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/ Lead belaying direct from anchor -assisted device

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valjean - on 12 Apr 2018

Does anyone have experience lead belaying direct off the anchor using an assisted braking device such as an Alpine Smart or Megajul?  Ive seen a Climbing Technology video demonstrating an Alpine UP being used in this manner.  Not sure how other devices would behave.  thanks 

Neil Williams - on 12 Apr 2018
In reply to valjean:

Doesn't seem ideal to belay a leader with a direct belay as that will mean no dynamic aspect to the system other than the rope itself so a quite hard catch.  Is there a reason to do this?

Post edited at 18:02
alanblyth - on 12 Apr 2018
In reply to valjean:

Never heard/seen this before, google turned up this old thread: https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/rocktalk/belaying_directly_off_an_equalised_anchor-485245

Seems like a regional thing, I think I'd be very taken aback if my partner wasn't belaying me of their harness when I was leading.

Following this thread with interest...

 
valjean - on 13 Apr 2018
In reply to Neil Williams:

it would only be done off bolts and not gear anchors. common practice in some regions.

drop testing videos  consistently show belayers getting slammed into the wall when catching falls on multi pitches when belaying off the harness.  consequences would vary obviously

ive been intending to use direct lead belays for the past few years.  have never gotten around to it because im not willing to give up the added security of an assisted device that should hold even if i get slammed into the wall and knock unconscious.

ill see if i can dig up the videos/reports, mostly in german if i can recall.  probably somewhere buried in these forums  

jezb1 - on 13 Apr 2018
In reply to valjean:

I’ve seen videos showing people getting slammed in tests, multi pitch scenarios, yet I’ve held a lot of falls and it’s not really happened in real life.

Mike Nolan - on 13 Apr 2018
In reply to valjean:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqZQnCGl24A

 

Not an assisted device, but still an interesting video and conclusion. 

tjin - on 13 Apr 2018
In reply to valjean:

Do it all the time with a reverso from bolted anchors, but have also done it with a megajul. Not sure if i'm a fan. 'Dummy runner' (first draw clipped) is required: https://imgur.com/a/IMVe1

With an reverso/ATC guide you can add a carabiner next to the belay device in the same masterpoint as a redirect, in case you don't have the option of clipping a draw first. That trick is pretty much useless with the megajul. 

(clipping the first draw on one of the anchor bolts, would generate far greater force on it, due to the pulley effect. So using the carabiner redirect next to the reverso/atc guide, clipped to the same masterpoint solves the 'pulley' effect.)

If you belay directly of an anchor made with own gear, you will need to make it, so it will also take upward full forces. 

Related video about belaying of an anchor:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqZQnCGl24A&ab_channel=ENSAChamonix

 

valjean - on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to Mike Nolan:

yep thats one of the videos!  and a newer one too

 

valjean - on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to tjin:

haha.  i should have guessed Edelrid would have it in their instructions given that germans are one of the heavy users of this method.

 maybe im not picturing it right in my head, but im having a hard time visualizing what  a quickdraw next to the device sharing the master point is doing...  take part of the load in the event of a fall? 

time to start using this method this season i guess.   

 

rgold - on 16 Apr 2018
In reply to valjean:

The most interesting feature of the ENSA tests is that the direct belay off the anchor (with a Munter) resulted in a lower load to the top piece than the now popular jump belay.  But if you put an assisted-locking device on the anchor, all bets are off and previous testing suggests you'll get significantly higher anchor loads.

It has already been mentioned that belaying the leader directly off the anchor requires the anchor to be solidly resistant to an upward pull.  If it is also supposed to withstand the load of a factor-2 fall, then we are speaking of an arrangement with trad gear that may not be all that common.

The preference for the direct belay seems to be currently coming from countries where good fixed belay anchors are commonplace.  For better or worse, the installation of bolted belay stations is spreading---at least in the U.S.---with no particular connection to whether or not the climbing is purportedly trad climbing.  I think this is a really unfortunate development, but see little chance of holding back or even slowing this tsunami of "progress."

All that said, it makes sense to adapt one's technique to the reality of what the climb "provides," and if solid bolted anchors are increasingly part of the environment, even on trad climbs, then the trad climber ought to understand how to best make use of what there is.  The evidence seems to  be accumulating that the direct belay with a Munter hitch is actually the most effective belay in both ordinary and extreme circumstances---when a truly solid anchor is available.

If you use an assisted-locking device that doesn't allow any slack through under load, it is not clear that a direct anchor belay is such a good idea. And if you use a tube or any of the assisted locking devices that are not a grigri or one of its imitations, then you have to have a runner in place above the device, otherwise it will not function at all in a factor-2 fall.  I think this is a substantial drawback in terms of the loading applied to the anchor.

A problem for the UK climber (and the few of us in the US who stubbornly cling against local fashion to the advantages of half rope technique) is how to effectively manage a pair of half ropes with Munter hitch belays.  I confess to not have really tried so far, but I imagine one needs two Munter carabiners with each rope hitched to its own carabiner, and am not sure how the proximity of the knots and carabiners might affect the handling of the belay tasks.

Post edited at 03:47
grooved rib - on 07:33 Mon

As far as I know, ENSA are promoting two separate things in their video:

  • belaying directly on the anchor in order to make catching a fall less traumatic for the belayer and easier to execute in a factor 2 situation
  • belaying with an Italian (Munter) hitch in order to reduce the load on the anchor. Italian hitches slip when loaded and provide a very dynamic catch.

It recommends using this belay on all types of anchors, and particularly recommends it for dodgy anchors which are more susceptible to catastrophic failure in a factor 2 situation.

If the anchor only holds a downward pull, the belayer should weight it so their body acts as a counterbalance in exactly the same way as with a classic harness belay.

Having tried this method on several occasions, I would say it works very well with single/twin rope set-ups, but less well with double ropes. However, someone leading off a crap belay anchor on a Welsh sea-cliff would still be recommended to use it until they get some decent gear in, at which point it's possible to switch to a belay-plate on the harness.

Belaying directly to the anchor with an assisted belay device should NOT be done on an anchor of questionable strength.

Note: the anchor set-ups shown at 0.45 in the video have been brought into question in the French media. Critics say that D-shaped karabiners should be used on the anchor points rather than HMS krabs so they are loaded optimally in the event of a fall. Obviously an HMS krab must be used for the Italian hitch.

 

tjin - on 08:07 Mon
In reply to valjean:

>  maybe im not picturing it right in my head, but I'm having a hard time visualizing what a quickdraw next to the device sharing the master point is doing...  take part of the load in the event of a fall? 

Do not mount a quick draw directly on the same masterpoint, but higher (like show on the picture in the Megajul manual). If you can't you can add a carabiner on the masterpoint as a redirect for the brake rope. 

Any tube style device need the rope to have 'Z' shape in the rope to have enough friction (otherwise it's just a rope going through a carabiner). When your mount an ATC or MegaJul directly to the anchor and the climbers falls before clipping in the first bolt/pro, then the belay device effectively turn upside down; which means the friction can only be provided by the rope bending in a 'U' shape, which means significantly reduced holding power. That is bad, especially in an FF2 fall (falling off before before clipping the second bolt).

So when you directly mount a belay device to an anchor, you will need a redirect; either with a carabiner on the brake side of the device (effectively forcing a Z in the rope) or pre-clip a draw on the climber side of the rope (prevents the device from turning upside down). (which must be mounted higher than the masterpoint)

 

 

Post edited at 08:33
alanblyth - on 08:17 Mon
In reply to valjean:

Does anyone know what gets taught for ML/Multipitch Award currently?

valjean - on 14:12 Mon
In reply to tjin:

totally understand the Z

i was confused by the quickdraw in the master point. on bolted anchors there would never be a need for one

would like to see tests on assisted devices set up this way.  As I mentioned CT Alpine Click Up video shows it being used this way. And the megajul instructions shows it being set up this way.  I imagine some testing has been done, but good chance its going to be in Italian or German.   If anyone finds stats, please share

 

 

lithos on 14:36 Mon
In reply to alanblyth:

nothing on ML - not in remit

MIA - direct belaying for brinigng up clients when guiding is common subject to anchors and directions etc but never for teaching lead belaying, we have few if any bolted anchors for MP. 

Not sure what's in the new awards RCI onwards but unlikely.

this was a few years back 

Robert Durran - on 14:40 Mon
In reply to Mike Nolan:

> Not an assisted device, but still an interesting video and conclusion.

It seems to me that this video largely only applies to bombproof multi directional anchors (ie probably bolts) and would have pretty limited validity for climbing in the UK.

grooved rib - on 15:35 Mon
In reply to Robert Durran:

> It seems to me that this video largely only applies to bombproof multi directional anchors (ie probably bolts) and would have pretty limited validity for climbing in the UK.

It is particularly appropriate for questionable anchors, as it provides an easily executed dynamic catch in a fall factor 2 situation, thereby reducing shock-load when it matters most.

Anchors don't have to be multi-directional if the belayer is weighting it. Same principle applies as for belaying to the harness ie. bodyweight counter-balances upwards pull.
 
Only thing that might make it less suitable for UK multi-pitch is the fact that it's a bit faffy (although not impossible) when clipping double ropes separately. British climbers often climb at their limit on double ropes and like having each one micro-managed, whereas on Euro multi-pitch a bit more slack is often tolerated.
Robert Durran - on 15:42 Mon
In reply to grooved rib:

> It is particularly appropriate for questionable anchors.

I was really thinking of the idea that you might even contemplate belaying a leader directly off the anchors.

grooved rib - on 15:51 Mon
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I was really thinking of the idea that you might even contemplate belaying a leader directly off the anchors.

Well holding a FF2 fall directly onto your harness is very difficult even without trying to make it dynamic. The belayer will most likely clamp down on the rope and then crumple at impact, meaning the anchor gets heavily loaded. Much easier to provide progressive braking if the shock goes straight to the anchor via an Italian hitch.

Post edited at 16:03
alanblyth - on 15:54 Mon
grooved rib - on 15:58 Mon
In reply to valjean:

>   If anyone finds stats, please share

Stats on using a Grigri direct to the anchor can be found (in French), by clicking the link in the ENSA youtube video intro.

Robert Durran - on 16:23 Mon
In reply to grooved rib:

> Well holding a FF2 fall.........

But 99% of falls are not going to be FF2, so the anchor needs to be bombproof for an upwards pull as well - so, as I said, probably a bolted anchor, so not really relevant in the UK.

grooved rib - on 16:40 Mon
In reply to Robert Durran:

> But 99% of falls are not going to be FF2

Factor 2 falls produce the highest loads and have the most potential to be catastrophic!

> so the anchor needs to be bombproof for an upwards pull as well

I've said in two posts that the belayer should be weighting the anchor to act as a counterbalance, in exactly the same way as classic belaying.

Anchors that can hold upwards pulls are preferable in multi-pitch climbing whatever way you choose to belay, but not essential because of the counterbalance. Also, if there's an upwards pull it means a piece of gear has held and so the anchor is no longer the only thing stopping you from falling to the ground.

This may not be the best technique for using on UK multi-pitch trad, but not for the reasons you're citing!

Robert Durran - on 17:33 Mon
In reply to grooved rib:

> I've said in two posts that the belayer should be weighting the anchor to act as a counterbalance, in exactly the same way as classic belaying.

No, it is clearly not exactly the same.

In reply to grooved rib:

> Also, if there's an upwards pull it means a piece of gear has held and so the anchor is no longer the only thing stopping you from falling to the ground.

Good point. Even still, I think there would be a lot of brown material on the belay stance if the leader had a huge fall, pulling me up with a large amount of force ripping out the trad belay, and we were both hanging on a single cam/nut. Extremely unlikely, but if you were climbing with someone a fair bit heavier than you who was leading, and you only had downward directional pieces in...

It's often on my mind - what would happen if the leader suddenly fell whilst running it out a bit on a multipitch. Luckily as trad leaders rarely take big whippers it's never often discovered.

 

David Coley - on 17:40 Mon
In reply to valjean:

Just a personal take, but what worries me slightly is the test of time. Most devices have not been tested for doing this, nor is there a big database of experience form 1000's of falls and all the strange things that can happen. 

grooved rib - on 21:53 Mon
In reply to purplemonkeyelephant:

> I think there would be a lot of brown material on the belay stance if the leader had a huge fall, pulling me up with a large amount of force ripping out the trad belay, and we were both hanging on a single cam/nut.

My understanding is that this is more likely to happen when belaying to the harness than to the anchor. If the leader fall is held directly on the anchor via an Italian hitch, a lot more energy is absorbed and so the belayer doesn't get yanked upwards to the same degree.

> It's often on my mind - what would happen if the leader suddenly fell whilst running it out a bit on a multipitch.

This is exactly the type of situation where direct belaying is most beneficial. Belaying to the harness requires anticipation to make a safe, dynamic catch.

 

Robert Durran - on 23:06 Mon
In reply to grooved rib:

> This is exactly the type of situation where direct belaying is most beneficial. Belaying to the harness requires anticipation to make a safe, dynamic catch.

I find that impossible to believe given the same belay device.

 

MFB - on 23:09 Mon
In reply to grooved rib:

Loads of failed trad belay out there then?

I might just stick with the tried and tested for now, difficult to conceive how direct belay to bolt generates less force than attaching to belay loop.

The French don't state by how much force is reduced, might just be revenge for brexit

grooved rib - on 08:17 Tue
In reply to MFB:

> I might just stick with the tried and tested for now

Given that most UK climbers still belay their second on their harness, I very much doubt that many will start belaying leaders directly on the anchor! In any case, the video is not saying this should be done systematically, at 5.30 there is a flowchart which describes the decision-making process ie. it is most appropriate (1) when there is a risk of a factor 2 fall, especially onto a questionable anchor and (2) when there is a risk of high energy falls, especially when the belayer is significantly lighter than the leader.

However, the data also suggests that while the force on the anchor can be reduced by a factor of more than 3, the force on the runner holding the fall can be increased by a factor of 1.4.

>  might just be revenge for brexit

More likely to be revenge for Waterloo, from what I can tell Europe isn't that bothered about Brexit!

 

grooved rib - on 08:23 Tue
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I find that impossible to believe given the same belay device.

Robert, do you actually read other people's posts!! I've only ever suggested belaying directly to the anchor with an Italian hitch. Don't go into flatearth mode!

pass and peak - on 12:16 Tue
In reply to valjean:

Interesting ENSA video belaying with the munter hitch. However I always thought when braking/holding a fall on a munter, to be effective the brake end of the rope must be orientated towards the live rope, as in the opposite of a normal belay plate. If you've ever tried abbing with a normal muner from your your harness you'll quickly realize how ineffective it is in this orientation. I'm assuming that the extra friction from the runner is allowing the belayer to hold the fall, and the very fact that it is in the wrong orientation allows for slippage which give the lower forces and softer catch! 

jimtitt - on 13:03 Tue
In reply to pass and peak:

Belaying with the Italian hitch has been for some time taught as hand-down to match the action of a normal plate. This has the advantage (apart from using the same movement as with an ATC et al) that in the event of a FF2 you are automatically in the higher force braking position and with a lower factor fall the runner will make up the difference from using the weaker position.

MFB - on 16:59 Tue
In reply to grooved rib:

'However, the data also suggests that while the force on the anchor can be reduced by a factor of more than 3, the force on the runner holding the fall can be increased by a factor of 1.4.'

wow, factor of 3, that's massive, you got a link, cheers

'Europe isn't that bothered', probably realized we're only 18 miles away

 

grooved rib - on 17:34 Tue
In reply to MFB:

The data is in the link in the youtube video presentation text. It's in French but the diagrams should be easy enough to understand for non-French speakers. Here's a couple of phrases:

Demi-cab sur relais = Italian hitch on belay

Demi-cab sur assureur = Italian hitch on belayer

Probably the most useful diagrams are the bar charts on page 7.

It should be noted that ENSA simply tested a technique which has been used by Austrian/German/Tyrolean climbers for many years. It is well-suited for a lot of belay situations in the Dolomites; less so for UK summer trad perhaps, but ideal for many UK winter climbing scenarios.

Robert Durran - on 17:48 Tue
In reply to grooved rib:

> I've only ever suggested belaying directly to the anchor with an Italian hitch.

Yes, and I can't believe that it is less dynamic to belay off the harness with an Italian hitch than directly off the anchor. Quite apart from the fact that clearly a direct belay is more likely to lead to anchor failure.

Anyway, an Italian hitch (and therefore belaying direct off the anchor) is never going to catch on in the UK because almost everyone climbs on double ropes which is going to be horribly awkward with Italian hitches.

 

grooved rib - on 18:44 Tue
In reply to Robert Durran:

I randomly came across a climbing video this afternoon, featuring none other than ...Robert Durran.

Must say I'm struggling to match the opinionated, stubborn, intransigent, borderline rude UKC persona, with the quasi-spiritual figure flitting through the mountains and canyons of the Wadi Rum with the local Bedouin. You gotta love humanity!!

ps belaying directly to the anchor would be ideally suited to the Wadi Rum, as there is defo potential for total anchor failure. You should at least give it a go next time you're out there. As with abalakovs, leashless ice-axes etc...., you have to try before it makes any sense!

David Coley - on 18:53 Tue
In reply to jimtitt:

Of course, what is important is not to go hands up when using a plate, as a travelling German once did with me. So I can see why this is now best taught hands down too. I went most of the length of the pitch, and he got rope burns.

My fault really, he asked me if he could belay me with the plate because he had never used one before. 

grooved rib - on 21:18 Tue
In reply to grooved rib:

> Must say I'm struggling to match the opinionated, stubborn, intransigent, borderline rude UKC persona, with the quasi-spiritual figure flitting through the mountains and canyons of the Wadi Rum with the local Bedouin. You gotta love humanity!!

Oh lordy, dislikes! There was me thinking I was saying that Robert Durran seems a lot more agreeable in real-life. Apologies for any misunderstanding :/

It's a funny old world!

 

MFB - on 23:22 Tue
In reply to grooved rib:

'However, the data also suggests that while the force on the anchor can be reduced by a factor of more than 3, the force on the runner holding the fall can be increased by a factor of 1.4.'

sorry just re read that, force at belay anchor (generally chosen because you get at least 2 good pieces) decreases but force at runner increases. That sounds really bad for trad climbers. I'm pretty sure failed runners account for high proportion of climbing injuries.

Am I missing something

Post edited at 23:23
Robert Durran - on 23:55 Tue
In reply to grooved rib:

> There was me thinking I was saying that Robert Durran seems a lot more agreeable in real-life.

Maybe I'm just an accomplished actor.

valjean - on 01:36 Wed
In reply to valjean:

so anyone find anything on assisted devices off anchors.  the ENSA report has grigri offf the anchor and obviously loads are higher than off the harness (but eliminates potential for belayer to get bashed) or a munter off the anchors.    I know from experience that smarts/megajuls allow for a bit of rope slippage before engaging compared. would be curious to see numbers.   Surely there is some numbers given that Edelrid has it on their instructions.

valjean - on 01:46 Wed
In reply to valjean:

I found this

https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:cLWGW0kLwHwJ:https://www.alpenverein.de/chameleon/public/e0a0abc8-3fe8-c1b5-fb8c-8d639b1d7e75/2014-3-belaying-in-multi-pitch-routes_25220.pdf+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ca

 

its a cached site.  images/figures not available unfortunately.  explains a lot of what has already bee discussed in the thread so far

Robert Durran - on 21:29 Wed
In reply to grooved rib:

> Belaying directly to the anchor would be ideally suited to the Wadi Rum........

I am really struggling to see why it would be  a good idea to stick a dodgy cam in a sandy crack as an anchor and then have it directly yanked upwards by a leader fall rather the yank being upwards on me sitting on the little ledge below it.

> ..........as there is defo potential for total anchor failure.

Well yes, precisely!

I've read the linked article and watched the linked video and I seriously wonder whether their extremely counterintuitive conclusions really only apply to decidedly non-standard and rarely realistic situations.

 

 

grooved rib - on 10:02 Thu
In reply to MFB:

> 'the force on the runner holding the fall can be increased by a factor of 1.4.'

> That sounds really bad for trad climbers.

> Am I missing something

Just to set the record straight, I've discussed at length with researchers the claim that belaying directly to the anchor can dramatically reduce the force of a F2 fall; the data above, however, is something I picked up myself from the bar-charts in the ENSA document, so it could do with being verified by someone clever.

I think it's important to realise that the ENSA video is not suggesting this technique should be used systematically (see 5.30). ENSA's main role is training mountain professionals. These are people who have a heightened duty of care, are supposed to be experts in their field and sometimes have to justify their decisions in court. So, while it may be acceptable for amateur climbers to adopt a default belaying method, mountain guides need to be able to select the best system for prevailing circumstances.

As far as I can see, the pros and cons of belaying directly to the anchor with an Italian hitch are as follows:

Pros

  • Provides a very dynamic brake in a factor 2 fall situation, thereby protecting the anchor from catastrophic failure (I think many experienced climbers over-estimate their ability to do this when belaying to their harnesses)
  • Easier and less traumatic for the belayer to hold any type of fall, particularly in cases where the belayer is either significantly lighter than the leader or inexperienced.

Cons

  • Fiddly when micro-managing double ropes
  • Greater force on the runner holding the fall???
  • Counter-intuitive to old farts who have been doing the same thing for decades (myself included!)

Note also that it is possible to switch from an anchor belay to a harness belay at any point during the lead (usually when the risk of a F2 fall has been eliminated by placing protection). This process can be facilitated by pre-installing the belay device on the ropes.

Post edited at 10:10
Robert Durran - on 11:02 Thu
In reply to grooved rib:

So is belaying directly off the anchor only being recommended with an Italian hitch and only when a Factor 2 fall is a possibility?  I can obviously see the disadvantage of the belayer being directly affected by the forces of a factor 2 fall when belaying off the harness, but, if the belay is dodgy (which is when belaying directly off the anchor seems to be being recommended) I simply cannot see how belay failure is going to be less likely belaying directly off the anchor than off the harness with the belayer braced on a good stance below the anchor.

grooved rib - on 11:40 Thu
In reply to Robert Durran:

> So is belaying directly off the anchor only being recommended with an Italian hitch

Yes, unless the anchor is bombproof in all directions.

> and only when a Factor 2 fall is a possibility? 

Not only. Also in situations where the belayer might have trouble holding a fall (inexperienced) or be injured by getting pulled into some feature (eg when they are much lighter than the leader or in a cave/corner)

> I simply cannot see how belay failure is going to be less likely belaying directly off the anchor than off the harness

Tests have shown that Italian hitches do not allow a certain load to be exceeded. From memory (!) the max load is about 300daN

> with the belayer braced on a good stance below the anchor.

Legs vs significant F2 fall = legs don't stand a chance. And as they crumple you will not be doing a great job of progressively stopping the fall!

Robert Durran - on 11:51 Thu
In reply to grooved rib:

> Legs vs significant F2 fall = legs don't stand a chance. And as they crumple you will not be doing a great job of progressively stopping the fall!

Well, ideally I'd be siting, not standing.  But anyway, the crumpling legs, all other things being equal, will clearly make the braking more dynamic, so I presume the argument is entirely about possible lack of control in belaying.  With that single dodgy cam in a sandy crack, I'd still rather take my chance with crumpling legs and with with a good, sitting stance I think it would be no contest.

 

L Big Bruva - on 13:51 Fri
In reply to Robert Durran:

>  With that single dodgy cam in a sandy crack, I'd still rather take my chance with crumpling legs and with with a good, sitting stance I think it would be no contest.

My gut feeling is definitely with you on this one. The idea of belaying directly to the cam sounds crazy. Is grooved rib the only person who thinks this would be a good idea or are there others? Do any guides/instructors use this technique?


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