpm23:

Gripping tightly is a natural reaction to wanting to stop something. Industrial descenders and ascenders work that way for a very good reason.

Neil
Neil Williams - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to needvert:

Autobelays are probably safer, but are expensive and don't really allow for repeating moves.

Neil
Goucho on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo: I've been using an old (very old) Salewa spring stitch plate for both belaying and abbing for the past 100 years, on everything from alpine north faces, to Yoesemite big walls, to poorly protected E6's, and I've never had the slightest problem with it.

I've also been using a bowline for the same length of time.

It's nothing to do with the device, it's the person using it.

No matter how hard you try, you can't legislate against f*ck trumpets.
dpm23 - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to Neil Williams: Guess the lesson there is maintain control of the dead rope no matter what device you are using.
mark s - on 25 Oct 2013
In reply to dpm23: i wont use a gri gri as im used to using an atc.so i stick with that.no one has ever hit come to harm through my belaying and that includes some big falls
Siderunner - on 26 Oct 2013
Have recently moved to Sydney and have been surprised to find that the walls here have banned Grigris!

They have insitu ATCs on all the topropes, and make you clip in with a pair of pre tied in screw gates as the climber when toproping. Some of the knots tying in the screw gates look worryingly worn, having never been untied in the life of the rope. All very bizarre.
Choss on 26 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo:

Modern climbing walls are rubbish!

All this rules and nonsense is why i dont use climbing walls at all anymore. Well, that and they are nothing like rock and everything is way overgraded.

Just sign a disclaimer, and belay how the hell you like.

Thats how it used to be.

My favourite now gone wall actually felt like rock, and had Proper Trad Protected routes, including a brilliant full Height Crack.
dsh - on 26 Oct 2013
In reply to JimboWizbo:

Don't get me started, at a wall in NJ (and apparently pretty much everywhere in the Eastern USA) let's you use a belay plate but makes you do a daft hand shuffle up the rope rather than hand over hand. I think this was wall policy rather than insurance company. The only reason they could give was that you always have a break hand on the rope. I made the point that you should be able to break with both hands, when you're sliding a hand up the rope it's not really on it anyway it's just closer, you can't take in as much rope in one movement etc but they were very adamant about it every time. I just belayed normally anyway (the way nearly everyone in Britain belays) because I thought it safer. Luckily the desk was positioned in such a way that they couldn't see. After all that I saw instructors at one of them there lowering off without a hand on the dead rope!

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