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Belaying with twin ropes and a Munter hitch

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Hi all,

thanks to me dropping my belay plate on the 1st pitch of a multi pitch and having to belay the rest of the day using a Munter hitch, I wondered if I was doing it in an unsafe / incorrect way, 

I used a single DMM Boa with both Munter hitches on that, it was a bit of a faff lead belaying if paying out and taking in at the same time as the knots would flip over each other, I don’t think it was particularly unsafe ( please correct me if I am wrong here). But I was wondering if I should have used a screwgate for each rope instead?

let’s hear your thoughts UKC.

 John Kelly 04 May 2022
In reply to Kryank:

I think it's fine, worth considering sharing the plate. 

Leader is belayed on the plate, second is brought up on the munter - munter is a bit numb compared to plate (for me)

Post edited at 07:27
 peppermill 04 May 2022
In reply to John Kelly:

> I think it's fine, worth considering sharing the plate. 

> Leader is belayed on the plate, second is brought up on the munter - munter is a bit numb compared to plate (for me)

Funnily enough in a similar scenario at the weekend.

Basically this, happy to be corrected but you get max braking from an italian hitch when the ropes are near parallel ie belaying someone from above. 

 PaulJepson 04 May 2022
In reply to Kryank:

When my partner forgot their belay plate I used a separate krab for each rope. Seemed to work okay, even with my small edilrid lockers. 

 nikoid 04 May 2022
In reply to Kryank:

Yes, I think two separate krabs is the way to go. See Andy Kirkpatrick's Multipitchclimbing.com. Topic 6. 

 ExiledScot 04 May 2022
In reply to Kryank:

I'd just body belay the 2nd up, unless you're likely to have to hold multiple falls. Less kinks and faff. Who ever belays the leader has the one remaining device between you. 

19
In reply to ExiledScot:

I agree, but who knows how to waist belay these days? 

8
 AlanLittle 04 May 2022
In reply to Kryank:

TWIN rope technique, with both ropes used together and both in a single hitch, works absolutely fine. 

I can certainly see how HALF rope management with separate hitches on one krab would be a nightmare.

4
 wbo2 04 May 2022
In reply to ExiledScot:

I'd consider it (body belay) , but depends on the route, quality of the stance, etc etc etc

In reply to AlanLittle:

Apologies I did mean Half ropes. Not Twin. 

 Rick Graham 04 May 2022
In reply to wbo2:

> I'd consider it (body belay) , but depends on the route, quality of the stance, etc etc etc

I remember when the debate was about waist with or without an arm wrap and shoulder belaying

And to Andy, every climber should know the options , never run out of options on the hill.

 Jamie Wakeham 04 May 2022
In reply to Kryank:

I'd certainly switch so that the second had the plate and the leader was using an Italian hitch at the first opportunity.  The second is likely to have to hold grater forces in the case of a fall, and (as Peppermill said) the Italian has greatest holding power with both strands parallel.  That feels a bit more comfortable for the leader looking down the pitch than a second looking up.

Two krabs or one?  Both options work.  If the ropes were running similar paths and I had a big krab (like a Boa) I'd probably put both ropes onto it.  And as long as the ropes were really quite parallel, I'd tie one big Italian hitch in both ropes rather than two hitches side-by-side.

But if the ropes had a fair bit of asymmetry (this will be the case for leading, as well as for bringing up a second if the ropes follow quite different paths) then you're probably better off on two small krabs.  As you found, having one rope flipping at a time is awkward.

 ExiledScot 04 May 2022
In reply to wbo2:

Of course, there are variables, a hanging belay on a awkward traversing E3 may not work so well, but in most cases you'd get away with a body belay, twin ropes and a Italian hitch on a multi pitch route sounds like a spaghetti making exercise. 

4
 IanMcC 04 May 2022
In reply to Kryank:

I used two Italian hitches on separate karabiners to bring up two seconds who were not leading through on an easy multipitch in the Dolomites. The system worked safely and well, but by the time I reached the top pitch my hands were so cramped up with all the rope-hauling I could hardly climb!

I later got a plaquette magique and would  now use a Reverso.

 ExiledScot 04 May 2022
In reply to Rick Graham:

> And to Andy, every climber should know the options , never run out of options on the hill.

Indeed, with 2 carabiners you could also do the self locking garda knot( other names exist), although it's not releasable so best for easy lines or reliable seconds. It works just like a basic plate. 

1
 bpmclimb 04 May 2022
In reply to Kryank:

On occasion I've brought up a second using Italian hitches on two separate crabs, with one crab extended down a little so that the hitches are away from each other - not necessary, but only takes a moment to arrange, and does keep things visually simple and pretty much guarantees smooth running. 

 Brown 04 May 2022
In reply to AlanLittle:

I think you overstate the challenge of using half rope techniques with a single hitch.

Due to my chronic disorganisation I have over the years used this technique quite a lot. Provided you keep the hitch fairly loose it's possible to pay out and take in ropes at different rates quite easily.

Once you take tight it's a nightmare! 

Used this on big routes such as Positron after we both left our belay plates in the car. It focuses the mind onto not falling off!

 jkarran 04 May 2022
In reply to Kryank:

Either option works, I'd likely use on krab because I rarely carried spare screwgates.

Where partners have comparable familiarity with the options the best bet is the belayer protecting the leader gets the choice of the remaining device or hitches.

jk

In reply to IanMcC:

> I used two Italian hitches on separate karabiners to bring up two seconds who were not leading through on an easy multipitch in the Dolomites. The system worked safely and well, but by the time I reached the top pitch my hands were so cramped up with all the rope-hauling I could hardly climb!

Wondering how many pitches you did that for. Many years ago we did the North Ridge of Piz Badile. Used single rope and Italian hitch with in situ pegs and bolts and direct belay. The kinks on the rope after a while were an absolute nightmare! Wondering still if in such a situation it is possible to form the hitch alternately formed as a mirror image so the kinks are always undone on the next pitch. Not that I’ll be needing such things any more …..

 IanMcC 04 May 2022
 fred99 04 May 2022
In reply to Kryank:

It might be worth carrying a plaquette/guide plate as a back up in future. Said plate does make abseiling easier (In my opinion anyway), and would be a great help in case of an "incident". They don't weigh much.

In reply to Andy Long:

> I agree, but who knows how to waist belay these days? 

Or you could phrase that: How many people who ask about munters will know how to waist belay

In reply to Kryank:

Thanks for the comments so far, I get the comments about swapping the plate so that the lead belayer always uses it. But if you are in a position where you have to I just wanted to get a feel for what people thought was best practice for lead belaying using half ropes and Munter hitches. 
 

thanks as always for the advice so far. 

In reply to Kryank:

Have always just put both strands into 1 krab. You could also just switch to using twin rope technique instead of half and this sorts your rooe management issues as it is certainly more difficult to use half rope technique. With the caveat that this will place more load on the top piece in the event of a fall. Despite the bad rep friction hitches get there are actually advantages to using them. 1) they have the highest holding power of all normal methods. This makes them great for iced or wet ropes.

2) despite the extra holding power they actually cause less rope wear. This was studied by the UIAA.

3) they work when your ropes are frozen into a stiff cable, for example when they have a poor dry coat and been doused in water and then frozen. I've had this happen when cascade climbing.

4) they are the lightestand cheapest belay device on the market, all bar a body belay.

If you keep the ropes parallel, you will see minimal twist in the rope.

 henwardian 04 May 2022
In reply to John Kelly:

> I think it's fine, worth considering sharing the plate. 

> Leader is belayed on the plate, second is brought up on the munter - munter is a bit numb compared to plate (for me)

Great plan in theory.

BUT

Do you really want to share your plate with someone who already dropped half of the party's plates into oblivion?! :'D

 jimtitt 04 May 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

Exactly, both work fine, I've done the one hitch two ropes belaying as halves and as long as you keep it all really loose it doesn't twist like people think and isn't much worse than a grabby Sticht plate. Push the rope through, not pull! And hold the strands so they don't twist before they get into the hitch, it's just technique.

 peppermill 04 May 2022
In reply to henwardian:

> Great plan in theory.

> BUT

> Do you really want to share your plate with someone who already dropped half of the party's plates into oblivion?! :'D

I'm a wimp so if I'm leading a pitch close to what I think I'm capable of at the time then 100% yes!!

In reply to peppermill:

Your reply assumes that munter/Italian hitches aren't so good at catching falls or that they are second best for safety. I'd dispute both those points

 peppermill 04 May 2022
In reply to CantClimbTom:

> Your reply assumes that munter/Italian hitches aren't so good at catching falls or that they are second best for safety. I'd dispute both those points

I also disclosed that I am a wimp! Try and dispute that!

 At the risk of derailing the thread along the lines of the "GriGris are deadly" bollox of the other week I would rather my second was using a device they use all the time and are slick with rather than a technique which is perfectly good but they most likely haven't used in years.

Post edited at 17:23
 Jamie Wakeham 04 May 2022
In reply to CantClimbTom:

Depends on the belayer.  If they've only ever used a plate or assisted friction device, then they may not be quite so trustworthy with an Italian hitch because the brake position is different.

 peppermill 04 May 2022
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

> Depends on the belayer.  If they've only ever used a plate or assisted friction device, then they may not be quite so trustworthy with an Italian hitch because the brake position is different.

Agreed!

In reply to peppermill:

Well, with GriGris... you'd definitely need 2 separate krabs for half ropes

Edit: and it's true  GriGris are deadly!

If they've fallen far enough they could go clean through a helmet

Post edited at 17:32
1
 peppermill 04 May 2022
In reply to CantClimbTom:

> Well, with GriGris... you'd definitely need 2 separate krabs for half ropes

> Edit: and it's true  GriGris are deadly!

> If they've fallen far enough they could go clean through a helmet

Pffft. 

Why would you be wearing a helmet sport climbing? 

***TPS is low end HVS at the most and would benefit from grid bolting, campervans in Scotland should be taxed off the road and Gogarth is sh!t***

;p

In reply to Kryank:

I don't think that the brake position is something to worry about here. An Italian hitch should provide plenty of braking force with any hand position. One of the European belaying styles is an Italian directly off the anchor, and with this technique the strands are only parallel in a factor 2 fall. In all other falls they would be like an ATC.

In reply to Rick Graham:

> And to Andy, every climber should know the options , never run out of options on the hill.

I couldn't agree more, I was making a rhetorical point. I've used most of the methods mentioned here at one time or another, but by far the biggest runnerless leader falls I ever held  were on waist belays, one of them being that big bastard Roger Baxter-Jones.

 wbo2 06 May 2022
In reply to peppermill:

> I would rather my second was using a device they use all the time and are slick with rather than a technique which is perfectly good but they most likely haven't used in years.

Of course, but we are dealing with the theoretical but common scenario that someone's dropped the belay device so someone is going to have to do something unusual at some point.  The person leading the pitch gets belayed with a device - the person following will be on a Munter hitch.  And there's nothing wrong with that.

 peppermill 07 May 2022
In reply to wbo2:

Read the rest ofmy replies on the thread to put that particular reply in context!

We're in agreement!

1
 Rick Graham 07 May 2022
In reply to Andy Long:

> I couldn't agree more, I was making a rhetorical point. I've used most of the methods mentioned here at one time or another, but by far the biggest runnerless leader falls I ever held  were on waist belays, one of them being that big bastard Roger Baxter-Jones.

I thought you would agree but I was adding to your post rather than to you directly.

Top marks for holding a factor 2 fall on your waist belay. The biggest I held was a a 10m factor 0.5 , but it was on a single 9mm wearing only a t shirt, surprisingly easy, no burns.

Sadly both falls were of folk no longer with us due to mountain  accidents.

In reply to Rick Graham:

Probably of academic  interest only, but Tarbuck's booklet on the waist belay assumed that runnerless falls would  be held OK using a waist belay.  Nowadays I think at least the DAV assumes that severe falls are hard to hold on tube devices. 

https://verticalarchaeology.com/2017/07/27/1950-viking-rope-catalog (one can click on the first picture on the screen and read the entire booklet inc pages 18 and 19).

 Rick Graham 08 May 2022
In reply to oldie:

If there is anybody you don't need the extol the virtues of the Tarbuck Knot to its me

So useful for many jobs except climbing nowadays.

I would add that the DAV are probably concerned more about modern tube devices, the original plates seemed to have massive holding power together with a bit sticky in use.

BD went from original ATC  to ATC xp, slick handling but dynamic holding a big fall to slick (ish) with excellent holding power, still my favoured device.

In reply to peppermill:

>  I would rather my second was using a device they use all the time and are slick with rather than a technique which is perfectly good but they most likely haven't used in years.

Surely the solution to that is to practice the technique regularly? I'd argue that the ability to tie and use an Italian hitch is a basic essential skill for a self-reliant climbing team, and like any other skill it needs regular attention to keep it familiar and available.

I went through a phase of belaying my seconds on grit with an Italian hitch direct on the belay. It works surprisingly well, and it doesn't twist the rope if you're not lowering them or abbing on it.

​​

 peppermill 08 May 2022
In reply to tehmarks:

> >  I would rather my second was using a device they use all the time and are slick with rather than a technique which is perfectly good but they most likely haven't used in years.

> Surely the solution to that is to practice the technique regularly? I'd argue that the ability to tie and use an Italian hitch is a basic essential skill for a self-reliant climbing team, and like any other skill it needs regular attention to keep it familiar and available.

Of course, like anything skills atrophy is a problem. But how many people do? 

 nz Cragrat 08 May 2022
In reply to peppermill:

While thats true if you look at some of the stuff eg from ENSA on fixed point belaying, belaying a leader off the anchor with an Italian it seems to hold ok 

youtube.com/watch?v=eqZQnCGl24A&


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