UKC

Millgram and Obedience or How to belay from the top!

New Topic
This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
 Cobra_Head 18 Apr 2022

I'm half way through belaying my partner up a route I've just lead, and someone rushes over to tell me how wrong I'm doing it, because I'm stood up!

My legs will buckle and I'll be pulled to the ground, apparently. I should sit down and belay from a sitting position, because I'd never be able to hold them, should they fall.

I've been climbing for 20 years and often stand up when belaying people up a route. I've had people fall a number of times, often people much heavier than me.

I was belaying a couple of ladies, much lighter than me probably by at least 4st or more, so about 8st!

Given this, and I have a healthy disrespect for authority, why did I comply?

I actually sat down and belayed from a sitting position?

Not sure I'll be doing it again, though it was all a bit bunched up to be honest.

7
In reply to Cobra_Head:

> Given this, and I have a healthy disrespect for authority, why did I comply?

You're not the Messiah, you're a very naughty boy!

In reply to Cobra_Head:

You could have told him it's less abrasive on the rope and you can see and communicate better with your seconds - Or to mind his own business? Although I'm ready to be corrected

1
 ExiledScot 18 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

They were factually correct in what they said, but clearly wrong in the way they communicated it. You were still safe and with a weight difference, limited slack, unlikely to be pulled down. Plus if it's not steep you won't be holding their weight for an extended period of time, more than survivable! 

Ideal world: sat right on edge, tight on anchors, line of sight with second and no risk of rope going tight over leg. We can't always have ideal world. Maybe they'd had a bad weekend. 

3
 john arran 18 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

It can be perfectly fine belaying from the top in a standing position; I've done it many many times. But the potential for getting pulled down and losing control of the rope is very real, so I'm not surprised it's not classed as good practice and people are taught not to do it.

But as with so many elements of personal judgement in climbing, there are times when it can be beneficial, but only if you're experienced and well aware of the danger and how to avoid it. I think my response would be something along the lines of, "You're correct that standing is not usually recommended when belaying from the top, but in some situations there are advantages too, and in this particular situation I'm choosing a different approach to the one you've probably been taught. Thank you for your concern."  

1
 Uncle Derek 18 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

Why did you comply? Maybe, really and truly, deep down, you thought the other person was right, and there was a better way to belay. I don't know, I was not there, just guessing.

Why not sit down in the first place, or more to the point, why stand up, what was the advantage?

 

2
In reply to Cobra_Head:

Standing up can be fine if the anchors are high above you and any force of a fall will be transferred to them without you getting pulled down. For low anchors (eg. ground level at the top of a grit crag) it is better to sit down to avoid the chance of being pulled off your feet. 

I think theres always improvements to be made to climbing systems and it's good to critically think about what you actually do and why. Just because you've always done something a certain way doesn't mean it's been the best way. 

2
In reply to Uncle Derek:

> Why not sit down in the first place, or more to the point, why stand up, what was the advantage?

Surely it all depends on what and where the belay is?  If you’re clipped tight to a belay at waist height or higher standing is perfectly fine.  Even if the belay is a stake in the ground a long way back standing can be fine.  Standing on the edge with a belay by your feet, not so much.

 Rob Exile Ward 18 Apr 2022
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Bl**dy he'll, perhaps I really have been left behind.

On the whole I prefer belaying standing up, I can be more flexible and if my 2nd needs a bit of assistance I can use my legs to bring dome oomph to the process; crouch down, take in, stand up. The last time it felt dangerous was when my  2nd took a swing on pitch 1 of Great Slab, but I was using a shoulder belay. Haven't done since.

1
 Jon Stewart 18 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

Don't know why you complied but I can imagine myself doing the same thing...

Obviously it's fine to belay stood up (position of anchors considered), that's the norm multipitch. Occasionally I nearly belay sat down on a multipitch when it looks comfy as that has advantages, then I think about the additional f*ckery that involves once they're done climbing, and I resist, and belay stood up. Top of the route I'll probably sit down. Or if I'm belaying a fat bastard who's bound to fall off, I'll consider that in my set-up (but still manage to get the rope running over my leg, once the inevitable occurs).

In reply to Cobra_Head:

Pretty simple, you complied because it was the easiest thing to do, it got the complainant off your back and left your attention to the job in hand.

This then led to a safety discussion (this thread) where yourself and others reflect on good practice and carry the learning forward.

You and the complainant both did the right thing. He raised a concern, you avoided an emotive or confrontational response.

Many work places encourage similar cultures, they can feel uncomfortable at first but have a positive effect on safety. 

1
Andy Gamisou 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Presley Whippet:.

> You and the complainant both did the right thing. He raised a concern, you avoided an emotive or confrontational response.

Disagree.  If you have such concerns then, unless there is an imminent safety threat (which there doesn't appear to have been here) then you should wait until the belaying process is over.  Interrupting someone mid-belay with this sort of "concern" is an obvious safety issue itself.  If you do this then you're almost certainly some "newbie" that's just come off some course and learnt (God help us) "best practice".   I'd have probably been more curt in my response...

3
In reply to Andy Gamisou:

> Disagree.  If you have such concerns then, unless there is an imminent safety threat (which there doesn't appear to have been here) then you should wait until the belaying process is over. 

It sounds like the person did believe there was an imminent safety threat; they thought the belay was fundamentally unsafe and  incapable of holding a fall. We’ve no information on whether a fall was looking likely, but I can’t think of any more serious belay related concerns. Whether their assessment was right or wrong is a different matter.

> If you do this then you're almost certainly some "newbie" that's just come off some course and learnt (God help us) "best practice".   I'd have probably been more curt in my response...

I think this is a bit unfair. From their own description, the OP sounds at least as likely to be the person rigidly sticking to a single way of doing things. The safety appraisal offered boils down to ‘but I’ve always done it like this’ and a comment on comfort. They’ve said they probably won’t consider sitting in future which suggests that they aren’t really making case-by-case decisions about their belays. Sounds at least plausible that the observer had spotted a genuine problem if things were just being done a certain way out of habit.

Of course, I wasn’t there so it’s impossible to say with any confidence who I think was right. But from the OPs description I’m at least willing to give the interrupter the benefit of the doubt.

1
OP Cobra_Head 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Uncle Derek:

> .... why stand up, what was the advantage?

I've always found it easier.

If my second needs "assistance" I can use my legs to pull them up. These were people new to trad, though good climbers. Though that wasn't why I was originally stood up, habit more than anything else, I suppose.

Being stood up does have the advantage of being able to move around a bit, to get a better view, and there's less clutter around the belay device.

Post edited at 08:19
OP Cobra_Head 19 Apr 2022
In reply to LucaC:

> For low anchors (eg. ground level at the top of a grit crag) it is better to sit down to avoid the chance of being pulled off your feet. 

Which is why I posted, this has never happened, like I said in the OP, I've had heavier people fall, also needing to hold people to remove obstinate pieces of gear, I've nearly always stood up, without issue

> I think theres always improvements to be made to climbing systems and it's good to critically think about what you actually do and why. Just because you've always done something a certain way doesn't mean it's been the best way. 

Agreed, my point being many, it wasn't better, and given the difference in weights between us, not really relevant.

OP Cobra_Head 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Presley Whippet:

> Pretty simple, you complied because it was the easiest thing to do, it got the complainant off your back and left your attention to the job in hand.

> This then led to a safety discussion (this thread) where yourself and others reflect on good practice and carry the learning forward.

> You and the complainant both did the right thing. He raised a concern, you avoided an emotive or confrontational response.

> Many work places encourage similar cultures, they can feel uncomfortable at first but have a positive effect on safety. 

Cheers, maybe I'm mellowing in my dotage

I must admit it was after, that I started to question, why I'd simply complied, and then really thought about why it wasn't really an issue.

Post edited at 08:27
OP Cobra_Head 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Andy Gamisou:

> .

> Disagree.  If you have such concerns then, unless there is an imminent safety threat (which there doesn't appear to have been here) then you should wait until the belaying process is over.  Interrupting someone mid-belay with this sort of "concern" is an obvious safety issue itself.  If you do this then you're almost certainly some "newbie" that's just come off some course and learnt (God help us) "best practice".   I'd have probably been more curt in my response...

Good point. I was mid belay, and he had seen that. And has someone had mentioned, my belay was set well back from the edge, over 3m, so not right at my feet.

OP Cobra_Head 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Stuart Williams:

> I think this is a bit unfair. From their own description, the OP sounds at least as likely to be the person rigidly sticking to a single way of doing things. The safety appraisal offered boils down to ‘but I’ve always done it like this’ and a comment on comfort. They’ve said they probably won’t consider sitting in future which suggests that they aren’t really making case-by-case decisions about their belays. Sounds at least plausible that the observer had spotted a genuine problem if things were just being done a certain way out of habit.

Like I said, sitting made rope handling a bit more of a faff.  It's not like I've not seen people sit to belay, my mate does it all the time, and if the belay is really close, then obviously it's easier to sit. I didn't say I never sit, often was the word used.

When I said, "not sure I'd be doing it again", I meant all the time, which is what Mr. Interuptus seemed to be suggesting was the only way to be safe.

1
In reply to Cobra_Head:

Surely the relative weight isn't relevant here....simply wether or not the belayer is strong enough to catch and hold the falling climber with their legs.

Also, if your belay is low down close to you, isn't the pulley effect going to multiply the downward pull on the belayer?

Not passing comment on OP, just interested! I did see someone belaying stood up a while back with an anchor at their feet and it didn't look safe, but didn't comment. 

1
OP Cobra_Head 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

Cheers, everyone, interesting points.

It was the complicity I was baffled by, and I think the Whippet got it right, it was just easier to comply.

I'm now worried about my susceptibility to become a Nazi though now, and have I become a sheeple?

Once upon a time, I might have said something along the lines of, "yeah, cheers mate" and then just ignored him. He did seem a bit "instructory", he had a woman and a bloke with him, and he was setting up a top rope anchor on each of the routes they did, but never saw then us it.

Who knows?? One of life's mysteries, interesting reaction on my part, at least from my perspective.

 Uncle Derek 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

Possibly, just possibly, you have got into a bad habit there.

A poster makes a comment about an imminent safety threat. When someone is climbing there is always an imminent safety threat, the clue is in the rope, but possibly approaching you after the climber had topped out could have been more appropriate. 

Really what this thread highlights is the difficulties of approaching other people with safety concerns.

It would seem that the reply one could expect to receive would be very unlikely to be, oh thanks for pointing that out, I will look into this. More likely, I have been climbing x years, so piss off.

Sadly this means that many experienced climbers will tend to move away, and just not get involved, its just not worth the hassle. Whereas the newbie fresh off a course, has not learnt to do this yet.

OP Cobra_Head 19 Apr 2022
In reply to midgen:

> Surely the relative weight isn't relevant here....simply wether or not the belayer is strong enough to catch and hold the falling climber with their legs.

True, but lighter people are easier to hold, and as I'd said, I've caught people much heavier than the people I was belaying. The comparison was based on, I think most people could hold someone roughly their own weight  as you do that most times when you climbing yourself; you have to push yourself up!

> Also, if your belay is low down close to you, isn't the pulley effect going to multiply the downward pull on the belayer?

Belay, was well behind, though I didn't state that obviously.

> Not passing comment on OP, just interested! I did see someone belaying stood up a while back with an anchor at their feet and it didn't look safe, but didn't comment. 

Maybe you should, I think this is where the fella was coming from, not really relevant in my case, but something to think about. I usually try to set my belays well back, which might be why standing isn't an issue for me. If I could only get a close belay then I'd obviously sit.

OP Cobra_Head 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Uncle Derek:

> Sadly this means that many experienced climbers will tend to move away, and just not get involved, its just not worth the hassle. Whereas the newbie fresh off a course, has not learnt to do this yet.

But it shouldn't be, and I've often given suggestions, I actually told one of the people he was "instructing" they'd clipped the rope wrong, and  they'd have had massive rope drag, he butted in saying "he NEEDS to clip the blue rope", "yes but he's clipped it under the red".

I didn't mind his advice, it was wrong at least for the situation I was in at the time, but anyone can tell me a different way. My issue, if there really was one, was my acceptance of it! He wasn't right, it made no difference, it wasn't less safe to do it his way, but it wasn't safer either.

 Uncle Derek 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

>

> My issue, if there really was one, was my acceptance of it! 

Possibly the person speaking had a certain Charisma or authoritative tone, possibly their job involves instructing people and they have great people skills, maybe its about them, not you, or possibly you are a more compliant person than you think. Would that bother you?

Glad you got out climbing, and got home safe and sound, and hopefully enjoyed it.

 Duncan Bourne 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

I ought to point out that Millgram has since been de-bunked.

https://themindlab.co.uk/academy/epic-fails-what-can-we-learn-from-recently-debunked-psychology-studies/

Take Milgram’s experiment first. In the 1960s, he recruited forty male participants to take part in a study on obedience. Participants were instructed by a man in a white coat to give electric shocks to another person whenever they answered a question incorrectly, with the level of shock being increased after each mistake. Remarkably, 65% of participants continued to give shocks up to the maximum level of 450 volts.

New analysis, however, suggests that most participants realised the shocks were not really dangerous. 72% of obedient participants made this kind of claim at least once. For example, one participant stated: “If it was that serious you woulda stopped me”. The sample was self-selected and was comprised of only males, significantly limiting the extent to which you can generalise the findings to the wider population. Finally, later variations of the study have found that far fewer people were willing to follow the experimenters’ orders than those in Milgram’s version, suggesting that there were design elements of the original study that made participants more likely to reach the maximum shock voltage.

https://www.psypost.org/2019/11/unpublished-data-from-stanley-milgrams-experiments-casts-doubts-on-his-claims-about-obedience-54921

“While Milgram reported on the amount of shock that subjects were prepared to administer he suppressed data that gives us insights into why people behaved the way they did. Our study shows that the believability of the experimental scenario was highly variable, contrary to Milgram’s claims and that it affected subjects’ behavior. Some subjects were convinced the learner was receiving painful shocks, others were sceptical and suspicious.”

OP Cobra_Head 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Yes I'd read that, but the Stanford prison experiment also showed how compliance can overcome personal reticence.

"Sceptical", is that really a reason to carry on?

In reply to Cobra_Head:

Just wondering about your readiness to comply, did any of his advice include "when I click my fingers..." 😁

If I had a dodgy belay where I couldn't get 100% confidence that the gear would hold, then for some mid-cliff belay spots (and obviously depending on the immediate rock topology) I think I'd want to be standing and belaying with a tightish rope so that any shock loading was minimised and so that my legs could absorb some of that shock load.

OP Cobra_Head 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Uncle Derek:

> >

>  Would that bother you?

Yes, probably, because I like to think I'm a free thinker, and maybe I was anyway, maybe I thought, "well it's just as safe, so why not humour him". It was only after the fact I pondered what had happened. Hopefully, if what he'd told me had been less safe I'd have told him thanks but, no thanks

> Glad you got out climbing, and got home safe and sound, and hopefully enjoyed it.

It was great, cheers, taking two people new to trad out and teaching then about gear and twin ropes, coming back alive and with all the gear I'd set out with; definitely a win.

OP Cobra_Head 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Michael Hood:

> Just wondering about your readiness to comply, did any of his advice include "when I click my fingers..." 😁

ha ha, woof!!

> If I had a dodgy belay where I couldn't get 100% confidence that the gear would hold, then for some mid-cliff belay spots (and obviously depending on the immediate rock topology) I think I'd want to be standing and belaying with a tightish rope so that any shock loading was minimised and so that my legs could absorb some of that shock load.

Ditto.

On a different note, I always have my belays tight to me, in my early days a mate fell off and I got yanked around a bit, it was on the second pitch and he went over the edge, not because of my slack belay, but because his gear ripped! It was really scary, but since then I'm always tight in.

I see a lot of people with slack in the belay stations, always scary to see for me, after that.

In reply to Cobra_Head:

> It was the complicity I was baffled by, and I think the Whippet got it right, it was just easier to comply.

> I'm now worried about my susceptibility to become a Nazi though now, and have I become a sheeple?

I suppose it would have been more in the spirit of the original Milgram experiments if he'd said, "Release the rope now. The responsibility is mine."

1
 henwardian 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

> Given this, and I have a healthy disrespect for authority, why did I comply?

My guess: Because your disrespect for authority is a conscious thing and your compliance with authority is an unconscious thing learned from birth onwards. You were busy concentrating on belaying someone up a route, so your attention was occupied, then this very anxious person rushes over and starts getting all worried for your safety, so now you are doubly occupied with trying to work out how to relate to this new person (notice how you forget people's names instantly when you meet them for the first time because your attention is really on measuring up who/what this person is/represents, not remembering random words that have no meaning). Your conscious brain was overloaded with dealing with other things in the situation, so your brain delegated the decision to sit down to your subconscious/semi-conscious level, so you complied.

I suspect that however much you like to think that you have a disrespect for rules and authority, you still do almost every single thing in your life in accordance with them. Everyone does. It's how society works so well*. As soon as a few people decide to drive on the other side of the road or sit and eat lunch on the railway line rather than the park bench or transfer business payments to their personal account rather than the business that invoiced you, etc. etc. Society falls apart very, very quickly.

It all works because the vast majority of people giving us instructions or dictating rules that we follow without a second thought are giving us healthy, helpful instructions.

Interestingly, I'd say that in 21st century UK, it is simply impossible to question/evaluate everything before deciding if you will conform - the average day simply has too many microdecisions that would take your brain too long to evaluate.

 fred99 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

There is another advantage to belaying standing up - being able to move to one side (or backwards) when your second comes up and finds the only place to top out is right where you're belaying.

The number of times I've (unsuccessfully) asked a leader to move because (s)he's sat in the way, and I've had to actually climb on top of them because of where they've plonked themselves is legion. Have you ever tried explaining that you're simply after the only handhold when you reach for the crack that's between his (or worse her !) legs.

Belayers need to take into account how the next person up is going to finish the route/pitch as well when setting up their belay.

 john arran 19 Apr 2022
In reply to midgen:

> Also, if your belay is low down close to you, isn't the pulley effect going to multiply the downward pull on the belayer?

It's the other way around: Loading a wide-angle anchor will magnify the load on the anchor, but in this scenario it's the load on the anchor that's fixed, so the downward load will be considerably reduced.

In any case, what I didn't appreciate earlier was that the OP was over 3m back from the edge at the time, in which case the downward force on the belayer would be so small as to make unstabling a firmly footed belayer almost impossible. In which case I'd go as far as to say the only genuinely good reasons to be seated instead of standing would be a) if the anchor is dodgy and you want to reduce the load on it by adding friction of belayer against ground, and b) if you're knackered after a hard lead and need a rest. 😀

1
OP Cobra_Head 19 Apr 2022
In reply to fred99:

> There is another advantage to belaying standing up - being able to move to one side (or backwards) when your second comes up and finds the only place to top out is right where you're belaying.

Exactly.

> The number of times I've (unsuccessfully) asked a leader to move because (s)he's sat in the way, and I've had to actually climb on top of them because of where they've plonked themselves is legion. Have you ever tried explaining that you're simply after the only handhold when you reach for the crack that's between his (or worse her !) legs.

This is, of course, what happened, which is more than likely why I ended up questioning it all.

Luckily it was two ladies (I use the term loosely, but don't tell them ha ha ) who needed to do the grappling.

> Belayers need to take into account how the next person up is going to finish the route/pitch as well when setting up their belay.

In reply to Cobra_Head:

I would always belay sitting down if possible - it is clearly safer and more comfortable. I would not want to belay standing up unless the anchors were close and above waist level - I really wouldn't want to take the force of any climber through my legs suddenly or for any length of time. If I saw someone belaying standing up without the anchor above them, I would certainly wince a little but would probably not say anything unless I thought there was real danger.

3
In reply to fred99:

> Have you ever tried explaining that you're simply after the only handhold when you reach for the crack that's between his (or worse her !) legs.

Reminds me of the time I led Evasor (VS 4c) with a young lady. The 2nd pitch (if you're unfamiliar with the route) involves bridging up an exposed groove. "Don't forget to look down at the great view between your legs" I holler down before realising what I've just said 🤣 - much hilarity ensued.

In reply to Cobra_Head:

>  I think most people could hold someone roughly their own weight.

Of course, but unless you are keeping your second on a continuously tight rope, it is going to be more (possibly quite a bit more) than the climbers' weight as they slump or fall a bit onto the rope. And if they are hanging on the rope for any length of time it is going to be at best pretty uncomfortable belaying.

I certainly wouldn't be very happy being belayed like this without a  good, high anchor. Not sure what I would say to a partner who did so now! 

4
 johncook 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

I always stand when belaying from the top if it is possible. Some of the reasons are; I can use my legs to help a struggling second to move up. I can use my legs to absorb some of the shock in the event of a short (the only kind when belaying from above) fall. I can move a small amount to keep the rope directly above the climber, I can see the climber. I have room to move my brake hand to lock off the rope. I can avoid the rope dragging on the crag edge, reducing wear on rope and rock.  I can reduce the risk of my backside sliding across the rock and dropping me over the edge. I can turn round and tell others to mind their own business. There are many other reasons for standing, mostly learned through experience as I once was a seated top belayer and had problems with it!

3
 DaveHK 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

Those saying they usually sit down to belay are clearly not winter climbers.  

3
In reply to DaveHK:

> Those saying they usually sit down to belay are clearly not winter climbers.  

Why? The same arguments apply.

 DaveHK 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Why? The same arguments apply.

Cold arse.

1
In reply to DaveHK:

> Cold arse.

A minor consideration amongst all the other discomforts of winter climbing. Anyway, sitting down for a bit is always nice. 

I am genuinely surprised at all the advocates of standing. Just seems like mechanical naivety to me.

3
 Duncan Bourne 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

Stanford got de-bunked too

In reply to Duncan Bourne:

But didn't Jerry Burger's much more recent Milgram-lite experiment also find very high levels of obedience to authority? Has this also been subject to debunking?

 Duncan Bourne 19 Apr 2022
In reply to Andy Clarke:

I hadn't seen that one. I was just going off what's being said about the old experiments but looking now it is quite interesting though naturally not without caveats.

https://www.psychologywizard.net/burger-ao1-ao3.html

Stopping the study at 150V may be invalid. Perhaps participants who were prepared to go to 165V would still have dropped out later. It is a huge assumption to say they would have continued to 450V. The “model refusal” group, in particular, might have had second thoughts as the shocks got stronger.
 

Burger’s study has problems with ecological validity just like Milgram. Giving electric shocks to a learner is artificial and doesn’t happen in real life. That means the study doesn’t really tell us about why people obeyed the Nazis. In fact, the situation is so bizarre it might not tell us anything about the participants' normal behaviour.

Burger did what was supposed to be impossible – replicating Migram ethically. He settles the debate about whether you would get Milgram’s same results in the 21st century – you would! However, he leaves a lot of questions, such as why empathy didn’t make people stop and why the “model refuser” had so little impact

OP Cobra_Head 20 Apr 2022
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I would always belay sitting down if possible - it is clearly safer and more comfortable.

I disagree, I don't see how it's safer, certainly not considering how far back the belay was,  and it certainly wasn't more comfortable. I was is a much less mobile position, I also couldn't give much assistance to my seconds, if they needed it.

I've hauled 16+ stone up on previous occasions.

OP Cobra_Head 20 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

I've noticed in some of my mates photos, the guy had a couple of jumar /ascenders clipped to his harness.

I reckon he was fresh of some course, now "teaching" others,  and  probably, applying some "rule" inappropriately, without looking at the actual set up, or who was being belayed.

Anyhow, cheers everyone for your input.

1
In reply to Andy Gamisou:

> Disagree.  If you have such concerns then, unless there is an imminent safety threat (which there doesn't appear to have been here) then you should wait until the belaying process is over.  Interrupting someone mid-belay with this sort of "concern" is an obvious safety issue itself.  

Totally agree. I had a situation indoors where someone approached my inexperienced belayer and told them they had the ATC the wrong way round.  They'd got the high friction side on the bottom but it was all perfectly safe for a top rope right up until they were persuaded to unclip the belay device, take the rope out and and flip it over.

 DaveHK 20 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

> I disagree, I don't see how it's safer, certainly not considering how far back the belay was,  and it certainly wasn't more comfortable. I was is a much less mobile position, I also couldn't give much assistance to my seconds, if they needed it.

I think it's one of those situational things that you can't apply a hard rule to. With low anchors or belaying a much heavier climber sitting makes sense. Outwith those circumstances it's really just personal preference and standing also has a number of advantages in some situations.

Post edited at 06:53
In reply to Cobra_Head:

> I disagree, I don't see how it's safer, certainly not considering how far back the belay was.

Why is it relevant how far back the belay is? It is only the angle to the belay from your waist which relevant. In fact for the same height of belay, the further back the dodgier; if I saw someone standing belaying at a crag edge with a belay miles back I have to admit that I would be thinking "numpty".

Post edited at 08:06
5
 DaveHK 20 Apr 2022
In reply to Robert Durran:

> if I saw someone standing belaying at a crag edge with a belay miles back I have to admit that I would be thinking "numpty".

I would be thinking that there was no belay closer to the edge and that they wanted to see what their second (and the rope) was doing.

Post edited at 08:23
1
In reply to DaveHK:

> I would be thinking that there was no belay closer to the edge and that they wanted to see what their second (and the rope) was doing.

Which they could do more safely by sitting at the edge.

In circumstances where the belayer can be confident that their partner won't end up hanging on the rope for any length of time and that they could happily hold them for a short time then there might be some conveniences in standing, but I would certainly maintain that the safe default is to be able to hold someone in a neutral position (ie sitting or standing with a high belay).

1
In reply to DaveHK:

There's also an element of judgement depending on how likely you think "assistance from the top" will be necessary.

Newbie second on first outdoor climb - I'd want to be as "unmovable" as possible awaiting the inevitable tight rope, etc.

Mate whom I normally second on harder routes - I'd be more relaxed, but still ensuring sufficient safety in place in case they did unexpectedly come off.

All comes down to, there is no "best practice", only "good practice".

OP Cobra_Head 20 Apr 2022
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Why is it relevant how far back the belay is? It is only the angle to the belay from your waist which relevant. In fact for the same height of belay, the further back the dodgier; if I saw someone standing belaying at a crag edge with a belay miles back I have to admit that I would be thinking "numpty".

Draw it out on a piece of paper, one with a belay in the distance and one close to the belayers feet, it should become obvious.

There were no closer belay points either, so what would you do then?

Post edited at 11:58
4
OP Cobra_Head 20 Apr 2022
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

> Totally agree. I had a situation indoors where someone approached my inexperienced belayer and told them they had the ATC the wrong way round.  They'd got the high friction side on the bottom but it was all perfectly safe for a top rope right up until they were persuaded to unclip the belay device, take the rope out and and flip it over.

Wow!

OP Cobra_Head 20 Apr 2022
In reply to DaveHK:

> I think it's one of those situational things that you can't apply a hard rule to. With low anchors or belaying a much heavier climber sitting makes sense. Outwith those circumstances it's really just personal preference and standing also has a number of advantages in some situations.

Agree, I think he might have been told about sitting, and applied that to every situation. He was putting rope protectors on his top rope where they really weren't needed too, still each to their own.

In reply to Cobra_Head:

> Draw it out on a piece of paper, one with a belay in the distance and one close to the belayers feet, it should become obvious.

I was assuming the anchor was above waist level. If you are talking about one below waist level or even at ground level, then standing is obviously even dodgier (but it would then be "less bad" if it were further away).

> There were no closer belay points either, so what would you do then?

Sit (whatever height the anchor is, if it is distant, the stretch in the rope will make tensioning it more of an issue, so the stability of sitting seems particularly sensible)

3
OP Cobra_Head 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I was assuming the anchor was above waist level. If you are talking about one below waist level or even at ground level, then standing is obviously even dodgier (but it would then be "less bad" if it were further away).

Why is it dodgy? Maybe I've just got very strong legs.

> Sit (whatever height the anchor is, if it is distant, the stretch in the rope will make tensioning it more of an issue, so the stability of sitting seems particularly sensible)

Well that would depend on how slack you were to begin with, I very much doubt, and it's never been an issue previously, that four lengths of rope, 3m long have created any significant rope stretch when loaded.

2
In reply to Cobra_Head:

> Why is it dodgy? Maybe I've just got very strong legs.

You wouldn’t see any potential issue with someone belaying stood up at the cliff edge with their anchors by their feet?

If you need to actually fall over before the anchors are weighted, it’s probably fair to call that “dodgy”. 

1
OP Cobra_Head 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Stuart Williams:

> You wouldn’t see any potential issue with someone belaying stood up at the cliff edge with their anchors by their feet?

> If you need to actually fall over before the anchors are weighted, it’s probably fair to call that “dodgy”. 

If you read the post it was about anchors being some distance back, we've already covered anchors at your feet and everyone, including me agreed this was a bad idea!

2
In reply to Cobra_Head:

The same principle applies regardless of distance. It just becomes progressively less dodgy the further back you are. A belay that isn’t in line with the direction of pull isn’t ideal, even if it might be acceptably safe in certain circumstances

2
 wbo2 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Cobra_Head:

Guide mode .  If the anchor is in the right place, all the advantages of standing up with none of the possible disadvantages.

Always nice to have a few options, and select the one that works best 

In reply to Cobra_Head:

> If you read the post it was about anchors being some distance back, we've already covered anchors at your feet and everyone, including me agreed this was a bad idea!

3 metres back doesn't sound much to me in this context.

In reply to wbo2:

> Guide mode .  If the anchor is in the right place, all the advantages of standing up with none of the possible disadvantages.

Yes, or HMS (munter hitch)

OP Cobra_Head 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Stuart Williams:

> A belay that isn’t in line with the direction of pull isn’t ideal, even if it might be acceptably safe in certain circumstances

It's often better and safer, in certain / many circumstances, but you may continue to sit, if you like.

OP Cobra_Head 21 Apr 2022
In reply to wbo2:

> Guide mode .  If the anchor is in the right place, all the advantages of standing up with none of the possible disadvantages.

> Always nice to have a few options, and select the one that works best 

Rope drag over the edge?

OP Cobra_Head 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Robert Durran:

> 3 metres back doesn't sound much to me in this context.

You're right it isn't much, especially to worry a lot about rope stretch.

In reply to Cobra_Head:

In what circumstances is it better to have a belay that isn’t aligned with the direction of the force being applied to it? Whether you are sitting or standing isn’t relevant to that issue.

Edit: to make the question a bit more concrete for you: with your 3m back standing belay, all other things being equal, would you prefer to place your anchors at ground level or above waist level to bring up a second? If the former, why do you think ground level anchors would be better?

Post edited at 13:29
In reply to Cobra_Head:

> You're right it isn't much, especially to worry a lot about rope stretch.

True, but I am surprised anyone would even consider standing with a ground level anchor that close. I was assuming anchors a long way back when thinking of rope stretch becoming a potential issue to worry about.

Post edited at 13:36
OP Cobra_Head 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Stuart Williams:

> In what circumstances is it better to have a belay that isn’t aligned with the direction of the force being applied to it? Whether you are sitting or standing isn’t relevant to that issue.

Read the thread, people have given plenty of valid reasons.

> Edit: to make the question a bit more concrete for you: with your 3m back standing belay, all other things being equal, would you prefer to place your anchors at ground level or above waist level to bring up a second? If the former, why do you think ground level anchors would be better?

I don't think it would be better, but sometimes that's all there is, so it's a trade off, on what you want to achieve, and what you can manage safely. I've done this plenty of times, evidently others have reading the thread, OK so there's more force on your legs, but it depends on who's on the other end of the rope. Weigh this up against being able to communicate or assist someone who hasn't been out side much and there's a clear winner.

You sound like you think only above waist height belaying is acceptable, in every instance, what if it's not available?

OP Cobra_Head 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Robert Durran:

> True, but I am surprised anyone would even consider standing with a ground level anchor that close. I was assuming anchors a long way back when thinking of rope stretch becoming a potential issue to worry about.

You only need to be one meter away to half the forces in your legs, like I said I might have strong legs, I don't know, I don't think I do (read the thread, others are happy doing the same), but I do know my limitations and have had them tested on a number of occasions, hauling people past a crux, holding them to get gear out, etc.

1
In reply to Cobra_Head:

> You sound like you think only above waist height belaying is acceptable, in every instance, what if it's not available?

You sit............

In reply to Cobra_Head:

> You only need to be one meter away to half the forces in your legs.

Eh? You are not going to reduce the forces in your legs unless the anchor is above waist level (I would have thought that was obvious!)

In fact if the anchor is below waist level and is loaded you will increase the forces in your legs.

Another argument against an anchor below waist level is that if you are pulled downwards, you will also be pulled towards the crag edge (whereas you will be pulled away from it if the anchor is above waist level).

There is absolutely nothing to be recommended in any anchor below waist level.

Post edited at 14:29
In reply to Cobra_Head:

> I don't think it would be better

That wasn’t so hard was it? You asked in what way might it be dodgy, and you’ve answered your own question by acknowledging that it’sa compromise and when there is a choice you would do things slightly differently.

I don’t think there is only one acceptable way of belaying, which is why I said “all other things being equal”. And obviously if a stance only allows one way of belaying then that is what you go with - that’s a self-evidently daft question for you to ask. Doesn’t mean that one option is the perfect belay though does it?

In reply to Stuart Williams:

> In what circumstances is it better to have a belay that isn’t aligned with the direction of the force being applied to it? Whether you are sitting or standing isn’t relevant to that issue.

Yes, I think it is pretty basic stuff that the anchor direction and the expected direction of pull should, as close as is possible, be aligned, and, if that is not possible, then the belayer's stance should be as solid as possible so that they can passively redirect the force without, as far as is possible, actively having to apply force through their legs or any other part of their body. I'm not sure I'd be too happy climbing with someone who didn't get this.

Post edited at 14:28
OP Cobra_Head 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Eh? You are not going to reduce the forces in your legs unless the anchor is above waist level (I would have thought that was obvious!)

That might be why you think you need to sit. check the forces from the belay at your feet, and some way back.

> There is absolutely nothing to be recommended in any anchor below waist level.

OK, nice one!

You can argue with everyone else whose suggested why it might be better than sitting on your arse all the time. Read the thread there are plenty of valid reasons for not sitting down all the time, EVEN given the lack of waist level belay points. I'm not, nor have I said that standing is the only way to go, it depends on the circumstances and who you are belaying.

I'm out.

Thanks everyone for contributing.

Post edited at 17:01
2
In reply to Cobra_Head:

> That might be why you think you need to sit. check the forces from the belay at your feet, and some way back.

A rope going downward from your waist can ONLY be pulling downwards on you (just like the rope going down to the dangling climber).

> You can argue with everyone else whose suggested why it might be better than sitting on your arse all the time. Read the thread there are plenty of valid reasons for not sitting down all the time, EVEN given the lack of waist level belay points. I'm not, nor have I said that standing is the only way to go, it depends on the circumstances and who you are belaying.

I have already said that there may be some small conveniences to standing in some situations, but I simply think that they are outweighed by the obvious disadvantages in almost all circumstances when the anchors do not align with the direction of pull when standing. Standing as a default is certainly very dodgy.


New Topic
This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
Loading Notifications...