/ Belay gloves: a bad idea?

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David Coley - on 31 May 2014
Hi, I was abseiling off an overhanging aid route the other day and hence wearing aid gloves. I was descending an 8.5mm rope and had real difficulty controlling the descent using a Reverso4.

I've often rapped the same rope with the same device, but never wearing gloves. So, I took the gloves off and all was fine, with my hand providing more than enough friction.

This led me to start playing around with various ropes etc., and as far as I can tell, leather gloves that have been used for a while, are much more slippy than hands, and often so slippy that I can't control an ab' rope let alone hold a lead fall.

A quick search of the internet showed that others had found the same thing in more serious situations. For example, with an auto locking device with the brake hand with a glove and the top hand without. This gave more friction on just the wrong rope, the device didn't lock, dropping the leader.

Anyhow, I was wondering if this was all common knowledge: gloves might be good when using Munters, but seem a very, very bad idea the rest of the time.
Gwilymstarks on 31 May 2014
In reply to David Coley:

Clue is in your title. "Belay Glove" not "Abseil Glove"

Having said that, when abseiling in winter on a pair of 8.1 mm half ropes I use leather palmed gloves and haven't had a problem.

It is not clear from you post but are you using a prussick??
In reply to Gwilymstarks:

Yeah, very odd. I abseil off ice climbs all winter and don't remember ever having problems gripping the rope with leather palmed gloves. And this is rope being either snowy, icy or wet, and the same with the glove. I do generally use a prussik though.

This is using a Reverso 3 or an ATC guide with various ropes but including 8.1 icelines.
mike.gore - on 31 May 2014
In reply to David Coley:

It's not the friction between a hand and rope that results the *main* braking force. It's the rope breaking on the belay device that gives friction. So You need to keep Your right hand on the rope (if You're right handed) and break it low below the belay device, next to Tour hip, and then You don't even need to squeeze the rope even with the gloves.
valjean - on 01 Jun 2014
In reply to David Coley:

is it possible that the gloves are simply giving you less feel on the rope and as a result less control.

i know for sure i can abseil faster with gloves on, due to not burning my hand on the way down :)



pacman - on 01 Jun 2014
In reply to David Coley:

"I was abseiling off an overhanging aid route... I was descending an 8.5mm rope"

You're surprised it was difficult to control your descent when you were dropping into space on just one 8.5mm rope?


Are belay gloves a bad idea? No.
David Coley - on 01 Jun 2014
In reply to pacman:



> You're surprised it was difficult to control your descent when you were dropping into space on just one 8.5mm rope?

Yes. As I said in the post, I've had no issues doing this many times without a glove and only noticed it with the glove. If someone had asked me, I would have said gloves give more grip. Some winter gloves might, but belay gloves seem to do the opposite.

David Coley - on 01 Jun 2014
In reply to mike.gore:

> It's not the friction between a hand and rope that results the *main* braking force. It's the rope breaking on the belay device that gives friction. So You need to keep Your right hand on the rope (if You're right handed) and break it low below the belay device, next to Tour hip, and then You don't even need to squeeze the rope even with the gloves.

I was squeezing (I've abbed more than 1000 pitches I'd guess), but I really had to squeeze hard as the glove was so silky. All very strange.
David Coley - on 01 Jun 2014
In reply to Gwilymstarks:

> Clue is in your title. "Belay Glove" not "Abseil Glove"

Which is why I'm worried. If the grip wasn't enough for a rap, it isn't going to be enough I hold a fall.

pacman - on 01 Jun 2014
In reply to David Coley:

Fair enough, guess it just depends on the gloves.

The ones I've used for ages are great (http://www.blackanddecker.com/power-tools/BD565.aspx adapted with ductape reinforced clipping holes), loads of grip, perfect for belaying and abseiling (but not tough enough for aid). The winter gloves I've used have all been fine as well, no problems abseiling or catching lead-fall. On the other hand, gloves that are worn shiny (your well-used aid gloves?) probably do offer less control, especially if they're not well fitted and soft.

I prefer using gloves as the ones I've got work well for me. They make it easier to abseil and lower someone smoothly and quickly, and belaying's more enjoyable without the worry of rope burn.

In a perfect world - with the ideal belay plate for the rope and the rope always held firmly in the brake position - rope burn wouldn't be an issue. In practice though - even with a good belayer - the rope sometimes isn't firmly gripped and in the brake position at the moment when someone pops off, and this is where the (right) gloves can literally be a life saver. In the worst case scenario when the leader does pop off at just the wrong moment (belayer paying out, adjusting position of brake hand or just got brake hand held forward of plate American style) it's not unlikely that the belayer will get some degree of rope burn if they're not wearing gloves. If it's only minor rope burn no problem, belayer just gets a sore hand. If it's severe rope burn the belayer gets a nasty injury and might not even hold the fall. I've a friend who hit the ground because of this, both he and his belayer ended up in hospital.

Are belay gloves a bad idea? Answer still no, but some gloves will do a better job of it than others.
Dan Middleton, BMC - on 01 Jun 2014
In reply to mike.gore:

That's not quite how belay devices work. Manual devices like ATC's and Reverso's work by multiplying the hand force, and although this relationship doesn't appear to be strictly linear, the better you can hold the rope in your hand the higher the force you can arrest using the device.

The hand force varies quite widely between individuals, which is why a suitable belay device rope combination for one person may not be easily controllable for another. Tests seem to show that gloves reduce the hand force to some degree, so if you are on the limit of what you can control you may start to see some slippage. The huge benefit though is that even with some slippage, you can still apply that hand force, whereas without gloves, you will tend to let go because you start to burn your hands.
rgold - on 01 Jun 2014
In reply to David Coley:

Interesting...I've used gloves for belaying for many years with no grip issues, and that includes catching two factor-2 falls. And since I had the gloves anyway, I usually used them for rappelling as well, again with no issues. But I would have said that a free-hanging rappel on a single 8.5mm strand with a Reverso and single biner would be somewhat difficult to control, depending on the type and coating of the rope and how new it is. So perhaps I've been suffering from the grip issue without realizing it.

I started using gloves after some belay test practice sessions a long time ago using weights and UIAA-severity falls made it clear that holding such falls bare-handed would result in severe rope burns. I always assumed there was a slight grip penalty that was more than offset by the rope-burn protection offered.

It may matter what type of leather is used in the gloves, how thick it is, how pliable it is, and whether it has become glazed by many rappels. I would agree that if one is struggling to rappel on a single strand, then the set-up is inadequate for belaying severe falls, but I think the solution is a belay device with more friction or an assisted-locking device---not going barehanded. I've also found that extending the rappel device (whether or not you use a friction knot underneath it) gives sharper bends in the rope path and so more friction, as well as making it easy and natural to use both hands as braking hands.

I believe that many people are using belay devices that do not supply enough friction for the ropes they are using if there is a relatively rare severe fall situation, and I think the manufacturer's ratings for rope sizes for their devices are absurdly optimistic, with the middle third of the stated ranges a better estimate of what will work in extreme cases.



pacman - on 01 Jun 2014
In reply to Dan Middleton, BMC:

"The huge benefit though is that even with some slippage, you can still apply that hand force, whereas without gloves, you will tend to let go because you start to burn your hands."

the crucial point well put
David Coley - on 01 Jun 2014
In reply to Dan Middleton, BMC:

>Tests seem to show that gloves reduce the hand force to some degree, so if you are on the limit of what you can control you may start to see some slippage.

Thanks for that, do you happen to have a link to those test. This has been a bit of a surprise to me.
Toerag - on 02 Jun 2014
In reply to David Coley:

From Jim Titt's site:-

"Belay devices in general are limited in their capabilities, something few climbers seem fully aware of. With only one exception no device available on the market is proven to be capable of stopping a climber in a reasonably long factor 2 fall and with most devices the belayer risks severe rope burns and loss of control even in considerably lower (less than 1) factor falls.
The energy involved in a long fall is considerable and the excess energy above that which the device can absorb is transferred into the belayers hand where it is converted into heat by friction. This rapidly causes the skin to heat up and friction burn whereupon an involountary reflex releases the grip. An acceptable amount of slip through a bare hand is variously given as 0.5m and 1.5m depending on the strength of the grip. Alternatively the Petzl Fall Simulator uses a threshhold of 1800J as the acceptable amount of energy before a rope burn warning is given, they allow much more rope (6+m) to slip through than I (and others) would consider reasonable to stop if not wearing gloves and in fact recommend (and illustrate in the instructions for their devices) the wearing of gloves for leader falls, something rarely seen today."

http://www.bolt-products.com/Glue-inBoltDesign.htm
jimtitt - on 02 Jun 2014
In reply to David Coley:

You only have to ask!
The sort-of standard grip test for gloves is NFPA 1971 which tested the grippng ability on ropes and gives the result as a percentage of that achieved bare handed. Itīs been changed recently so the values nowadays arenīt so relevant (itīs not rope any more and was hawser laid then as well) but the standard required the loss to be not more than 30% if I remember rightly.
Thereīs probably a Euro standard out there as well.
Thereīs some other interesting stuff about grip and heat transfer from the US military but fast-rope entry is getting a bit off our scenario.

For a sample of one (me), force in kg.

8mm Bare 16kg Glove 12kg 75%
9mm Bare 20kg Glove 16kg 80%
10mm Bare 28kg Glove 22kg 79%
(the strain guage I used then measures in 2kg increments so thereīs a fair amount of leeway for variation).

These arenīt the absolute maximum I can achieve bare-handed since pain is more or less the ultimate criteria, Iīve seen 45kg but thatīs not really a useful value!
In reality you canīt hold so much due to the hand position and I used a value of 12kg for comparing belay plate power when abseiling which is about all you can achieve reasonably long-term. For reasonably long abseils this value is still too high as the heat transfer into the hand is going to be excessive especially down near the bottom when the rope weight is less, usually one is going to take a leg wrap or use both hands though.
jkarran - on 02 Jun 2014
In reply to David Coley:

> A quick search of the internet showed that others had found the same thing in more serious situations. For example, with an auto locking device with the brake hand with a glove and the top hand without. This gave more friction on just the wrong rope, the device didn't lock, dropping the leader.
> Anyhow, I was wondering if this was all common knowledge: gloves might be good when using Munters, but seem a very, very bad idea the rest of the time.

I don't like gloves on rope for the simple reason I can't feel where the ropes are in my hand leaving me concerned I could accidentally drop one of them or allow it to work its way out of my grip especially when belaying rather than abbing. Clearly lots of people make this work fine each winter (myself included occasionally) but I still don't like the sensation.

jk
David Coley - on 02 Jun 2014
In reply to jimtitt:

Thanks Jim!
David Coley - on 02 Jun 2014
In reply to jimtitt:

Re the glove data, how old and polished was your glove? This might have been part of my problem, mine was well worn.

On a connected note, my newest half ropes are something like 7.9mm. Should we all be using two carabiners with a belay plate with these thin ropes when the fall might be harsh? I don't think this in the instructions from petzl or others, and only seems common when abseiling.
jimtitt - on 02 Jun 2014
In reply to David Coley:

From what I remember tried a few different pairs varying from split-leather welders gloves to some thin cloth/leather work gloves and some heavy leather gloves which are well polished, they are the ones I used when Iīm polishing metal. I thought at the time that thinner more supple ones would be better but didnīt really notice any difference.
My half ropes are 7.8īs and so I use a belay plate you canīt buy! But I did test most of the usual suspects with a single 9mm to see what you get, 6kg hand force as it was an abseiling test really:-
Reversoģ (single HMS) 62kg
Reversoģ (2 HMS) 93kg
ATC XP (single HMS) 66kg
ATC XP (2 x HMS) 141kg
Smart Alpine 82kg
DMM Bugette 103kg
DMM Chicane prototype (single HMS) 120kg

If I was out there with 7.8īs with an ATC XP or a Reverso Iīd be using 2 krabs for sure (both the same size and clipped into the belay loop naturally enough as having one loose decreases the braking force).
Itīs one of the overlooked aspects of the Smart/Up and the others that you canīt adjust the braking force by adding karabiners, in fact at least with the Smart which I experimented with if you add a second one the nraking force drops alarmingly.
PN82 - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to David Coley:

I use poundland recycled gardening gloves for abseiling and they work fanatically, cant remember how much i paid for them though... ;)
Bob_the_Builder - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to David Coley:

I ended up with some Black Diamond belay gloves in my kit from a partner and they are rubbish for all ropework in my experience. They are thick leather which is super slick on the outside, unlike a soft leather winter glove which is nice and grippy. Also I can't feel the ropes so my control is awful. Better for my hands maybe, but I'd rather get rope burn than drop my partner to the ground! I would never ab with them.
David Coley - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to Bob_the_Builder:

> I ended up with some Black Diamond belay gloves in my kit from a partner and they are rubbish for all ropework in my experience.......... Also I can't feel the ropes so my control is awful. Better for my hands maybe, but I'd rather get rope burn than drop my partner to the ground! I would never ab with them.

I feel my gloves might have the same issues. This is what I was wearing:
http://www.singingrock.com/gloves-grippy-34
jon on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to David Coley:

Try doing controlled experiments with those fingerless gloves then regular leather gloves (with fingers). It's not a completely outrageous thought that fingerless may have an effect on your grip...
Andy Say - on 04 Jun 2014
In reply to David Coley:

> Yes. As I said in the post, I've had no issues doing this many times without a glove and only noticed it with the glove. If someone had asked me, I would have said gloves give more grip. Some winter gloves might, but belay gloves seem to do the opposite.

Gloves don't necessarily give 'more grip' in any particular situation. They are primarily designed to stop your hands getting trashed.
David Coley - on 05 Jun 2014
In reply to Andy Say:

> Gloves don't necessarily give 'more grip' in any particular situation. They are primarily designed to stop your hands getting trashed.

Fair point. I guess it was the scale of the reduction in grip that surprised me.
Timmd on 05 Jun 2014
In reply to mike.gore:

> It's not the friction between a hand and rope that results the *main* braking force. It's the rope breaking on the belay device that gives friction. So You need to keep Your right hand on the rope (if You're right handed) and break it low below the belay device, next to Tour hip, and then You don't even need to squeeze the rope even with the gloves.

Being able to belay both ways around can be handy.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Toerag - on 05 Jun 2014
In reply to David Coley:

Douglas Gill yachty gloves are pretty grippy and durable.

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