/ Clipping anchors and half ropes - good practices or bad?

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GarethSL on 25 Sep 2017
I was out this weekend climbing as a group of three with one who is a recent adopter of trad climbing and has learned, I guess, from various sources. Whilst a competent sport climber and indoor instructor they did a couple of things that made me react in quite a stern way. However, as I didn't explain at the time (stupidly) I want to clarify my rationale before giving them my reasons as to why I thought what they did was wrong. I also want to ensure my own techniques and methods are correct and if I have missed something or become sloppy.

Firstly, clipping one piece of the anchor as their first piece of protection (extended) instead of getting a good multi-directional piece a short way from the belay. I see a LOT of people do this (in sport trad and on ice) and I simply do not understand where this practice has come from, or why it is taught to beginners. I see no real advantage to the leader, the belayer or the system in doing so and far more disadvantages e.g:

- High impact on one piece of the anchor
- Just under factor 2 fall
- Shock load to other pieces if it fails
- Drag of belayer forwards and into rock
- Leader falls directly onto the belayer
- Totally useless if that piece is extended

I understand there are times this can work, for example if the belay master point is quite high up (2-3m) from the belayer and it is the master point that is clipped leaving enough rope to absorb the impact and not slam the belayer face first into the wall. However, I largely think its a bad idea and an unnecessary thing to do. Am I wrong?

Secondly, and this occurred in conjunction with the above which really got my goat; clipping both half (double) ropes into the first piece of gear. I am under the very distinct impression that its a really bad thing to do for all of the reasons why you don't clip two half ropes into the same piece of gear. Again I see no advantages, it has no impact on rope management at all (the main argument?) and again a number of disadvantages. Can anyone correct me if I'm wrong?

Really though I am left wondering why these things are still perpetuated to beginners when they really aren't good things to do. I should add I have done both of these things a long time ago and I do not remember who taught me to do so or why I thought it was a good idea, but learned very quickly that they are not good and certainly no longer do them. I have also been in an argument with a leader about the first point, who wanted to do so on a really poor belay before climbing a steep ice pillar that he promptly fell off. Fortunately a second piece of gear was there to hold the fall.

Thanks in advance and happy Monday
ian caton on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

I say you are wrong on both counts.
GarethSL on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to ian caton:

Ok, can you enlighten me as to why?
spenser - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

http://multipitchclimbing.com/
Take a look under Section 6: The Belay and search "Jesus Piece", that will likely explain the reason why people are doing it. I'll usually try and place something above the belay before leaving a stance, if this is not possible; the belay is solid, the top piece also solid and also above the rest of the anchor then I will clip the top piece before leaving the belay.

You shouldn't alternate between twin and half rope technique on a pitch as the ropes might move over each with one loaded and one unloaded is my understanding, personally I won't use twin rope technique unless I've got two seconds on a traverse.
GarethSL on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to spenser:


> Take a look under Section 6: The Belay and search "Jesus Piece", that will likely explain the reason why people are doing it. I'll usually try and place something above the belay before leaving a stance, if this is not possible; the belay is solid, the top piece also solid and also above the rest of the anchor then I will clip the top piece before leaving the belay.¨

For sport climbing with solid anchors I can see why people do this technique (nice to know it has a name) but for trad and ice I really am not convinced and would much prefer a leader to place a separate solid piece. I can see some advantages of having it there in a rescue situation but these are nullified by getting a good piece in just after the belay.

http://willgadd.com/anchor-clipping/

> You shouldn't alternate between twin and half rope technique on a pitch as the ropes might move over each with one loaded and one unloaded is my understanding, personally I won't use twin rope technique unless I've got two seconds on a traverse.

Petzl also has a guide showing clipping both ropes to the first piece but the guide does not distinguish between half or twin ropes see: https://www.petzl.com/en/Sport/Climbing-with-alternate-leaders?ActivityName=Multi-pitch-climbing&...

If its twin ropes then ok, but for halfs I still don't think its a good idea, i.e. you would essentially double(?) the impact force onto one piece of your anchor in the event of a fall, surely that's a no-brainer?

Likewise on traverses I clip both ropes to the same piece of gear but with two separate runners, one extended one not if I have two seconds.
scott titt - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:
> Really though I am left wondering why these things are still perpetuated to beginners?

Because they make climbing safer.

GarethSL on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to scott titt:

Ok, so two now have said I am wrong but without any reasons for it. So why does clipping into the anchor as the first piece of gear make climbing safer as opposed to having a separate good piece to protect the belay?

And whilst doing so, can you explain why clipping both half ropes into one runner makes climbing safer when it increases the impact load on that single runner and can potentially melt your rope?

duchessofmalfi - on 25 Sep 2017
You can treat 1/2 ropes as double ropes but only if you clip them all into the same gear.

If you mix and match it is dangerous because in the even of a fall only one rope will tend to be pulled (and the other will be slack). If you've mixed and matched then the ropes will rub and in extreme cases they can be damaged from the friction. If they are all clipped into different bits of gear this doesn't happen and if they are all clipped into the same gear this doesn't happen.

Another point (for ice climbing etc when gear is marginal) is that 2 1/2 ropes are stiffer and create harsher falls loading the gear more.

Clipping both 1/2 ropes into one clip is not necessary - 1/2 ropes are designed to take a fall on one strand. If you must (and normally this is psychological), use two draws to separate the ropes and avoid the rubbing.

As for clipping the anchor - this depends. When I build an anchor for a belay I often place a high piece that can be used as both the first runner and as part of the belay. Think of it as a first runner that is used as a redundant backup or a redundant belay anchor that is used to ensure an upwards pull to the belayer in case of an early lob. In this case it is up to the design of the belay and the judgment of the climber - I'd still place early gear when climbing if needed.


GridNorth - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

I would, preferably, try to get a separate piece of gear in when leaving a stance and as soon as possible. If it was not possible and the anchor was solid, either sport or trad, I might clip the top one assuming of course that it was situated in a position that did not compromise my line of ascent. e.g. If I was going right and the piece of gear was well up to the left. With regards to double ropes you are quite right in saying that it increases the impact forces but quite wrong in saying it can potentially melt the rope. That could only happen if one rope stayed still and the other one moved under load against it. If it was a real risk they would not sell twin ropes. The thing you should NEVER do is mix and match as this could create that exact situation. If you set off clipping both ropes, continue to do so through out the climb. If you start out with them separated do not change to clipping both. With regard to impact forces I tend to avoid getting too involved in the maths and science whilst climbing. I look at the situation and respond accordingly based on what I see.

It's not sensible to get too caught up in "best practice" and "rules". Far better to address the problem as and when it arises in the most effective manner. There are times when you need to be flexible and adapt to the circumstances and attempting to apply "best practice" can be impossible. The climber who can adapt in these situations is IMO the better rounded climber which is why there is no substitute for experience.

Al
GarethSL on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to duchessofmalfi:

> As for clipping the anchor - this depends. When I build an anchor for a belay I often place a high piece that can be used as both the first runner and as part of the belay. Think of it as a first runner that is used as a redundant backup or a redundant belay anchor that is used to ensure an upwards pull to the belayer in case of an early lob. In this case it is up to the design of the belay and the judgment of the climber - I'd still place early gear when climbing if needed.

This is what I needed, actually this technique hadn't even crossed my mind whilst formulating my arguments in this discussion, but is something I will definitely keep in mind for future anchors.

David Coley - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

Hi
There seems to have been a little confusion. It is not a case of clipping the anchor rather than putting a piece in. It is about ensuring one or the other is done before the leader un clips from the belay or moves her waist above the belay if still tied in. You are just trying to ensure any fall is not onto an inverted belay. Or if still tied in, the forces low
David Coley - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

On the other point I'm not sure it matters too much. But can't see why you would clip both ropes
GarethSL on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GridNorth:

Thanks for your reply!

> It's not sensible to get too caught up in "best practice" and "rules". Far better to address the problem as and when it arises in the most effective manner. There are times when you need to be flexible and adapt to the circumstances and attempting to apply "best practice" can be impossible. The climber who can adapt in these situations is IMO the better rounded climber which is why there is no substitute for experience.

No not at all! Actually the concept of best practice in climbing scares the hell out of me, but some good practices I can live with, especially when combined with adaptability and making sound choices whilst on a route. My original post was largely because I challenged someone else's techniques that I thought were incorrect, but do not want to end up giving them incorrect advice, whilst also testing my own understanding and techniques that I have been using for some time.

The original situation certainly wasn't at all dangerous but at the time it seemed unnecessary to me to clip the anchor especially as it was extended would would result in a fall below me anyway and wrong to clip both ropes into that runner as they aren't designed for that. The reply from duchessofmalfi highlights a perfect compromise, providing there is a good gear placement for a high and redundant piece in the anchor.
galpinos on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:
> ......and wrong to clip both ropes into that runner as they aren't designed for that.

Half ropes ARE designed to be both clipped into a runner, they are tested like that in the UIAA testing. The difference with halves compared to twins is that they don't HAVE to be both clipped and they will increase the force at the gear slightly if both clipped but, as pointed out by posters above, the most important thing is that you either use them as twins or halves but don't interchange (as this is when the dissimilar movement and potential melting occurs).

(Edit - The Jesus Piece makes total sense in a multi-pitch sport climbing context as the bolts are normally above the belayer and are solid so a fall with the top bolt clipped will be a lot nicer to hold than straight onto the the harness. However, it needs consideration in a trad context and, as discussed above, is sometimes a good option, especially if there is not any gear for the leader for quite a while.
Post edited at 10:46
Martin Bennett - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GridNorth:



> It's not sensible to get too caught up in "best practice" and "rules". Far better to address the problem as and when it arises in the most effective manner. There are times when you need to be flexible and adapt to the circumstances .

Got it in one Al. The voice of reason and (not a little!) experience.
Dave 88 - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:
As for using part of the belay as your first runner, the advantage I can see is that in the event of a fall before the leader gets another piece of gear in, then at least the belay device will be pulling upwards as intended, even if the leader does end up falling to a point below the belay. Seems like a "best of a bad situation" approach. I'm not sure that it should be routine, but if the first available bit of gear is obviously a few meters away from the belay, it seems like an acceptable compromise, which I've used myself.

As for clipping both half ropes into the first bit of gear, this to me seems pointless and dangerous. People have explained that it's possible to do if you continue for every clip (which is not the case in your example), and others have said that it's perfectly safe, but, infuriatingly, no one yet has actually explained why! I can't think why it would be necessary: half ropes are rated to take falls on individual strands, don't want to risk loaded ropes rubbing against each other, the load being taken on both ropes reduces the amount of stretch available-not good close to the belay.
Post edited at 10:51
Phil79 - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

Surely the point of clipping to the top piece of the belay is to prevent a factor 2 fall directly onto the belayer/belay, should the leader fall before any further protection is placed?

Rather, the fall/force is redirected through the anchor first, rather than coming directly onto the belayer. Yes, its still almost a factor 2, but there is some reduction in FF.

And also the force of the fall will pull the belayer upwards (and hence body weight will help arrest the fall), rather than down which would be harder to hold for the belayer and potentially invert things.

Also an upwards force on the bealyer shouldn't be an issue if you have put a low piece in the belay to account for this (which is surely common sense on multipitch routes), although not always possible.

You would hope that the belay is built using 2/3 solid pieces, all of which could hold a fall without failing, but obviously that is dependent upon available placements and skill of the leader who placed them. In a situation where the individual pieces of belay pro are poor, then perhaps its not a good idea to clip these, but that's a judgment for the leader to make.

I'll clip the top piece of the belay, if the climbing looks tricky straight from the belay and there are no other placements to be had before moving off.

Don't see an issue with this, as long as I'm actively assessing the risks etc, and my belayer knows what is going on.
GarethSL on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave 88:

> others have said that it's perfectly safe, but, infuriatingly, no one yet has actually explained why!

indeed, in fact as I research the topic more I only find a number of forum threads and blog posts etc about the dangers of clipping half ropes into one runner but nothing about this misconception(?) that you can/should do it for the first piece, quite bizarre. The Petzl link I gave above where they show both ropes clipped I will assume is when twin ropes are being used.

I think I have conceded that I have perhaps been wrong to insist that a leader doesn't clip into the belay for the last few years and will instead look at the situation of the stance objectively rather than a series of must/must not do things.
MarkJH - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to galpinos:

> Half ropes ARE designed to be both clipped into a runner, they are tested like that in the UIAA testing.

Do you have a reference for that? EN-892 definitely tests 1/2 ropes independently, and I'm not aware of any other UIAA standards that will test them as a pair. Obviously there are 1/2 ropes that are also rated as twins, but that is not true for all.
Dave 88 - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

> The Petzl link I gave above where they show both ropes clipped I will assume is when twin ropes are being used.

Or if you do it for every runner apparently, which I wasn't aware of but it makes sense as both ropes should then move simultaneously and the same amount.

> I think I have conceded that I have perhaps been wrong to insist that a leader doesn't clip into the belay for the last few years

Well I dunno, as others have said, there's occasions when it's preferable over having the belay plate get inverted, but it comes with its own risks that are easily eliminated by an independant bit of gear where possible. I think if people are doing it religiously with no assessment as to the risk/reward, or alternative methods then you'd be right to ask questions.

galpinos on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to MarkJH:

> Do you have a reference for that? EN-892 definitely tests 1/2 ropes independently, and I'm not aware of any other UIAA standards that will test them as a pair. Obviously there are 1/2 ropes that are also rated as twins, but that is not true for all.

Hmm, I think you are right and I'm wrong. I'm sure I had read of them being tested as twins but a little research as come up blank so I think it must have been a figment of my imagination!
GarethSL on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave 88:

> Well I dunno, as others have said, there's occasions when it's preferable over having the belay plate get inverted, but it comes with its own risks that are easily eliminated by an independant bit of gear where possible.

I think I have just always thought of this as a better option, as allowing for the possibility for a fall directly onto an anchor piece just seemed wrong. Though I think part of my rationale comes from the fact that most of my climbing has been on ice where its normally very ok for the leader to get a good screw in just up from the belay and when we typically only have two screws at the belay, so wouldn't want one of them to be used as protection. On rock with a multi-piece belay with limited possibilities for protection then I think its probably ok, providing the belay is solid and there is enough room for an upwards pull, or the clipped piece is largely redundant as duchessofmalfi suggested.

> I think if people are doing it religiously with no assessment as to the risk/reward, or alternative methods then you'd be right to ask questions.

That's probably part of it as well, the leader insisted that it was what they are 'supposed to do' where as I insisted its an absolute no-no, in which case we were both wrong to some extent.
oldie - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to MarkJH:

Perhaps simply an ENN test of individual components of a system was judged sufficient, even though they are designed to be used together.
MarkJH - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to galpinos:

> Hmm, I think you are right and I'm wrong. I'm sure I had read of them being tested as twins but a little research as come up blank so I think it must have been a figment of my imagination!

I think that a lot of the thinner, stretchier 1/2 ropes are also rated as twins (ice lines etc), but there are definitely 1/2 ropes that are not rated as twins. I'm not sure what the balance between the two currently is.
mariopulquerio - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave 88:

> As for clipping both half ropes into the first bit of gear, this to me seems pointless and dangerous. People have explained that it's possible to do if you continue for every clip (which is not the case in your example), and others have said that it's perfectly safe, but, infuriatingly, no one yet has actually explained why! I can't think why it would be necessary: half ropes are rated to take falls on individual strands, don't want to risk loaded ropes rubbing against each other, the load being taken on both ropes reduces the amount of stretch available-not good close to the belay.

The reason for clipping both half ropes in the first protection is because holding a hard fall with only one half rope can be quite hard for the belayer. This is particularly important for very thin half ropes and if the climber is much heavier than the belayer. If you clip both ropes you will have the increased friction of both ropes in the belay device.
GarethSL on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to mariopulquerio:

> The reason for clipping both half ropes in the first protection is because holding a hard fall with only one half rope can be quite hard for the belayer. This is particularly important for very thin half ropes and if the climber is much heavier than the belayer. If you clip both ropes you will have the increased friction of both ropes in the belay device.

But then you limit the usefulness of half ropes for wandering lines as you *should* then continue to clip both ropes to each runner, resulting in massive rope drag and an unpleasant climb for the leader. Which is probably more inconvenient than an unlikely fall onto one rope. I'm still not convinced that doing something which will deliberately increase the load of a fall onto an anchor piece is a good idea.
jimtitt - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to mariopulquerio:

> The reason for clipping both half ropes in the first protection is because holding a hard fall with only one half rope can be quite hard for the belayer. This is particularly important for very thin half ropes and if the climber is much heavier than the belayer. If you clip both ropes you will have the increased friction of both ropes in the belay device.

This.

Changing clipping two strands then one and back to two;-
"Hello (deleted),
You had a question on your Mammut rope Phoenix 8mm and whether it can be used in twin and half rope technique in one single pitch. This is the case, you can always clip the two rope strands as twins, then split them as doubles, join again etc. This is exactly the advantage of half ropes compared to twin ropes where you always need to clip both ropes.

Hope this helps you,
best regards from Switzerland,

(deleted)

(deleted) Kind regards
(deleted)
Productmanager Climbing Equipment
Mammut Sports Group AG, Birren 5, CH-5703 Seon"

The general impression from comments from rope manufacturers is that most half ropes would also be certifiable as twins but they don´ t bother as they are not aimed at that part of the market.
Dave 88 - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to mariopulquerio:

I thought this might be the rationale, however if that's the case I think maybe the belay plate and ropes need to be paired a bit better. In a half rope scenario, quite often one strand can be taking most, if not all of the force. If there's any doubt that the belayer will be able to hold a fall on a single strand then I'd say that's a bit of a problem.
planetmarshall on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to jimtitt:

> ...This is the case, you can always clip the two rope strands as twins, then split them as doubles, join again etc. This is exactly the advantage of half ropes compared to twin ropes where you always need to clip both ropes.

That's interesting, as it directly contradicts the 'UKC consensus'. Does anyone know any tests that have been done to establish that the risks of ropes melting in this scenario is any more than negligible? Anyone actually experienced it happen?
Dave 88 - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to jimtitt:

So with halves, in the same pitch, you can clip them individually and together and any combination thereof?

I always thought this was a big no-no due to the potential in a fall for one rope to be unmoving, while the other was moving very fast with a fair amount of load applied, potentially acting like a saw against each other?
Dave 88 - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to planetmarshall:

I feel that a lot of people (myself included) are about to have their minds blown!
john arran - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to jimtitt:

Well yes, of course you CAN. The question really is whether the added advantage of doing so outweighs the risk of rope damage in case of a fall. The potential for a rope to fail completely like that I'd say would be extremely small, since a weighted rope will tend to find its way to the bottom of a shared krab, whereupon rubbing will be much reduced. And, as you say, there are occasions where the extra ease of holding a fall on both ropes may be significant. But I'm still not convinced it's a great idea to do this routinely, since any relative movement between touching ropes, even unweighted ones, must surely wear ropes out faster (not something I would have though Mammut would be too concerned about!) If it was me and I felt it advantageous to double-clip the top belay piece, I'd ask my belayer to unclip one of the ropes again once I had plenty of gear in above.
Rog Wilko on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

Clipping part of the anchor as a first runner is something I do routinely, but I tend to feel it needs to be at least shoulder height to have much effect. But still, anything to avoid a factor two fall. Another reason is if the prospects of gear above aren't good. A perfect example is the first belay on Thomas at Wallabarrow. To get decent anchors you need to climb well above the belay ledge and then climb down. However, there is no good gear for the leader after the belay anchor for a considerable distance, creating potential for a truly horrendous factor two fall.
There are good reasons for occasionally clipping 2xhalf ropes into the same anchor, especially with two seconds. At the start of a traverse you will want to protect both seconds for the climbing up to the traverse. My practice in this case is to use two qds. The same reasoning applies over the course of the traverse, ideally.Thomas (S 4a)
GarethSL on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to Rog Wilko:

> There are good reasons for occasionally clipping 2xhalf ropes into the same anchor, especially with two seconds. At the start of a traverse you will want to protect both seconds for the climbing up to the traverse. My practice in this case is to use two qds. The same reasoning applies over the course of the traverse, ideally.

I agree, its no issue to clip the same piece of gear with two separate runners, just not both ropes into one runner. I mentioned earlier that I normally put two qd's on one piece of gear when protecting a traverse for two seconds. I also do this on winding lines to keep ropes from going way off route or over unwanted edges.
GarethSL on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave 88:

My mind has been hurting since I started this thread! I think I've done more research in the past couple of hours than in my entire PhD. Still haven't come to a solid consensus.

So far I've learned:

- Both my leader and I were equally right and wrong to some extent. Read that as we need more experience.
- It's ok to clip the anchor providing you have a solid and relatively redundant piece to do so. Otherwise get a good piece in just after the belay.
- If not possible for the leader to immediately protect the belay then clip anchor regardless.
- Build anchors that allow space for an upwards pull if the anchor is clipped.
- Better to clip half ropes on separate runners at the anchor instead of both through one carabiner... unless they are from Mammut, in which case anonymous in Switzerland says its totally ok.

I need a lie down.
ian caton on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

Ok.

1. Using a normal belay device the live rope will be coming up out of the device and the dead rope down out of the device.
The leader falls past you, fall factor 2, it will be quite tricky to lift the dead rope into a breaking position = burnt hands at least.

2. A fall on to such a runner will be high impact. Holding that fall without burnt hands on a single half rope will not be easy.



jelaby - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

I thought the problem with clipping both half ropes into 1 runner, then later separating them is that you are undoubtedly introducing a three-way load onto the krab.

In addition to that, the ropes will twist the krab as they come tight, and if there is any resistance (contact with the rock or perhaps the presence of a bolt) might introduce a serious twisting force onto the krab.

That ropes might melt in this scenario has always seems far-fetched to me; which probably only illustrates my own prejudices.
GridNorth - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to jelaby:

> That ropes might melt in this scenario has always seems far-fetched to me; which probably only illustrates my own prejudices.

No I've seen it happen. Admittedly the rope work of the pair who were climbing was abysmal and it would not have happened with competent climbers but it did show that it's not just a theoretical risk. Afterwards you could see the core of the rope that was not moving during the fall

Al
drysori - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to jelaby:

> I thought the problem with clipping both half ropes into 1 runner, then later separating them is that you are undoubtedly introducing a three-way load onto the krab.

No doubt you are, but not in a significant way if this isn't the runner holding the fall.

> That ropes might melt in this scenario has always seems far-fetched to me; which probably only illustrates my own prejudices.

I've seen rope sheathes melted from big falls. If they're rubbing on another rope that's going to increase the risk.

galpinos on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to MarkJH:

I think you're right, thats where my confusion lay. I've been researching new half ropes and been beguiled by the fact some are rated as both half and twin (e.g. Petzl Paso Guide) and I assumed that was the case for all whereas some are just rated for half (e.g. Beal Cobra).
Jimbo C - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

You're not right or wrong. I'd say it depends on the circumstances and that if you are concerned that your partner made a bad judgment ask them why they did it, with a view to opening a discussion rather than starting from the standpoint that you think they did it wrong. It might be that they've done thorough research and have valid reasons that you can both discuss, or on the other hand it might be that they didn't know better and your wider experience will be useful.

Firstly:
I think that clipping one of the anchor pieces can be ok as long as it's a useful distance from the belay and that the piece itself is bombproof. Preventing a factor 2 fall is the reason - yes the belayer might get pulled into the rock and the leader may collide with them (same as if they had placed a runner near the anchor), but I'd rather that than try to hold a factor 2 when my belay is set up for an upwards pull on the rope.

Secondly:
I think you're right most of the time on this one. The exception being that the leader wants to avoid rope stretch because it would put them on the deck / a ledge / jagged rocks. Again, the piece needs to be bomber to take the extra load. The advice I've read is to never put two half ropes in the same krab after you've separated them as the differential rates of rope movement during a fall could damage the rope.
ian caton on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

I was dropped once, 0.5 fall factor, only one half rope clipped. Hand proper burnt.

Once the leaders got some decent kit in, the belayer can unclip it.
John Clinch (Ampthill) - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

So far an interesting thread with some good points clealry a complicated issue with lots of good points

I have to say belays on multipitch routes are very complicated subject.

For the moment the thing I'd like to add is that the disadvantage of clipping the top runner is the "pulley effect".

I'll put the rest as a question. Does this analysis sound correct

A bit of googling suggests that a UIAA drop test of 4.8m onto 2.3m of rope produces an impact force of 8.4kN (Mammut Infinity the first rope I found). This is a fall factor of 1.71. As we know we expect 2 trad anchors would expect the belay to be able to experience this force without failure. We might expect a wire or cam to have a strength of around 10kN. Of course a true factor 2 fall might produce more force than this, but we would say that with an angle between the runner of 60 degrees or less we have quite alot of strength in reserve

However it seems a 1.71 fall factor is quite conceivable for a top anchor in a belay clipped as a runner? The belayer would have to be quite close to the runner and the leader would have to fall quite along way, but it isn't inconceivable. The problem is now that the top runner has 2 downward forces. The force of the rope to the leader and the force of the rope to the belay. If the force in the rope is to the leader is anywhere near 8kN then the top anchor will fail as there will be a considerable force in the rope to the belay plate as well. Trad climbing plus page 128 shows this force as being a bit over half the force on the leader. So we are now at a force of say 12kN ( rope to the leader 8kN and 4 kN rope to the belay). That seems to be above the strength of most trad gear?

Your thoughts
HeMa on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to MarkJH:

> I'm not sure what the balance between the two currently is.

Most half-ropes sold these days are double rated to be used as twins as well. Some arcaine thick ones might still only carry ratings as half ropes. But most modern SINGLE ropes are thinner .
oldie - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to John Clinch (Ampthill):

Mechanics not my thing but just a couple of thoughts.
Rope running through belay plate will reduce force on anchor. Anchor might break but there will usually be one or two other anchors which won't have previously been stressed.
HeMa on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to oldie:

> Anchor might break but there will usually be one or two other anchors which won't have previously been stressed.

True. I remember reading about actual load measurements made on non auto equalizing (I.e. Rope, cordelette or sling) vs auto equalizing (I.e. Different sliding x etc). Auto equalizing anchors nearly managed to actually equalize the anchor points. Not so with non equalized anchors, which almost always nearly ended up as 1 piece plus non loaded backups.
GarethSL on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to John Clinch (Ampthill):

I haven't really thought too much in terms of the mechanics and physics. My main thoughts were along the lines that if the anchor is clipped and the gear fails during a fall (assuming the forces are great enough or the protection clipped insufficient) it then results in de-equalisation of the anchor, shock loading of the remaining pieces and a nasty inverted fall onto the belayer. The alternative with not clipping the anchor and having a separate piece placed before the leader departs the belay makes more sense to me in this regard, as it allows more space/rope for an upwards pull (thus reducing the fall factor), and should that piece fail the entire anchor is loaded whilst equalised (although inverted), as opposed to the un-equalised and shock loaded situation above.

Tho I think the take home message I have got so far is that its best to not clip the anchor if a separate piece is available or to do so then remove the piece from the anchor after better placements are found. The doing of either depends entirely on the situation of the route I suppose.

I don't think we've reached a conclusion with regards to clipping both ropes to one carabiner at the first piece yet...
Luke90 on 25 Sep 2017
I've always avoided clipping two ropes together for the reasons already stated about relative movement between them in a fall causing damage. I've never been sure how likely that is to be a real world problem so it was interesting to read here that someone has actually seen it in practice

However, surely any difference in movement between the two ropes in a fall should be pretty minimal when the point where they're clipped together is so close to the belay plate. They're following the same path from the belay plate to the point in question and rope stretch should be minimal in that short stretch of rope.

Perhaps it's the case that, in general, mixing up single and double clipping is a poor idea but that in the specific case of setting off from a belay it might sometimes have a safe place.

I do sometimes clip part of my belay as the first runner. Normally if it's the only solid-looking option for a while but occasionally because I don't think a fall's very likely and it's quicker than placing another piece. In either case, only if the piece in question and the rest of the belay are pretty solid.
oldie - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

> I don't think we've reached a conclusion with regards to clipping both ropes to one carabiner at the first piece yet... <

Hope I'm not just repeating anything previous.
Two ropes means higher impact force on anchor and probably easier to hold?
One rope means impact force reduced but possibly runs more through belay device (this also reducing force). One rope better?

As pointed out earlier every situation is different with anchors, rope and plate characteristics all contributing. Incidentally if belayer had decided to set up 2 good separate anchors and one good early runner then this might be considered OK. Maybe one can just regard the discussed situation as a very anxious belayer backing up to the runner in case the other anchors inexplicably fail .



kevin stephens - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to oldie:

> Hope I'm not just repeating anything previous.

> Two ropes means higher impact force on anchor and probably easier to hold?

> One rope means impact force reduced but possibly runs more through belay device (this also reducing force). One rope better?

That doesn't make sense!

Using part of the belay as a first runner: Very sensible if the start of the next pitch is hard without any pro in reach (a diligent belayer may have used all of the available slots) to avoid a fall direct onto the belayer - I often do this myself.

Two ropes in all the gear; no problem and half (rather than twin) ropes are designed exclusively for this but can cause drag if the gear is not in a straight line.

Both ropes in some gear interspersed with alternate single rope gear on a wandering line VERY BAD. This is because a fall can result in a Y shape stress on a (non screw gate) crab causing it to open out and fail,

oldie - on 25 Sep 2017
In reply to kevin stephens:
> That doesn't make sense! <

Thanks. The points were suggestions with regard to putting either one or both ropes through part of the anchor as a first runner and leader falling onto that. Hope intended meaning, right or wrong, is clearer.... as I said earlier my mechanics is nonexistent anyway!


rgold - on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

I think what to clip and how many ropes to clip with is totally situational. Some of the conditions affecting the decision:

1. The difficulty of the beginning of the pitch. At some point, climbers have to put their faith in climbing skills rather than protection systems. If the climbing is easy for the leader in question, it is reasonable, , and in my experience utterly commonplace, to climb up 5--10 feet or so to a first good piece without clipping anything to the belay anchor.

2. The anchor type. If you have two modern bolts, it will usually make sense for the leader to clip one of them (but see Item 3 below). If the anchor is a gear anchor and clipping it seems prudent, then I think one ought to set up a power point if possible and clip that, i.e. distribute the fall load to the entire anchor and not just one piece. (But again, see Item 3 below.) If we ignore the belayer skill and ability and focus only on the anchor load, then the leader only has to climb a few feet before it is better to catch a factor-2 fall rather than, say, a short factor 1.7 fall through the anchor, as the factor 1.7 fall will create a much higher anchor load because of the pulley effect. This higher load isn't a concern with modern bolts, but might be with gear.

3. The anchor position. A lot of anchors aren't high enough to avoid belayer-anchor carabiner collisions if the leader falls. If such a collision happens, either with the belayer's non-brake hand or the belay device, the robustness of the belay is unpredictable. So either the anchor ought to be suitably high (not that many are) or the belayer has to be held down with a directional (which isn't always possible).

3a. If there is really serious climbing for the leader directly above the anchor and no possibility of obtaining an independent protection piece, then the best (though inconvenient) strategy is to situate the belayer well below the anchor (quite possibly in a hanging position) in order to reduce the fall factor associated with a fall directly onto the anchor.

As for rope clipping, there seems to me to be very little reason to ever clip both half ropes to the same piece, but the anchor is one time one might do this if the party anticipates a reasonable runout above the anchor, because the belayer will have better control gripping two ropes rather than just one.
DubyaJamesDubya - on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to John Clinch (Ampthill):

If the force in the rope is to the leader is anywhere near 8kN then the top anchor will fail as there will be a considerable force in the rope to the belay plate as well. Trad climbing plus page 128 shows this force as being a bit over half the force on the leader. So we are now at a force of say 12kN ( rope to the leader 8kN and 4 kN rope to the belay). That seems to be above the strength of most trad gear?

> Your thoughts

This doesn't seem logical to me. How can the 8kN force generated and felt by the leader create an additional force on the belay side? Surely the 4kN you mention is energy 'felt' by the belayer i.e. transferred to them via the rope but not cumulative force applied to the gear. Isn't it the case that by the time the belayer is experience 'half the force' so is the leader. This is exactly what you'd expect if you think of the two sides of the rope as a seesaw only the energy transfer is not likely to be completely efficient so the belayer will actually feel less than 50%.
If the situation was as you suggest, gear would be failing regularly (which it doesn't)
GrahamD - on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to John Clinch (Ampthill):

My thoughts: have you ever tried to hold a fall directly onto your belay plate ? It is very hard. I will always clip one piece of the belay rather than have any chance of this happening. Analysis of impact forces totally misses the fact that the belayer is likely to be dislodged trying to hold the fall and there will be (painful) rope slippage through the belay device.
Mick Ward - on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to rgold:

> I think what to clip and how many ropes to clip with is totally situational. Some of the conditions affecting the decision:

Thank you. And thank you very much indeed for the analysis. Where's a physics professor from t'other side of the pond when you need him?

Am I the only person who's got a sore head trying to follow this thread? And a sore head = confusion = not the way to go in climbing.

Back up the thread, GridNorth made a crucial observation, echoing the point above about things being situational. For all those readers who (like me!) might be getting a mite confused by now, it bears repetition:

> It's not sensible to get too caught up in "best practice" and "rules". Far better to address the problem as and when it arises in the most effective manner. There are times when you need to be flexible and adapt to the circumstances and attempting to apply "best practice" can be impossible. The climber who can adapt in these situations is IMO the better rounded climber which is why there is no substitute for experience.

I keep having 'discussions' with people who blindly do things one way, irrespective of the situation. (Sometimes their way is pretty much crap for any situation!) Had an interesting 'discussion' the other day with someone who did something because of x (where x is nice). I told him I'm paranoid about doing it a completely different way because of (admittedly small) risk of y - which could get you killed. Crucially y had never crossed his mind.

Mick (but hey, why on earth would you listen to a guy who made his mate belay to an ant hill?)

GarethSL on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to GrahamD:

> My thoughts: have you ever tried to hold a fall directly onto your belay plate ? It is very hard. I will always clip one piece of the belay rather than have any chance of this happening. Analysis of impact forces totally misses the fact that the belayer is likely to be dislodged trying to hold the fall and there will be (painful) rope slippage through the belay device.

But an independent piece placed before the leader leaves the belay does this anyway therefore negating the need to use the anchor. With the exception being if doing so isn't a possibility.
GarethSL on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

This thread has most certainly been enlightening and it has been really nice to have my own perspectives and misconceptions challenged.

I think when I wrote my original post I hadn't fully thought the topic through and my moan about beginners being taught to clip the anchor was that during the original situation it seemed as though the leader was suggesting it is something that you should *always* do and was wondering where they got that idea from.

Likewise from my perspective, I was under the impression its something that you shouldn't do if there is good gear available just up from the belay, and have always asked leaders to place a piece of gear as the leave the belay to protect it. I now see that it is of course reasonable to clip the anchor if there is no good gear or a hard move away from the belay and even as a confidence piece on a solid anchor.

It's interesting as well because I pretty much always used to clip the anchor and both ropes into the same carabiner, I simply do not remember where I 'learned' this from or why I began to avoid doing this. I think my perspective changed largely because I have more multi-pitch experience ice climbing where there is almost always good gear options as you leave the belay thus there is no real need to clip the anchor.
GrahamD - on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

> But an independent piece placed before the leader leaves the belay does this anyway therefore negating the need to use the anchor. With the exception being if doing so isn't a possibility.

Fine if its an option. But even if you do find an independent anchor near the belay (not always possible - in fact its pretty common that its not possible) there is no harm in clipping the belay anchor whilst searching for that placement (if it exists)
HeMa on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to GrahamD:

Ding ding...


And as I pointed out above, according to testing non self-equalizing anchors are not really equalized at all. Bulk/all of the load is often on one particular piece and others might carry from some to none. When this is taken into account, the top piece of the anchor can be in practice consider already as a "normal" piece. Naturally provided you ain't climbing rubble and that the belay consists of 3 to 4 solid pieces.
bpmclimb on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

> But an independent piece placed before the leader leaves the belay does this anyway therefore negating the need to use the anchor. With the exception being if doing so isn't a possibility.


As Graham just said, it's quite common that it's not a possibility. Another factor is the quality of the placement: not clipping as a runner a big bomber nut which is the top anchor of the belay, and instead relying on a lesser piece just because it's independent, would seem misguided.

Regarding clipping both ropes: obviously not into the same crab unless using twin rope procedure for the whole pitch, because of the danger of differential slip and glassing of the ropes. However, clipping both ropes into separate draws can be useful for aligning the ropes at the start of a pitch.

There are many pros and cons with managing multipitch stances, and a flexible approach is needed to suit different circumstances. I try to remind myself what the clear priorities are, and that of all the potential hazards a factor 2 fall is one of the worst.
trouserburp - on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

Pulley effect - I think you're correct but applies to every lead fall. Imagine it upside down as a hauling system

Hauling a bag (magical moveable runner). For every 1 metre of rope taken in the rucsac is pulled up 1/2 metre. So to lift 1kg requries half the strength/body weight but will take twice as many lifts.
So applied to a runner then snapping it will require half as much force?

Don't know what the implications are, probably none because it's the same for any lead fall and must be taken into account when rating gear.
trouserburp - on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to ian caton:

> The leader falls past you, fall factor 2, it will be quite tricky to lift the dead rope into a breaking position = burnt hands at least.

I think the flip-flop of most belay devices on a belay loop (about 12 inches) and where people generally lock off the dead rope (somewhere about hip to thigh height, not at the knee) - mean so long as you see the fall you'll probably lock off an inverted fall with minimal movement. If you're sitting it's no difference in hand position at all

Locking it off really well and holding the big ff2 fall is another matter
springfall2008 - on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to mariopulquerio:

> The reason for clipping both half ropes in the first protection is because holding a hard fall with only one half rope can be quite hard for the belayer. This is particularly important for very thin half ropes and if the climber is much heavier than the belayer. If you clip both ropes you will have the increased friction of both ropes in the belay device.

With the right belay device this should not be a problem. There are many cases where the fall will be largely held with one of the two half ropes because the leader places alternating runners. Personally I've never had a problem holding a lead fall on a single 8mm rope.
mariopulquerio - on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to springfall2008:

> With the right belay device this should not be a problem. There are many cases where the fall will be largely held with one of the two half ropes because the leader places alternating runners. Personally I've never had a problem holding a lead fall on a single 8mm rope.

I am talking about a hard fall, say with impact factor 1 or above, with only one piece of gear as protection, and not a standard fall high above the pitch with plenty of protection in between. But you are right, this should not be a problem if you have the right belay device for your rope. The problem is deciding if your belay device is the correct one! For very thin half ropes this is far from being straightforward and it seems that manufacturers are very optimistic about rope ranges for their devices.

There are a range of posts about this, but you can find some tests done by Jim Titt here: https://www.mountainproject.com/forum/topic/109133730/edelrid-megajul-belay-device?page=10
beardy mike - on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

Blimey this a back and forth thead.

1) Absolutely nothing wrong with clipping your top anchor on a belay if your belay is solid. If it's not solid then why are you belaying on it? You're point that you are subjecting the belay to an almost factor 2 is frankly a bit ridiculous - even if there is a metre between the belayer and the anchor and then a further metre between the anchor and the climber you have reduced the fall factor to 1. If you don't place an extender then you are DEFINITELY subjecting the belay to a factor 2. So the decision you have to make is whether or not the climber is likely to fall before placing an independent piece. If they are, then clip it. Or if there is some distance to better gear, then clip it. If there is good independent pro nearby then don't bother.

2) clipping two ropes into one biner definitely increases the impact of the fall on the runner. So in this case it's better to clip one (unless of course you are using specific twin ropes).
GarethSL on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to beardy mike:

> Blimey this a back and forth thead.

Isn't it just!

> 1) Absolutely nothing wrong with clipping your top anchor on a belay if your belay is solid. If it's not solid then why are you belaying on it? You're point that you are subjecting the belay to an almost factor 2 is frankly a bit ridiculous - even if there is a metre between the belayer and the anchor and then a further metre between the anchor and the climber you have reduced the fall factor to 1. If you don't place an extender then you are DEFINITELY subjecting the belay to a factor 2. So the decision you have to make is whether or not the climber is likely to fall before placing an independent piece. If they are, then clip it. Or if there is some distance to better gear, then clip it. If there is good independent pro nearby then don't bother.

For trad/ alpine climbing I have already conceded that further up ;) but in the situation from the op part of the anchor had been clipped and extended to the point that it would still result in a factor 2 fall. With ice climbing however I doubt I would allow an anchor to be clipped and instead have a separate screw to protect the belay.

> 2) clipping two ropes into one biner definitely increases the impact of the fall on the runner. So in this case it's better to clip one (unless of course you are using specific twin ropes).

This is still my thoughts despite the above arguments about burned hands, or at least have them clipped to separate extenders.

beardy mike - on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

Seperate extenders will do nothing to attenuate the impact force on the anchor as the ropes will still stretch less increasing the impact force seen. Simple physics innit. Burned hands, hmmm not sure how it would be any worse than if you were holding a factor 2!
GarethSL on 26 Sep 2017
In reply to beardy mike:

Hence why I still don't think clipping both ropes is a good idea.
HeMa on 27 Sep 2017
GridNorth - on 27 Sep 2017
In reply to HeMa:

Who'd have thought it, a guide talking b*ll*cks. Just goes to show that not all guides are equal.

Al
GarethSL on 27 Sep 2017
In reply to GridNorth:

That was a nice article but it did seem to suggest somewhat that clipping the anchor something you should *always* do. I much prefer your earlier suggestion and that of others here on this thread to treat every anchor separately, be flexible and do what is most appropriate at each time.

The discussions here have been really informative and I know I am certainly going to pay much more attention to the way I set up my anchors in the future, thinking about the consequences beyond simply bringing up a second then sending them on their way up the next pitch.
GridNorth - on 27 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

Some people bring the second up by arranging a "re-direct" via the top anchor or using it to secure the belay device in a direct belay situation. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages but are worthy of consideration if the situation allows. Personally I like to use a direct belay whenever possible but there are times when the situation makes it it impractical. The main thing is to keep an open mind and not get locked into "best practice" text book solutions.

Al
spenser - on 27 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

The Rock and Ice article assumes that you use American rope techniques, a lot of the advice given in that column fails to take account of the surprises you get while trad climbing, I'm sure you'll have belayed on something you didn't wholly trust at some point, I know I have.
GarethSL on 27 Sep 2017
In reply to spenser:

Absolutely, which is also partially my reasoning behind questioning if or why beginners are taught to clip the anchor as a necessity. But I think GridNorth's comments have been pretty spot on.
GridNorth - on 27 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

Just to add something else into the mix. Another reason that was bandied about for not clipping both ropes into karabiners was that the thickness of the combined ropes was more than the karabiner was designed to handle. Mind you back then ropes were thicker and karabiners simpler.

Al
pass and peak - on 28 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

There is another reason why you clip the high piece on the belay straight off the stance and its this:
You for sure as shite just know your bound to need that very nut your about to place, higher up, just below the crux and when you get there you'll be thinking I wished I'd just clipped the belay instead of listening to my belayer! I least that's why I do it, and I like to place a lot of gear sometimes!!

M
nb - on 28 Sep 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

The best way to reduce the load on the anchor in case of a factor 2 fall is to belay directly to its central point with an Italian hitch. Tests show that this is the easiest way to provide a dynamic belay.

The other advantage is that the belayer doesn't have to hold a fall directly onto their harness, or get slammed into the wall.

Once a decent piece of protection has been clipped, it is easy to switch to belaying on the harness with a belay plate if preferred eg. when climbing on double ropes.
bpmclimb on 01 Oct 2017
In reply to nb:

> The best way to reduce the load on the anchor in case of a factor 2 fall is to belay directly to its central point with an Italian hitch. Tests show that this is the easiest way to provide a dynamic belay.

> Once a decent piece of protection has been clipped, it is easy to switch to belaying on the harness with a belay plate if preferred eg. when climbing on double ropes.


That's a lot of faff; I very much doubt I'd ever feel the need to do this. Ok, conceivably (barely) in the case of a belay constructed entirely from marginal anchors, with no other secure belay options in the vicinity, plus difficult moves straight off the ledge, followed by a good runner coinciding with easier ground, where the leader is happy to wait while you tie them off and change belay method. A very specific and rather unlikely scenario. You'd have to be talking about a seriously questionable belay - in which case I'd be looking for other options.
Michael Gordon - on 01 Oct 2017
In reply to rgold:

> 1. The difficulty of the beginning of the pitch. At some point, climbers have to put their faith in climbing skills rather than protection systems. If the climbing is easy for the leader in question, it is reasonable, , and in my experience utterly commonplace, to climb up 5--10 feet or so to a first good piece without clipping anything to the belay anchor.

> 3a. If there is really serious climbing for the leader directly above the anchor and no possibility of obtaining an independent protection piece, then the best (though inconvenient) strategy is to situate the belayer well below the anchor (quite possibly in a hanging position) in order to reduce the fall factor associated with a fall directly onto the anchor.
>

Good points. I've considered '3a' before once or twice (clipping all pieces of the belay), with the main consideration being how much rope might get eaten up if the next pitch is quite long. But apart from that it would seem a good solution in thankfully rare situations. If the belay is bomber (this option would not be considered otherwise!) then the force on the gear would not be any different to a typical fall onto a runner with the same amount of rope out. Obviously the leader would be trying their level best not to fall!

Taking your other points into account, I can't see any great reason why clipping a piece in the anchor would be a bad idea if the situation demanded it. Generally the piece selected has more to do with height above the rest of the belay than quality relative to the other pieces. If it's a great bit of gear then clipping it will safeguard the rest of the belay. If it isn't so good then presumably the rest of the belay is better, and clipping it still offers some chance of security, in much the same way as a leader is not going to hesitate to place an RP as first bit of gear on a pitch if nothing else is available.
nb - on 01 Oct 2017
In reply to bpmclimb:

Plenty of dodgy belay anchors around the world: seacliffs, winter climbing, alpine faces, sandstone towers...
Putting the ropes in a belay plate and unclipping them from the belay karabiner is hardly faffy at all, friends even pre-install the belay plate, although I haven't tried this myself, so can't comment.
With a single rope the best option is to just keep belaying the leader on the Italian hitch for the whole pitch (belayer should be weighting the anchor if it's not multi-directional). This is particularly appropriate when the leader is much heavier than the belayer.
Belaying someone clipping alternate double ropes on lead with an Italian hitch is, admittedly, faffy, but not impossible.
David Coley - on 01 Oct 2017
In reply to nb:

> The best way to reduce the load on the anchor in case of a factor 2 fall is to belay directly to its central point with an Italian hitch. Tests show that this is the easiest way to provide a dynamic belay.

Is it? in that, I think that is kind of what this post is about, the alternative is to avoid the FF2 by clipping part/all of the belay. Therefore bringing the mass of the belayer into play and making the catch softer, and the force on everything lower. I'd love to see some numbers on this if anyone has them.
nb - on 01 Oct 2017
In reply to David Coley:

> I'd love to see some numbers on this if anyone has them.

http://ensa.sports.gouv.fr/images/ENSA/recherche/laboratoire_essais/relais2017.pdf

Unfortunately it's only in French, but here are a few expressions:

Demi-cab sur relais = Italian hitch on the anchor
Demi-cab sur assureur = Italian hitch on the belayer
Point de renvoi = first runner
David Coley - on 02 Oct 2017
In reply to nb:

Thanks!
It might take awhile for me to get my head around it.
bpmclimb on 02 Oct 2017
In reply to nb:
> With a single rope the best option is to just keep belaying the leader on the Italian hitch for the whole pitch (belayer should be weighting the anchor if it's not multi-directional). This is particularly appropriate when the leader is much heavier than the belayer.

Still far from convinced. In the absence of bomber upward anchors, how do you achieve the high friction position of the rope with your Italian hitch? Don't you especially want to be able to do that if the leader is heavier than the belayer? If I were significantly heavier than my belayer and starting a lead of a pitch, I'd be very concerned if the rope were running around an Italian hitch in its lowest friction position, and effectively had to stay that way; I'd far rather my belayer had the ropes in a device which can be locked off downwards.
Post edited at 17:23
nb - on 03 Oct 2017
In reply to bpmclimb:

> I'd be very concerned if the rope were running around an Italian hitch in its lowest friction position, and effectively had to stay that way; I'd far rather my belayer had the ropes in a device which can be locked off downwards.

The point of using an Italian hitch is to make the belay dynamic and reduce load on the anchor. The fact that it doesn't 'lock' might just prevent total anchor failure.

By placing the belay karabiner directly on the anchor rather than on their harness, a light-weight belayer won't get slammed into the rock in case of a big fall, and is less likely to let go of the rope.
GrahamD - on 03 Oct 2017
In reply to nb:

An ATC won't 'lock' on a factor 2 fall either !
Michael Gordon - on 03 Oct 2017
In reply to nb:

Total anchor failure on a rock route? OK no doubt routes must exist like that but they will be extremely rare; I don't think I've come across one with gear that bad.

Bit different on some snow/ice routes. But in those cases surely the last thing you'd want to do would be belay directly off the anchor?
bpmclimb on 03 Oct 2017
In reply to nb:

> The point of using an Italian hitch is to make the belay dynamic and reduce load on the anchor. The fact that it doesn't 'lock' might just prevent total anchor failure.

> By placing the belay karabiner directly on the anchor rather than on their harness, a light-weight belayer won't get slammed into the rock in case of a big fall, and is less likely to let go of the rope.



Still deeply suspicious of this. A light belayer trying to stop a the fall of a heavier climber with an Italian hitch in its low-friction configuration? And you think that means the belayer is LESS likely to lose control of the rope? I wouldn't like to be a guinea pig testing that theory! If I were that leader, I would far rather my belayer could achieve a high friction position with their belaying (even if they were thrown around a bit). Basically, I just don't buy it: in my opinion the advantages you claim are slight at best, and more than negated by the extra danger you introduce.

Perhaps we'll just have to agree to differ
David Coley - on 03 Oct 2017
In reply to bpmclimb:

> Still deeply suspicious of this. A light belayer trying to stop a the fall of a heavier climber with an Italian hitch in its low-friction configuration? And you think that means the belayer is LESS likely to lose control of the rope? I wouldn't like to be a guinea pig testing that theory! If I were that leader, I would far rather my belayer could achieve a high friction position with their belaying (even if they were thrown around a bit). Basically, I just don't buy it: in my opinion the advantages you claim are slight at best, and more than negated by the extra danger you introduce.

I think there is a little history at play in this. (Jim Titt might come along and correct me.) The Italian hitch was a massive upgrade from the waist belay and made a lot of sense in countries where peg belays were common. When the belay plate came along this still left the issue of a second having to hold a monster FF2 as gear was sparse and a run it out at speed mentality was required on long routes. Or holding a monster normal fall higher on the pitch. With a big guide (with sack) and a light inexperienced client an Italian hitch at least offered a chance of success. (The word inexperienced is interesting here, as few of us have held many big unexpected falls in the mountains after 10 hours of belaying and climbing.)

I'm not sure this has been mentioned above, but one interesting thing about the Italian hitch is that, because the strands cross and crush, the harder the fall the more it bites. A belay plate does the opposite. As the rope stretches more and more (the peak force is at the point where the rope stops stretching, not the start) it gets thinner and thinner. And therefore with a more aggressive fall the plate offers less resistance. Although this might be considered by some as useful, in that it lets the rope slip and reduces peak forces, it also probably means there is a growing chance of burnt hands, the fall going out of control and the climber being dropped - especially if the belayer has just been picked up and thrown headfirst into the wall. I would suggest this is why many US climbers use a grigri on long multi pitch climbing - it might not be the way to minimise forces, but it probably does increase the chances you will be held - which is useful when you are pooing your pants 2000ft up El Cap.
bpmclimb on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to David Coley:

> I'm not sure this has been mentioned above, but one interesting thing about the Italian hitch is that, because the strands cross and crush, the harder the fall the more it bites. A belay plate does the opposite. As the rope stretches more and more (the peak force is at the point where the rope stops stretching, not the start) it gets thinner and thinner. And therefore with a more aggressive fall the plate offers less resistance.


That definitely doesn't happen when a loaded rope is moving relatively slowly around an Italian hitch in low-friction mode (e.g. abseil), despite the fact that one section of rope is squeezing another. In fact the friction is so significantly reduced that an abseil can be quite hard to control (I would have a prussic on too, not only as back up but also to take some of the load). Which, of course, is also why it's important, when lowering a climber from a direct belay, always to position oneself below the Italian hitch, to benefit from the considerably greater friction gained when the dead rope is oriented back in the direction it came from.

So in the case of a fast moving rope being braked more quickly, that significantly lower friction of a "non-locked off" Italian hitch is no longer a factor, at least not while stopping the fall itself? Interesting - I hadn't heard that before. It seems a bit counter-intuitive: I'd probably want to feel that difference for myself with some practice falls before completely believing it. And presumably, after that split second of the "crushing" effect you describe, the situation immediately reverts to the more static one, and so the belayer would have to be very careful holding/lowering the leader. I think I'd want to feel that in a controlled situation, too.

jimtitt - on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to bpmclimb:

I shall test this tomorrow, the documented testing of the HMS has always been done at belaying forces and the difference between up and down braking hand gives relatively small differences in power (Ratzenburger got 2.8kN/3kN and I´ ve got roughly the same if I remember rightly but I can measure it again). Abseiling might be different as the comfortable hand force is far lower, I normally use a 6kg weight instead of a 20kg one but I didn´ t ever test the HMS abseiling with the hand down as this is the guaranteed way to put twists in the rope, you are far better keeping your braking hand above and feeding the rope up into it with the other hand.
jimtitt - on 06 Oct 2017
In reply to David Coley:

> I'm not sure this has been mentioned above, but one interesting thing about the Italian hitch is that, because the strands cross and crush, the harder the fall the more it bites. A belay plate does the opposite. As the rope stretches more and more (the peak force is at the point where the rope stops stretching, not the start) it gets thinner and thinner. And therefore with a more aggressive fall the plate offers less resistance. Although this might be considered by some as useful, in that it lets the rope slip and reduces peak forces, it also probably means there is a growing chance of burnt hands, the fall going out of control and the climber being dropped - especially if the belayer has just been picked up and thrown headfirst into the wall. I would suggest this is why many US climbers use a grigri on long multi pitch climbing - it might not be the way to minimise forces, but it probably does increase the chances you will be held - which is useful when you are pooing your pants 2000ft up El Cap.

Sounds more like a theory than reality! Anyway I´ ve tested it.
With conventional plates the power ratio (hand force to braking power) drops as the forces increase primarily because the coefficient of friction on nylon drops considerably with increasing pressure. The actual loss of relative performance is quite linear and in fact measuring an Italian hitch against a normal device (ATC XP) the drop is identical.
jimtitt - on 06 Oct 2017
In reply to bpmclimb:

> That definitely doesn't happen when a loaded rope is moving relatively slowly around an Italian hitch in low-friction mode (e.g. abseil), despite the fact that one section of rope is squeezing another. In fact the friction is so significantly reduced that an abseil can be quite hard to control (I would have a prussic on too, not only as back up but also to take some of the load). Which, of course, is also why it's important, when lowering a climber from a direct belay, always to position oneself below the Italian hitch, to benefit from the considerably greater friction gained when the dead rope is oriented back in the direction it came from.

I tested that as well, at least as well as is practicable as straight up and straight down are physically a bit difficult as I need place for the weights to slide past part of the fixture so the angles are off by about 10°.
I get a difference of roughly 8% between the two orientations and as I mentioned Ratzenberger measured more or less the same. But that is at belaying forces, abseiling is different. Around the area we are interested in (climber weights in the 60-90kg area) the difference is hand down gives about 60% of the force you get hand up.
The discrepancy between belaying and abseiling performance is fairly normal, lot of plates show good abseiling numbers but the high-load braking is poor.

nb - on 07 Oct 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> Bit different on some snow/ice routes. But in those cases surely the last thing you'd want to do would be belay directly off the anchor?

Recent research by various alpine institutions suggests you do. Counter-intuitive I know, but an Italian hitch on a belay anchor provides a very dynamic and easy catch. Trying to catch a leader dynamically with other methods (waist belay/belay plate) is extremely difficult and will probably result in the anchor being loaded even more.

That said, if all I had was a shitty anchor in unconsolidated snow, I'd rather back it up with my legs too! Would use an Italian hitch on my harness rather than a belay plate though.
nb - on 07 Oct 2017
In reply to jimtitt:

Jim, have you ever tested a factor 2 fall onto an Italian hitch which has a limited potential to slip? eg. when the belayer is in the process of changing between an 'Italian hitch on anchor' method and a 'belay plate on harness' method - they have put the rope into the belay plate, but haven't yet taken it out of the Italian hitch.

nb - on 07 Oct 2017
In reply to bpmclimb:

> Still deeply suspicious of this.

I was too initially, although not for the same reasons! I don't think belaying directly to the anchor with an Italian hitch is the best method every time, but when you have a light-weight, inexperienced person belaying someone much heavier, research suggests they'll be more likely to hold a high-energy fall.

This video isn't super easy to follow, but it explains the general principle.

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

Also, read Jim Titt's posts on how friction varies between both configurations of the Italian hitch.

jimtitt - on 07 Oct 2017
In reply to nb:

> Jim, have you ever tested a factor 2 fall onto an Italian hitch which has a limited potential to slip? eg. when the belayer is in the process of changing between an 'Italian hitch on anchor' method and a 'belay plate on harness' method - they have put the rope into the belay plate, but haven't yet taken it out of the Italian hitch.

What exactly would I want to test? Would it stop the fall? For sure.
Can´ t say as I´ ve ever heard of anyone doing what you suggest and it´ s not something I´ d want to recommend either, having the belayer faffing around changing devices while I´ m facing a FF2.
David Coley - on 07 Oct 2017
In reply to jimtitt:

> Sounds more like a theory than reality! Anyway I´ ve tested it.

> With conventional plates the power ratio (hand force to braking power) drops as the forces increase primarily because the coefficient of friction on nylon drops considerably with increasing pressure. The actual loss of relative performance is quite linear and in fact measuring an Italian hitch against a normal device (ATC XP) the drop is identical.

I stand corrected. Thanks as always Jim.
nb - on 07 Oct 2017
In reply to jimtitt:

> What exactly would I want to test? Would it stop the fall? For sure.

About 20 years ago a guy who tests equipment told me that while Italian hitches are great for dynamically holding a fall, if the rope is obstructed and can't slip it would be damaged. Doesn't seem very credible to me (as a clove hitch is basically a locked Italian hitch) but would be interested to know if anyone else has tested this scenario.

> Can´ t say as I´ ve ever heard of anyone doing what you suggest and it´ s not something I´ d want to recommend either, having the belayer faffing around changing devices while I´ m facing a FF2.

I'm thinking of a leader leaving a non-bombproof belay anchor on double ropes. They might want to be belayed on an Italian hitch on the anchor for the initial FF2 section and then - once they've placed a good piece of gear or two - on a belay plate as it's easier to use with two ropes. Defo not a faff if the belay plate is pre-installed on the rope.


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