/ When did people start using belay plates?

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JackM92 - on 05 Nov 2017
Watching Ron Fawcett being belayed off someones waist on Lord Of The Flies shocked me a bit...did that actually used to work? And what happened to the belayer when someone took a massive whipper?! Surely there's a risk of being cheesewired if a leader took a factor 2 fall.

I just assumed that belay plates had always been used, even when the rack was a few pebbles, a lump of wood and some stale crust.

And that it was only Bear Grylls who has the superhuman strength to hold an 18st boxer with his bare hands and not even a waist belay.
ian caton on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

70's
Kafoozalem - on 05 Nov 2017
Ian Parsons - on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

Late 1960s - although, as was often the case with new innovations, they took a few years to catch on in the UK; the original Sticht Plates were produced by the [then] German company Salewa.
Andy Long - on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

Fritz Sticht developed the first ones in Germany in the late sixties and they started to appear here in the early seventies. It took a few years for them to become the norm. Centres were the last to change over, there was some concern about how to teach beginners to use them. We were still using using waist belays on my MIC assessment in 1977.

The waist belay was perfectly good and still has its place in some circumstances. I once held my brother on a 12m clear-of-the-rock factor-two with a waist belay. Hurt a bit but no problem stopping him. I also remember holding Roger Baxter-Jones on a right whipper - and he was a big bugger. I'm sure there are lots of people on UKC who can tell similar or better stories.

There's a good argument for every climber having the waist belay in their skill-set. It's quick and simple and left or right handed, unlike some belay devices.
Doug on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

they were in use, but not by everyone, when I started climbing circa 1973/4
GridNorth - on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

I found one in the alps around 1972 but had no idea what it was until several years later. The one I found was just a rectangular piece of alloy with a rectangular slot in the middle.

Al
oldie - on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

As far as I can remember in the UK people were using Sticht belay plates increasingly from the early 70s and waist belays were rarely used after the early 80s. Personally I found the actual Sticht plate grabby and only really took to them when slicker devices started to appear. They did increase confidence that a weaker or less experienced second would hold a fall. One needed a different Sticht plate for 9mm ropes and 11mm ropes. A spring resting against the krab on some made them a bit less grabby.

If the waist belay was used correctly it was pretty easy to hold falls when runners were involved, harder otherwise. In fact it was something of a mature technology by the 70s: long sleeves and grippy gloves could prevent the infamous rope burns and the “locking twist” around the wrist in the inactive rope really helped to arrest a fall (quite often websites illustrating the hip belay don’t show this even today). I only held one or two leader falls with no runners; but no burns when wearing clothing covering the waist. Probably more gentle arresting (and longer fall) than most belay devices (I’m sure someone has relevant figures).
Its still useful if paying out rope really rapidly and sometimes in winter climbing (also of course when only a rope is available or the belay device is dropped).
Holding a second is no problem.
Bottom roping is very easy. I learnt with a group of other school kids at Harrison’s: taught bowline, waist belay, how to put sling and krab round tree…. then left to our own devices.
ian caton on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

I held a three leader falls off the gates, no shirt, no gloves, no problem. The first was a 20 footer.
Mike Rhodes - on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

It was really no problem holding a falling leader if there were a few runners in place. A bigger problem was for the leader, who in those days was tied in to to rope directly round his waist-no harnesses then!
Gordon Stainforth - on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

Mid-August 1970, I think. In our group of climbers, John Syrett was first to use one by about a week, and was raving about how good it was, so we all went out and bought them.
AlanLittle - on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

> did that actually used to work?

Still does. Or would, preferably given reasonably thick clothing in natural fibres & not thin synthetics.
GridNorth - on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

So early? Mind you communication is nothing like it is now. The same was true of rock boots and aluminium wedges, they might have been around but it was some time before the average climber got to know about them. I was still climbing in bendy boots and Woollies plimsoles in the mid 60's and using multiple engineering nuts threaded on a piece of cord well after that.

Al
RR on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

I still have my Sticht-plate, made by Salewa, which I got in 1966. Dolomiti. Now I use an Alpine up, Atc, Petzl; Reverso; GriGri.

Holding a fall could “hurt” before the Sticht-plate. I still have visible burns holding a mega fall. Falling was painful then, rope around your waist, no harness. The run outs were long. Of a real fall we were all very afraid. A little later, 1967?, Rene Desmaison came with a “wide” belt of 2”(Millet?), that did hurt less when falling.

I am jealous seeing people without any problem climbing a French 7, but I am also some times astonished seeing them scared and not “moving”, placing protection on very easy ground. Alors: climbing is a brain game but some power is welcome.
John Stainforth - on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Yes, that's about when I remember it. And it was a very rapid transition across the whole climbing community. I would say that trad belaying without devices went out in the space of a few months, with similar rapidity to the replacement of CRT monitors for computers by flat screens (which happened at least forty years later!)
ian caton on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to Mike Rhodes:

Used to lust after a troll belt but then whillans did his thing.
JackM92 - on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to Andy Long:

Reading the thread liked above it sounds as though waist belaying would be useful on easy ground in winter - the only time I've ever waist belayed (and not sure I was doing it correctly anyway) has been on grade II/III ground when ropes have been too frozen to pull through the plate quickly.
Stuart en Écosse - on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

I used a waist belay often in winter if the belay was suspect, mainly in easier snow gullies.
HardenClimber - on 05 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

There was a transition of using a figure of 8 (certainly in winter).
In 77 most people had a Sticht or similar (Clog Cosmic Arrester?) to go with their Whillans.

Waist belays have their place (with plenty of caveats, winter, 'easy' angled ground).
(Last weekend, caving I belayed several (some large) people down a short pitch in a cave with a shoulder belay. I had other kit but it was the best option on that occassion)
(the pitch at the start of Red Moss Pot - which if you know, you will know why...)
rgold - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

I don't remember exact dates, but I used a hip belay for at least ten years (late fifties to late sixties) before transitioning to "devices." During that time, I held some big falls, including a factor-2 fall of the leader directly onto my belay.

Using the term "hip" here has technical content: we ran the rope around our hips, not our waists, not only because the body structure is more rigid and doesn't include the use of your kidneys for rope cushions, but also in hot weather because pants or shorts provided more padding than tee-shirts. The other important technical detail was a carabiner on the swami belt through which the rope on the leader's side was clipped. This kept the rope from being ripped up and possibly completely off your back when the leader fell with protection above the belayer, or from being pulled down and under your butt if you had the misfortune of trying to catch a factor-2 fall.

Hip belays still have their uses on easy alpine ground, and the technical tweaks above are still relevant; nowadays the carabiner used to keep the rope in place would be attached to the harness belay loop.
Chris Craggs - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to GridNorth:

> So early? Mind you communication is nothing like it is now.

Yes, I'm surprised it was that early (I'm sure we have had this conversation before). I climbed in the Peak virtually every weekend from 1970-73, but 1st became aware of a belay plate when been shown one by Swedish climbers, in Sweden in c1975.

Chris
john arran - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to Chris Craggs:

I first started in 76 but didn't see a Sticht plate for about a year after that, which was not before time as I weighed probably about 6st at the time and the guy I was belaying weighed at least 12. I don't fancy my chances if he'd taken anything beyond the smallest of lobs.
Gordon Stainforth - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to Chris Craggs:

I'm sure we've had exactly this conversation in the past. Here's a picture of my brother and Bernard Newman with them in 1972:

https://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=49821
Chris Craggs - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

From the Scottish Mountain Heritage website:

http://www.smhc.co.uk/objects_item.asp?item_id=32294

and There wasn't a specific time when the change occurred, but it would be around 1976 when body belays finally gave way to belay plates. For over a century climbers had been looping the rope over their shoulders or wrapping it around their bodies to get some friction, which would stop the rope sliding should the leader, or second, fall. A variety of gadgets hit the market around this time, all with the same idea, which was to let a piece of metal or aluminium create the friction rather than the body.

Chris
keith sanders - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

There's a great article on Mark Edwards web site regards Stich plates where Roland was working on the idea from the 60s.
Roland introduced me to them and gave me 1 in 1972 while up on Cloggy climbing with Gridnorth I still have it.
1 slot is for a 11mm and the other slot is for 9mm and no spring as what came out in the mid 70s which nI thought was a step backwards as the spring used to jam up.

keith s
Howard J - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

When I began climbing in 1972 it was all waist belays. I don't think we knew about Sticht plates, but my university climbing club's ropes were all hawser-laid so wouldn't have been suitable. I probably didn't start using a plate until 3 or 4 years later. Like most climbers of that generation, I held falls with a waist belay. It was important to wear suitable clothing and gloves, but otherwise no problem.

When I did a winter climbing course in the 1980s they recommended the waist belay as being more dynamic and so softer on belays and runners, as well as quicker and easier with frozen ropes. This was on routes up to III and IV.
Gordon Stainforth - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to Chris Craggs:

My recollection is fairly certain (as above) that the group of climbers we were with in Llanberis started using the Salewa Sticht belay plate in the summer of 1970. It had come out earlier in the year, and reached the main British climbing shops during the year. I think the precise reason we started to use the Sticht plate in August 1970 was that they had just arrived at Joe Brown's shop in Llanberis, and the first climbers to use them (like John Syrett) found them to be a fantastic step forward. I'm fairly certain that they similarly arrived in the main London shops (eg. Tony Willmott's YHA and Blacks) around the same time. I went to Cardiff University in 1969 and am fairly certain they were available at the main climbing shop in Cathedral Road by the autumn of 1970 (It would be interesting to hear recollections from any of the old timers in the South Wales Mountaineering Club about this). When I moved to London in autumn 1972, and started climbing with the Imperial College MC and the London MC, I have no recollection of them being behind the times with this.

For Alpine climbing (depending on the route) where we did not use double 9mm ropes, and where there was snow and ice, we used figure of 8 descendeurs for a while/about a couple of years (but not for long, because they caused very bad rope twisting), and good old waist belays on easier pitches or while moving together/ belaying for the odd obstacle. The early Sticht plate gave problems with frozen or snowy ropes, and was also problematic for abseiling for the same reason.

I held many leader falls with no problem at all with the old-fashioned waist belay (sometimes not even using belay gloves) between 1968 and summer 1970, particularly from autumn 69 to summer 70 when I was climbing with Tim James, who fell off a lot – he was very bold. The most extreme I remember was when he fell off Noah's Warning on the Cromlech in the sleet in March 1970, and his sole runner came out and he ended up about 25 feet below me with the impact coming straight on to my waist.
Post edited at 09:28
jimtitt - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

First shown by Fritz Sticht in 1967 and produced by Salewa from 1969 on. I started using one in 1971 (self made).
Rog Wilko on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

I have a distinct memory of being on a belay halfway up Asterisk on Gimmer (which was done in about 3 pitches then!), and having one shown to me. I think it was the one with the spring to stop it jamming. My logbook shows this as Sept 1971.
Lord of Starkness - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:
I started climbing in 1970, and some of my mates were using 'fabricated' figure of 8's designed by Bill Wilkins ( who later founded Ultimate Equipment) before Clog brought out their excellent alloy ones.

I used a fig8 throughout the 70's before graduating to a sticht plate. The Fig 8s were better for abbing, and coping with iced up ropes in winter, however they did have a tendency to twist your ropes.
Post edited at 09:55
Mel Turnbull on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

I have one on a old kit rack as well as one of the original Bill Wilkinson helmets
> Watching Ron Fawcett being belayed off someones waist on Lord Of The Flies shocked me a bit...did that actually used to work? And what happened to the belayer when someone took a massive whipper?! Surely there's a risk of being cheesewired if a leader took a factor 2 fall.

> I just assumed that belay plates had always been used, even when the rack was a few pebbles, a lump of wood and some stale crust.

> And that it was only Bear Grylls who has the superhuman strength to hold an 18st boxer with his bare hands and not even a waist belay.

jcw on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

I was held on a serious fall on the Gates by an inexperience climber perfectly well, he was properly belayed. Other falls too. I first used a Sticht plate in 1980 when Simon Richardson said he would not climb with me unless I did.
Tricky Dicky - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

What about an Italian hitch on a HMS carabiner? That seemed to be popular for a while....
Iain Thow - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to HardenClimber:

Still have and use a Cosmic Arrester, bought early 80s for some piffling amount, simple and more or less indestructible. My school climbing club in the early 70s was definitely all waist belays, but by Uni late 70s all were using Sticht plates. As mentioned above, waist belays are still handy on easy winter (and occasionally Alpine) ground, or if the belay is really crap.
GridNorth - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to Tricky Dicky:

> What about an Italian hitch on a HMS carabiner? That seemed to be popular for a while....

Never really caught on in the UK, partly because we mostly used double rope technique and did not rely on bolted stances. With regard to HMS karabiners, that's another interesting topic. When did they first appear? Long after belay plates I suspect.

Al
jimtitt - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to GridNorth:

Belaying with the HMS came out in 1971 and again1973 which is when the karabiners started to be produced, it was actually used previously by the German army for rescue/abseiling and reportedly in the 1930´ s by Russian climbers.
GridNorth - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to jimtitt:

Interesting. I don't recall seeing them in the UK until much later than belay plates but can't for the life of me think when. It was much later than 1973 though.

Al
paul mitchell - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to GridNorth:

If you put a sling around the top of your leg,with a krab on it,and feed rope throught that and then round your back,the friction for the brake will be tremendous.I use this method for emergency belaying,when putting a harness on would be too slow.
Ian Parsons - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> My recollection is fairly certain (as above) that the group of climbers we were with in Llanberis started using the Salewa Sticht belay plate in the summer of 1970. It had come out earlier in the year, and reached the main British climbing shops during the year. I think the precise reason we started to use the Sticht plate in August 1970 was that they had just arrived at Joe Brown's shop in Llanberis, and the first climbers to use them (like John Syrett) found them to be a fantastic step forward. I'm fairly certain that they similarly arrived in the main London shops (eg. Tony Willmott's YHA and Blacks) around the same time. I went to Cardiff University in 1969 and am fairly certain they were available at the main climbing shop in Cathedral Road by the autumn of 1970 (It would be interesting to hear recollections from any of the old timers in the South Wales Mountaineering Club about this).

That sounds about right. They appear in a Brigham catalogue that I'm fairly sure must be from 1970 as it uses pre-decimal currency, doesn't have the Whillans Harness, and includes guidebooks first published during 1969 but not others published during 1970. They don't appear in one from a year or two earlier. They are mentioned in the 1970 Alpine Journal which itself refers to a description in the January 1969 edition of Alpinismus.
Martin Hore - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to ian caton:

> Used to lust after a troll belt but then whillans did his thing.

Shortly after which, if you were unlucky, you were incapable of lusting after anything......

Martin
Martin Hore - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to oldie:

> Bottom roping is very easy. I learnt with a group of other school kids at Harrison’s: taught bowline, waist belay, how to put sling and krab round tree…. then left to our own devices.

I taught school pupils to use waist belays on Southern Sandstone in the late 70's. It was relatively common on Sandstone then. It reduced the amount of kit getting worn by the all pervasive sand. This was of course before we really realised that the sand dust getting everywhere was coming from the grooves in the top of the cliff that were getting deeper every time we went. Apologies to all concerned.

Martin
oldie - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to Martin Hore:

Not sure if you're apologizing about the belay method. Any wear to the top of the rock would surely be independent of the belay method, just due to not having the krab on a long enough sling! A few people still use a waist belay at Harrison's.
Dave Perry - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

I have, and sometimes use my original Stitch plate. Used properly they are fine.

Myself and my winter partner still often use traditional waist belays on winter climbs where any fall isn't going to whopper - or is it a whipper?. Because its faster, uses less gear, less things to go wrong, we nearly always pass folks with enough ironmongery hanging off their harnesses to make an outdoor shop look jealous.
Fredt on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

I was being assessed in the eighties for a Local Authorty certificate to take young people climbing.
I insisted on using a waist belay, because that’s what I always did, though the assessor tried to persuade me to use a Stitch plate.

I led a climb, and proceeded to bring the second up. The supervisor told the second to fall off. I held him easily.
Then he said OK, how will you get the injured climber to the top? (I didn’t understand why either) but I proceeded to haul the second up to the top. All with a waist belay.
And it’s still the best way of belaying when the belays are dodgy or non existant.

stp - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> I'm sure we've had exactly this conversation in the past. Here's a picture of my brother and Bernard Newman with them in 1972:



Great pic.

Martin Hore - on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to oldie:

> Not sure if you're apologizing about the belay method. Any wear to the top of the rock would surely be independent of the belay method, just due to not having the krab on a long enough sling! A few people still use a waist belay at Harrison's.

No, I wasn't apologising about the belay method - no need to do that I hope. Just that one reason we didn't use a belay plate was because it would wear quickly because of all the sand on the ropes. We wouldn't have had as much sand on the ropes if we'd extended the slings as carefully as I now would. I was going to say that we didn't know better 40 years ago, but I checked my 1981 guidebook. The entreaty to extend slings is there in black and white so mea culpa I'm afraid.

Martin
Rob Exile Ward on 06 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

I climbed in the Alps in 78 and didn't have one, That included the Lunar Bong abseil, which I did on an improvised krab belay and wished I hadn't! But I was definitely behind the curve.
CliffPowys on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I was in the SWMC in the 1960s. I only remember using waist belays. I first started using a Sticht Plate in the early 1970s but only for abseiling. Belaying came a little later. We also used Munter Hitches in the Alps for belaying seconds in the 1970s.
Mike Rhodes - on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to JackM92:

I am sure that my first Stitch plate (9&11mm slots) came in the early 70's when I bought my first Edelrid rope and it was a fantastic improvement on the shoulder & waist belays that I had been taught by my Dad in 1958!
The big breakthrough was when I bought a Tuber which worked far better but my old brain cannot remember just when the Tubers were introduced into the UK.

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