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/ Falling Rocks/ Locking belay devices sport /trad?

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Fakey Rocks - on 19 Jun 2018

Is there an assisted locking belay device that can be recommended for trad?

Just to be clear, I'm specifically referring to assisted locking devices, (active... with moving parts, and passive type.... no moving parts) which also seem to get called assisted braking devices. However I think of  assisted locking devices as Matik, Smart, Lifeguard, Vergo, Click up, Grigris, Cinch, Megajul /Jul2, Eddy , the new Revo, and Atc Pilot. etc, none of which do much braking, it's more of an instant lock up!..but when lowering off they do allow assisted braking. Many of these are just for single ropes anyway, so not much use on alot of trad routes. Except the Megajul, micro Jul, and Smart Alpine. 
( side note,... I think "assisted braking" should be used to refer to trad type non locking tuber devices with gripping teeth, Atc Xp, Mantis, Pivot, Verso, Reverso, VC, Proguide etc.. but assisted braking is now in common use to refer to the assisted lockers too.) 

I'm currently concerned about the risk of partners belaying being smacked on the head and going dizzy or unconscious, and then letting go of the rope. I mainly do sport climbing, I wear a helmet of sorts (skateboard... I need to upgrade, I know! ), and use an assisted locking belay device,  so it's less likely to happen to me whilst belaying , but whilst many sport climbers use assisted locking devices to belay, many also still use trad tube devices, that would not hold you if they went dizzy or unconscious after a rock hit them, and their grip went loose or they let go of the rope. 

Three times since I restarted climbing 2 years ago, mainly sport climbing, large enough pieces of rock have been pulled off well established sport routes on limestone, at Portland and Cheddar, when I was belaying, to cause concussion or worse if they had hit me. 

The first, a big piece that spilt into 2 dinner plate size fragments with plenty of sharp edges, from 20t up, ..i had just by chance decided to step in before it all came off so it missed me and the rope. Another time a piece was the size of a brick, I have it on my table, weighs just over 2kg (2.1kg, brick type with 3 holes in weighs about 2.4kg), went way to the side of me from 40ft up,  the 3rd time was 2 half brick sizes, went to the side again, from 20ft up. 

Often we (can)  stand to the side belaying on sport routes anyway, but which side breaking rock will fly to is not easy to know or predict, so there is often no ideal safe belay place. 

With trad climbing this kind of occurrence is probably more common, and whilst more trad climbers wear helmets than sports climbers do, do any trad climbers use assisted locking belay devices?

I do some trad climbing now and then, maybe there'll be more soon, and would like to add the safety of an assisted locking belay device to the system, for both myself whilst belaying, but also whilst being belayed.

Can / Should such devices be used for trad?

My understanding is that higher forces will be applied to gear when holding a fall with an assisted locking belay device, so you are more likely to get gear ripping. If you knew the trad route has bomb proof gear, it might not matter, but even lower grade trad routes can involve sketchy gear placements, or gear that could be placed well but maybe wasn't as you had to rush it!  With single pitch trad climbs one could make catching the fall more dynamic by the belayer giving a little jump, although getting the timing of this right can take some practice and be hard to get right, and weight differentials might mean it is not advisable. 

Many trad climbing situations probably won't allow any kind of jump style dynamic belaying anyway, if using an assisted locking device, for example hanging belays on multi pitch, and sea cliffs. 

Trad climbing can also have pegs in positions of unknown strength, wires that go in only half way, micro wires that can't withstand much force, micro cams too, or more fragile rock, or short pitches with little rope stretch to take up fall energy, so in these situations i guess it would be a very poor choice to use a locking belay device? 

But there are assisted locking belay devices with twin slots, eg Mammut Smart Alpine, and Edelrid Megajul / Micro Jul, which seem to be aimed at Alpine, but could be used for trad climbing too?

So on longer pitches, isn't there enough rope stretch to make a fall dynamic enough anyway? And if the gear is bomber it would be ok to use an assisted locking device too? 

Would you want to use them for belaying on some trad routes, as your leading partner could then be belayed more safely, in the event that you the belayer were hit by a falling rock?

Would you want your belayer to use one as often as possible for trad climbing, and always for sport ? 

1
tmawer - on 19 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

You may be overthinking things a bit? I don't think there is a perfect answer suited to every situation. I have been using the megaJul for trad and a click up for sport, though as 2 megajul's have broken on me whilst abseiling I may try the smart alpine next. I do think it's worth having assisted/locking belay device's for the reasons you give. 

d_b on 19 Jun 2018
In reply to tmawer:

What part of it broke?

I think I would crap myself if any of my gear failed while I was on ab, and assuming I survived the experience I certainly wouldn't give it a chance to happen twice!

jimtitt - on 19 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

With the exception of the Alpine Up they are all appalling to use with half-rope technique, for alpine climbing with twin ropes they work (to a certain extent) but offer neither the braking power or versatility of a conventional plate.

My belayer becoming incapacitated AND myself falling at the same time on a trad route is generally the least of my worries

bedspring on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

>

> With trad climbing this kind of occurrence is probably more common, and whilst more trad climbers wear helmets than sports climbers do, do any trad climbers use assisted locking belay devices?

>

 

You reckon. I think many sports climbers think this and are deluding themselves. Sports climbing seems to be often on limestone and most of the sports crags I go to are littered with stone around the base, its coming from somewhere.

Many a time I have seen someone put a helmet onto climb, then take it off to belay, or better still sit at the foot of the crag having butties.

In a sport situation if there is one helmet, I would give it to the belayer.

I do not think I have ever seen anyone climbing trad using a self locking device.  I wonder but do not know if trad gear would be more likely to rip if using a self locker, just a feeling.

Jon Greengrass on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

Your belayer can move out of the way of falling rocks your rope can not. I would be much more concerned about having my rope cut rather than the type of device my partner was using.

You don't mention carrying the gear needed to perform a self rescue with an incapacitated belayer, do you know how?

tmawer - on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to d_b:

The thumb loop came away from the body both times. This could have been very awkward if on a free hanging abseil at the time! 

1
Pay Attention - on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

I would use a simple tuber belay device. 

I'd have enough movement at the belay to move around if there was rockfall.

I'd stand to one side so there's less chance of direct fall from the climber.

 

This is what I do when ice climbing where there is a high risk of large blocks of ice coming down.  Never been hit/ incapacitated by a falling block / leader.

What do I need to do to improve?

Mark Kemball - on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

For trad, double ropes, when climbing with my son (when he was much younger and smaller), I got him to belay me using an "Alpine Up" - the double rope version of the click up. It seemed to work fine, that said, I did not take any falls.

Dell on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to tmawer:

> The thumb loop came away from the body both times. This could have been very awkward if on a free hanging abseil at the time! 

Were these purchased shortly after the megajul was released?   They had problems with early batches but supposedly the problem has been rectified. 

Mark Kemball - on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

 

> My understanding is that higher forces will be applied to gear when holding a fall with an assisted locking belay device, so you are more likely to get gear ripping. If you knew the trad route has bomb proof gear, it might not matter, but even lower grade trad routes can involve sketchy gear placements, or gear that could be placed well but maybe wasn't as you had to rush it!  With single pitch trad climbs one could make catching the fall more dynamic by the belayer giving a little jump, although getting the timing of this right can take some practice and be hard to get right, and weight differentials might mean it is not advisable. 

> Many trad climbing situations probably won't allow any kind of jump style dynamic belaying anyway, if using an assisted locking device, for example hanging belays on multi pitch, and sea cliffs. 

I have never deliberately used any type of dynamic belaying when trad climbing. On single pitch, particularly short routes, my concern is more about stopping the leader hitting the ground when the protection is fairly low, so I try to sit down as they fall, thereby effectively taking in a metre or so of rope. On sea cliffs or multipitch stances, the belay should be tied in, making dynamic belaying almost impossible.

 

 

 

1
tmawer - on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to Dell:

The first broke in June 2016 and was replaced in that month and this one broke around April this year. I have been in contact with Edelrid who acknowledged some problems with some batches from 2014/15 which may account for the first one but probably not the second. I think they are suggesting I may have not been using it correctly?

1
trish1968 - on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

I use the Alpine Up for double ropes I think it's really good. I bought it for winter climbing as the ice lines are scarily thin and I felt I could keep my leader safer with the up especially when your dodging falling ice. I am so impressed with it i've bought the single rope version for sport climbing.

 

Hooo - on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

I use a Megajul for trad, mainly because it would improve the chances of me holding a fall if I was incapacitated. I mostly climb on limestone, so dodging falling rocks is part of a normal climbing day. If the leader was to break a hold and fall, it's quite likely they would drop the hold on me. So I think a device that has at least some chance of holding a fall if I was to let go sounds like a good idea.

Hooo - on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to tmawer:

I'm confused how you broke the thumb loop while abseiling? The loop is just sitting there with no tension on it at all when configured for abseil.

Post edited at 17:08
tmawer - on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to Hooo:

You use the loop, or a small carabiner through the hole, to tilt and lower when abseiling in locking mode.... At least that's what I did? 

Hooo - on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to tmawer:

Ah. I tried abseiling in locking mode once and found it absolutely horrible. I always turn it round to non-locking and use a Prussik. IIRC Edelrid don't recommend using locking mode for abseiling.

rgold - on 20 Jun 2018

> I do not think I have ever seen anyone climbing trad using a self locking device.  I wonder but do not know if trad gear would be more likely to rip if using a self locker, just a feeling.

I've used the Alpine Up with half ropes (8.5mm) for trad climbing for several years.  Caught a bunch of falls, none of them very big.  No gear pulled.

The difference between the very quick locking of the assisted lockers and the dynamic slip of a belay plate doesn't come into play until the combination of high fall factor and low system friction  is quite substantial, and then there is little question that the locking devices impose higher loads on the gear than tubes or Munter hitches. Sport climbing soft-catch methods might help a little, but are not necessarily available in the trad context.  So there is a trade-off, almost impossible to evaluate in the field, between maintaining control and loading the gear.

The Alpine Up can be switched over to a non-locking mode by moving the attaching carabiner from one location to another.  If the leader can get safe for a few seconds, this can be done in mid-lead.  I've actually done this I think twice when the leader's protection consisted of tiny brassies and some ballnuts, and I really wanted the rope to slip a bit through the belay device.  But the non-locking mode of the Alpine Up provides barely adequate friction reminiscent of the original (I thought terrible) Petzl belay devices, so the price for the switch could be a real control problem.  I always belay with gloves anyway, and in that low-friction mode set up to brake two-handed with the brake strand against my hip, but in neither case was I tested.

 

bedspring on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to rgold:

Thank you for that answer.  Most informative.

In hindsight I have seen the Alpine Up, a bloke I know who takes his 12 year old climbing, I am pretty sure he uses one.

TobyA on 20 Jun 2018
In reply to Hooo:

Oddly despite reading every one else with a megajul hating it, I think the locking way of abbing is great! You just need a spare krab that fits the nose-beak thingy well.

Still not sure how the other chap broke the thumb loop abbing though as I don't think it is involved either way 

routrax - on 21 Jun 2018
In reply to Hooo:

 

> Ah. I tried abseiling in locking mode once and found it absolutely horrible. I always turn it round to non-locking and use a Prussik. IIRC Edelrid don't recommend using locking mode for abseiling.

+1, abseiling in locking mode is terrifying! 

springfall2008 - on 21 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

A read a review of the Apline Up:

"The instructions state that when used with anything other than bolts, the device should be operated in 'dynamic mode' where it will not auto-lock. I think that most users will use their own judgment as to whether it is safe to use the device in click-up mode - I personally would have no worries about doing so where the protection is sound, there is plenty of stretch in the ropes, and the belayer isn't fixed to the spot."

But I guess that's the reason why people don't use auto-locking devices for Trad.

troybison - on 21 Jun 2018
In reply to routrax:

I abseil in locking mode - found it awkward at 1st (a bit sticky) - then tried used a small carabiner in the little hole to tilt & found that much smoother. Rope thickness/slickness & the shape of the locking carabiner can make a difference as to how smoothly it runs though.

Fakey Rocks - on 22 Jun 2018
In reply to jimtitt:

> With the exception of the Alpine Up they are all appalling to use with half-rope technique, for alpine climbing with twin ropes they work (to a certain extent) but offer neither the braking power or versatility of a conventional plate.

Ah! The Alpine Up, is for double ropes too, one I missed, not to be confused with the Click Up which is for a single rope, both made by CT. Cheers for mentioning it. Will have to look into it, and see you have tested it too...

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.mountainproject.com/forum/topic/109687295/climbing-technologies-alpine-up-review&ved=2ahUKEwiyipjr1-bbAhVmJMAKHWPDA2UQFjAOegQIAhAB&usg=AOvVaw1iNZhOiiW6QmgbTNwKKiOn

Seems like it's not great in the dynamic mode they advise you use it in for trad or ice, due to being a bit slippy, but I would try it in the assisted locking mode for some trad then.

> My belayer becoming incapacitated AND myself falling at the same time on a trad route is generally the least of my worries

Perhaps accident stats could reveal how much this is something to worry about, but I appreciate you have loads of experience too... Not everyone's experience is the same though.

If your belayer became incapacitated due to a falling rock, ( not involving you breaking a hold or falling) , you might then be able to down climb to last gear and self rescue, but you probably won't be able to pull any rope to climb up, and might not be able to place any more gear, and you probably wouldn't want to fall off. It would all be pretty worrying. If the reason your belayer was hit by a rock and serously hurt, is because you broke a hold ( and some if it hit the belayer) and that  breakage also caused you to fall, that might be more than worrying!

 

Fakey Rocks - on 22 Jun 2018
In reply to Jon Greengrass:

> Your belayer can move out of the way of falling rocks your rope can not. I would be much more concerned about having my rope cut rather than the type of device my partner was using.

> You don't mention carrying the gear needed to perform a self rescue with an incapacitated belayer, do you know how?

Sometimes yes, your belayer can move. We can't do anything about the risk of a falling rock cutting a rope, but we can about getting concussed when belaying and letting go of the rope, by using an assisted locking belay device.

No, I need to learn and practice self rescue. So far I just know how to prussik (and have practiced a little, including negotiating a bit of overhang)  and carry 2 when on trad.

Post edited at 11:19
Fakey Rocks - on 22 Jun 2018
In reply to troybison:

I have a megajul and found it ok ish to ab in upside down tuber mode, but awful in locking mode, even with a levering crab attached to the hole. Worse still was if you wanted to try jug back up the rope a bit, in either mode, very hard to do. 

Post edited at 11:44
Fakey Rocks - on 22 Jun 2018
In reply to Pay Attention:

 

> I would use a simple tuber belay device. 

> I'd have enough movement at the belay to move around if there was rockfall.

Often not with trad multi pitch. Even when there is loads of room, even ground, not wearing belay specs, it happens so fast your attempt to dodge might not do it.

> I'd stand to one side so there's less chance of direct fall from the climber.

Wasn't thinking about being hit by the climber, but sometimes that's a risk too, standing to side easy way to avoid that.

If you mean a hold fall from the climber, they often fly to the side, especially breaking layaways.

> This is what I do when ice climbing where there is a high risk of large blocks of ice coming down.  Never been hit/ incapacitated by a falling block / leader.

> What do I need to do to improve?

 

Post edited at 11:31
Fakey Rocks - on 22 Jun 2018
In reply to trish1968:

> I use the Alpine Up for double ropes I think it's really good. I bought it for winter climbing as the ice lines are scarily thin and I felt I could keep my leader safer with the up especially when your dodging falling ice. I am so impressed with it i've bought the single rope version for sport climbing.

But I assume you are using it in dynamic mode then... I' m sure you wouldn't want to increase forces on ice gear by using any device in a locking mode, but I don't ice climb, so may be wrong.

I know in many trad rock situations, more serious routes, marginal gear, I also wouldn't want to belay / be belayed by such a device. But marginal placements occur on lower grades too... Be nice if there was some kit that could enable switching from dynamic to assisted locking without having to unclip, according to what gear the leader had placed , if the belayer could know, but perhaps I really am overtinking it now. What about a normal trad thing an an edelrid ohm thing to back it up, so there can be a bit of dynamic slip with a locking back up that stops after say 2m have slipped?

Post edited at 11:43
krikoman - on 22 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

I'd change my climbing partner, location, or both.

Either that our you're very unlucky.

I've very rarely been witness to any rock falls, once in the Wye valley a large 26" CRT sized lump came crashing through the trees but we think that was some idiots shoving stuff of the top. Other times, and while I realise this isn't always possible, I have warning shouts and huddled into the rock face to hide.

As said above I'd be more worried about the rope being cut than my mate being knackers and me plummeting down.  Even if they did get hit, it doesn't follow that you're falling, you might have to escape the belay, if they are out of it, but it's not necessarily so that you both have issues.

 

Fakey Rocks - on 22 Jun 2018
In reply to krikoman:

> I'd change my climbing partner, location, or both.

Not really partner or location related is it...any partner or climber can break a hold, anywhere, but probably more common with limestone, and I'm not giving that up. Every year micro cracks get prized a bit more by ice. Holds will sometimes be breakable. Just thinking if trad belaying,  can be made a bit safer.

 

krikoman - on 22 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

> Not really partner or location related is it...any partner or climber can break a hold, anywhere, but probably more common with limestone, and I'm not giving that up. Every year micro cracks get prized a bit more by ice. Holds will sometimes be breakable. Just thinking if trad belaying,  can be made a bit safer.


No you're totally right, as someone who hardly ever wears a helmet, I'm probably the last person to give any advice.

But you can go to great lengths to make things safer, while losing the enjoyment you get from them, either by introducing more hassle and faff into what you're doing. But what might seem to be safer isn't always, incorporating more options, allows for more chances of getting things wrong. Keeping things simple and what people already know has a lot going for it.

I think you could convince yourself having auto-locking devices might save some people in some circumstances, if you made everyone use them there'd be more accidents, from tem not workin as they might or by people having difficulty in making them work as simply, and quickly, as a simple stick plate / tube device.

jimtitt - on 22 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

Instead of worrying about possible technical solutions to a problem which is virtually unknown one can just climb harder, steeper routes and eliminate the original possible cause

Before going overboard about the Alpine Up you should read the instructions very carefully and note the warnings which for me make it unsuitable for multi-pitch trad climbing. I have one (along with most of the others) but never use it, an ATC XP is the way to go.

Post edited at 19:34
Big Lee - on 22 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

A few years ago a partner of mine dislodged an unsuspecting medium sized block that he had stood on. After it had ricocheted a couple of times I found myself needing to run/leap out of the way whilst simultaneously letting out about 3m of rope for myself. Not sure how I would have managed that were I using an auto locking belay. It's never happened to me since or beforehand but I guess these sort of things only need to happen once for an accident to happen. Obviously good that it wasn't multipitch and that I wasn't tied in. 

CurlyStevo - on 22 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

For now reduce your sport climbing and take up trad. In the grades you are climbing almost without exception only the worst - least protect able, most friable venues have been bolted with the least attractive climbing..... The best quality rock in the uk is trad by a long long way ( at the grades you are climbing ). Even if the rock was unprotected if it was high quality it would still have been soloed. Hence why at the grade most sport venues are quarries and tend to compact ish rock with loose blocks for gear. Or just crazy run out wihtout a  lot of other similar trad routes to learn the style and still often friable.

Post edited at 20:06
Fakey Rocks - on 23 Jun 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

I possibly see where you are coming from, but doubt people would not want to solo and top out on many routes at Portland or Cheddar, although there's more potential to top out on leads at cheddar, but that would be even less safe for the belayer.

The quality of the rock here is fairly solid, but prone to seepage through winter and freeze thaw loosening. The quality of the routes well worth their 2 and 3 stars. It's very far from the least attractive climbing, and as good as some of the best.

I'm mainly sport climbing at mo so there's actually no loose blocks for gear, just bolts.. occasional slight run out on the easier bits but nothing too crazy.

For sure I need to get off to the grit, mountains , Cornwall, Pembroke, swanage and diet on some trad for a while, but the last 2 quality venues at least no doubt have similar issues to Portland and cheddar with vulnerability to hold friability. Peak + yorkshire lime too, all awesome sport + trad quality routes, but the porous nature of lime probably gives it more potential for what has been and still looks solid, to one day break off.

Post edited at 11:20
mutt - on 26 Jun 2018
In reply to jimtitt:

 

"Before going overboard about the Alpine Up you should read the instructions very carefully and note the warnings which for me make it unsuitable for multi-pitch trad climbing. I have one (along with most of the others) but never use it, an ATC XP is the way to go."

Risk of Death "When ascending a multi-pitch route, befores setting up on a new pitch, the leader rope must pass through a directional anchorage on the belay point. if not the Alpine Up may not work if the lead climber falls." which on the face of it is indeed troubling. Certainly necessary to be aware of this but clipping into the highest anchorage on the belay is okay isn't it Jim? I can't visualise a situation when this wouldn't be okay except perhaps when one is sitting on a chockstone like the belay on  Deep Space at More (S)Careys Kitchen?

But then again its mighty heavy and an atc (+ prussick) serves nicely. Perhaps I'll reserve my Alpine up for sport .

Its a little depressing though as its a-lovely-bit-of-kit.

Digga - on 26 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

I often use the Megajul for trad and have caught well into double figures of falls on a range of routes with a variety of gear placed.  I can’t think of a time when gear has popped due to the catch provided from the device and it has performed well with smaller gear. I think the effect of rope stretch and a sensible belaying position would mitigate a hard catch in most circumstances.  This is only my experience on summer trad routes though. 

The main issue I have had is an inability to pay out or take in rope when a climber has fallen and the device is ‘locked’ (for example if a climber wishes to pull through one strand to clip a higher piece to dog a route, or if you need to take in the slack on one strand after a fall to neaten things up).  Granted, these situations are rare, but the couple of times this has been an annoyance have made me veer back to using my Pivot.  I still keep the Megajul to hand as I trust in its extra security if a route looks loose, and it’s very light so I barely notice it!

rgold - on 26 Jun 2018
In reply to mutt:

> Risk of Death "When ascending a multi-pitch route, before setting up on a new pitch, the leader rope must pass through a directional anchorage on the belay point. if not the Alpine Up may not work if the lead climber falls." which on the face of it is indeed troubling.

This is exactly the same "risk of death" everyone who uses an ATC-type plate faces in a factor-2 fall directly on the belay---the ATC will do nothing if the belayer brakes in the usual position down by the hip.  So although this is "indeed troubling," it is a risk climbers have embraced, without always using their belay anchor as the first protection piece, ever since hip belays went out of fashion.

There has always has been a fix.  Current palm-down brake hand orthodoxy notwithstanding, the belayer should begin belaying palm up, and if the dreaded factor-2 happens, they brake with their brake hand at sternum level.  This will engage the braking mechanisms of both ATC and Alpine Up.  The belayer can switch to the usual palm-down method once the leader has got in some good gear.

Clipping the anchor as the first piece is an easy call when the anchor is a pair of overhead bolts.  But with the varied position and ratings of trad anchors, the situation is much more nuanced.  Sometimes it makes no sense, other times it is arguable, and sometimes it is fine.  Whether you are using an ATC or an Alpine Up, you'll have to belay with a factor-2 fall as a prospect at least some of the time, and the strategy for dealing with the risk is the same for both.

 

 

jimtitt - on 27 Jun 2018
In reply to rgold:

Well yes but!

The OP was regarding the belay device locking when the belayer is unconcious or whatever and thus increasing safety. As none of the relevant devices (Mega Jul, Alpine Up or Smart Alpine) will lock in the event of a FF2 then in this scenario they provide no advantage over any conventional plate. The DAV tests at various lower fall factors with the single rope version suggest that to rely on them locking unattended is also unwise.

The other aspect covered by the OP is the force imposed on the protection pieces and there the different characteristics of the various devices come into play. The Smart Alpine and the MegaJul  provide less braking force with double ropes than an ATC XP and so actually a lower force on the protection (in my opinion an inadequate braking force for holding serious falls reliably). The Alpine Up on the other hand provides a vastly higher braking force (of the order of three to five times higher) and perhaps wisely CT state one should use the "dynamic" mode for trad climbing, unfortunately this mode is shockingly weak and it´s use to be treated with caution.

The auto-locking function when abseiling is also often promoted as an advantage but with a single thin rope all are inadequate and CT prohibit its use altogether so a klemheist/Prusik is still required.

On the other hand conventional plates can provide varying levels of belaying force by adding karabiners, and in conjunction with a klemheist provide smooth, controllable abseiling on any ropes. The putative "safety" advantage if the belayer is incapacitated have yet to be proved, I know of two belayer fatalities where they held the leader using conventional devices but none of the same scenario with auto-locking devices.

bpmclimb on 27 Jun 2018
In reply to jimtitt:

> My belayer becoming incapacitated AND myself falling at the same time on a trad route is generally the least of my worries

In other words (if I get your drift), the probability of two unlikely things happening simultaneously is very small. That argument breaks down somewhat if the two events are causally linked. For example: climber pulls off a hand or foothold, which leads to a fall, hold hits the belayer. Not so unlikely ... I've seen it myself on several occasions.

jimtitt - on 27 Jun 2018
In reply to bpmclimb:

You mean I should start worrying about things that happen to climbers near you?

rgold - on 27 Jun 2018
In reply to jimtitt:

I do agree Jim; at the moment your lone "thumbs up" is mine.  I didn't really intend to argue about the relative merits of the devices, just that the "Risk of Death" warning is, in some sense, nothing new and is not restricted to the newer devices.

> The OP was regarding the belay device locking when the belayer is unconscious or whatever and thus increasing safety. As none of the relevant devices (Mega Jul, Alpine Up or Smart Alpine) will lock in the event of a FF2 then in this scenario they provide no advantage over any conventional plate.

All these devices will function and the assisted locking devices will lock if the brake hand is up at sternum level rather than at the usual position down by the hip.  This requires awareness on the part of the belayer and does seem not to be broadly known.  Whether the assisted lockers, properly braked, make it easier or harder to stop a FF 2 fall is something I don't know.  The concern would be that maybe some rope slippage would be important when the loads are potentially the highest possible.

> The DAV tests at various lower fall factors with the single rope version suggest that to rely on them locking unattended is also unwise.

If you want a device that will lock unattended, better use a Grigri.  On the other hand, an ATC won't lock, and some of the other devices might lock, so the question becomes whether a non-zero probability of locking is better than a zero probability, given the other trade-offs.

> The other aspect covered by the OP is the force imposed on the protection pieces and there the different characteristics of the various devices come into play. The Smart Alpine and the MegaJul  provide less braking force with double ropes than an ATC XP and so actually a lower force on the protection (in my opinion an inadequate braking force for holding serious falls reliably). The Alpine Up on the other hand provides a vastly higher braking force (of the order of three to five times higher) and perhaps wisely CT state one should use the "dynamic" mode for trad climbing, unfortunately this mode is shockingly weak and it´s use to be treated with caution.

The additional force imposed by assisted locking devices is one of my bigger concerns about using them.  The issue is mostly moot, since the combination of system friction and belay device friction makes most belays static anyway---there is no pervasive occurrence of burnt braking hands to suggest that it is common for the rope to run.  Also, the use of Grigris for trad climbing seems to be increasing daily in the US, without any epidemics of pulled gear.  TC's 100 foot fall off the Stovelegs was successfully held with a Grigri.  So one might conclude that the consequential extra loads only occur in somewhat rare and rather extreme circumstances.  When the potential does arise, it seems to me to involve falls on very small gear, and in that case assisted locking is not a good choice.

> The auto-locking function when abseiling is also often promoted as an advantage but with a single thin rope all are inadequate and CT prohibit its use altogether so a klemheist/Prusik is still required.

I admit to being a bit perplexed by this prohibition.  The Alpine Up is presumably capable of catching leader falls on a single strand but can't hold a rappeler's weight?  After you told me about this, I tested the autolocking feature with a single 8.5mm strand near the end of the rope (so no rope weight increasing braking) and found that it seemed to work fine (but I'd still use an autoblock knot just in case).  I wonder if the problem occurs on slabs when the climbers full weight isn't being applied---Grigris are also known to slip under low loads, for example.  In any case, if single-strand rappels are in the offing, I'd opt for a Grigri over an ATC.

> On the other hand conventional plates can provide varying levels of belaying force by adding karabiners, and in conjunction with a klemheist provide smooth, controllable abseiling on any ropes. The putative "safety" advantage if the belayer is incapacitated have yet to be proved, I know of two belayer fatalities where they held the leader using conventional devices but none of the same scenario with auto-locking devices.

Yup.

 

CurlyStevo - on 28 Jun 2018
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

Didn’t the land owners impose sport climbing in cheddar (for the majority of the routes)? Portland doesn’t have many opportunities for natural gear and the top outs must have been horrendous.

bpmclimb on 28 Jun 2018
In reply to jimtitt:

Not what I meant ... but you've got me worrying now

jimtitt - on 28 Jun 2018
In reply to bpmclimb:

A recent thread on Mountain Project where a guy proudly claimed that using buddy checks he and his partner had caught several potentially serious mistakes, seemed a bit miffed when one pointed out perhaps he and his partner should review their attitude to climbing safety...

I was brought up climbing at Swanage where things pulled off don´t just hurt, they kill and so one learnt not to pull stuff off and belay well out of the way.


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