/ ARTICLE: Decking Out: Battling Complacency and Taboo in Climbing Culture

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UKC Articles 22 Jan 2020
Gri Gri Plus in use Paul Sagar explores why climbing accidents - specifically ground falls - are rarely discussed openly...

The bond between a climber and a belayer is sacred. After all, the climber is placing their life into the other person's hands. But what happens if that bond gets broken, and the climber is dropped in a serious fall?



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jimtitt 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

So most of those falls the belayer was effectively irrelevant, the climber needed a spotter instead (a recorded fall from the height of a chair is hardly a statistic of interest).

Assisted braking (note the correct  spelling) are not a category of belay device for certification nor defined. ALL belay devices "assist" in braking the rope.

Unless the ABC have some better statistics it should be noted that the pseudo-locking devices ended up with a worse record for dropping climbers compared with manual assisted locking devices (Grigri and co) and traditional plate/tubes in the more extensive DAV statistics.

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galpinos 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Paul, I really enjoyed the main content of the article, I think we are only just on the cusp of actually talking about mistakes, near misses and how to educate the "climbing population" of improvements and changes to accepted/recommended techniques and methods.

However, regarding the recommendation of using an assisted belay device, was there any data from the ABC showing that these falls at indoor walls were all from/mainly from people using traditional devices? Was there any data to show that assisted belay devices are "safer"? The reason I say this is because the DAV stats seemed to show they have a worse record, especially when it come to ground falls when lowering.

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galpinos 22 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

> Assisted braking (note the correct  spelling) are not a category of belay device for certification nor defined. ALL belay devices "assist" in braking the rope.

The current working title of EN 15151-3 is Braking devices with amplified braking.

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jezb1 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

I may have misread it, I was reading it quite quick, but it suggests there's no ABD that works with two ropes?

Smart Alpine and and the Alpine Up, perhaps there's other, I'm, not sure.

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Max factor 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Nice article Paul. I like to imagine Sarah-Jane is sharpening her critic's pencil as I type ; )

It would be a shame if all the debate was on the type of belay device used (assisted, or otherwise). The other big takeaway is Belaying is a serious responsibility;  so take it damn seriously.  Work at being the best you can at it (and that might include thinking about the device you use), and always guard against complacency. 

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jimtitt 22 Jan 2020
In reply to galpinos:

> The current working title of EN 15151-3 is Braking devices with amplified braking.


Exactly, assisted braking doesn't exist and whether "amplified braking" survives the fact that many of them provide less braking than a conventional plate is debateable.

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Richie Ross 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Lead falls from 1-2m and 2-3 m.

How many of these falls actually made the first clip - I'm guessing few. Can hardly class this as belay error as the lead climber is unlikely to have been on belay.

The sentiment of the article is acceptable and we should be prepared to talk about our belaying with climbing partners and others. We should also be prepared to raise questions or point out bad belaying to other climbers, although many of us don't, probably two fold reasons - mot wishing to intrude and a worry of poor response by the other party.

Its a topic worth discussing and I will certainly bring it up with my climbing partner next time.

PS I have a pet hate which I usually point out to climbers when I see it. I see many climbers, particularly indoors, who climb wearing rings. I once heard of a lorry driver who on stepping out of his truck caught his ring on the lip of the roof (hand above door to aid stepping out) he stepped down and removed his finger in the process. Ouch. I have visions of this happening at a wall.

Post edited at 13:25
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neilh 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Do the stats actually prove anything at all. The numbers are so low it must be debateable about whether they actually tell us anything at all in the context of how many climbing wall users there are.

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galpinos 22 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

Hopefully the test within the standard will make it all clear!

(P.S. I've sent you an e-mail)

Post edited at 13:40
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Rob Parsons 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

I dispute the premise that the topic  is 'taboo', and that such accidents aren't already discussed.

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ScraggyGoat 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Rob Parsons:

Agreed, not taboo, and not a new realisation that its often experienced climbers involved.

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evans859 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Richie Ross:

> How many of these falls actually made the first clip - I'm guessing few. Can hardly class this as belay error as the lead climber is unlikely to have been on belay.

Sounds like these falls were at least at the 1st or in between the 1st and 2nd clip. At this height is where belayers should pay most attention to their climber given their height above the last clip and how relatively low they are to the ground. It’s very easy to have a ground fall from this point if the belayer’s not paying close enough attention or has too much slack out.

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Paul Sagar 22 Jan 2020
In reply to jezb1:

Those devices exist, but they are in my experience really f*cking annoying to use. So I reverted back to a regular tube device. What I originally said was "A lack of hassle-free assisted braking devices for two-rope trad belaying remains, to my mind, an obvious gap in the market". The hassle-free bit is important to me, and I stand by it

Post edited at 14:55
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Paul Sagar 22 Jan 2020

On the general point about "the stats seem to show that assisted devices lead to more accidents that tube devices" - well maybe, but remember that the stats are by definition not recording all the ground falls that DIDN'T happen because the assisted device caught the climber who would have been dropped if being belayed on a tube.

Anyway, in the case of my friend, it is definitely the case that e.g. a Grigri would have prevented the accident.

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Paul Sagar 22 Jan 2020
In reply to galpinos:

> However, regarding the recommendation of using an assisted belay device, was there any data from the ABC showing that these falls at indoor walls were all from/mainly from people using traditional devices? Was there any data to show that assisted belay devices are "safer"? The reason I say this is because the DAV stats seemed to show they have a worse record, especially when it come to ground falls when lowering.

As far as I know ABC don't have that data, but I think it may be one of the things they will look to find out in future,

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Paul Sagar 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Rob Parsons:

> I dispute the premise that the topic  is 'taboo', and that such accidents aren't already discussed.

I should maybe have been clearer: I don't mean that it's taboo to talk about it, but I do think it's taboo to be a belayer who has dropped a climber...which gets in the way of realising that any of us could make that mistake.

Granted, upon reflection 'taboo' may be the wrong word to some degree. But the main message here is about complacency and thinking we are individually exempt from making the kinds of mistakes that lead to serious accidents, when in fact all of us could do so.

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SteveSBlake 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

This makes some good points.  Someone hitting the ground having clipped bolts (indoors or out) is usually the culmination of a series of interlinked errors, that take place in close succession (Some within the two climbers control, others not.) a mistake with the belay device being the last.

The German data sounds interesting if counter intuitive.  Currently I think that devices with some assisted capability to brake are perceived as an experts piece of kit; while a normal belay/tube/plate is suitable for beginners.  Given the consequences of an error with the latter are probably more profound, we should perhaps swap that percaption around?

At a recent visit to a wall in the US, all of the top ropes had Grigris in place...... You couldn't use a plate/tube. 

Like most folks here, I use both types depending on what it is I'm doing. (And I wear a glove.) I have to confess that I shiver sometimes watching folks belay with tubes/plates...... 

Be careful out there!

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Al Randall 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

I think most accidents are the result of a temporary lapse in concentration, especially when "experienced" belayers are involved.  Personally I prefer to be belayed, at least indoors, with an assisted braking type of device as this does at least give you a second chance if used correctly.  There are too many distractions indoors and I would be lying if I said I was 100% immune to all of them.

Al

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tom_in_edinburgh 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

918 accidents.  text says 7 ground falls and there are 24 falls in the table.

So less than 1% of accidents in climbing walls are ground falls.

Of the 24 falls in the table 15 are from 3m or less which is less than the height of a bouldering wall.

The numbers seem really low e.g. number of autobelay falls as a UK number  compared to number of incidents I've heard of in local walls.

One factor might be people walking away from ground falls without getting hurt or with minor injuries so the number of reported injury accidents is lower than the number of ground falls.  A combination of the threaded rope substantially slowing the fall even if the belayer hasn't locked it off, matting and climbers who are used to falling off boulder problems and can land well.

The other really big question is that if ground falls are less than 1% of the accidents what are the other 99% - is it bouldering where the vast proportion of accidents are happening?

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Iamgregp 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

That's an excellent point.  

I'm sure somebody will correct me here, I heard that for a long time road safety people people thought seat belts in cars were less safe than having none at all. 

The theory was that people were safer if they were thrown free of the car on impact from a serious accident as they found more people survived in when this happened, than when they were trapped in the car by the seatbelts. 

Like here, they had completely ignored the amount of accidents which were recorded as minor or not reported at all because all the occupants were safe and uninjured as they were wearing seatbelts.

Well something like that anyway.

Good article by the way, enjoyed it. 

Thinking aloud I wonder if a "double lobed" hms carbiner would allow someone to use two clickups at the same time for double ropes?  Maybe gaffer tape together to make it less fiddly?

Post edited at 15:12
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tomhardie 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Iamgregp:

> Thinking aloud I wonder if a "double lobed" hms carbiner would allow someone to use two clickups at the same time for double ropes?  Maybe gaffer tape together to make it less fiddly?

Doubt it - that's basically what an Alpine UP or the Smart Alpine are (except far less ridiculous) and no gaffer tape required. The difficulty is the fact they auto-lock when feeding out rope.

On one rope it's fine (thumb over on the GriGri for example to disengage the locking element), but when you get to the faff of handling two ropes, and having to disengage two ropes at different times, it becomes a complete nightmare.

Post edited at 15:36
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Iamgregp 22 Jan 2020
In reply to tomhardie:

Ah I see.... Yes I can imagine they're a bit of a faff...

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TobyA 22 Jan 2020
In reply to jezb1:

MegaJul as well Jez. Many seem to hate them, but I find it works well for either sport climbing on a single or trad/winter with doubles.

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Toerag 22 Jan 2020
In reply to tomhardie:

Surely the double-lobed 'biner and two separate devices means that one could be fed and the other locked off? Aren't the Smart and Clickup alpines simply double slot devices and both ropes are in the same locked/free position at the same time?

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Toerag 22 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

>  Unless the ABC have some better statistics it should be noted that the pseudo-locking devices ended up with a worse record for dropping climbers compared with manual assisted locking devices (Grigri and co) and traditional plate/tubes in the more extensive DAV statistics.

It would be great if UKC or the BMC would translate and publish some of the techy DAV stuff, it's light years ahead of what's done in the UK.

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chameleon 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Having decked from the top of the Westway a couple of years back, and, luckily, suffered only very minor injuries (the belayer, here, also, was experienced, using a tube device, and inattentive for a moment), I think it might be useful also to emphasise the importance of the flooring that gyms use. 

The Westway has a good shock-absorbing floor floor, a layer of hard rubber resting on what are essentially rubber 'springs', so it's firm to stand on, but absorbs a lot of kinetic energy if a climber falls on it. 

Many other gyms, though, have just a thin mat or layer of rubber over hard concrete, which is enough to stop a climber hurting their feet if they fall before the first clip, but will do nothing to prevent injury if they hit the ground from higher up. 

It may be useful for gyms to pay as much attention to the flooring in lead areas as they do to that in bouldering areas, and perhaps agree a common standard for energy absorption?

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bpmclimb 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Max factor:

> The other big takeaway is Belaying is a serious responsibility;  so take it damn seriously.  Work at being the best you can at it (and that might include thinking about the device you use), and always guard against complacency. 

+1

I occasionally climb indoors, and at all three walls I normally visit, I always see some worrying belaying going on. My impression is that climbing wall staff don't hesitate to point out some types of error, but are reluctant to criticise experienced climbers for some bad habits in the "might get away with it" category. For example, they would definitely intervene if someone were letting go of the dead rope completely, and are also (in my experience) happy to point out back clips, and missing out clips; however, they seem strangely reluctant to criticise belaying a long way out from the wall (especially alarming with a tube device), draping the free hand over the device, and belaying square-on to the wall. In my experience, those three bad habits are so common that I see all of them several times every single time I visit a wall, and not infrequently all three simultaneously, which is asking for trouble, obviously.

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Toerag 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

From the article:-

"For a split second she loosened her hand on the dead rope to rearrange to a more comfortable position."

"So what can we do?"

Teach people to belay properly from the word go, and berate in a friendly way them when they don't.  I always teach people the mantra 'if the climber's not moving have them locked-off', and I always make them hold a fall or two from a heavy person under supervision so they feel the 'full force' of a fall. The phrases 'killed to death' and 'you're gonna die' also feature in my spiel because that is the harsh reality of climbing screw-ups. Some people are taken aback at first, but once they've held that heavy person's toprope fall they get it.  Safety skills have been trivialised these days in my eyes because people often first climb in a fast-paced group environment - (a birthday party, youth group activity or teambuilding day) where the emphasis is to get them climbing quickly.  This 'quick fix' attitude to the sport then continues (hence the popularity of bouldering and indoor climbing as they're hassle / skill -free). Indoor climbers / wall staff who haven't developed a safety-first attitude from climbing outdoors then educate others and so the inexorable decline continues.

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Rob Parsons 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Toerag:

> It would be great if UKC or the BMC would translate and publish some of the techy DAV stuff, it's light years ahead of what's done in the UK.

Are the DAV reports you're thinking of freely available on-line anywhere? If so, translation could be organized easily enough.

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JHiley 22 Jan 2020
In reply to galpinos:

The only DAV stats I've found on this topic have such low incident numbers for assisted belay devices (1 accident attributed to GriGri use, 3 for ClickUP) they're 100% useless for drawing any conclusions whatsoever.

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JHiley 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Nice article. I agree with the sentiments about not being complacent about our own competence or judgemental of people who've made mistakes (Provided they learn from them).

However I'm concerned by the implication that a tube type device needs 100% concentration to prevent an accident. As you rightly say, 100% concentration is not possible for humans and anyone claiming otherwise is either mistaken or a liar. However if operating the tube device correctly the dead rope should always be held securely downwards (or briefly brought upwards while taking in slack but heading back down in the same movement). So, in isolation, breaking concentration should not risk a ground fall. Obviously the belayer should pay attention in order to avoid giving too much slack or short-roping the climber but not so they can switch from incorrect belaying technique to correct technique if they expect a fall.

Someone who thinks they have to "react" in order to catch a fall (whether that means taking in slack, changing their footing or moving the hand holding the dead rope down reactively) is using incorrect technique.

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Jon Garside, BMC 22 Jan 2020

When climbing, we entrust our life into the hands of our belayer.

Having a frank conversation with your belayer if you are uncomfortable with how they belay is of course important, and I think it great to see this subject raised here. I've had these conversations with my belayer and I hope a climber would tell me if they had concerns.

To manage risk effectively when belaying then we need to consider belaying behaviours and I think it important to recognise that no device should be seen as a 'less risky', so to speak. Both assisted braking and manual devices can be used very poorly - we've all seen the hands-off approach that some climbers adopt using a Grigri when sport climbing.

The BMC's Incident and Near Miss reporting database has a great search function for those wishing to read reports and learn from other's mishaps. The next edition of Summit will also have an article about some themes that have arisen, including on belaying. Some take home messages from those reports are know how to use equipment (so read manufacturer's instructions / watch their videos), be attentive and check, check, check again!
https://www.incidents.thebmc.co.uk/responses

When considering fatalities at climbing walls, almost all resulted from a climber not being attached to their rope and then falling from height. A partner check may have prevented those deaths. 

Regarding this point, there is an interesting article by climbing legend John Long in Rock and Ice titled 'Complacency: Safety's Worst Enemy'
https://rockandice.com/climbing-accidents/complacency-safetys-worst-enemy/

John notes his and Lynn Hill's brushes with death when neither completed their tie-in knots in separate incidents 25 years apart. Both are lucky their fleeting lack of attention did not kill them.

Two pairs of eyes are often better than one, and a partner check is one very easy behaviour to adopt before every pitch when climbing, both indoors and outdoors. 

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drconline 22 Jan 2020
In reply to SteveSBlake:

It's good to see an open discussion of this topic and to emphasise the impact on the people involved, though it isn't comfortable reading for anyone who's ever belayed!

Steve, I agree with your suggestion that climbing walls should perhaps standardise on amplified braking devices for beginners when doing courses or parties etc.

I think some do already, and it sounds like in the US this is pretty common now, no doubt due to worries about litigation etc.

Of course they aren't a panacea - you still need to learn the skills and pay attention and lower carefully etc. but just knowing that a moments inattention isn't going to kill someone has to be worth the change.

I appreciate for individuals there's a big cost difference to step up to a GriGri but something like the BD ATC Pilot (which I use and which works very well) is only £20 more than a standard ATC manual belay device, and at least gives some degree of additional security.

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Iamgregp 22 Jan 2020
In reply to drconline:

I've also seen some places in the US insist (strictly) people use the under slide up belaying technique, rather than your usual v-123....

Imagine turning up to a place and being told that you have to use a device you're not familiar with in a way that you've never done before in the belief that it's safer than your tube style device and technique that's served you well for the last 20 years.

I mean I can see what they're trying to do, but there has to be some level of personal responsibility and allowing climbers to make their own decisions?  We all know it's a dangerous activity, there's a sign at the door saying so...

Personally I always use a click up when leading, but I'd never dream of telling someone else that they can't use the device their most comfortable with.

Perhaps that's why it's a bit taboo?  As further discussion is only going to result in more rules and less choice, something I'm not sure any of us are keen on?

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cb294 22 Jan 2020
In reply to chameleon:

This. I seem to remember reading in the DAV newsletter that life changing accidents (spinal injuries) and deaths from ground falls dropped to zero in the Netherlands after shock absorbing floors were made mandatory.

CB

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Robert Durran 22 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

> Unless the ABC have some better statistics it should be noted that the pseudo-locking devices ended up with a worse record for dropping climbers compared with manual assisted locking devices (Grigri and co) and traditional plate/tubes in the more extensive DAV statistics.

If such as the Click-Up is a "pseudo locling device", this is almost beyond belief; I'd really like to hear a theory of why it might be the case. A Click-Up has the same belaying action as a traditional tubular device, yet is incredibly forgiving in comparison - very hard to drop someone. And you really would have to go oyut of your way to drop someone while lowering them. The only danger I can see with a Click-Up is if you thread the rope the wrong way and it catches you unawares by behaving as a normal tubular device. There is also a risk of complacency if you switch back to a normal tubular device.

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Robert Durran 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Iamgregp:

> Personally I always use a click up when leading, but I'd never dream of telling someone else that they can't use the device their most comfortable with.

Dream of it, but probably not do so......... I definitely feel less comfortable being belayed with a standard tubular device these days, to the extent that I might postpone an all out onsight or RP attempt to another day if a partner is using one.

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Harald 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Jon Garside, BMC:

As you wrote it's about belaying behaviour, but also about belaying skills. Both assisted braking and manual devices can be used very poorly. I've been analysing accidents in the Netherlands. Most off the serious accidents used to be with people not being attached to the rope. Nowadays, thanks to people doing a partner check (great!), we see most serious accidents are caused by belayers dropping their climber to the floor after a fall. The number of accidents is to low to make a statement that will survive rigorous scrutiny by a statistician. But by analysing the incidents I noticed two main causes: people insufficiently experienced in holding unexpected falls AND people simply not being aware of the correct use of 'amplified braking devices' and manual assisted locking devices (Grigri and co). Or better said, people are not aware of failure modes. We try to educate (instructors as well), but a lot of climbers feel like they are to experienced to be told what to do. I believe Jim Titt is right by saying the use of 'amplified braking devices' can lead to more accidents.  That is why we did not adopt the policy by [DAV, OAV, SAC, AVS, etc] to change 100% to 'amplified braking devices' and manual assisted locking devices. 

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Harald 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

People are led to believe the Click-up or Smart will lock 100% of the time. Except that it will not when holding the braking strand parallel to the strand leading to the climber. In the accidents I analysed, or when talking to climbers I've seen making this mistake, I noticed they are not aware the device wont lock in this position. Which should be common knowledge.  

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wbo2 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Iamgregp: I'd bear in mind that even using 123-V if a person falls unexpectedly mid 'v' the braking power is reduced enough for trouble.

The last  ground fall I saw was a combination of climbing high above bolt 3, a lot of slack and a bad belayer.  The device was irrelevant- education is better

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Harald 22 Jan 2020
In reply to cb294:

I wish a shock absorbing floor was mandatory. It most definitely is not and accidents have not dropped to zero. I did wrote in our mag that all new-build facilities should install some form of 'bouncy' floor, implying those that have not should be under scrutiny after an accident (which would have been less serious had the flooring been more forgiving than concrete). But since nothing is mandatory the most recently opened facility has a concrete floor...

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Robert Durran 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Harald:

> People are led to believe the Click-up or Smart will lock 100% of the time. Except that it will not when holding the braking strand parallel to the strand leading to the climber. In the accidents I analysed, or when talking to climbers I've seen making this mistake, I noticed they are not aware the device wont lock in this position. Which should be common knowledge.  

Thanks. I suppose I am coming from the position of coming from using a standard tubular device and using the same action, in which case it is undoubtedly far more forgiving and safer. I suppose if you started belaying with a Click-Up it is possible you'd make this mistake. But wouldn't the same then be true of a standard tubular device?

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Coel Hellier 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Yes, good advice, we should use assisted-locking devices at indoor walls.    (I'm calling it an assisted-locking device rather than an assisted-braking device, but may get jumped on by Jim Titt).

On the incident in the OP:

> For a split second she loosened her hand on the dead rope to rearrange to a more comfortable position.

Yes, we're all human, we all do that sort of thing.

> ... my eyes had drifted to a climber on a neighbouring route. It was at that moment that Roberto slipped

And yes, we all let our attention wander, we all do that sort of thing.

BUT, we should not do both of these at the same time.   That seems the crucial error here.  Yes, let your attention wander -- while you have a firm grip on the dead rope.   And yes, adjust your grip -- while you are paying full attention.  

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Harald 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

>  I suppose I am coming from the position of coming from using a standard tubular device and using the same action, in which case it is undoubtedly far more forgiving and safer. 

True. That is way we still teach all beginners to belay first a tuber and secondly an 'amplified braking device' or manual assisted locking device. 

There is a distinct difference between both types (tuber vs. ABD/MALD) imo. Simplified: an 'amplified braking device' or manual assisted locking device lures (some) people into believing it is 100% safe. Attention drops, and no one feels the need to read the manual or find out about faulty behaviour. A tuber obviously isn't going to assist. And hardly anyone is stupid enough not to pay attention and keep hold of the rope when belaying with a tuber. With 'amplified braking devices' or manual assisted locking devices on the other hand...

Post edited at 17:34
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Misha 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Interesting article. It would be great to have more data on accidents, both indoors and out, but it will take a few years to build up a sensible data set. At least the ABC and the BMC are moving in the right direction.

I think the main risks indoors are poor belaying technique (this can equally be an issue outdoors) and distraction (a much bigger issue indoors).

Using assisted braking devices (as long as you know how to use them properly) is just common sense for indoors and sport climbing (although clearly being able to belay well with a tubular device is also important). Unfortunately a lot of people still don’t, probably for the reasons outlined in the article. I didn’t for many years, then realised that there is no reason not to, so these days I use an assisted braking device if I remember to bring it (I don’t do much ropes climbing indoors).

The other thing you can do is wear belaying gloves. Something hardly anyone does indoors (and I only do sometimes as I often forget them). Again, not for beginners but I think sensible for experienced climbers - if you do fail to hold on, you’d have a much better chance of panic grabbing the rope.

The thing that really gets me is people standing away from the wall while I’m still on the first / second / third clip. That’s just poor belaying.  If I spot it, I ask my belayer to come in closer.

The other factor is route setting. The climbing up to the first couple of bolts should be a couple of notches easier for a given grade. A lot of the time this is not the case. You can partially mitigate the risk by pre clipping the first one or two bolts - I do that occasionally indoors (and always outdoors) but very rarely see anyone else do it. Of course indoors it’s not always necessary but it should never be necessary - some route setters need to get better at this aspect.  

Post edited at 17:38
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Michael Gordon 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> On the incident in the OP:

> Yes, we're all human, we all do that sort of thing (loosening a hand on the dead rope).

> And yes, we all let our attention wander, we all do that sort of thing.

> BUT, we should not do both of these at the same time.   That seems the crucial error here.  Yes, let your attention wander -- while you have a firm grip on the dead rope.   And yes, adjust your grip -- while you are paying full attention.  

+1

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Iamgregp 22 Jan 2020
In reply to wbo2:

Of course.  The PBUS (I looked up the name!) method doesn't mean that you don't make the V, it's the 123 part that's different..

I just made the point that people were being made to use PBUS as another example of people being asked to do something that they wouldn't normally do as the climbing wall has decided that's safer.

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elsewhere 22 Jan 2020

Low numbers are good stats, far more preferable than the statistical certainty of a poor safety record documented by thousands of injuries.

Low numbers are good numbers when they are the only numbers you have to analyse for safety improvements.

Low numbers (eg 2) are good stats - perfectly sufficient to ground the Boeing 737 Max. I bet they regret waiting for the sample size to go from 1 to 2.

Low numbers are good numbers, but you have to learn Bayesian statistics?

Pet peave - small samples are not bad stats for rare things.

Post edited at 18:00
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Misha 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

Regarding which type of device is involved in more accidents. You’d need to look at the number of accidents per route climbed (or at least per climber, with a sufficiently large data set to average out the number of routes climbed per person), separately for each type of device. Don’t know how scientific the DAV study was.

Also, user error in using a gri gri is quite different to distraction risk. User error is easier to avoid / correct by learning how to use the device properly. Or using a better device (the original gri gri isn’t that great given how easy it is to misuse - I’ve always used an Edelrid Eddy, which is heavy and expensive but relatively fool proof and easier to pay out with). Whereas anyone can get distracted. 

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Jon Garside, BMC 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Harald:

You note what I feel is a really central but often overlooked point:

> people insufficiently experienced in holding unexpected falls.

A climber falling off is the most foreseeable thing that will happen. And it's often unexpected. I would like to see more ground based drills such as in these 10 second films. All you need is a pulley wheel (to minimise friction) and the belayer facing the wall so they cannot prepare for taking the 'fall'. Repeat exercise until the automatic behavior is drilled.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/dxe1sxfk4veb492/AABpL05TRoq-oBjrvtZKF7gsa?dl=0

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Misha 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Toerag:

Absolutely but the point of the article is that even good, experienced belayers can loose attention indoors (and to a lesser extent outdoors). Particularly if the leader is not visibly struggling - then slips...

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Rad 22 Jan 2020

Thanks for a thoughtful and analytical article.

Just yesterday there was an article about US gyms banning tube belay devices. Accidents at the gym in question and findings of a 2012 study (I haven't dug it up) show accident rates are far lower for ABDs than tube style devices: https://www.gymclimber.com/tube-style-belay-devices-banned-from-gyms/

This makes sense to me. We all get distracted at times. An ABD doesn't.

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jimtitt 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> If such as the Click-Up is a "pseudo locling device", this is almost beyond belief; I'd really like to hear a theory of why it might be the case. A Click-Up has the same belaying action as a traditional tubular device, yet is incredibly forgiving in comparison - very hard to drop someone. And you really would have to go oyut of your way to drop someone while lowering them. The only danger I can see with a Click-Up is if you thread the rope the wrong way and it catches you unawares by behaving as a normal tubular device. There is also a risk of complacency if you switch back to a normal tubular device.


The ClickUp was not included due to it's rarity at that time, it has it's own flaws though.

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Michael Gordon 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I definitely feel less comfortable being belayed with a standard tubular device these days, to the extent that I might postpone an all out onsight or RP attempt to another day if a partner is using one.

That's when I'd least expect a mistake due to inattention / mind wandering. On an ascent like that they should be watching you like a hawk - I'd hope so anyway!

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Harald 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Rad:

My data and observations suggests it isn't always that simple. At least not for our specific situation. 

@Jon:A climber falling off is for sure the most foreseeable thing that will happen. Comment's like 'I did not expect him/her to fall' or, 'I'm not used to catching falls' are baffling. We are looking at installing a fall simulator (the Frankfurt one) at a new gym. Practice is what we need! 

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Jay83 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Rad:

I haven't read every post on this thread, so apologies if this point has been mentioned before. I know we are all capable of getting complacent, losing concentration, getting into poor habits. But are we prepared to have these things pointed out to us by strangers at an indoor wall or crag? Are we prepared to accept this cricitism in a positive and friendly way? Are we prepared to intervene and point things out to others however experienced they may appear? Would it help safety if we had this open and challenging approach?   

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jimtitt 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Harald:

> People are led to believe the Click-up or Smart will lock 100% of the time. Except that it will not when holding the braking strand parallel to the strand leading to the climber. In the accidents I analysed, or when talking to climbers I've seen making this mistake, I noticed they are not aware the device wont lock in this position. Which should be common knowledge.  


You'll have noticed that the earlier DAV(Chris Semmel) enthusiasm for SEMI-automatic devices has now been replaced by more objective looks at the effectiveness of these devices including tests on how reliably they lock and the nescessary rope angles.

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neilh 22 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

Chewing up ropes is one of them so I am told.  Is that right ?

As regards Gri Gris having lower accident rates is that because on on top rope climbs you often have thick diameter furry ropes which tend to have more friction so reducing the risk. 

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Robert Durran 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> > I definitely feel less comfortable being belayed with a standard tubular device these days, to the extent that I might postpone an all out onsight or RP attempt to another day if a partner is using one.

> That's when I'd least expect a mistake due to inattention / mind wandering. On an ascent like that they should be watching you like a hawk - I'd hope so anyway!

True, but any doubts at all might make the difference between success and failure due to less than 100% commitment.

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Rad 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Jay83:

My answer to your question is YES, it is important to be willing to have potentially awkward conversations. I check the knot and harness of my partners every time they tie into the rope regardless of whether they've been climbing 3 months or 30 years. It's nothing personal, I tell them, and habits of checking help keep us safe. 

In the article I shared, the gym manager's staff were already having awkward conversations with belayers who failed to meet their belay standards. Having a universal policy of no tube devices is actually easier to communicate as it's far less personal. That said, they believe both policies are needed to keep people safe.

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mrjonathanr 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> On the incident in the OP:

> Yes, we're all human, we all do that sort of thing.

Attention wandering- of course.  But we all let go of the brake rope from time to time?? You should have it hard-wired to never do that.  

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Jamie Wakeham 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Regardless of whether ABDs are actually safer than tubes (and I'm far from convinced of that - anecdote is not the plural of data, as a wise man said), I'd be strongly against banning tube devices in indoor walls for two reasons. Firstly, I really hate the encouragement of reliance on a clever device to do what you said really be doing for yourself - I fear it leads a belayer toward thinking 'nothing can go wrong because I'm using a GriGri' - an abdication of responsibility.

But secondly, where the hell would we teach people to use tubes properly?? I really don't want to be in the situation of taking beginners outside for the first time, and on top of all the other situational confusion, have to tell them that they need to adapt to a totally different belay device.

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Michael Gordon 22 Jan 2020
In reply to mrjonathanr:

> Attention wandering- of course.  But we all let go of the brake rope from time to time?? You should have it hard-wired to never do that.  

Yes, that was my main problem with the article.

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Paul Sagar 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Misha:

Absolutely agree about the setting aspect - it infuriates me when setters set hard moves off the deck. It’s just needlessly inviting a risk of accidents. If they are worried about a route not being hard enough for the grade, well just make it harder higher up!

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Paul Sagar 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> Yes, that was my main problem with the article.

I’m sorry but if you think that you never let go of the break rope, ever, not even for a fraction of a second, when you are sure it’s fine because of whatever reason, then I don’t think you are being honest with yourself. Sure none of us ever SHOULD. But that’s different. 

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Michael Gordon 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

Decking out indoors above the third bolt, climbing and clipping normally, is the result of belayer error. I don't accept the premise that we all take a hand off the rope from time to time and it is essentially a matter of luck when the leader falls off as to whether they'll be OK or not. Proper safe belaying seems to me a better solution than reliance on mechanical devices which have been known to lead to accidents from those not familiar with their use.

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Iamgregp 22 Jan 2020
In reply to neilh:

They can sometimes put a bit of a kink on the rope, but I wouldn’t have said they chew it...

My 30M indoor rope has been used about twice a week for the last 5 years with a click up and I’m just now starting to think about replacing so it’s hardly chewed...

Sometimes you can accidentally click it up when paying out rope quickly, but me and my partner made a rule that if you do that you have to buy the other one a pint for every time.  It no longer happens.

Post edited at 21:10
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Michael Gordon 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

Obviously when giving slack to the leader it is necessary to move the rope through your hands. But that is different to letting go. If you need to scratch your nose momentarily etc, swap hands.

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Beanmanclimb 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

I personally saw a ground fall at a London wall last year and was probably one mentioned in the article. We were setting up on the wall behind the belayer. After witnessing the fall pretty much everyone who saw it went home. Me and my mate felt sick for about an hour and didn't know what to do with ourselves. You could see other climbers looking really sad and shook up. Ever since seeing that we triple check everything (knots, belay device, biner closed, etc), not that we weren't before. Seeing this in real life makes you realise how much more attention you should pay when belaying. It often becomes routine or habit but seeing a ground fall from almost the top of a 12m wall was horrible. Luckily the guy got off okay.

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Rad 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

Your last comment got me. IMHO the only time tubes have an advantage over ABDs is if you have questionable protection on a trad route and are trying to reduce forces on the piece in question (ABD's generate about 40% more force on the top piece than a tube device due to (lack of) rope slippage). Otherwise, ABDs can be used for all belay scenarios. If you teach newbs to use tubes you may be actually doing them a disservice if they're expected to only use ABDs in a gym. The world has changed since we used Sticht Plates and Figure 8s and Tubers to belay decades ago. Just say no to newbs on tubes.

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Basil 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

There are so many factors concerning decking ie ...complacency, poor technique, unfamiliarity with equipment /partners/distraction, etc. I have intervened at the local climbing wall concerning poor technique on several occasions,  Climbing wall personnel needs to be proactive concerning safety, some, so-called climbers are definitely on a kamikaze mission. Good article UK. 

Post edited at 21:44
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Paul Sagar 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> Obviously when giving slack to the leader it is necessary to move the rope through your hands. But that is different to letting go. If you need to scratch your nose momentarily etc, swap hands.

ok we may just be operating with a different notion of “letting go” - I’m not necessarily talking about both hands off, arms outstretched above your head waving at your friends 20 meters away, but I’d say having your hand in contact with the rope but actually not in a way that is guaranteed to hold a fall, even if this only happens for a fraction of a second, is something none us can be sure we NEVER do when belaying - and I was classifying that under “letting go of the dead rope”. 

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Wiley Coyote2 22 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

I am surprised there has been no mention of belay glasses as a useful tool in maintaining attention. I certainly find it easier to concentrate on my climber if I am wearing glasses. Firstly there is no problem with 'belayer's neck' or having to  tilt my head down  from time to time to ease the strain and secondly watching through the glasses tends to isolate me so I am less likely to be distracted by young ladies in strappy tops and Lycra walking past.

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jimtitt 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Rad:

> Thanks for a thoughtful and analytical article.

> Just yesterday there was an article about US gyms banning tube belay devices. Accidents at the gym in question and findings of a 2012 study (I haven't dug it up) show accident rates are far lower for ABDs than tube style devices: https://www.gymclimber.com/tube-style-belay-devices-banned-from-gyms/

> This makes sense to me. We all get distracted at times. An ABD doesn't.


The 2012 DAV study did NOT show accidents were lower.

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Paul Sagar 22 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

From the linked to article:

”While research is limited, the studies that have been conducted on belay devices do, in fact, indicate that ABDs are safer than tube devices. A 2012 study conducted by the DAV Safety Research Group observed 360 people in Germany and Switzerland and found the error rate of ABDs was about one-third of the rate for tube devices. Only errors resulting in high risk of ground fall were considered in that statistic. “

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TobyA 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

I disagree with your reading of Hobbes and early modern state formation, so why should I listen to your views on grigris?  Joke. ;-) etc.

Serious point: did you mean for your article to be about indoor climbing only, or is that more just where this discussion has gone? I've never seen an accident indoors roped climbing. I don't climb indoors often, but I have been to indoor walls on and off for basically 30 years. I have had the unpleasant experience of seeing my 10 yr old son fall and break his arm badly at a bouldering centre - multiple paramedics [bike, car, ambulance IIRC!] attending, blue lights ambulance ride to Sheffield Children's and pretty swiftly into surgery etc.), it wasn't nice.

But I have seen accidents outside, and I've sort of dropped a friend once, whilst single-pitch ice climbing; it should have resulted in her decking if we hadn't got lucky in various ways. But of the accidents I've seen outside where people have hit the floor (or "there but for grace of god" not hit the floor) poor belaying normally wasn't the issue - communication was.

I agree that there is a reticence for people to discuss where they've f***ed up badly, but as the article is about "decking out", I think it would be good for the discussion to not get solely hung up on belaying best practice on indoor walls.

Post edited at 22:23
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drconline 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Wiley Coyote2:

I just got some clip on belay glasses for Christmas so I'm keen to try them. Of course I will look like a total dork but I'm well past caring about that.

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jimtitt 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

As I said, that survey did NOT show any correlation with accident rates and did not study or observe any. It was a study on "sloppy" belay habits which used criteria many experienced climbers consider meaningless. The DAV  study of accidents in climbing walls showed semi-automatic devices to be proportionally more dangerous than assisted locking and tube devices. Harald and I have told you this already.

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John Kelly 22 Jan 2020
Paul Sagar 22 Jan 2020
In reply to TobyA:

I did want to mostly focus on indoor walls, as that is where most climbing in the UK happens now (because most people who climb don’t climb outside most of the time - partly because many don’t climb outdoors at all, and partly because of the great British weather), but also because I think indoor walls are especially likely to breed complacency in a way outdoors (especially trad) is less likely to do, and also because single rope sport climbing indoors is somewhere I think everybody should really consider using an ABD. 

absolutely I agree that outdoor is also a serious topic for discussion. 

but I only think that because of my unorthodox views on Hobbes’s Leviathan, as you’ve already deduced 

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Robert Durran 22 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

I have to admit to being confused. Do you think that there would be fewer accidents at indoor walls if everyone used assisted devices or if everyone used traditional tubular devices?

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Gordon Stainforth 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

> but I only think that because of my unorthodox views on Hobbes’s Leviathan, as you’ve already deduced 

Are you implying that a career of outdoor climbing, in the wild outdoors, is likely to be 'nasty, brutish and short'? And that the cosy, indoor climbing world is to be recommended as a safe ideal 'state' ???

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Misha 22 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

They were more dangerous but didn’t actually cause more accidents? So they weren’t actually more dangerous?

Anyway, who knows if the sample size and methodology were statistically valid.

Of course incorrect use of a gri gri is dangerous. I seem to recall that Petzl have addressed the lowering issue by adding an emergency brake if the handle is opened fully. Something the Edelrid Eddy has always had; don’t know about other devices. The other issue is paying out where people don’t hold the dead rope. Some people do that but that’s gross misuse and you wonder whether those people would be able to use a tubular device properly.

At the end of the day, without a large scale study it’s impossible to say which option is safer in practice but in principle a gri gri or similar should be safer as long as it’s not abused - which comes down to following instructions and as noted above if someone can’t use a grigri properly, they might not be able to use any belay device properly.

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Misha 22 Jan 2020
In reply to TobyA:

You note that you don’t climb indoors often. That might explain why you’ve seen more accidents or near misses outdoors... I’ve not seen any lead climbing or top roping accidents indoors or out thankfully but I’ve seen a lot more shoddy belaying indoors than out. 

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Rad 22 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

"The 2012 DAV study did NOT show accidents were lower."

The study looked at belay errors, not accidents.

Here is the study: file:///Users/radroberts/Downloads/Climbing%20gym%20study%202012%20english%20Panorama%202%2013.pdf

The overall error rates are only modestly lower for GriGri versus Tube (See Fig 4). The rates of "severe errors" with a Tube device were much higher than with "semi-automatic devices" (See Fig 5). The latter was what was referenced in the other article I linked. All methods and discussion can be found in the link above. 

A reasonable assumption might be that error rates will translate to accident rates. This is, of course, an assumption, but one gyms and insurance companies are probably inclined to make.

Post edited at 23:25
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chameleon 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Harald:

In theory, the Click-Up Plus will lock even when the brake strand is parallel to the one leading to the climber.. 

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chameleon 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Beanmanclimb:

Which wall was this at?

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TobyA 22 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

> I did want to mostly focus on indoor walls, as that is where most climbing in the UK happens now (because most people who climb don’t climb outside most of the time - partly because many don’t climb outdoors at all, and partly because of the great British weather)

Do you actually know that? It makes sense that it's right, but I do wonder whether it depends on how you actually measure it and define it. If scrambling up Tryfan or along Striding Edge gets the rock grade Easy (I can't actually remember if they do but you see the point), and you consider hours spent climbing as the metric, I suspect outdoor climbing in its myriad forms might still put in a strong showing. But anyways...

And again, it might be a case of where you stand defines what you see - but from here on the edge of Sheffield and the edge of the Peak District National Park, I see plenty of complacency among trad climbers and some shonky belaying at times, and know I'm probably as guilty of it as anyone (of complacency in some ways, hopefully not the shonky belaying).

I suppose my only thought is probably many of us have done something stupid outside, perhaps all too often without realising it, and if that does or could lead to decking 'fessing up shouldn't be taboo - your point, but extended far beyond climbing walls.

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tom_in_edinburgh 23 Jan 2020

If the data quoted in the paper is correct - 918 accidents and 7 ground falls then rules about belay devices aren't going to change the accident rate much.  The best you can do, reducing ground falls to 0, is a less than 1% improvement in the overall accident rate.  

It is probably safety on bouldering walls we need to obsess about.

Post edited at 00:59
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L JimminyJim 23 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Interesting article and agree with some of the sentiments. 

Apologies for the long-winded response, but I'm very interested in others thoughts on this too. Its a subject I've thought about a lot.

Just last week I was in a Melbourne (Australia) gym standing next to a climbing pair and the leader decked from the 5th clip. There are many other decking incidents that I've heard of just in the last 6 months at various gyms around the city. One was from the final clip! WTF?!

In every case it is belayer error. Usually one of the following:
1. Too much slack out before 3rd/4th clip
2. Hand not grabbing/just pinching brake strand - especially on a tube device
3. Disengaging locking device continuously on an assisted breaking device e.g. 1. holding cam down on GriGri and feeding slack the whole climb 2. holding BD Pilot unlocked with thumb whole time.
4. Sketchy slack feeding technique where the break rope is dropped for anywhere from a split second to a few seconds - usually with a gri gri or similar

In all of these cases (above the 3rd clip) there is no excuse other than belayer error. (Unless the leader has pulled out 3m+ of extra slack AND blown an overhead clip, there is absolutely no way you will deck above, let's say, the 5th clip.)

Despite all this scary shit happening, I've never been told about any of the incidents by the gyms officially. Only when I've already known something happened and wanted to ask more about it would the staff talk about it.

Of course gyms have a reputation to maintain and spreading news about a decked climbing doesn't help. But also, not learning from it and not having your climbing customers learn from it, also does not help prevent further incidents.

Belayer complacency is everywhere. Every (and I mean every) time I go roped climbing I see some form of sketchy lead belaying. From the beginner that is panicking and dropping the break rope to feed out slack; to the "experienced" dirtbag who is not even watching his climber clip the second draw while there's a loop of slack almost touching the ground.

Belayer Attitude

Belayer attitude is the biggest contributor to keeping a lead climber from decking, in my opinion.

1. People learn to belay in a course or from their friend and then I suspect don't really have any feedback on their belay technique about anything that could be improved. There is a false positive feedback loop where they tell themselves that since no-one's decked on their watch, everything they are doing must be ok. Just like a drunk driver that hasn't crashed in the past, might think that drunk driving is OK since they haven't killed anyone yet. An attitude of openness to feedback from others without getting defensive is key. Even better, actually asking for feedback on any aspect of your own belay technique demonstrates a willingness to be a better belayer.

2. If a belayer doesn't do a buddy check, I won't climb with them. It immediately tells me that complacency has already set in for them and the sentiment of my life being in their hands has lost its seriousness.

3. It takes a rational and critical thinking approach to constantly evaluate if what you are doing is safe for both belayer and climber. This mindset is can be largely framed by the question "what if.....happens?".

What if the climber falls before the first bolt?-> Where will they land? Will they hit me? Should I give them a spot? How bad is the fall? Is it worth stick clipping first bolt?

What if the climber blows this clip above a lip/overhang/ledge etc? Should I have all slack out of the rope and stand close to wall or give extra slack so they fall further.

What if the climber falls while clipping? What is the rock face like that I will get pulled into? Should I be bracing the wall with my foot to avoid face planting and dropping the break strand?

Sounds neurotic? Perhaps, but these are all legitimate things that can screw you and deck your belayer in that moment while you're not paying attention.

Break hand

It is impossible to watch the leader every climb, all the time. Sometimes the rope gets tangled and you need to look down. Sometimes the sun is in your eyes. Sometimes your forgot your belay glasses and you need relieve your your neck. Regardless, looking away shouldn't mean that your climber is in danger.

As long as the break hand has a firm grip on the rope, disaster should be averted. Whenever I need to look away from the climber, I consciously grab the break rope a bit harder as I know I won't have the benefit of seeing the fall before it hits my device while I'm looking away.

New climbing partners

I would love to be able to meet new climbers and go for a lead, but when I'm putting my life in their hands each time I tie in, it's way too much of a risk if they are an unknown quantity. I never climb with anyone that I haven't seen their belay technique first and am suprised that others do so frequently.

Even when you have a partner, are you prepared to have the awkward chat with them about something that is unsafe. Many people are not receptive to critical feedback or may hear you out and continue to do their old technique anyway because "they know their way is safe". I've come across "experienced" climbers with this attitude. "I've done it this way for x years and never had a problem". Doing something wrong for a long time is probably worse than doing it for a short time!

I've lead climbed with a few different partners. Some experienced, some beginners. I find the beginners more attentive generally (perhaps due to nerves). While I do occassionally get short roped, its better than decking.

Fall Practice

The final point I'll make is about fall practice. As a newer climber (2 years leading) and as an engineer, I wanted to understand the physics of catching falls. Theory will only get you so far. To understand the worst-case fall scenario you need to test it (with a competent belayer of course!). In my mind, if I could be confident that the worst-case fall scenario was safe, then I could climb with less nerves.

So when starting out I took progressively bigger falls as everyone does (or should). These culminated in unannounced whips with the unclipped bolt at my thigh. These falls sucked my belayer up and into the first clip. I'm also a little heavier than most of my partners so they go for some quick air. 

It sounds a bit harsh for my belayer, but now my belayer has memory of the worst case scenario and is less likely to panic if it happens unexpectedly from a blown foot or clip - quite likely when climbing at your limit.

The confidence from doing these edge cases has helped my climbing psychology immensely. By being comfortable falling and knowing that my belayer is able to catch me in the worst-case scenario.

Imagine instead that you have been climbing with your partner for some months and you never take the whip and instead always ask for a 'take'. How confident are you that if you blow a foot above your last clip that your belayer will be ready to catch you without panicking. This is how complacency happens. If your belayer hasn't caught a real and unexpected fall for sometime, I'd be worried. I'd recommend to take falls regularly and without warning. Warm up climbs are good for this as your belayer won't expect it. If you don't feel comfortable doing so then you it might be because you don't trust your belayer as much as you think you do.

Fall Practise at Low Clips

While falling up high is pretty safe as long as your belayer has the break strand in hand, falling down low is a whole different scenario.

Falling before the second/third clip is not advised for fall practice as its pretty much decking zone if you fall when clipping (depending on bolt spacing). It might be possible to keep a falling climber off the ground but the belayer has to be super vigilant by sitting into the fall at the moment the fall happens.

However, I have taken some practice falls above the second, third and fourth bolts indoors and it is eye-opening how close you come to the ground and how much contact you can get with your belayer. Again, a good belayer should be able to easily keep you off the ground. But it requires thinking carefully about slack management, positioning relative to the wall, positioning relative to the climber (are they going to hit you). Most belayers leave far too much slack out during these early clips. Once you've tested it, you realise the margin for error here is less than you think.

Trad climbing

I've seen some of the worst belaying while doing 'easy trad'. Belayers are feeling so confident that their climber won't fall that they're standing 15 feet back from the wall, yards of slack out, chatting to some hottie at the bottom and not watching their climber. Or any combination of the above. And usually using a tube device.

While the risk of a fall is low, the consequences in this situation are serious. Is the belayer ready for the unexpected, or are they just going through the motions?

In Summary

Each time I belay I am entrusted with the climber's life to keep them off the deck. I take this responsibility seriously and expect the same of them. This means that I have a small number of like-minded people (4-5) that I climb with and feel very safe with. Climbing with someone new can be unnerving and its definitely a jungle out there.

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Pefa 23 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

So knowing that you would never let your lead climber fall to the ground means you think you're " special"?

Nah sorry but that's quite wrong and a bit of an insult to those of us who are as diligent as taking complete care of our climbing partner on our first belay as we do every single time we belay in all conditions, knowing full well that to not do so even for a spit second will result in their death. 

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Lurking Dave 23 Jan 2020
In reply to chameleon:

> The Westway has a good shock-absorbing floor floor, a layer of hard rubber resting on what are essentially rubber 'springs', so it's firm to stand on, but absorbs a lot of kinetic energy if a climber falls on it. 

This. I was present at the first fatality at a UK wall, (Rockface 1995, Top roping). The result of a litany of errors certainly, but if modern matting was installed the consequences would have been massively reduced.

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jimtitt 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I have to admit to being confused. Do you think that there would be fewer accidents at indoor walls if everyone used assisted devices or if everyone used traditional tubular devices?


What I (or anyone else) think has no relevance, it won't change reality. There are many things that climbing walls could do to reduce the number of accidents and their severity (and turn indoor climbing even more into a bouncy castle experience) many of which would further detatch indoor climbing from outdoor. What device a climber chooses to use is their decision and should remain so.

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Presley Whippet 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

> Absolutely agree about the setting aspect - it infuriates me when setters set hard moves off the deck. It’s just needlessly inviting a risk of accidents. If they are worried about a route not being hard enough for the grade, well just make it harder higher up!

This is the climbing wall we are talking about, if the start is hard, climb up something easier and pre clip the first couple of runnners.

It would be most embarrassing to miss a summer due to an injury picked up at the wall caused by some misguided ethics. 

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jimtitt 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Misha:

> They were more dangerous but didn’t actually cause more accidents? So they weren’t actually more dangerous?

The study was on operator failures using their criteria of what constitutes a failure and their opinion of the severity of the consequences. For tube belay devices ( ATC etc) the majority of the failures were holding the brake hand too close to the device, not holding the brake hand down positively enough and holding the rope untidily. In the context of the robot-like way the DAV expect beginners to belay their observation may have some relevance and thus the tubes scored poorly, in real life things are clearly different!

Incidentally for fans of buddy checks failing to do them was given the lowest danger rating and as having no consequences.

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IceBun 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Agreed that proper safe belaying is a good solution but I would always want to add in the added safety margin created by safe belaying using an assisted/augmented locking device. It’s not the device that leads to the accident , it’s the use. I would say we shouldn’t be forcing usage of these but let’s face it, it’s not difficult to learn how to use any of these devices, you just put in the time and it becomes usual safe practice. 

Post edited at 07:16
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Jamie Wakeham 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Rad:

> ... the only time tubes have an advantage over ABDs is if you have questionable protection on a trad route and are trying to reduce forces on the piece in question (ABD's generate about 40% more force on the top piece than a tube device due to (lack of) rope slippage). Otherwise, ABDs can be used for all belay scenarios...

So in a not-too-unusual trad situation - the route's a bit harder than you expected, and you've stuck a Camalot 0.3 or a Wallnut 00 into a slightly poor placement - at that moment, you'd prefer to look down and see a belay device that reduces the miniscule chance of your belayer dropping you through distraction but definitely almost doubles the force exerted on that shonky runner? 

Or is the point that you'd use your ABD for most trad routes, meaning that when you switch to a tube for the ones with the poorest gear, your belayer is now using a device that they're less familiar with because they use the ABD 90% of the time?

I completely accept that there are some scenarios in which an ABD would have mitigated the severity of an incident.  But I am very far from convinced that enforcing (or even just even encouraging) the use of ABDs at all times indoors will overall improve safety. 

I understand that this is an outdoor-focussed position - I suspect that for the climber who never goes outdoors, or who only climbs single rope sport outdoors, switching to an ABD probably does reduce risk overall (but those climbers are generally the ones using ABDs already).  But for the climber who's going to go from learning indoors to climbing trad outdoors (still the great majority of my teaching work) the tube style device is the appropriate device to teach them to use.

Post edited at 08:49
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cb294 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Harald:

Thanks, I stand corrected. Probably somewhere else, then.  I will see whether I can still find the article to check.

CB

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Harald 23 Jan 2020
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

I'd love to see this 1% improvement happen. Would make a huge difference. If you think 7 ground falls less is just a simple 1% change in accident rate, think again.  Imagine the difference between 7 groundfalls from 15m and 0 groundfalls from 15m... Makes a hell of a difference. 

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Harald 23 Jan 2020
In reply to cb294:

The article might have said Belgium ;-)

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neilh 23 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

Very interesting.

Any comments on the use of skinny ropes at walls through belay devices. Seen more and more skinny ropes being used on lead walls.

Finding this whole topic fascinating and well timed. After years of climbing with atc at walls I have over the last few months switched to a grigri but remain unconvinced. Before switching to a grigri had a look at clip up, but decided against it as it was on version 3 after only a short time.So thought that design was not quite right...yet...when they are on version 3 so quickly.

I have witnessed over the years accidents both at the crag and at walls due to belaying errors.

I actually think you are better having a self imposed ban on talking to other people when belaying somebody when they are leading.

Post edited at 09:15
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Harald 23 Jan 2020
In reply to JimminyJim:

Great post. Well observed. Thanks for the time you spend writing! 

> Even when you have a partner, are you prepared to have the awkward chat with them about something that is unsafe. Many people are not receptive to critical feedback or may hear you out and continue to do their old technique anyway because "they know their way is safe". I've come across "experienced" climbers with this attitude. "I've done it this way for x years and never had a problem". Doing something wrong for a long time is probably worse than doing it for a short time!

True. Complacency is a big issue. Regardless of belay device.

> I've lead climbed with a few different partners. Some experienced, some beginners. I find the beginners more attentive generally (perhaps due to nerves). While I do occassionally get short roped, its better than decking.

I've had the same experience, both climbing with youngsters outside and while observing comps. Young (competition) climbers are generally much better at attentive belaying and perform a more rigorous partner check than adults. Times are chancing

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Max factor 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Harald:

> Times are chancing

I hope not!  ; )

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Max factor 23 Jan 2020
In reply to neilh:

>  clip up, but decided against it as it was on version 3 after only a short time.So thought that design was not quite right...yet...when they are on version 3 so quickly.

What's this about a v3 click up? Interested. 

The same could be said about grigris, petzl have released a new model every year for the last few years. 

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Steve Broadbent 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

An excellent article - thank you! 

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neilh 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Max factor:

I like to see a stable design and the grigri and hte couple of verisons of it have been around for along time.

It just struck me when looking at the click up they were on new versions pretty quickly.Just a personal thing.

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jimtitt 23 Jan 2020
In reply to neilh:

> Very interesting.

> Any comments on the use of skinny ropes at walls through belay devices. Seen more and more skinny ropes being used on lead walls.

Of course, it´s one of the things walls could do to increase safety since many "assisted" braking devices have such poor performance with thinner ropes. Thicker ropes, gloves, better route setting etc are all measures which would help instead of knee-jerk bans which have no real justification.

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Wiley Coyote2 23 Jan 2020
In reply to JimminyJim:

Excellent response

One point which particularly chimes with my own experience is the seasoned climber whose reaction to  any comments about their belaying  is 'Never lost one yet'. All too often belaying is not taken particularly seriously, being seen as a formality or even a chore rather than a core skill in its own right. One regular partner, for example,  used to be very prone to gossiping with people either side while belaying at the wall so I took to clipping into a draw with my belay loop and waiting for him to notice. Then when he asked what I was doing I would feign innocence and  say "I just thought I had better get  clipped in till you've sorted out whatever the problem is and you are ready to belay again". Even then it was usually the other person who would approach me afterwards and apologise for causing the distraction. He did, however, eventually get  better as the embarrassment finally got to him. In his defence I would point out that he and I have climbed together for decades  up to E3  in the UK and sport  all over Europe and outside he was fine. The basic problem is  the complacency that comes from the mistaken belief that the wall is a safe environment and that the Click Up is 'foolproof' (stock response 'Yeah but it's not t**t proof').

One advantage of walls is that falls are more common so a) more belayers are experiencing the impact of holding falls and b) actually seeing how far a climber can go even when close to a bolt, which can come as quite a shock to both parties. Both do help to concentrate the mind, if only briefly These days  I may hold half a dozen leader falls at a wall session. I suspect that is more than I held in my first twenty  years of trad climbing back in the 60s and 70s (I began w-a-y back to the days of waist belays and no harnesses)

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Max factor 23 Jan 2020
In reply to neilh:

> It just struck me when looking at the click up they were on new versions pretty quickly.Just a personal thing.

As far as I know the original has been around ages (e.g. CT posted youtube videos on how to use it in March 2011). And they have had one other version release, the ClickUp plus. Not heard of a V3 in development. 

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neilh 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Max factor:

Fair point and appreciated, thanks.

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tom_in_edinburgh 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Harald:

> I'd love to see this 1% improvement happen. Would make a huge difference. If you think 7 ground falls less is just a simple 1% change in accident rate, think again.  Imagine the difference between 7 groundfalls from 15m and 0 groundfalls from 15m... Makes a hell of a difference. 

The article has a table of the reported falls.  Only one is in the 12-15m category.

Autobelay falls are arguably more dangerous.  The difference is that if the rope is threaded even if the belayer isn't controlling it properly it will still slow the climber substantially relative to a free fall.  The autobelay falls are usually people that haven't clipped in so it is an actual free fall.

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Max factor 23 Jan 2020
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

> The article has a table of the reported falls.  Only one is in the 12-15m category.

> Autobelay falls are arguably more dangerous. 

This is a good point and something I forgot to raise from my read of the article.  Does anyone know if those accidents are because of not clipping or clipping incorrectly vs. actual failure of the autobelay mechanism? 

I do recall an incident at the Westway where someone fell in mysterious circumstances and there was lots of speculation about what happened, but didn't ever see the official outcome of an investigation into to it. (Incidentally, another potential example where the culture of not-discussing accidents and risks openly is ultimately counterproductive). 

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Jamie Wakeham 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Harald:

If the primary aim is to reduce the number of serious injuries in indoor climbing walls, the priority list is:

1st bouldering

2nd bouldering

3rd bouldering

4th autobelays

Distant 5th roped climbing

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drconline 23 Jan 2020
In reply to JimminyJim:

Some great points in this reply...

> In every case it is belayer error. Usually one of the following:

> 3. Disengaging locking device continuously on an assisted breaking device e.g. 1. holding cam down on GriGri and feeding slack the whole climb 2. holding BD Pilot unlocked with thumb whole time.

Yup, I've been guilty of that one with the BD Pilot. As you outline you are then pitting your reaction time as a belayer (to realise the climber is falling and remove your thumb) against how far the climber will fall in that same time. Especially on lower clips this is a dangerous game to play.

In my defence I'm pretty obsessive about my brake hand, but that doesn't mean I can't improve my technique.

I consider myself suitably chastised and will seek to amend my ways!

Post edited at 11:04
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Max factor 23 Jan 2020
In reply to neilh:

You're welcome. And in case you were thinking of investing, I'd go for the original over the ClickUp plus. The safety improvements (their 'v proof system') have been made at the expense of usability. Whereas the original one operates excellently as a functional, tube-style device with assisted braking. 

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Martin Davies 23 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Great article. As someone who has 'decked out' from ~6m at an indoor wall following a multifactorial accident involving a new grigri, new rope, inexperienced grigri belayer (experienced climber with normal plates) and myself doing an unannounced clip drop to 'test the system' I am all too aware now of the possibility of hitting the deck! We're likely to move onto a click up now. 

Fortunately I landed feet first then arse onto rope bag which saved worse injury, plus rubber flooring. Still spinal immobilised and ambulance to hospital for CT head/neck/back but fortunately just bruising. Interesting for me was the mental effects - took me a long time to get comfortable on the rope indoors again. Trad was completely unaffected for me, outdoor sport was most affected - really struggled to feel comfortable/safe on a rope. tbh still have some 'baggage' from it but much more manageable now, and it's something I discuss with every climbing partner now, to highlight risks. I used to think indoor climbing was 'safe', and had done lots of clip drop, fall practice and used to throwing myself around on a rope since 12yo at indoor walls, but as discussed in the article so many potential distractions. I wouldn't be belayed by someone indoors/sport that wasn't using an assisted braking device now.

Now working in health care, we use the 'Swiss Cheese' model for errors, and try and learn lessons from aviation amongst other industries to improve safety. Using an assisted braking device should be the norm, especially amongst beginners learning indoors.

As an aside, I'm now married to the belayer who I was climbing with when I 'decked out'

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jkarran 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

> I should maybe have been clearer: I don't mean that it's taboo to talk about it, but I do think it's taboo to be a belayer who has dropped a climber...which gets in the way of realising that any of us could make that mistake.

I dropped someone in my first couple of years of climbing, same scenario your piece describes but with thankfully no serious injuries. I've never been worried telling people and the only and judgement I ever encountered was in discussion in this forum, rarely from experienced climbers, many doubtless with their own experiences of reality against perceived infallibility, never face to face.

jk

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Neil Williams 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Martin Davies:

It's interesting that you wouldn't climb without being belayed on a brake-assist device, yet the accident appears to read like it was caused by use of a Grigri, which is a brake-assist device, possibly due to confusion surrounding some slightly awkward aspects of its use, and which may not have occurred using a tube device?

To me that's the biggest issue with assisted braking devices - they all have their complex quirks.  The Mammut Smart seems to be the one that works closest to a tube device, and if I go for one it's likely to be that one, FWIW.  I think that's the "holy grail" of such devices - one that works as close to a tube device as possible.  Or at least for any counterintuitive design elements to have a suitable backup, such as the Grigri+ and its anti-panic feature.  (Most people who get dropped using Grigris are I believe due to incorrect lowering).

Post edited at 11:18
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Paul Sagar 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

IMO the original Click Up is the closest to a tube device out there. The Mammut Smart has an annoying handle that gets in the way of adjusting how much slack is in the system when belaying a leader, and is subtly different therefore compared to belaying on a classic tube. The Click Up* you use exactly the same action as a tube (no having tilt the device as with the BD ATC pilot or Mammut Smart or the Edelrid Megajul), it just locks up if it feels any resistance (ie you are not consciously feeding the dead rope) or the rope starts running too fast. 
 

* as Max says above, there is significant difference between the original Click Up, a superb piece of kit, and the Click Up+ which to my mind needlessly over complicates things and is as a result a worse device than the original. 

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Paul Sagar 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

> If the primary aim is to reduce the number of serious injuries in indoor climbing walls, the priority list is:

> 1st bouldering

> 2nd bouldering

> 3rd bouldering

> 4th autobelays

> Distant 5th roped climbing

Well, except for the fact that most bouldering injuries result in sprains or broken limbs but death or life-changing long term injury is extremely unlikely, whereas being dropped from 12+ meters could leave you dead or crippled. 

Plus the person responsible for a bouldering injury is almost always the person who got injured, not the person they are climbing with - so different issues are raised about the fallout for both parties in the aftermath. 

Post edited at 11:40
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Neil Williams 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

I've tried one once and found that the way I pay out a handful at a time quite quickly caused it to lock up every time.  If I got one and got used to it I'm sure I could work round that, though.

The key thing that all the devices need to simplify is lowering.  I mustn't be the only one who prefers what they were initially taught of both hands below the device and move one at a time with the other holding the rope (not hand-over-hand, but with the hands staying in the same relative position), and not a one-handed controlled slide - I don't think there is a single one of these devices that supports that, and a slide is more likely to make a novice lose control.

Post edited at 11:44
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TobyA 23 Jan 2020
In reply to jkarran:

It almost seems worthy of a separate thread - mistakes we have made and why we think we made them.

I've let a friend set off up a sports route only to notice I had threaded the Grigri the wrong way around. Lack of concentration at a crag with various mates and acquaintances, no buddy checks, lack of familiarity with a grigri I suspect. Fortunately a big ledge at the start of the route meant he could clip in and sit on that whilst I corrected the mistake.

Using an Alpine Bod harness with no belay loop I was sat on a bloc at the top of the abseils down the Petit Charmoz. I reached down to take the HMS krab with my belay device off the harness to get ready to abseil and instead removed the screwgate that was my connection via a sling to the bolts and my only connection to the mountain. Mainly inattention after a long day climbing, partly connected to the harness design where you need to use a krab between the leg loops and waistbelt as there was no belay loop.

When I "dropped" my friend lowering off an ice climb, I was "sure" she had said she ab down and take the screws out, she was "sure" she has said that she wanted be lowered off. She got to the top of the route leading, walked back into the trees to find a good one to sling and I took her off belay. I thought I knew what she wanted but I obviously wasn't sure and if we did say something to each other ("safe?" "yeah" perhaps at best) once she was at the top, we weren't clear in our discussion. She started walking over the edge to lower and obviously started going down quite fast - fortunately the lowering point was some way back through snow, the rope was running past smaller trees, there was more friction through the screws and out to where I was standing to avoid ice falling. When I realised what was happening I stamped on the rope then grabbed it by hand - fortunately my friend is small and light and with all the friction I could hold her quite easily like that. Ultimately though I had taken her off belay when she hadn't wanted to be taken off, so I misunderstood and I think it was my fault. There was quite a lot of discussion around the time in Helsinki climbing circles as lots of people were using English as a common language, and there were some other accidents or near misses where people both using their second language got confused. In my case, my friend's English is basically perfect and she has climbed a lot in the UK so knows they type of things Brits say - but I still felt as it was my native language the onus should have been on me to be even more certain I understood what the plan was. I reckon to a great degree in that situation with my other friends we generally abbed down - so I suspect I presumed that's what she would do, and in my head let that become that I knew that's what she was going to do.  I felt awful about it afterwards for quite some time despite my friend being nothing but nice to me - I can sympathise with Hannah in Paul's story.

Post edited at 11:53
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tom_in_edinburgh 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

> Well, except for the fact that most bouldering injuries result in sprains or broken limbs but death or life-changing long term injury is extremely unlikely, whereas being dropped from 12+ meters could leave you dead or crippled. 

It's not as simple as comparing the fall distance.  Bouldering falls are all free falls but roped falls where a belay device is threaded but not locked off are not free falls, there is still braking even though it is insufficient.   

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daWalt 23 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

On construction sites you often see a very prominent notice: X number of days without a lost time accident. 

I'd be quite happy to see something similar at the wall. 

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Robert Durran 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

> The key thing that all the devices need to simplify is lowering.  I mustn't be the only one who prefers what they were initially taught of both hands below the device and move one at a time with the other holding the rope.

The Click-Up is particularly wonderful for lowering - just tilt it while in the locked position. Perfect control and if you let go it immediately locks again. The opther hand on the rope is superfluous except as a belt and braces back up.

Post edited at 12:06
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Paul Sagar 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

FWIW my personal view is that beginners should all learn on a tube so that they understand the basic physics of belaying, and also so they can eventually graduate to two-rope trad belaying without extra difficulty, but when they are competent at tube belaying then they should consider using an ABD for eg sport and gym climbing.

however I also agree with others that it is ultimately a personal choice which device a person uses, and I am not in favour of imposing one device. It is of course also a personal choice whether or not to climb with that person accordingly. I have turned down catches from smaller partners using tubes and asked them to try the click up - most say yes, and although i get short rope a couple of times they get the hang of it fast, and I feel much safer as a result. In turn, I climb better. 

Post edited at 12:04
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Robert Durran 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

> FWIW my personal view is that beginners should all learn on a tube so that they understand the basic physics of belaying, and also so they can eventually graduate to two-rope trad belaying without extra difficulty, but when they are competent at tube belaying then they should consider using an ABD for eg sport and gym climbing.

> however I also agree with others that it is ultimately a personal choice which device a person uses, and I am not in favour of imposing one device. It is of course also a personal choice whether or not to climb with that person accordingly. I have turned down catches from smaller partners using tubes and asked them to try the click up - most say yes, and although i get short rope a couple of times they get the hang of it fast, and I feel much safer as a result. In turn, I climb better. 

I agree totally with everything here!

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Paul Sagar 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

> I've tried one once and found that the way I pay out a handful at a time quite quickly caused it to lock up every time.  If I got one and got used to it I'm sure I could work round that, though.


were you using the click up or the click up + ? I found the latter infuriating for the reason you describe, but with only very minor adjustment to feeding technique the original caused no problems at all.  

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C Witter 23 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

I think Paul raises some very interesting points, particularly that is can be very hard to have "frank" conversations with friends (and friends of friends) about belaying technique. It can be enormously embarrassing to be told that you are belaying incorrectly or that you are not trusted, and it can be hard to find a way of discussing this in an acceptable way. 

One way around this is just to say, "I'm scared of falling, and this is how I like my belay to be". I've said this before as a way of explaining to people what I want, without it seeming that I'm criticising their way of belaying; after all, there are different approaches.

I would imagine that a significant factor behind low groundfalls is simply too much slack being left in the system. This is something I see a lot of: people standing a long way out from the wall and leaving slack in the system that is not appropriate whilst the climber is so close to the ground. From what I've seen, it is often "experienced-looking" people, with Grigris, who tend toward this. It's just based on my own anecdotal experience, but I've interpreted this as people who mostly sport climb, or climb indoors, becoming complacent because they view sport climbing as "safe" and short roping as the ultimate sin when their buddy is trying to redpoint their project. Given that it is harder to feed slack through "assisted-breaking" devices, there is a tendency to leave more slack in the system and talk of "soft catches" is also used to justify a lot of unnecessary slack or standing well back from the wall. Having said this, I suppose (again from my limited experience) that trad climbers are less likely to expect their partners to fall (even indoors, sometimes), and this can create its own complacency. 

In my personal experience and based on existing literature, I don't think a tube device is any less safe: it works; it is simple and easy to use correctly; it doesn't create the false sense of security you may get with an AB device. Moreover, the main reasons I think people use tube devices over assisted-breaking devices in double rope systems are that they are light, flexible (e.g. you can abseil) and that they give a softer catch, leading to less force on gear. Given the advantages of a tube device whilst trad climbing, we will continue to prefer them outside; if we're using them outside, why not use them inside? Insisting that people use a different device inside to the one they use outside might actually be counter-productive, leading to more mistakes.

 

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Robert Durran 23 Jan 2020
In reply to C Witter:

> I don't think a tube device is any less safe: it works; it is simple and easy to use correctly.

In the same way that it is simpler and no less safe to drive without wearing a seatbelt - it is just a matter of always driving so that you don't crash and being absolutely certain that you will never get momentarily distracted with disatrous consequences.

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C Witter 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> In the same way that it is simpler and no less safe to drive without wearing a seatbelt - it is just a matter of always driving so that you don't crash and being absolutely certain that you will never get momentarily distracted with disatrous consequences.

No, not at all. It is simpler to use a tube device, so you potentially are less likely to make a user error, whilst the added complexity of AB devices means that user errors are potentially more likely - e.g. threading the device or lowering off too fast or taking your hand off the dead rope whilst trying to unlock it to feed out slack. 

I would add to that, if you always belay with a hand firmly holding the deadrope in a locked off position, you should catch someone with a tube device, even if you are slightly daydreaming. It's daydreaming with your hand not in a locked off position that is the problem; and, indeed, in Paul's story, Hannah wasn't even holding the deadrope properly - a mistake we can all make, sure, but definitely a user error rather than an inherent problem with tube devices.

Post edited at 12:37
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Robert Durran 23 Jan 2020
In reply to C Witter:

> No, not at all. It is simpler to use a tube device, so you potentially are less likely to make a user error, whilst the added complexity of AB devices means that user errors are potentially more likely - e.g. threading the device or lowering off too fast or taking your hand off the dead rope whilst trying to unlock it to feed out slack.

My experience is with a click-up and the only one of those which arguably holds for it is threading it the wrong way (when it then behaves like a standard tubular device). it is almost entirely forgiving of the others. I simply don't accept that it is not considerably safer than a standard tubular device.

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JHiley 23 Jan 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

Low numbers are good stats when comparing a large sample with a low number of incidents to another large sample with a higher number of incidents.

E.g The DAV results suggested the GriGri might be safer than the tubes because only one accident was recorded for the GriGri and when factoring in the different numbers of people using the devices tubes turned out to have a higher accident rate.

This actually supports the advice given by Paul in the article and not the comments made by Galpinos and jimtitt.

My point was that these stats are useless for comparing the GriGri (or tubes) to the other assisted breaking devices because so many random influences can affect whether an accident occurs. When counting accidents with a particular device it would be very easy to get 3 accidents in one period, the 0 in another period, then 5, then 5 again then 1, then 0 etc. So drawing conclusions about a ClickUp or whatever vs a GriGri is pointless based on this data.

The 737 Max wasn't grounded because the two crashes made it statistically a very unsafe aircraft. It was grounded because the two accidents occurred in similar circumstances and a common failure mode was identified by experts who then told journalists.

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C Witter 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

Perhaps it is slightly safer, in certain situations. But, personally, it seems heavy, expensive and only applicable to single-rope climbing on bolts, so I'm not going to be using one any time soon. If I can't catch someone on a tube inside, when the falls are relatively short, I've not got the right to belay with a tube outside trad climbing, when falls can involve longer distance and far greater forces.

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Harald 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

Where do people die or experience life-threatening injuries? Where does an accident cause trauma to all visitors/personnel? What accidents get picked up by the press? Climbing or bouldering?

I'd rather have 100 people breaking an arm, than one losing their life. Try and spend time with crippled victims, talk with parents, girlfriends, or loose an acquaintance yourself. I know from experience. It's climbing that has my main focus.  

That doesn't mean I ain't focusing on bouldering. Cause yes, accidents happen. A lot actually. The problem might even be the same as the original article noted: Complacency and Taboo. A large part of society just does not know how to move, let alone fall. Get out more as a kid, climb trees, dance, run, jump. And when at the bouldering wall: warm up, and include falling in your routine. But do not complain about bouldering walls not being safe, or mats to soft/hard/whatever. Face it: if you've had an accident while bouldering, you only have yourself to blame (90<->99%). 

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Chuckinpomgolia 23 Jan 2020
In reply to JHiley:

"

Someone who thinks they have to "react" in order to catch a fall (whether that means taking in slack, changing their footing or moving the hand holding the dead rope down reactively) is using incorrect technique.

"

You're on the money there.

On another point

Am I the only one who has noticed that 10mm ropes have been getting slimmer in the last few years?

Old style ATC devices designed and build last millennia IMO were designed for fatter ropes and do not assist braking well enough when belaying a heavier climber. I use one of those for a well worn in lead rope at the indoor wall (the westway if you must know). But have to reach for a modern reverso3 if I belay using an in situ Top Rope or use a friends brand new rope for leading.

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Robert Durran 23 Jan 2020
In reply to C Witter:

> Perhaps it is slightly safer, in certain situations.

It is definitely safer for all climbing on bolts, indoors or out - ie the use for which it is intended.

> But, personally, it seems heavy, expensive and only applicable to single-rope climbing on bolts, so I'm not going to be using one any time soon.

These are separate issues.

> If I can't catch someone on a tube inside, when the falls are relatively short, I've not got the right to belay with a tube outside trad climbing, when falls can involve longer distance and far greater forces.

The debate is not about whether you or anyone else can hold a fall on a standard tube device; it is about whether an assisted device is forgiving of the momentary carelessnesses to which absolutely everyone can be susceptible (whether they admit it or not!) and hence might prevent accidents.

Post edited at 12:56
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In reply to UKC Articles:

Worth sharing this recent piece in the thread too.: https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/when_you_forget_to_attach_to_the_autobelay_no-clip_falls-12431

I've linked to it in Paul's article, too. 

My pet hate is people gabbing away having a full-blown conversation while belaying. It amazes me that people don't get what message that's sending to the climber and how divided their attention is while doing so. Call me anti-social, but there's plenty of time for chat once they're down! I try not to chat to people while they're belaying, or as Lynn Hill taught us all, while they're tying in or putting their harness on. 

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petegunn 23 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

The old section of the Penrith wall has its first bolt at 3.40m!

I think now most first bolts are at 2.40m because of the rubber crumb saftey rating.

So falls under this height should not be due to belayer error.

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tom_in_edinburgh 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Harald:

> Where do people die or experience life-threatening injuries? Where does an accident cause trauma to all visitors/personnel? What accidents get picked up by the press? Climbing or bouldering?

How about some data?   You are just assuming the serious death/injury accidents are roped climbing rather than bouldering because they are higher.   It is naive to think a bouldering fall could not cause serious/fatal injury.   If you fall from an awkward position and on your head/neck or you bash your head on a jug/volume on the way down, or clash head-to-head into someone on the mat, it could be very nasty.  Similarly, it is naive to focus on the greater height of climbing walls relative to bouldering walls without considering that the rope running through the belay will brake the climber and reduce impact energy even in the case of belayer error.

The actual numbers in this article suggest that it isn't lead climbing where the accidents are happening, on the contrary less than 1% of accidents are ground falls and of the small number of ground falls almost all were from relatively low height.

The class of accident I know that has happened on local walls causing multiple very serious injuries is climbing on an autobelay without being clipped in.     The class of accident that I see happen fairly regularly is injuries from falling off bouldering walls.

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jelaby 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Rad:

This is a link to the file on your own computer, and so no one else can see it. It would be great if you could post a link to the website you downloaded it from.

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galpinos 23 Jan 2020

> It is definitely safer for all climbing on bolts, indoors or out - ie the use for which it is intended.

Robert, it's these kind of statements we need to avoid. I assume you are referring to the Click-Up, but not all amplified braking belay devices are the same. Having tried the belay test in Jon Garside's post up thread, I "dropped" the "climber" twice with a Mammut Smart. I didn't try the BD Pilot but I would imagine I would have "dropped the climber" using that too. I didn't drop the climber using any tube devices, Grigri or the others I tried.

That's not to say that the Smart/Pilot is a bad device, but I would never use one as my natural reaction to an unexpected fall was not correct for these devices.

In reply to the thread:

It is really worth trying the belay test as described in Jon's videos on a wide range of belay devices. It's quite eye opening.

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Jamie Wakeham 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Harald:

> Where do people die or experience life-threatening injuries? Where does an accident cause trauma to all visitors/personnel? What accidents get picked up by the press? Climbing or bouldering?

A client of mine broke her back bouldering last year.  Landed poorly, bum-first, and the shockwave went up her back and broke a couple of vertebrae just above the CT junction.

> Try and spend time with crippled victims, talk with parents, girlfriends, or loose an acquaintance yourself.

Poor of you to assume I haven't.

> Face it: if you've had an accident while bouldering, you only have yourself to blame (90<->99%). 

Nope - a lot of bouldering accidents are caused by people on the mats moving beneath a boulderer and not realising they are about to be fallen on.  Yes, these aren't (usually) the serious ones.

I don't disagree that you are less likely to be killed or suffer a life-changing injury falling from the top of a roped wall than you are falling from the bouldering wall.  However, almost all serious accidents (broken bones or worse) happen there. 

Post edited at 13:40
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krzychu (chris) 23 Jan 2020
C Witter 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> The debate is not about whether you or anyone else can hold a fall on a standard tube device; it is about whether an assisted device is forgiving of the momentary carelessnesses to which absolutely everyone can be susceptible (whether they admit it or not!) and hence might prevent accidents.

You are narrowing the debate to a rhetorical question you've already settled in your own mind. Basic reality is, standard practice at many centres and for many users is to use tubes. Telling people they should use an expensive, elaborate and unnecessary AB device instead is not going to solve anything. Better to focus on improving belaying practice - especially as, people's understandably sensitive feelings aside, the anecdote central to Paul Sagar's piece is about someone suffering a ground fall due to a belayer not having a firm grasp on the deadrope.

Accidents happen, stigmatising people is not a good way forward, but there's no compelling evidence that tubes are the problem or that AB devices are the solution.

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Robert Durran 23 Jan 2020
In reply to C Witter:

> You are narrowing the debate to a rhetorical question you've already settled in your own mind. Basic reality is, standard practice at many centres and for many users is to use tubes. Telling people they should use an expensive, elaborate and unnecessary AB device instead is not going to solve anything.

I'm not telling anybody to do anything and nor am I in favour of walls doing so. I am simply arguing that an assisted braking device is safer and makes an accident less likely. People can make up their own minds whether to use one bearing that fact in mind.

> Paul Sagar's piece is about someone suffering a ground fall due to a belayer not having a firm grasp on the deadrope.

So the accident very probably wouldn't have happened if she had been using an assisted device.

> Accidents happen, stigmatising people is not a good way forward, but there's no compelling evidence that tubes are the problem or that AB devices are the solution.

I'm not stigamatising anyone, but I would like to bet that fewer climbers would get dropped if everyone used assisted devices. It just seems blindingly obvious. I have witnessed three climbers being dropped and injured at Ratho and I don't believe any of them would have been with an assisted device.

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Iamgregp 23 Jan 2020
In reply to C Witter:

>  Telling people they should use an expensive, elaborate and unnecessary AB device instead is not going to solve anything. Better to focus on improving belaying practice 

I agree wholeheartedly with this, people should be allowed to use the device they feel most comfortable with.

> Accidents happen, stigmatising people is not a good way forward, but there's no compelling evidence that tubes are the problem or that AB devices are the solution.

That said, the accident that happened in Paul's example wouldn't have happened if they were using an AB device.

Personally I think anyone who still thinks that a tube device is safer for climbing on bolts than an AB device just hasn't used one enough, but it's not up to me, or a climbing wall, to force people to do so. 

I learnt on tube by the way, used one for years before I switched to click up.  Only ever use the tube for belaying somebody on a super fat top rope where the click-up works, but is just hard work 

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Al Randall 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

I agree.  I understand that many walls in the USA have indeed now banned "tube type" devices. In my experience organisations do not do things like that without good cause.

Al

Post edited at 14:13
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Yorkshire Pud 23 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

It amazes me that climbing walls don't fit floor fixed tapes as standard at the base of climbs (or perhaps say a couple of of metres away from the wall) into which all belayers need to clip to both prevent the belayer rising from the ground in the event of a fall, and to ensure the belayer stays close to the wall and directly under the line of the potential force upwards. Noticed "Big R" (mentioning no names but a world leading climber from previous generations) standing some 7 metres from the wall recently whilst belaying down at Awesome Walls. Didn't strike me as a particularly great example.

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Iamgregp 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Yorkshire Pud:

They do, pretty much all walls have some form of ground anchor available.. . But having the belayer clipped into the ground anchor whilst somebody leads is generally a bad idea.  If the leader falls it makes the catch harder meaning that it's uncomfortable for the climber and can pendulum them into the wall harder.

Coming off the ground when your leader falls is no problem as long as you don't make it too close to the first bolt.  Makes for a nice soft catch meaning it's a gentle fall, no big shock or heavy swing into the wall.

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Coel Hellier 23 Jan 2020
In reply to C Witter:

> Telling people they should use an expensive, elaborate and unnecessary AB device instead is not going to solve anything.

Yes it is, it will solve quite a large fraction of such deck-outs.

>  ... the anecdote central to Paul Sagar's piece is about someone suffering a ground fall due to a belayer not having a firm grasp on the deadrope.

Yes, and the belayer says:

"I barely registered what was happening, only the friction burns on my hand attested to some instinctive grabbing of the rope."

If you grab with even a quarter of the tightness needed to get friction burns, then a Click Up will lock up and hold the fall (and without the burns as well).

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Robert Durran 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Yorkshire Pud:

> It amazes me that climbing walls don't fit floor fixed tapes as standard at the base of climbs (or perhaps say a couple of of metres away from the wall) into which all belayers need to clip to both prevent the belayer rising from the ground in the event of a fall, and to ensure the belayer stays close to the wall and directly under the line of the potential force upwards. Noticed "Big R" (mentioning no names but a world leading climber from previous generations) standing some 7 metres from the wall recently whilst belaying down at Awesome Walls. Didn't strike me as a particularly great example.

There are perfectly good reasons for standing well back once a climber is high on a route. The problem is that inexperienced climbers then copy this behaviour when it is dangerous (climber too low risking ground fall, or relatively light belayer risking being lifted off their sleep and slammed into the wall, possibly then dropping the leader if they are not using as assisted device!)

Post edited at 14:47
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Al Randall 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

Yes but 7 metres sounds excessive, unnecessary and hard to justify.

Al

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Flinticus 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

At my last indoor session Tuesday I requested my belayer switch from the Click Up to an ATC.

I had just completed a 6c on the Click Up and twice the device jammed as I took up rope, both times when you really don't want that happening. Neither is that the first time it happened. 

The most inattentive / casual belaying I see is when ABD or similar is being used.

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Ian Parsons 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

Hah, Rob! I think that, possibly inadvertently, you might have just stumbled on the problem.

Which I see you've just spotted - thus rendering this comment not nearly as hilarious as I first thought.

Post edited at 14:48
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Robert Durran 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Ian Parsons:

> Hah, Rob! I think that, possibly inadvertently, you might have just stumbled on the problem.

I'd just corrected the typo but I'll put it back in again.

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C Witter 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Iamgregp:

> That said, the accident that happened in Paul's example wouldn't have happened if they were using an AB device.

The accident wouldn't have happened if they'd been using the tube device correctly, either; and using an AB device incorrectly is also dangerous. A different anecdote about lowering someone too fast on a Grigri and them decking out would have no doubt occasioned a debate about the dangers of AB devices, with people recommending sticking to tubes...  

The idea of walls banning tubular devices, mentioned by others, is nuts. As someone who predominantly trad climbs, I don't think of someone as competent if they can't belay properly with a tubular device. Banning tubular devices is just another way of deskilling people and making it harder for people to transition from plastic to safely climbing outside.

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Ian Parsons 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

Very good of you. And you clearly type much faster than I do!

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Al Randall 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Flinticus:

I have never short roped anyone while using a Click Up so I'm struggling to see why others do but even if I had that would be preferable to letting someone hit the ground because I had been momentarily inattentive. That is the issue we are discussing, the fact that an ABD offers a second chance under these circumstances which many on here seem to acknowledge is the most common cause of accidents especially indoors.

Al

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Robert Durran 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Al Randall:

> I have never short roped anyone while using a Click Up so I'm struggling to see why others do.

I find that it takes just a couiple of routes for people to become accustomed enough to it that they never short rope.

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Iamgregp 23 Jan 2020
In reply to C Witter:

Let's face it, the vast majority of climbing accidents happen because somebody has made a mistake (be it an error of judgement, lapse of concentration, tied their knot wrongly etc). 

In general, if nobody has made a mistake, nobody gets hurt.  Therefore, of course if the belayer in the example had not have made the mistake there would have been no problem. 

What an ABD does is add an extra level of safety for occasions when somebody has made a mistake, gives the climbers a second chance at not decking by some kind of mechanism or action kicking in.  Nobody is saying they're foolproof, but like I said previously, I really think they're safer than a tube where there is no such second chance.

Gri Gri did have the problem where people could be yank too hard on the handle when letting people down which is a potential mistake a tube doesn't have, but they've now addressed this and the gri gri has undoubtedly prevented more accidents than it has caused.

The click up doesn't have this issue and is the same to use as a tube style, I really think that if any ATC user were to give it a fair chance on trial they would switch to it for climbing on bolts.  

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Robert Durran 23 Jan 2020
In reply to C Witter:

> The accident wouldn't have happened if they'd been using the tube device correctly, either; and using an AB device incorrectly is also dangerous.

You just seem to be obstinately missing the point which several of us are making - of course the accident wouldn't have happened without an error, but the same error wouldn't have resulted in an accident if an assisted device had been used.

> A different anecdote about lowering someone too fast on a Grigri and them decking out would have no doubt occasioned a debate about the dangers of AB devices, with people recommending sticking to tubes...  

There are undoubtedly issues with lowering using a Grigri, but there are not with AB's such as a click-up. So, if Grigris are problematical, the answer is to switch to something like a click -up rather than a tubular device and swapping one problem for a worse one. 

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cb294 23 Jan 2020
In reply to JHiley:

> ... Obviously the belayer should pay attention in order to avoid giving too much slack or short-roping the climber but not so they can switch from incorrect belaying technique to correct technique if they expect a fall....

Agreed.

> Someone who thinks they have to "react" in order to catch a fall (whether that means taking in slack, changing their footing or moving the hand holding the dead rope down reactively) is using incorrect technique.

Here I disagree. Of course you should react to a leader fall. How else are you e.g. supposed to manage a soft catch if not by moving / changing your footing? Similarly, if the leader falls while you are paying out you will have to move your brake hand back down.

IMO the important bit is that your belay position, stance, hand movement (up to pay out and down again immediately) should all be set so that you will catch your partner EVEN IF YOU FAIL to react properly.

By all means stand comfortably, but no so far away that you are smashed into the wall should you miss your leader booking some air time...

CB

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Flinticus 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Al Randall:

But there is a psychological effect on using the Click Up: the inattentiveness is seen as less serious - the device will save the climber. My belayer's attention is spot on when using the ATC.

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galpinos 23 Jan 2020
In reply to JHiley:

> E.g The DAV results suggested the GriGri might be safer than the tubes because only one accident was recorded for the GriGri and when factoring in the different numbers of people using the devices tubes turned out to have a higher accident rate.

> This actually supports the advice given by Paul in the article and not the comments made by Galpinos and jimtitt.

Which DAV results are you talking about?

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Iamgregp 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Flinticus:

Good point, I'm going to start driving without my seat belt on, to avoid my mind wandering due to the psychological effect of having the seat belt on.  

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Al Randall 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Flinticus:

> But there is a psychological effect on using the Click Up: the inattentiveness is seen as less serious - the device will save the climber. My belayer's attention is spot on when using the ATC.

How do you know?  The consequences of inattentiveness ARE less serious, that's the point that's being made.  Under those circumstances the device will save the leader. No one is suggesting that a belayer should pay less attention because of it. Getting short roped using a Click Up suggests inattentiveness in itself unless of course an inappropriately thick furry rope is being used.

Al

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Robert Durran 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Flinticus:

>  My belayer's attention is spot on when using the ATC.

And I suppose you're also one of those prolific UKC drivers who've never ever had a near miss through a momentary lapse of concentration.

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L Si Matthews 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Martin Davies:

Also in healthcare. New to climbing. Personally using a tube. Will get a GriGri - but I think i want to wait until my first anniversary to do so.

I hope I'm not being needlessly reckless, but I want to spend some time developing the mental discipline and muscle memory necessary to be confident in my skills, before bringing a device into the situation which is more likely to promote a relaxing of approach due to the reduced consequences of failure.

I'm very lucky to be able to climb with a group which allows for friendly criticism and a degree of openness. I've had concentration lapses, I've had issues with technique and positioning, I've definitely been in the situation of having too much slack out on the lower clips.

It frightens me to think how little would have to have changed about any of those situations for disaster to have struck. Being frightened is good, as far as can see, for me right now. It's why I'm here, and why I'm going apply myself all the more fully at the wall tonight. I hope that in time as my experience builds I can become truly skilled - but I don't want to shortcut that process with an ABD just at this moment whilst I'm learning.

I think walls should run their equivalent of M&M meetings or Schwartz rounds. Professionally guided seminar sessions where all climbers can come along and openly discuss belaying technique, accidents, near misses, mindset, risk assessment, human factors. If I ran a wall I'd make it mandatory to attend semi-regularly.

Just as we do in healthcare... 

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tomhardie 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Flinticus:

> But there is a psychological effect on using the Click Up: the inattentiveness is seen as less serious - the device will save the climber. My belayer's attention is spot on when using the ATC.

Moral hazard is a well documented theory. 

i.e. those with health insurance/NHS will take more risks (or smoke/drink more), those cycling with helmets will cycle more dangerously, those wearing seatbelts will drive more recklessly, those using Click Ups won't belay as attentively.

Whilst a nice theory, considered in a perfectly rational bubble, it's largely bollocks.

That's not how people behave and we make split second decisions without thinking. When having another pint we don't consider liver cirrhosis (and the fact it'll be fixed for free), when nipping through an amber light, we don't think about if we've got a helmet or seatbelt on, when the person on the other side of the wall is climbing a route you've been stuck on, or your friend shows up, you probably don't think about what belay device is your hands.

All belay devices are safe when used properly. If used improperly ABDs are often still fine. It adds a safety margin - which doesn't mean you won't drop a climber, but it's pretty tricky to (when you're familiar with it).

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Misha 23 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

Thanks for clarifying. I guess what we really need is a scientific study of number of accidents per route climbed using different devices. Clearly difficult to arrange...

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Paul Sagar 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Flinticus:

> At my last indoor session Tuesday I requested my belayer switch from the Click Up to an ATC.

> I had just completed a 6c on the Click Up and twice the device jammed as I took up rope, both times when you really don't want that happening. Neither is that the first time it happened. 

> The most inattentive / casual belaying I see is when ABD or similar is being used.

This is just poor/inexperienced use of the Click Up. I taught my girlfriend to belay on a tube, then when she was competent with that, we switched to a Click Up for sport and indoor climbing (we still use a tube for trad). At first she would lock it up by accident, now she rarely does (not least because she gets the You Threatened My Onsight Stare of Death if it happens).

Yes, the Click Up takes a little time to get used to - but once you know how to handle it, even if you accidentally lock it, I find it can be unlocked in literally 1 second, and indeed if you walk towards the wall whilst unlocking you can actually give your climber slack anyway. Occasionally I lock by accident if I wasn't expecting to give slack quickly, and my gf usually doesn't even notice because I take a sneaky step towards her was I'm unlocking.

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Misha 23 Jan 2020
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

Paul’s point is that bouldering injuries are completely different by nature. It’s the climber who is responsible and what needs improving is the ability to anticipate a fall and land well. Plus route setters not setting stupid problems which lead to awkward falls (a common theme there with lead). Besides, the injuries are rarely very serious and I suspect never lethal. I also suspect that the higher incidence of bouldering injuries is partly due to the higher volume of climbing done in a bouldering session. I’m not saying more shouldn’t be done to educate people on avoiding bouldering injuries but it’s a completely different kettle of fish.

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Paul Sagar 23 Jan 2020
In reply to tomhardie:

> Moral hazard is a well documented theory. 

> i.e. those with health insurance/NHS will take more risks (or smoke/drink more), those cycling with helmets will cycle more dangerously, those wearing seatbelts will drive more recklessly, those using Click Ups won't belay as attentively.

> Whilst a nice theory, considered in a perfectly rational bubble, it's largely bollocks.

> That's not how people behave and we make split second decisions without thinking. When having another pint we don't consider liver cirrhosis (and the fact it'll be fixed for free), when nipping through an amber light, we don't think about if we've got a helmet or seatbelt on, when the person on the other side of the wall is climbing a route you've been stuck on, or your friend shows up, you probably don't think about what belay device is your hands.

> All belay devices are safe when used properly. If used improperly ABDs are often still fine. It adds a safety margin - which doesn't mean you won't drop a climber, but it's pretty tricky to (when you're familiar with it).

Precisely. The "people ride more safely if they don't wear a helmet" argument always irritates me. Let's say it's true (which I doubt). Here are two scenarios:

1. Due to events entirely beyond the rider's control, they fall off their bike. They are not wearing a helmet. They end up brain damaged.

2. Due to events entirely beyond the rider's control, they fall of their bike. They are wearing a helmet. Later that day they go to Evans Cycles and buy a new helmet.

The point in cycling as in belaying is not to ask what happens in perfect scenarios, but what happens in the worst case scenario. ABDs are not fool proof and they do not eliminate risk - but they do, like wearing a helmet, reduce how bad the worse case scenario is likely to be.

Anyone denying this is, to my mind, just being pig headed.

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elsewhere 23 Jan 2020
In reply to JHiley:

I disagree. I think you can sometimes draw conclusions from small numbers including unique events.

I think single events can be statistically significant and that the first 737 Max crash is an example of that.

Boeing could have considered...

If it is just as safe, this (then) unique crash in a small fleet of new aircraft requires the assumption of it just being really really unlucky. Really really bad luck IS possible but really really unlikely so not a good assumption and statistically it is probably wrong. That's what I mean by statistically significant - it requires an improbable belief in bad luck.

OR

the assumption that the accident rate is the same as the larger fleet of older 737 models is wrong.

Post edited at 16:31
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Misha 23 Jan 2020
In reply to C Witter:

Sure, you have to be able to use a tuber. But it just makes sense to use a grigri etc for indoors and sport. Safer if used correctly and it makes it much easier to take for extended periods while the leader is resting or working the moves. Trad is very different. Often less climbing done in a day and usually fewer falls taken and no or limited sitting on the rope. 

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C Witter 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Misha:

Of course an AB device can be a sensible choice in certain situations; but this does not mean that we have to accept the corollary that it is not sensible to use a tube device. If I were arguing for body belaying at the wall, you might have a point, but a tube is the most common and flexible belay device around, so the suggestion from others that everyone should suddenly stop using them indoors is nonsense.

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Misha 23 Jan 2020
In reply to C Witter:

Of course you can use a tuber indoors. I do if I forget my Eddy. But on the whole it makes a lot more sense to use an AB device, as long as you know how to use it. Doesn’t matter if you’re mostly a trad climber (I am as well). 

As others have said, a grigri largely takes out the risk you get with not holding the dead rope in a tuber due to inattention. Anyone can be inattentive. Improper use of a grigri is completely different by nature. Largely it’s either holding it open when lowering out of control (the latest model mitigates against that anyway) or holding the cam down to pay out slack without keeping hold of the dead rope. That is incorrect use, not in attention. Incorrect use can be addressed easily enough through instruction. Inattention is always an inherent risk. A grigri or similar takes out that inherent risk.

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Jamie Wakeham 23 Jan 2020
In reply to tomhardie:

Except that's exactly how people behave. To use the cycling example, an often-quoted study a few years ago showed that drivers passed noticeably faster and closer to cyclists wearing helmets than to those without. 

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AlH 23 Jan 2020

> I think walls should run their equivalent of M&M meetings or Schwartz rounds. Professionally guided seminar sessions where all climbers can come along and openly discuss belaying technique, accidents, near misses, mindset, risk assessment, human factors. If I ran a wall I'd make it mandatory to attend semi-regularly.

This.

I work with a number of walls and have suggested they offer these... The issue may be those that need it most will be the hardest to get to engage. This article is another step in a process to make more people aware though.

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tom_in_edinburgh 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Misha:

Clearly the overwhelming majority of the large number of bouldering injuries are not life threatening.   However,  there have definitely been cases of serious injuries falling off bouldering walls.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2880178/police-worker-broke-her-back-after-falling-from-a-climbing-wall-while-on-an-internet-date/

Even if only a tiny percentage of bouldering injuries are serious it could still exceed the very small number of serious lead injuries.  

What the numbers in the article suggest is that indoor lead is actually safer than we think it is.  Indoor autobelay is actually more dangerous than we think it is and indoor bouldering is where the vast majority of accidents happen.

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TobyA 23 Jan 2020
In reply to C Witter:

> A different anecdote about lowering someone too fast on a Grigri and them decking out would have no doubt occasioned a debate about the dangers of AB devices,

It has happened already plenty and has of course led to discussion.

> with people recommending sticking to tubes...  

Well rather it led to Edelrid designing the Eddy, IIRC the first device to have the feature that yanking down on the release handle just locks the device again. This was then copied by Petzl a few years later on one of their later generation grigri versions.

I think talking about "tube devices" isn't really helpful. The Megajul is a "tube device" but feels like a Grigri to use in the amount of assistance it gives to catches (on doubles or singles), and unless BD have changed the original ATC's dimensions much, it is VERY slick compared to an ATC Guide or ATC XP. I chucked out my original ATC after abbing off the South Face of the Midi on thin-ish double ropes and being very worried by that even having extended the device and having a prussik on my belay loop I was still having to grip rather hard.

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Paul Sagar 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

> Except that's exactly how people behave. To use the cycling example, an often-quoted study a few years ago showed that drivers passed noticeably faster and closer to cyclists wearing helmets than to those without.


IIRC this is an urban myth. I think I did once see a thing on the BBC that claimed to find that the only thing that made drivers drive past cyclists more safely was a jacket with the word POLICE on the back. 
 

this may also be an urban myth, but that is kind of my point...

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Rick Graham 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

> Precisely. The "people ride more safely if they don't wear a helmet" argument always irritates me. Let's say it's true (which I doubt). Here are two scenarios:

> 1. Due to events entirely beyond the rider's control, they fall off their bike. They are not wearing a helmet. They end up brain damaged.

> 2. Due to events entirely beyond the rider's control, they fall of their bike. They are wearing a helmet. Later that day they go to Evans Cycles and buy a new helmet.

> The point in cycling as in belaying is not to ask what happens in perfect scenarios, but what happens in the worst case scenario. ABDs are not fool proof and they do not eliminate risk - but they do, like wearing a helmet, reduce how bad the worse case scenario is likely to be.

> Anyone denying this is, to my mind, just being pig headed.

I would humbly suggest that you (and tomhardie )are being a bit pig headed . Until  proper scientific  research and analysis is undertaken , no one can be sure which is "safer", either which belay device or a helmet or not.

Even then , the conclusion may not be  accurate. The , apparently , simplest subjects get more confusing  the more you research them, always another layer of complexity to be discovered.

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Paul Sagar 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Rick Graham:

Ok but we can make educated guesses based on the data and knowledge that we do have. The best reasonable educated guess is that ABDs are safer than tubes overall, and wearing a helmet is safer than not wearing a helmet overall. MAYBE this is not true. But based on what we know now, it seems to be true. So a rational and sensible person should adjust their behaviour in line with that finding *even if* they are (unbeknownst to them) they are making a mistake. 

and anyway it’s not a mistake in the case of helmets. Take cars out of the equation. A few years back I mis-seated the tyre on my single speed bike without realising it after repairing a puncture. Picking up speed to get up the bridge near my house the inner tube forced the tyre outwards and it got jammed in the front break. I was immediately flipped over the handlebars and landed on the top of my head. If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet - which cracked in two - I imagine severe brain injury would have been the result. Whether cars do or do not drive closer to cyclists is irrelevant here - the helmet worked, and if I hadn’t been wearing it things would have been worse. As in my original article, an ABD would have prevented a very serious accident. I suggest that in both cases it is just obtuse not to accept that using a helmet or an ABD in many situations is more sensible than not. 

Post edited at 17:58
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Haszko 23 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

I was dropped two days ago when my belayer was lowering me. He was concentrating on me and didn’t notice the rope was too short for the route in question (sport climbing in the Peak.) The rope shot through the belay device and I hit the ground, my head connecting with a sharp rock. Two lessons were learned:

1. Make sure the rope is long enough and tie the dead end off.

2. More important perhaps: wear a helmet. The dent in the back of   would have been in my head.

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JHiley 23 Jan 2020
In reply to galpinos:

Hi

Links were posted to mountainproject.com by a Jim Titt a couple of years ago. The following link (which claims to use DAV statistics) is still working. Apart from a study into observed error rates with different devices this is all I've managed to find.

https://www.naturfreunde.at/files/uploads/2016/01/NF_S16und17_Sportklettern.pdf

Fine for you to call me out for talking about the stats without posting my source but it was you and Jim who initially referred to the mystery DAV stats to support a view that assisted belay devices are less safe than tubes or GriGris. The data in the above link does not show this. If you have some better data to link to please post it.

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TobyA 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

Sorry, I can't stop myself any more so please ignore the following - it must just be the teacher in me and I can't stop it.

It's brake!!!! Not bloody break!!! Arggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

Right. Got that out the system. Apologies again.

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Neil Williams 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

> however I also agree with others that it is ultimately a personal choice which device a person uses, and I am not in favour of imposing one device. It is of course also a personal choice whether or not to climb with that person accordingly. I have turned down catches from smaller partners using tubes and asked them to try the click up - most say yes, and although i get short rope a couple of times they get the hang of it fast, and I feel much safer as a result. In turn, I climb better.

Tried the Edelrid Ohm for that sort of thing?  It both reduces the braking force they need to put in *and* stops them going flying up in the air while not tying them down like a weight bag or ground anchor.  I'm over twice the weight of a couple of my regular partners (or weigh slightly more than both of them put together) and yet with the Ohm it's perfectly safe as they tell me it just feels like belaying a vaguely normally sized person.

Post edited at 18:22
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Neil Williams 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

> were you using the click up or the click up + ? I found the latter infuriating for the reason you describe, but with only very minor adjustment to feeding technique the original caused no problems at all.  

Not sure to be honest.  It was quite recently so it could have been the +.

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jimtitt 23 Jan 2020
In reply to JHiley:

Look again, particularly at the  bar graph at the bottom right. The caption reads " Unfalle nach sicherungsgerate in Vehaltnis zur Verbreitung" which translates to "accidents by belay device in proportion to their popularity" and you will see that halbautomaten (Grigri et al) are involved in more accidents prortionally to the user numbers.

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JHiley 23 Jan 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

I see your point particularly about not ignoring what seem to be freak 'one off' events because they might not be.

The problem I have with it for comparing the record of different products is that the lone accident with a GriGri could easily have been five or zero with a very small change in circumstances. The same is true for the other devices. One device might really be more dangerous than the others but we can't tell from such low numbers of incidents because the data is still two influenced by contributions from random external factors.

Not entirely unbiased here: I own and like using a clickup and can't convince myself it isn't safer than a tube unless the belayer completely disregards the simple instructions on how to use it. I also own a GriGri but I'm alarmed by how common disabling the locking on the device seems to be while belaying and have heard many anecdotal accounts of accidents with them.

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JHiley 23 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

Hi, I'm sure my German is far worse than yours but I thought Grafik 4 und 5 were the KLEVER statistics, not the DAV statistics.

The text says the DAV and KLEVER stats disagree which further supports my point about there not being enough data.

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jimtitt 23 Jan 2020
In reply to JHiley:

The study/article was originally written by the DAV for Bergundsteigen if I remember rightly. The graphs were produced  using DAV statistics for both accidents and user popularity for the one above and KLEVER accident statistics and DAV popularity numbers for the lower one as KLEVER had none of their own (KLEVER is the organisation representing a small number of independent climbing walls, maybe around 30).

It was all part of a discussion when KLEVER used the pure accident numbers to ban tubers in their walls instead of looking at the proportional accident figures.

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Paul Sagar 23 Jan 2020
In reply to TobyA:

Haha yes, thanks for that. Of course it is. spelling never was my strong point (says the career academic...)

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Jim Cooper 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Iamgregp:

I think you may be referring to "Risk compensation theory" which was for sometime given some credibility in the road traffic crash causation field by a minority of commentators (one well known academic in particular). See https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233172126_Review_Risk_Compensation_Literature_-_The_Theory_and_Evidence

This theory, which probably is real in some circumstances, has become less popular in recent years.  However it certainly applies to me if I try soloing! 

The example you quote about seat belts I do not think was ever seriously considered. It was more of an "Urban Myth". 

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elsewhere 23 Jan 2020
In reply to JHiley:

I think you can tell from small numbers such as the five or zero you mention.

If something is safe but has bad stats (eg five accidents) that requires me to believe that device has exceptional bad luck (random external factors). Exceptional bad luck is definitely possible but not a very probable. Unsafe and middling lucky is more plausible to me as middling luck is more common than exceptional bad luck.

Equally if something is more dangerous but has good stats (eg zero accidents) that requires me to believe that device has exceptional good luck (random external factors). Exceptional good luck is definitely possible but not a very probable. Safe and middling lucky is more plausible to me as middling luck is more common than exceptional good luck.

Post edited at 20:15
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tdan0504 23 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

I've been dropped twice at an indoor wall, both times when just about to top out. 

First time I did a good Mission Impossible impression, halting six inches above the floor, second time resulted in a broken leg and severed achilles tendon.

Both times were due to belayers not paying attention, they assumed that as I was an experienced climber, I wasn't going to fall.

Personally, if I'm belaying, I NEVER take my eyes off the climber for a second and I also use a Mega Jul belay device which is a super bit of gear.

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TobyA 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

You weren't by any means the only one. I can now go back to despairing over teenagers who don't know what an apostrophe is, so think "theyre" is a real word that has the same meaning as "their" (or even sometimes "there")!

Post edited at 20:53
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Paul Sagar 23 Jan 2020
In reply to TobyA:

I bet you have to deal with that alot

(sorry)

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alaster tonge 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Jay83:

I think this is the best way. To point out observations freely to fellow wall users. Doing so certainly helps me stay more focused on my own belaying. Often it results in a good think and talk about how we are all carrying out our duty of belaying care. I would hope to welcome the same myself.

On the other hand, I have often received pretty ugly responses from a careless belayer, frequently a more experienced climber who thinks little of my opinion. In such a case I have often found that telling the climber how they were belayed during their climb catches the attention more.

As the article tries to point out; a more open approach to the subject can only be healthy in indoor climbing walls. Particularly at the walls where you never see a floor walker, I feel the responsibility falls to us all. I can't just watch someone who uses only two fingers to swap hands, outside of a locked position, without saying something. And I see and say it a lot!

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TobyA 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

Lolz. We all have our horrors - for me it's "affect" and "effect". I've been looking up usage guides and the like to check for well over 20 years it must be, and I'm still never convinced I'm using the right one! And until I started teaching 5 years ago I had written and edited for my job for the previous 15 years so it isn't like I had much excuse.

"In affect" or "in effect"!?!?!? Panic!!!

In reply to tdan0504:

Nice to meet someone else who thinks the Mega Jul is a great bit of kit. We are a special little group it seems sometimes! The head design dude at Edelrid told me about 5 years ago that he knew of German climbing walls where they had bought them by the box load and were asking - maybe requiring - everyone to use them because they believe they were so much safer. I don't know if I would go that far, but like people are saying with the Click Ups, I find they are very forgiving catching falls, but you need to develop a knack to pay out smoothly.

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pcassels 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Toerag:

> From the article:-

> "For a split second she loosened her hand on the dead rope to rearrange to a more comfortable position."

> "So what can we do?"

> Teach people to belay properly from the word go, and berate in a friendly way them when they don't.  I always teach people the mantra 'if the climber's not moving have them locked-off', and I always make them hold a fall or two from a heavy person under supervision so they feel the 'full force' of a fall. The phrases 'killed to death' and 'you're gonna die' also feature in my spiel because that is the harsh reality of climbing screw-ups. Some people are taken aback at first, but once they've held that heavy person's toprope fall they get it.  Safety skills have been trivialised these days in my eyes because people often first climb in a fast-paced group environment - (a birthday party, youth group activity or teambuilding day) where the emphasis is to get them climbing quickly.  This 'quick fix' attitude to the sport then continues (hence the popularity of bouldering and indoor climbing as they're hassle / skill -free). Indoor climbers / wall staff who haven't developed a safety-first attitude from climbing outdoors then educate others and so the inexorable decline continues.

I hadn't climbed since my teens when my daughter took it up (bouldering for a year then roped up) watching her belay other children (normally bigger than her) nerve wracking to begin with but she's always caught them. It wasn't till my sister joined us one week and I was be laying someone my own size that I truly appriciated and understood how much force/weight is on that rope. 

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Coel Hellier 23 Jan 2020
In reply to TobyA:

> We all have our horrors - for me it's "affect" and "effect".

Words like that, where the meaning changes according to context, can be tricky.  Another example is "shall" versus "will". 

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Harald 23 Jan 2020
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

> You are just assuming the serious death/injury accidents are roped climbing rather than bouldering because they are higher.

I have data. And analysis. It is my job to advice on climbing/bouldering safety. You might even say I'm an expert on the subject ;-) 

Post edited at 21:44
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Timmd 23 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

I like this bit especially.

''A core feature of human psychology is that habit makes us complacent, and in turn bad at judging risk (just think about how much less carefully you drive on the motorway the 500th time vs. the first). Hence, if you're reading this and thinking that you are somehow different, then you are living proof of the very point being made. When you feel like you are special, and that you don't need to bother, that's a very good sign that you are not special and that you more than anybody does need to bother. In thinking that you can't screw up, you've become the person most likely to screw up.

How to end such complacency? Due to the nature of psychological habituation tending to lower risk aversion, and the scientifically well-established tendency of individuals to over-estimate their own abilities when it comes to tasks that they think they are good at, it will be a never-ending battle. But a good start will be ending the taboo surrounding belayer error. After all, if it stops being taboo to openly discuss the ease with what belayer error can be committed by any of us, at any time, then complacency and arrogance can be reduced across the board. In turn, fewer accidents should hopefully occur.''

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Harald 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

> Nope - a lot of bouldering accidents are caused by people on the mats moving beneath a boulderer and not realising they are about to be fallen on.  Yes, these aren't (usually) the serious ones.

Our data suggest otherwise. In >95% of bouldering accidents which resulted in hospital admission only one person was involved.

Last message. Back to the harbour of safety/the other channel.

Post edited at 22:11
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tom_in_edinburgh 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Harald:

> > Nope - a lot of bouldering accidents are caused by people on the mats moving beneath a boulderer and not realising they are about to be fallen on.  Yes, these aren't (usually) the serious ones.

> Our data suggest otherwise. In >95% of bouldering accidents which resulted in hospital admission only one person was involved.

The numbers in this article are 918 reported accidents and 24 in the lead fall, auto belay fall, top rope fall categories leaving 894 unaccounted for in these categories and presumably bouldering.

If only 5% of the bouldering accidents involved multiple people that would still be 44 accidents - which is exactly twice the number of accidents in the lead fall and top rope fall categories.

If you have better data then cite it.

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TobyA 23 Jan 2020
In reply to Coel Hellier:

The "simple" rule is that effect is a noun, and affect is a verb. This is great until you want to say "there is an affect to his accent" when affect becomes a noun, and you can also use effect as a verb. Fun fun fun with the English language!

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jimtitt 24 Jan 2020
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

You are assuming all 918 accidents were falls of some kind.

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galpinos 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Words like that, where the meaning changes according to context, can be tricky.  Another example is "shall" versus "will". 

Do you have a good style guide for this as I always struggle with shall and will?

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Howard J 24 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

The debate about belay devices misses the point.  The root of the problem is poor belaying practices. ABDs may sometimes mitigate the consequences of this, but only for bolted climbing, as most are not recommended for trad climbing because of the additional load they impose on the gear.  Besides, ABDs are not foolproof, and are often misused (sometimes deliberately).  Of course they have a role to play but they are not a solution to the problem.

What we should be focussing on is better all-round belaying practices which can be applied to all types of roped climbing.  The most common problems have already been discussed, and include distractions when tying on, chatting to bystanders, poor positioning. These are all well-known, but are still commonplace.  The question is, what to do about it? How do we introduce better practice?

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LeeWood 24 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

> Ironically, all of these climbers who were sceptical about assisted devices would have insisted on the importance of wearing a helmet when trad climbing.

Ironically you mask another safety issue in these words - we only need a helmet for trad climbing ??? A few years ago I was a near witness to a terrible accident on bolted rock, the consequences of which were avoidable had the climber worn a helmet; fortunately it was not fatal. Apart from this story the risk of occasional rockfall are largely known, and ignored at sport crags.

I suspect that the risk of being dropped falls into a similar category - ie. an unusual event which could happen but with such frequency that we can can still operate. Other examples - bolts pulling, getting stung by wasps, equipment failure ... 

This is not to say that we shouldn't remain vigilant - and a jolly good thing to research better methods / create better awareness

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galpinos 24 Jan 2020
In reply to JHiley:

Apologies for my curt tone, it was not intended, just posting quickly between interviews! I just interested as to which stats you were using as there are lots of talk of "the DAV stats" but they are not freely available (or maybe just not easily found) on the internet. I have seen a couple of presentations with the stats embedded but never had the raw data. So, having dug around I have found the links below which don't quite show the picture I remembered:

2012/13/14: https://www.alpenverein.de/chameleon/public/22bf8bd1-a6c1-7c98-c0bd-88394f0fc41f/Kletterhallen-Unfaelle-Studie-2014_24665.pdf

2017/18: https://www.alpenverein.de/chameleon/public/562cf909-ee75-dbbe-a043-be480285abdc/KH-Unfallstatistik_2017_30462.pdf

Having compared number of groundfalls per device as a percentage of the total groundfalls, compared to percentage of users using that device:

2017                  % of Users                % of Groundfalls

Tube                        26                                      31

Smart                      16                                       15

Grigri                       27                                       12

Magajul/jul             12                                       12

ClickUp                    8                                         4

Ergo                         4                                        12

HMS                        3                                          4

2012                   % of Users                  % of Groundfalls

Tube                        56                                      69

Smart                        7                                        3

Grigri                        14                                      6

ClickUp                      9                                       8

HMS                         6                                        6

I'm not sure the above data gives the full picture*, but the Grigri seems to do very well, as does the click up. It's a very interesting topic and the "answer" is probably very ,multi-faceted. It's a lot more complicated than when I had a stichtplate for the up and a figure of eight for the down!

* I had an interesting chat with a member of the DAV about issues with going from a munter to certain belay devices and the difference in technique causing problems when the munter technique was well ingrained.

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JHiley 24 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

Thanks for the context. With my (pretty bad) German and some help from Google I interpret it as:

Graphic 2 and 3 are from a DAV study and show numbers before and after accounting for numbers of devices used. (this is what I was referring to above)

Graphic 4 was used by KLEVAR to show more accidents occurred with tubes and justify banning them but it didn't account for the popularity of the devices. I'm not sure where KLEVAR got their data. The study mentions surveys.

The study used the DAV data on commonality of devices combined with the KLEVAR data (Graphic 5 seems to be this)

There's then a comment that the DAV and KLEVAR data don't agree (as can be seen by Graphic 3 and 5) and that a larger amount of data over many years is needed.

So basically seems to be saying the data is not very useful.

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TobyA 24 Jan 2020
In reply to galpinos:

I don't know, but its probably in the Economist Style Guide which I found really useful in the past.  You can find bits of it as PDFs online, but the actual thing is a book or maybe you get it with a subscription in the app. I haven't actually looked, as I got a book version of it years ago when I renewed my magazine subscription for another long period!

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timparkin 24 Jan 2020
In reply to galpinos:

> Having compared number of groundfalls per device as a percentage of the total groundfalls, compared to percentage of users using that device:

Hope you don't mind me converting it to groundfalls per user and then giving it an easier base to read where the GriGri is 1

017     % of Users       % of Groundfalls    groundfalls per user    scaled (min=1)
                
Tube                 26    31    1.19    2.8
Smart               16    15    0.94    2.2
Grigri                27    12    0.44    1.0
Magajul/jul       12    12    1.00     2.3
ClickUp             8    4      0.50     1.2
Ergo                  4    12     3.00    7.0
HMS                  3    4      1.33     3.1
                
2012      % of Users     % of Groundfalls        
                
Tube                 56    69    1.23    2.9
Smart                 7       3    0.43    1.0
Grigri                14       6    0.43    1.0
ClickUp              9       8    0.89    2.1
HMS                   6       6    1.00    2.3

Tim

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Neil Williams 24 Jan 2020
In reply to LeeWood:

It does actually surprise me slightly that helmets are not required at climbing walls (I'm sure others have fallen and banged their head on a hold, as I have), and I suspect like ABDs at some point they will be.  I know they are mostly about rockfall or dropped gear (which can as easily happen on sport as trad) but awkward falls particularly upside down are possible.

(I'm aware that for autobelays they can be actively dangerous and for bouldering may or may not be, due to catching on holds and causing asphyxiation)

Post edited at 09:29
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tom_in_edinburgh 24 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

> You are assuming all 918 accidents were falls of some kind.

Yes, because there's no data breaking them down and it's a climbing wall.   I guess there will be a few 'normal' injuries that could happen anywhere (although maybe they wouldn't get logged on this specific database).

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Robert Durran 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

> It does actually surprise me slightly that helmets are not required at climbing walls (I'm sure others have fallen and banged their head on a hold, as I have), and I suspect like ABDs at some point they will be. 

Good grief, I hope not!

> (I'm aware that........... they can be actively dangerous and for bouldering may or may not be, due to catching on holds and causing asphyxiation)

Wouildn't that apply to leading too?

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Neil Williams 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Wouildn't that apply to leading too?

I suppose it might, yet leading (particularly if you invert) is the most likely time to bang your head.  Do helmets need redesigning to have some kind of "break free" strap?

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Robert Durran 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Howard J:

> The debate about belay devices misses the point.  The root of the problem is poor belaying practices. 

Nobody is arguing that good belaying is not important. Just like nobody would argue that safe driving is not important; it is just that safety featuires like ABS, seat belts, rigid cage wirh crumple zones, good road design etc. massively increase safety in the event of a lapse.  

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jkarran 24 Jan 2020
In reply to timparkin:

> Hope you don't mind me converting it to groundfalls per user and then giving it an easier base to read where the GriGri is 1

> 017     % of Users       % of Groundfalls    groundfalls per user    scaled (min=1)

> Tube                 26    31    1.19    2.8

> Smart               16    15    0.94    2.2

> Grigri                27    12    0.44    1.0

> Magajul/jul       12    12    1.00     2.3

> ClickUp             8    4      0.50     1.2

> Ergo                  4    12     3.00    7.0

> HMS                  3    4      1.33     3.1

Interesting, that fits with the conclusion I drew from personal experience. It's why I mostly switched from tube/plate devices to GriGri for single rope use when I got into sport and falls became commonplace (poor logic on my part, unexpected falls are at least as dangerous but the locked with no dead rope force for dogging was a selling point too).

Unless you abuse it or feed it slick skinny ropes the GriGri (I'm unfamiliar with other grabby devices but I'm sure they're good) is very nearly always paying attention even when you're not. Let's be honest with ourselves, with the best will in the world everyone's mind wanders from time to time.

jk

Post edited at 10:53
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neilh 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

Maybe we will do what they do at Belgium walls which is top roping only, no leading.

As per a mate who lives in Brussels.

He is always surprised by the fact that leading is allowed here...............

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Howard J 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> massively increase safety in the event of a lapse.  

Even so, the figures quoted above still show an alarming number of ground falls using ABDs.  Furthermore, I would venture that ABDs are used most by climbers who work routes and who expect to hold a number of falls in a session, and who should therefore be fully prepared for it.  Despite that, ground falls still occur.  Presumably these due either to misuse of the device or for reasons unconnected with the choice of device.

Tubes are more likely to be used by trad climbers who (even indoors) prefer not to fall and so may be less prepared when falls do occur.  I quite agree that is a strong argument for changing to an ABD, but they are not a panacea, and don't address the underlying issue.

The figures also suggest that different devices perform differently, so it is difficult to make a choice especially when there may not be an opportunity to try one before buying.  One of the US walls with an ABD-only policy also arranges 'clinics' where climbers can try out different devices and find which suits them best.  It occurs to me that it might be a good investment by gear manufacturers to provide climbing walls with samples that they could lend out, which might encourage people to switch and inform their choice of device.

However, given that ground falls still occur regardless of the type of belay device, how can we address this?  How can we get good belaying habits ingrained so they become routine, both indoors and outside?

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Max factor 24 Jan 2020
In reply to timparkin:

> Hope you don't mind me converting it to groundfalls per user and then giving it an easier base to read where the GriGri is 1

> 017     % of Users       % of Groundfalls    groundfalls per user    scaled (min=1)

> Tube                 26    31    1.19    2.8

> Smart               16    15    0.94    2.2

> Grigri                27    12    0.44    1.0

> Magajul/jul       12    12    1.00     2.3

> ClickUp             8    4      0.50     1.2

> Ergo                  4    12     3.00    7.0

> HMS                  3    4      1.33     3.1

Personally, I think the analysing of these statistics has a high potential to lead to misleading conclusions. The sample size is too small and there are many variables that could lead to an accident other than the choice of belay device.  

I'm happier doing my own research and evaluation of the risks and assessment of whether they are mitigated by the various AB belay devices out there. This was spurred on by witnessing a fall at an indoor wall. For me the conclusions were to invest in an ABD, belay glasses, and tighten up on buddy checks, positioning, spotting, belay technique and attentiveness. 

Which is sort of the whole point of the article.  Although I'd never dropped anyone using a tube and didn't doubt my ability to belay safely, I'd seen what the aftermath of an accident does and I resolved to not be the cause of one in the future. 

Edit: I also get that accidents can happen with ABDs, and that you are more at risk from an accident whilst going through the learning curve of getting used to belaying with one. But provided you don't pick up any bad habits (eg. incorrect disengaging of the cam on a gri-gri to give out slack), they are safer once mastered.

Post edited at 11:17
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Robert Durran 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Howard J:

> It occurs to me that it might be a good investment by gear manufacturers to provide climbing walls with samples that they could lend out, which might encourage people to switch and inform their choice of device.

I first used a Click-Up when lent a sample one by the shop at the wall. I was so impressed that I bought one. Most of my regular partners now use one too having either borrowed one or seen how good it is.

> However, given that ground falls still occur regardless of the type of belay device, how can we address this?  How can we get good belaying habits ingrained so they become routine, both indoors and outside?

By encouraging people to make sure they know how to and do use them correctly and, especially if they insist on not using an assisted device, being ultra attentive when belaying.

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tomhardie 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

Climbing helmets can withstand (at least) 50kgs on the chinstap for 2 minutes.

For "Working at height" helmets it's 15-25kgs exactly to avoid that risk of strangulation if you get caught in machinery/scaffolding.

I imagine the higher load tolerance makes it much safer for usual climbing accidents (perhaps multiple hits, bouncing down a mountain etc. where a chinstrap break would leave your head exposed), where strangulation is uncommon. Industrial/working at height is probably the opposite (singular hits, but higher risk of strangulation).

Horses for courses - but the variation in standards would have me think they've both been developed with the particular use in mind.

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Al Randall 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

Indoors I insist on my belayer using an assisted device, as long as they are comfortable with it.  There are just too many distractions.  Anyone who says they are NEVER distracted and NEVER take their eyes of the lead climber is either lying or deluded.

Al

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tomhardie 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Howard J:

> I quite agree that is a strong argument for changing to an ABD, but they are not a panacea, and don't address the underlying issue.

Is the point not that they do address the underlying issue [addressed in this article - not of all accidents at climbing walls]?

If we consider competent belayers who know how to safely use their device in theory (exactly the situation the article is discussing) - then the issue becomes the temporary lapses in concentration. In these situations, an ABD has got your back - probably.

I think its helpful to discuss other types of accidents, how to lower with a GriGri, locking the cam open etc., but I think it misses the thrust of the argument being made.

Edit: I'm not referring to the total number of reported groundfalls, or the objective climbing wall danger for the "average" climbing wall user. I think this article is addressing something totally different, based on an anecdote, and that's of experienced climbers and belayers being dropped through a momentary lapse in concentration. Most people here will struggle to relate to many climbing wall accidents (not knowing how to use a GriGri, or a tube device), but a lapse in concentration is something any human doing any repetitive activity can relate to - and narrowing the discussion in that way is probably most helpful for the audience here. As for climbing wall policy...different conversation.

Post edited at 11:28
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jimtitt 24 Jan 2020
In reply to JHiley:

> Thanks for the context. With my (pretty bad) German and some help from Google I interpret it as:

> Graphic 2 and 3 are from a DAV study and show numbers before and after accounting for numbers of devices used. (this is what I was referring to above)

> Graphic 4 was used by KLEVAR to show more accidents occurred with tubes and justify banning them but it didn't account for the popularity of the devices. I'm not sure where KLEVAR got their data. The study mentions surveys.

> The study used the DAV data on commonality of devices combined with the KLEVAR data (Graphic 5 seems to be this)

> There's then a comment that the DAV and KLEVAR data don't agree (as can be seen by Graphic 3 and 5) and that a larger amount of data over many years is needed.

> So basically seems to be saying the data is not very useful.


KLEVER got their statistics from reports from their member walls. The DAV from theirs (from memory KLEVER had 38 walls and the DAV around 400).

That the two statistics don't match accurately could be explained by loads of reasons, user demographic, different reporting criteria and methods and very likely by the difference in attitudes to training, the DAV being very much an education based organisation and the KLEVER members being pure commercial walls. The DAV naturally have studies on accident rates related to training!

As you noted the DAV says the results aren't definitive, in other words saying ABD's are safer is pure speculation!

KLEVER had a brief ban on tube devices but now allow anything (some individual walls may have other policies) and the DAV have never specified anything .

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Coel Hellier 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Howard J:

> Even so, the figures quoted above still show an alarming number of ground falls using ABDs.

I'm not sure they do, since they only give percentage rates, and don't tell us the actual number of incidents.   (Sorry if I missed that somewhere up thread.)

Secondly, I suspect that the numbers of incidents are sufficiently low as to make such comparisons dubious.  Really, stats like this should be presented in terms of actual numbers of incidents to make things a lot clearer.

Third, for incidents such as "decking from third clip owing to too much slack" the choice of device would be irrelevant, so even with a foolproof device you'd expect some incidents. 

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Neil Williams 24 Jan 2020
In reply to neilh:

> Maybe we will do what they do at Belgium walls which is top roping only, no leading.

> As per a mate who lives in Brussels.

> He is always surprised by the fact that leading is allowed here...............

The thing that surprises me more is that you don't at most walls have to have any kind of test before leading specifically, unlike the US (and Leicester, if I recall rightly).  That said, I think there is a "barrier to entry" for leading of equipment and fear, so people don't readily just rock up and start doing it.

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Neil Williams 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Al Randall:

> Indoors I insist on my belayer using an assisted device, as long as they are comfortable with it.  There are just too many distractions.  Anyone who says they are NEVER distracted and NEVER take their eyes of the lead climber is either lying or deluded.

Even if they ARE distracted, as long as while being so they've got their brake hand down and therefore locked off, that's not a lot different from an assisted braking device.  The main issue from a distracted belayer on lead is them not paying out quickly enough if they are in any way reasonable belayers.

I'd be very wary of climbing with someone belaying whose default position wasn't that, or in particular where a distraction might cause them to let go of the brake rope even briefly, whether they happened to be paying attention to me at that second or not.  Even with an ABD if they don't have the right "default" they might have their mind wander with their thumb on the cam on a Grigri (or other device equivalent).

Post edited at 11:58
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Denislejeune 24 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Nice article and data. One problem not mentioned is panic when lowering off, which may cause the very use of even assisted-brakind devices that renders them useless as. Only the GG+ and upgraded Smart will lock up if the handle is lifted up all the way (panic). As for autobelays, I seemed to hear that the newest version of trueblue has a failsafe whereby were the mechanism to fail it would still lock in place. Naturally renewal rates of autobelays aren't the fastest, but let's hope we'll get to a point where mechanical failure leading to groundfalls is a thing of the past.

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Martin Davies 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

I would say all accidents are multifactorial. Grigri was definitely a part, but so were lots of other factors that arguably played a larger role, as many people use grigri's safely. One accident does not mean that all assisted braking devices are unsafe - people still injure themselves in car accidents - I will still elect to turn on the airbags and use my seat belt. I would want to implement sensible safety measures to make my hobby safer, and my belayer using an assisted braking device that they are comfortable using is definitely a key part of the risk reduction for me now.

I agree with the 'complex quirks' you mention about grigri's. I had shown the technique of using your thumb to stop the device jamming when paying out slack - this was a key failure on my part as this was one of the contributing factors to the fall. The problem is everyone says grigri's are fine if 'experienced' in their use - how do you get this experience? Had I shown an advanced technique? It was to prevent 'short roping' - should I just have accepted this as part of the learning curve for using a grigri? Makes it pretty unenjoyable for both climber and belayer, at least initially. Learners go through an early phase of increased risk where getting used to a grigri and fiddling whilst paying out slack, and if other factors align this can result in a drop.

imo the click up does not have 'complex quirks' regarding paying out slack or assisted braking - the first you know the device has 'clicked' and it's very difficult to stop it doing this if threaded correctly. Belayer can then relax, take stock and then the only new technique is levering the device to lower, which again is arguably much more intuitive than the lever pulling on a grigri.

So an accident with assisted braking device does not put me off them totally - but I need to select a device suitable for beginners with similar technique to a belay plate - which I think the click up fulfils.

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Max factor 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

> Even with an ABD if they don't have the right "default" they might have their mind wander with their thumb on the cam on a Grigri (or other device equivalent).

i quite commonly see people using a gri-gri with their thumb on the cam the whole time; effectively it IS their default. In practice, I assume that in a fall, even if they didn't lock off their brake hand,  the movement of the device/ cam dislodges the thumb-catch and the brake rope is still being held. 

Or so I'd hope, otherwise I'll start getting more paranoid!

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Al Randall 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

No method is "foolproof" but I believe that the Click Up comes closer to it than any other device. It's essentially a tube style device with additional fail safe features.   Every single person I have introduced one to has been convinced after just a few minutes and gone and bought one.  If only I had been on commission  I suspect that there are dozens out there that were purchased on my advice and after a minimal amount of handling. As I said above short roping is in itself a sign of lack of attention.

Al

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JHiley 24 Jan 2020
In reply to JHiley:

*Popularity/ prevalence...not commonality. I can't seem to speak English let alone German...

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JHiley 24 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

Thanks. That makes sense now.

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Rick Graham 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Al Randall:

> No method is "foolproof" but I believe that the Click Up comes closer to it than any other device. It's essentially a tube style device with additional fail safe features.   Every single person I have introduced one to has been convinced after just a few minutes and gone and bought one.  If only I had been on commission  I suspect that there are dozens out there that were purchased on my advice and after a minimal amount of handling. As I said above short roping is in itself a sign of lack of attention.

> Al

The nearest there is to a foolproof system is to always have a low hand with four fingers and thumb around the dead rope and the thumb pointing up.

Also the rope stacked below and slightly to the side of the belayer.

Short roping and slack can also be adjusted by moving back and forward a bit, easier on a clear level wall floor than some crag bases.

This low full grip is the default with all climbers who started on waist belays and or plates. I wonder what the proportion of dropped climbers are by those who started belaying in the 60/70s? 

I also wonder if part of the problem is beginners being taught to belay top ropers initially. The techniques and bad habits developed not working all the time for leader belaying. 

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JHiley 24 Jan 2020
In reply to galpinos:

The GriGri does seem to come out of that quite well... I still don't like it though.

I'm happy that my ClickUp works like a tube with a bit of extra redundancy. 

> * I had an interesting chat with a member of the DAV about issues with going from a munter to certain belay devices and the difference in technique causing problems when the munter technique was well ingrained.

This is interesting. 

It reminds me of a time I was at a crag in the Finale Ligure area and a group of soldiers turned up. Some were belaying with munters and some with tube devices. The NCO/ angry-man led some routes, some top ropes were set up and they were soon scrabbling up the limestone pockets in their army boots.

One soldier was better at climbing than the others and started leading with an absent minded, sunglasses-wearing belayer. The climber did quite well considering her completely unsuitable footwear but the ascent still looked desperate and she took several rests on the bolts.

Throughout this her belayer was holding the dead rope limply between his thumb and index finger above the tube belay plate and with a big loop of drooping slack out. I guess they'd been taught using a munter though that doesn't explain the limp grip or excessive slack.

I was reluctant to say anything because I a) didn't speak Italian  b) didn't want to upset/ undermine the NCO/ angry-man standing nearby.

When the leader was desperately trying to whack a quickdraw onto the next bolt with her arm locked off, face bright red with effort and her feet pinging off the tiny pockets I decided keeping quiet wasn't really justifiable. With my best "Mi scuzi" I attempted to persuade the belayer to hold the dead rope properly. My gestures probably implied someone might have their head cut off.

He held the rope properly for about ten seconds before reverting back to his limp, above the plate, two finger grip and gazing lazily into the middle distance.

I wasn't shot by the corporal/ angry-man although he did give me some hostile looks. As far as I know climbing-soldier-girl isn't dead though that's only because of her ridiculous lock-off strength and nothing to do with her belayer.

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neilh 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Rick Graham:

Had to laugh my first belaying was on an Outward Bound course in th e70's. You were taken to the top of a small "belaying" tower. Stapped in, shown a waist belay, then somebody would pull a lever, dropping a substanital weight, which simulated somebody falling.. Repeated a few times until you got the knack of it..........

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Al Randall 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Rick Graham:

Hi Rick for a minute there I thought you were going to say "the only foolproof system is a waist belay"

I doubt that there enough climbers from the 60's/70's still around to be statistically relevant

Al

Post edited at 13:29
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Neil Williams 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Max factor:

> i quite commonly see people using a gri-gri with their thumb on the cam the whole time; effectively it IS their default. In practice, I assume that in a fall, even if they didn't lock off their brake hand,  the movement of the device/ cam dislodges the thumb-catch and the brake rope is still being held. 

> Or so I'd hope, otherwise I'll start getting more paranoid!

I would tell off any belayer who did that if they were belaying me.  Because it has little friction when the cam is pressed/lever is pulled, that's worse than a tube device.

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Neil Williams 24 Jan 2020
In reply to JHiley:

Defaulting to holding hands in a non-locked-off position is a common US belay technique.  Why anybody uses it is anybody's guess.  Though that said, we still use "OK" to acknowledge everything when the US or military/airmanship style of repeating the instruction back (e.g. "climb when ready/climbing/climb on") is vastly superior to our "OK" that doesn't confirm that the instruction was actually understood.

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Steak 24 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

"A lack of hassle-free assisted braking devices for two-rope trad belaying remains, to my mind, an obvious gap in the market"

Define "hassle free", many "assisted braking devices" for two rope exist : to name just the few matching the list in the article : Climbing Technology Alpine-up, Mammut Smart Alpine, Edelrid Mega Jul & Giga Jul. And there are more. I tested all these and many more. Very rarely I felt any more hassle than that felt with the classic non-assisted "braking devices".

In fact I find a lot more hassle in MANY of the single rope versions, one of which being the fact that rigged with the rope in the wrong way, many don't brake at all. I have personnally witnessed ground falls with a Grigri and a Trango Cinch. On both occasions the belayer were professionnal mountain guides. I place minimal trust in the lever box belay devices (see http://storrick.cnc.net/VerticalDevicesPage/BelayDevices.shtml) even less if both me and my belayer are not aware of the best way to handle them and the ways to avoid. Add to this the fact that in some, the panic mode meant to correct the inherent risk of mishandling can fail overtime, as it does with the Edelrid Eddy and... no wonder I recommend belay devices with no moving parts similar to Click-Up, Smart, Jul, etc...

Being honest, I have to say that I am frequently belayed with the Grigri and I don't mind as long as it's handled the way I want it to be. If not I won't be ashamed to ask for a change.

Finally I have to outline the belay device I have been using for more than a year and bought wondering if it would beat them all = the Wild Country Revo. Does it then ? Yes ! It's not hassle free but it's the safest I know and now the only one I shall give to any completely novice climber. Not only will it teach regular belaying but also, any mistake will quickly end up with it locking up. I only won't let a low weight/strength child use it because bringing down the leader from the top of a single pitch at the right speed can be difficult for them, especially on leaning slab.

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Steak 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Max factor:

"belay glasses, and tighten up on buddy checks, positioning, spotting, belay technique and attentiveness"

Yessss, may I add : belay glasses help focus vision on the climber you are belaying. The downside is they don't help watching out things falling around : stones, other climbers.. I don't use mine outside because of that. I don't use them inside either ;-) because they are cheap and heavy (!) but I certainly recommend them inside.

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eroica64 24 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Brilliant article Paul.

Thank you.

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Steak 24 Jan 2020

Last =

"How to end such complacency ?"

Watch the others and speak out when a quite obvious (potential) mistake occurs, you might even grab the rope while doing so. Sometimes it may turn into an argument but it's also a skill to train on. Knowing the gear helps for that so don't just know the one you trust and use, whenever you can, make a quick test with any gear you never used.

Mind you sometimes YOU will be taught a good lesson in return. That's how I improved my Grigri belaying technique = told a guy he could improve his and realized it was better than mine.

Post edited at 16:07
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Al Randall 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Steak:

Another vote for belay glasses.  Focusing your attention on the leader was not something I had ever thought of when buying them but they certainly do that in  my experience.

Al

Post edited at 16:09
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joem 24 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

I was just wondering if any of the gri-gri advocates/users are able to explain how to safely pay out slack with a gri-gri, I tried to use one a while ago but could never come up with a satisfactory method so went back to using m trusty ATC.

cheers joe

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LeeWood 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Al Randall:

I am not a fan of belay glasses. I don't want my second to anticipate my needs - all that is required of them can be done by feel - rope tension. This is where you end up with anyway on multipitch when climber and belayer are out of sight.

Furthermore I believe it adds security and confidence for the leader to be in greater control. When leading I want my belayer to feel-out just enough tension for me to move. When I am ready to make a clip (and only then) I shout ROPE. While lowering off equally, I am the best placed to inform when to stop - to collect a draw - or ready tp move on. STOP & OK work fine.

What I really detest is seconds who leave an anticipatory loop of slack ready at all times - I prefer to feel some resistance - which is feedback that my second is doing their job.

The main advantage I see for glasses is for the second to learn the tricks of the route - if they don"t want an onsight. And of course neck-strain.

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Al Randall 24 Jan 2020
In reply to LeeWood:

> I am not a fan of belay glasses. I don't want my second to anticipate my needs - all that is required of them can be done by feel - rope tension. This is where you end up with anyway on multipitch when climber and belayer are out of sight.

I only use them on single pitch sport where I think it is perfectly valid to try and anticipate the leaders needs. As for the loop of slack that can be caused by the belayer not anticipating the leaders needs so a bit of a contradiction there I'm afraid.

Al

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Neil Williams 24 Jan 2020
In reply to joem:

> I was just wondering if any of the gri-gri advocates/users are able to explain how to safely pay out slack with a gri-gri, I tried to use one a while ago but could never come up with a satisfactory method so went back to using m trusty ATC.

The recommended way (which isn't the original recommended way, I forget what that was) is to bring your brake hand up to the device, push the cam down with your thumb and pull out slack while "tunnelling" the rope, i.e. letting it slide through your brake hand under control.  Once you've paid out take your thumb off the cam and continue belaying as if it was an ATC.

This Petzl video shows it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHdqjjyeTtg

I got taught an alternative when I first used one which you might prefer as it avoids the "tunnelling" part but does mean paying out is a bit less smooth.  Slide your brake hand down the rope as you would if you were about to pay out on an ATC, then bring the hand up, still holding the rope firmly, and thumb the cam.  You can then pull through that amount of rope.  Repeat if necessary.

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jimtitt 24 Jan 2020
In reply to joem:

There's loads of ways apart from the various Petzl method.

Clip it upside down to your belay loop and hold it between your thumb on the top and fingers holding the cam, pull the rope through downwards (this is the left-hander way as well).

Clip it normally but twist it 90°,to the left, cup it in your hand fingers lightly holding the cam. Feed the rope out sideways.

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Steak 24 Jan 2020
In reply to JimminyJim:

Quite a full reminder Jim. I'm glad you took the time to write it down. The "surprise fall" is interesting, I'm one of these guys who prefer to warn or be taken but as a result, I do feel worried when I am struggling and realise my belayer won't hear me ! However I do practice it with beginners, either if they use an "assisted-braking device" which I trust or with a third person holding the hand strand 2~3 m behind the belayer.

I am only disappointed that you seem to have decided to let the "bad" belayers carry on while you are clearly able to make your point with so much details. Yes it's a pain when you feel it's useless. Yes it's not worth it if it turns into an argument. Yes it's not fun. Yes maybe it just won't work but sometimes it just will and I think it's worth it. On the other hand I don't blame you, as I don't spend my time trying to reduce complacency. While I'm writing this, I just realise it's a job that's not necessarily well done. Do we see indoors instructors wandering around the floor and making sure every one belays safely ?

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joem 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

Thanks for the reply, my hazy memory was that petzl actively didn’t recommend using the thumb on the cam method which always felt a touch dodge to me, maybe I should give it another go if I can convince anyone to lend me one.

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Michael Gordon 24 Jan 2020
In reply to LeeWood:

I think a lot of climbers like their belayers to anticipate when they are going to need slack; if nothing else it shows they're paying attention! This doesn't mean having a loop there all the time. Very few want to feel resistance when trying to clip. When the climber is out of sight of the belayer, usual practice is surely to always keep a small amount of slack, rather than by waiting each time for the leader to have to yank the rope.

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Michael Gordon 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Nobody is arguing that good belaying is not important. Just like nobody would argue that safe driving is not important; it is just that safety featuires like ABS, seat belts, rigid cage wirh crumple zones, good road design etc. massively increase safety in the event of a lapse.  

and helmets presumably?

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Robert Durran 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> and helmets presumably?

Yes, but I would hate to see those mandatory at climbing walls. Even more so than AB's since helmets actually slightly alter the actual climbing experience. Given that many people dislike wearing them outdoors, I imagine there would be a big outcry if they were told they had to do so indoors where the risks are considerably less.

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tom_in_edinburgh 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

> The recommended way (which isn't the original recommended way, I forget what that was) is to bring your brake hand up to the device, push the cam down with your thumb and pull out slack while "tunnelling" the rope, i.e. letting it slide through your brake hand under control.  Once you've paid out take your thumb off the cam and continue belaying as if it was an ATC.

Whether you need the cam depends on the rope.  Unless the rope is thick or stiff then it should pay out fine without touching the cam. 

The tunneling technique and a well matched rope lets you pay out fast without putting your hands anywhere near the belay device.   The downside is if you ever have to lead belay with a tube and you've got totally accustomed to belaying with a GriGri using this method you might not hold the rope tight enough.

It's like automatic and manual cars: you are far safer when you are driving the kind you are used to.

Post edited at 17:22
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Steak 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Paul Sagar:

"I did want to mostly focus on indoor walls"

Indoor it's worth wondering who is complacent : why is it me an ordinary climber who always (or 99%) tell other climbers when they are wrong ? I suppose in UK the climbers sign something disclaiming the gym responsability in case of an accident. In the best case, their belaying ability is checked before signing the disclaimer and being allowed to climb but still, how often do you see the staff wandering around and tactfully checking the (crowd of) climbers ? Aren't they paid for it ?? Well,... probably not... and maybe they should.

Once I saw a guy belaying his step daughter from his trousers belt. A local climber spotted it and the father became angry when he stopped the climb and asked him what the hell he was doing. The gym manager eventually intervened and eventually had to kick the guy out. Something I would not be able to.

Maybe complacency would go down if the staff were checking climbing safety full time Probably more staff would be required and ticket prices would rise. They should be able to ask a dangerous belayer to stop if he would not listen and improve, up to a refund and a ban... Hopefully that wouldn't happen most of the time and belayers would be more careful.

Maybe I'm joking... maybe I'm dreaming but would it be a nightmare if somehow the "bad" belayers were given the lessons they need ?

BIG BROTHER

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LeeWood 24 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

The system I describe is what I use with my lad, and we started climbing sport and miltipitch when he was aged 9. he doesn't need to anticipate my needs because I communicate well - knowing how long it takes I shout ROPE as I am taking a quickdraw from my belt and at the moment I wish to clip the slack is available - no need to yank.

In practice I accept diverse styles of belay - not critical for the most part; but think about it - you're pushing your top grade - in extremis - and its a push to clip a bolt in front of your nose ! If your second anticipates you as 'ready' and you fluff the necessary foot/hand changes you're in for a big(ger) lob. My preference means the rope pays out only when I am sure to have found the least energetic solution for clipping.

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Steak 24 Jan 2020
In reply to JimminyJim:

Your post is an article in itself.

> Me: you seem to have decided to let the "bad" belayers carry on

On second reading, I misunderstood. Can't edit my reply so excuse my english.

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Michael Gordon 24 Jan 2020
In reply to LeeWood:

> The system I describe is what I use with my lad, and we started climbing sport and miltipitch when he was aged 9. he doesn't need to anticipate my needs because I communicate well - knowing how long it takes I shout ROPE as I am taking a quickdraw from my belt and at the moment I wish to clip the slack is available - no need to yank.>

OK fair enough. I think a good belayer will anticipate clipping but also watch the climber closely so as to potentially quickly take in again if they fluff the clip.

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agolay 24 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

7 groundfalls a year are surely the statistics for one awesome walls?

Clearly not the whole of the UK.

No issue with AW itself at all - just the norm with such a busy wall.

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Neil Williams 24 Jan 2020
In reply to agolay:

Would that include groundfalls where the belayer wouldn't be able to do anything, e.g. before the first clip had been put in, or with slack out for second and a very heavy climber and light belayer, those (other than rope stretch) being the only two scenarios where I've actually hit the floor?

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Michael Gordon 25 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

> Even if they ARE distracted, as long as while being so they've got their brake hand down and therefore locked off, that's not a lot different from an assisted braking device.  

> I'd be very wary of climbing with someone belaying whose default position wasn't that, or in particular where a distraction might cause them to let go of the brake rope even briefly, whether they happened to be paying attention to me at that second or not.  Even with an ABD if they don't have the right "default" they might have their mind wander with their thumb on the cam on a Grigri (or other device equivalent).

Yes, how many times do we see (or experience) day dreaming, only for the belayer to be pulled momentarily off their feet - "Oh, did you fall off"? Nothing wrong with that really, since none of us are always attentive and the belayer has the rope locked off nicely.  

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Oliver Hill 25 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

I think this article only touches on the tip of the iceberg of the actual belaying incidents each year. 

The real problem is human error, enhanced by external factors, mostly lack of attention/concentration:

Bad factors are:

a. Climbing near other climbers

b. Talking or listening to nearby climbers

c. Not watching belayee

d. Not having belayed  a leading climber for a while

e Not having watched a good how to belay video eg petzl grigri and petzl reverso 

f. Not practising items in video that you do not normally do.

g. Not tying off rope when inspecting guide book for correct line; watching birds, both avine and human, etc

h. Not paying attention when climber is on easy stuff

i. Not checking partners tie-in knot and partners belay attachment set up at the start of climb, two tug tests

j. Not warning partner and receiving reply before letting go prior to being lowered

k. Not observing a lot of other stuff covered in the 2 petzl videos

l. Home climbing area where bad belaying practice is common

m. Not warning nearby climbers that they are belaying badly.

n. Out of date belay devices and belaying method. ie arrogance or parsimony

Climbing has risk. Belying correctly all the time is difficult. It requires knowledge, attention and practice. 100,000 good belays does not eliminate ten bad ones.How to belay with a grigri

https://www.google.com/search?q=how+to+belay+with+agrigri&rlz=1C1CHBF_en-GB&oq=how+to+belay+with+agrigri&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l7.12842j1j1&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

How to belay with a reverso

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymJb6tW5_BE

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Mike Rhodes 25 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

This is a really interesting article and one which everyone is concentrating on different belay devices but as a person who nowadays seems to visit climbing walls on his own, I was more alarmed with the report that 3 people took ground falls from auto-belay devices. I use these all of the time and must admit to being somewhat scared of them, initially to the extent of climbing back down halfway before lowering off. I have to say that knowing that they have failed several times will not encourage me to use them in the future.

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Neil Williams 25 Jan 2020
In reply to Oliver Hill:

J should not be necessary.  Indoors on top rope or at a lower off the climber should be safe to sit back at any time as they could simply fall.

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Neil Williams 25 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike Rhodes:

I don't think failure is meant, but misuse, ie not clipping in properly or at all.

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Max factor 25 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

> I don't think failure is meant, but misuse, ie not clipping in properly or at all.

I've asked this further up the thread, but I don't think the nature of the auto belay accidents has been disclosed. 

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Iamgregp 25 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

Agreed.  In fact a climbing instructor we had told us to stop doing that.  Belayer should always be ready and you should always be confident they're not going to drop you.  

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mrjonathanr 25 Jan 2020
In reply to Iamgregp:

So much discussion here dancing around the failure of belayers to maintain hold of the brake rope at all times. Anything else isn’t understandable, normal to do, something we all do, excusable etc. It’s incompetent, and dangerous. 

If the brake rope is securely held there is no reason to drop a climber.  The other issues are merely talking points by comparison.  

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Mike Rhodes 25 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

I hope that is the case as a failure of the kit is difficult to comprehend. 

I have always been paranoid about tying in and make no apologies to my partner about checking each others knots etc and on the auto belays I double check that there is some tension through my harness from the cord.

It would be interesting to see the exact nature of the auto belay incidents.

Mike 

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Michael Gordon 25 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike Rhodes:

As said above, it has usually been the result of a climber simply failing to attach themselves to the auto belay in the first place before they start climbing, despite a large sheet often covering the wall which obscures holds and is designed exactly to prevent this happening (you unclip the sheet prior to clipping in to the auto belay, and then clip it back in again after climbing the line). 

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Max factor 25 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> As said above, it has usually been the result of a climber simply failing to attach themselves to the auto belay in the first place

Do you know this is indeed the reason for the auto belay accidents in the stats, or are you making an educated guess?

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Iamgregp 25 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

There's a lot of discussion about the DAV report here, and what the results mean or don't mean, and although a couple of people have touched on it it's worth mentioning again that, really, the results don't mean anything at all.

This wasn't a fair test with control and test groups, balanced participant sampling and controlled conditions.  This was just somebody going out in the field and looking at a very small cohort of belayers, then reporting what they found based on each device.  There are too many other variables which haven't been controlled to make this even remotely fair. 

For example, if all the balayers who were using a tube device had been climbing for 20+ years and all the Gri Gri users had only just bought theirs then of course you would expect to see a difference in error rate between the two groups. 

I'm not saying this was the case, but the whole point of an experiment is that you control the conditions so that you know the differences you see between the groups results is caused by the variable you are manipulating and measuring (in this case it would be belay device).  

That's not the case here, this is a study, not an experiment so whilst it's an interesting read, it's just not possible to say x is a safer belay device than y based on these results as there are just too many other variables that haven't been controlled.  

Like I say, it's an interesting read, but in terms of conclusions that can be drawn, I'm afraid to say I think it's garbage.    

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Jon Greengrass 26 Jan 2020
In reply to Max factor:

Unless the manufacturers are taking out hits on people who speak out about autobelay units failing, there are no known failures.

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johncook 26 Jan 2020
In reply to Jon Greengrass:

There were a couple round about 2008ish which resulted in one brand being withdrawn. Will try to find more info when I have time. I believe the incidents were in the USA and may have been blamed on poor maintenance.

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Neil Williams 26 Jan 2020
In reply to Jon Greengrass:

> Unless the manufacturers are taking out hits on people who speak out about autobelay units failing, there are no known failures.

I think I've heard of one (and I think it was quite recent), but it is very rare (far rarer than belayer error), most deckings are due to failure to clip in at all or clipping in incorrectly e.g. into a gear loop.

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Offwidth 26 Jan 2020
In reply to Oliver Hill:

I think that is the elephant in the room. Climbing IS dangerous, including climbing indoors (something too many deny or don't think about) and indoors most of the risk comes from human psychology, and not just from the belayer. Blame is usually plain unhelpful in such circumstances unless the belayer displayed gross incompetence. Everyone thinks it is someone else who is not paying attention; I'd argue nearly all of us are guilty at times...collectively as well as individually, and most walls,

One aspect you missed from your list is our natural desire to rubberneck, speculate and form narratives that are hard to shift, even if wrong; which in the context of someone being seriously hurt and dealing with the legal consequences of that, and the need for time and space for good quality investigation (unreliable information that with the 'aid' of social media and the press, is all too often callously unthinking on the consequences to the legal and safety process or emotional consequencies to those affected by such accidents).  Reflection on safety is best done after the information has been analysed and, unless the parties involved agree otherwise, anonymously. 

Given human psychology, it's wrong headed to think ad hoc initiatives will help much above what is currently used and known. It's always good to get and use the best data and use the main organisational stakeholders to distil that and advertise good practice and common faults and try to get the walls to police that as sensibly as possible. This article is a typical useful reminder. Yet go to most walls and depite all the data (especially that from DAV) and well established advice, you see bad practice almost every visit... you can lead that horse to that water but how do you fight the psychology to make them drink. Arguably very few apply the best practice available and I'd guess a large proportion  (if not most) users would have to think where to look for it and a good number simply wouldn't know.

There are things that can be done in terms of making the process safer irrespective of the people involved but I am concerned about assisted belay devices protecting against incompetents, who if encouraged in their ignorant participation will likely find another way to cause an accident. I do think the risk reduction of clipping second and third bolts when close to the leader's waist (not clipping overhead) should be better known. A higher first bolt and standard clipstick use might help. Bolt spacings low down on routes could be improved and positions around bulges. More education on soft catches and avoiding some of the tactics for this until the climber is high enough on the wall to safely benefit (initial belaying should be close in to the wall, out of the fall line, with close attention and with little excess slack until a few bolts are safely clipped). More encouragement of the use of belay ballast where weight differentials on lead might benefit from it. Walls could be encouraged more to avoid low crux sections, avoiding difficult clips for the grade until the fifth bolt (too many don't realise overhead clipping with any significant excess slack and lack of attention by the belayer can cause a climber to deck from the 4th bolt clip attempt).

For  Mike Rhodes... don't forget some auto belay accidents involve user error.

Post edited at 12:42
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Michael Gordon 26 Jan 2020
In reply to Max factor:

> Do you know this is indeed the reason for the auto belay accidents in the stats, or are you making an educated guess?

I don't know about the stats, but that's been the usual reason for the incidents which I'm aware of (through e.g. articles/threads on UKC).  

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Adge Last 26 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

We are no safer now…..

Very interesting reading through this thread. I hope an effective campaign endorsed by all interested parties can be launched this year – ideally before the media attention that will result from the Olympics, because it would definitely be good to have no high-profile accidents this summer !

Having a brew at a wall recently, I scanned an old climbing magazine – well not that old – 1983. There was a comment about the outrageous “nanny state” for imposing compulsory wearing of seat belts for those in the front seats of cars. Pre 1983 we were allowed to drive without belting up, and probably that’s exactly what most of us did. The magazine article challenged this affront to our freedoms – surely we should be allowed to make our own judgements on an individual basis - would the climbing police insist on wearing helmets next?!

There was some interesting research following the introduction of the seat belt law around the concept of “risk compensation” which argues that people behave in ways that maintains the level of perceived risk that they are happy with. So for example, when wearing a seat belt they might drive faster or closer to other vehicles simply because they are made to feel a bit safer wearing the belt. This isn’t necessarily a conscious decision - it’s just a compensating behaviour. And I have always been pretty sure that this applies to climbers in different climbing situations too. It seems to me that most climbing accidents don’t happen in the more extreme situations.

When I was involved in climbing wall management I always had the inner belief that the safest floor surface would have been jagged rocks similar to those at the foot of some Pembroke climbs. This would focus the mind and ensure that both climber and belayer were attentive and concentrating on their respective tasks. Sharp objects at the base of climbing walls, however, just wasn’t good business and gradually an impact-absorbing surface became the norm.

Management practices at climbing walls have sought to make the environment safer - seeking to reduce the frequency and severity of accidents, and making the climbing commodity more accessible to the novice - thereby growing the market and the business.

Simultaneously, equipment innovation has led to “helpful” belaying devices that have the potential to make the task of belaying less demanding.

So indoor climbing venues have become apparently safer, devices have become available that assist in the belaying process, skills training has become the norm instead of the exception and excellent tuition materials are available free of charge, but at the same time we have all subconsciously drifted along unknowingly applying the risk-compensation process . As a result, we are exactly where we were to start with - neither safer, not less-safe, because the ultimate arbiters of safety - you and me - are prone to human frailties and emotions.

Some people talk about concentrating on belaying skills, others talk about behaviours, the need for practice, embedding skills, specific devices, rope diameters etc. My solution is the checklist (read the book if haven’t already done so). I believe that the cause of most accidents is simply human error where it is a failure to apply a skill rather than a fundamental lack of skill or knowledge. (Of course there are some tragic cases where unconscious incompetence has led to a climber being dropped, but it appears this is very infrequent). And human error and poor behaviours are probably why the self-driving car one day will be the safest vehicle on the road.

So lets buddy-up and use our checklist, and lets do it whether we are experienced, novice or anywhere in between. Risk-compensation suggests that we are all vulnerable to the risks and consequences of getting it wrong even if we have been climbing for so long that we can’t remember when we started. Being blase is just as dangerous as being incompetent.

The checklist saves lives in the airline industry and has been proven to do the same in the medical world. Can’t we do it too? (Climbing buddy-checklist to be developed!)

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colin struthers 26 Jan 2020
In reply to chameleon:

Completely agree with this. Some 20 years ago I was dropped from above the 3rd bolt at a wall where there was just a bare concrete floor. At the time hard flooring was pretty standard - the assumption being that well bolted indoor leads should never result in a ground fall.  We know better now.

I landed on my feet but it happened too quickly for me to think about the landing and so the impact was pretty harsh - I ended up with a compression fracture to my lower spine. After a couple of months I was back climbing and thankfully there were no long term consequences.

However, I am pretty sure that a reasonably deep rubber floor would have significantly reduced the severity of the injury I received and I agree that wall owners/managers need to give this further thought, particularly in view of the stats showing that a high proportion of the reported accidents are from relatively modest heights.

Also worth noting is that the reason I hit the floor was down to belayer inattention - he was busy having a conversation with another climber when I fell. I see this happening all the time at walls and it worries me. Walls are a great place for socialising and catching up with friends, but really belayers ought to be solely focused on the task in hand. Save the chat for your coffee break.

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Neil Williams 26 Jan 2020
In reply to Adge Last:

> The checklist saves lives in the airline industry and has been proven to do the same in the medical world. Can’t we do it too? (Climbing buddy-checklist to be developed!)

We also need the other aspects of Cockpit Resource Management, i.e. more experienced people stopping getting offended by being challenged by less experienced people, and less experienced people being happy to challenge[1].  The answer may be "it's fine" but sometimes it'll be "oh, s***, I forgot to screw that in".  And, back to the root of the thread, be open and willing to discuss any incident openly and honestly to establish lessons from it.

FWIW, when instructing with a shadow at our Scout wall, I tend to tell the shadows very specifically "double check me and I will double check you - anyone can make a mistake".  I'm also more than happy to explain to concerned parents why something is safe even if it may seem not to them, as I don't want an environment where they fear challenging me if I've actually got something wrong.

Climbing is in a way a bit like flying, you can't, unlike say an archery or shooting range, just shout stop.  Even if you are going to stop, you don't have safety until the climber has returned to the ground.

[1] There is a lot of "I've been climbing for 50 years, who's this teenage wall-monkey to tell me I haven't tied in", as you fall off your route, indeed haven't tied in and hit the deck.

Post edited at 17:07
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Adge Last 26 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

Agree - key to progress and improvement for each of us and the sport as a whole is open and honest reflection on incidents and lessons learned....

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Mark Collins 28 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Brilliant article thank you, I should have read it earlier. Still, better late than never.

I no longer mind admitting to being on both ends of the scenario presented, them being long ago enough to be fairly distant memories. After tentative discussions with those concerned, I looked to machinery to help solve the problem, rather than attempting to address the elephant in the room any further.

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Al Randall 28 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

> Assisted braking (note the correct  spelling) are not a category of belay device for certification nor defined. ALL belay devices "assist" in braking the rope.

So if they are no longer recognised/defined as "Assisted Braking Devices" what should we be calling them?  When did this change?  I seem to recall you using the term "Assisted" to correct people who were calling them "Automatic" in the not too distant past. Indeed I did the same myself.  I can't keep up

Al

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jimtitt 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Al Randall:

Manual ASSISTED Locking devices are things like the Grigri, the belayer manually assists them to lock and after that all the braking is done by the device. The " other" devices are just manual braking devices as their braking power still mainly depends on the grip force on the rope.

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Al Randall 28 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

I'm sure you are right but in practical terms I never felt that with the Click Up.  I have tried it with a weight and I was able to let go of the rope and it locked. I can see that the Click Up is more dependent on angles and movement of the rope in the device however.

Al

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jimtitt 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Al Randall:

The ClickUp is a sort-of hybrid, it does some things like a Grigri but some things not.

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Neil Williams 28 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

> Manual ASSISTED Locking devices are things like the Grigri, the belayer manually assists them to lock and after that all the braking is done by the device. The " other" devices are just manual braking devices as their braking power still mainly depends on the grip force on the rope.

Though they are clearly different devices and offer additional safety over a tube-type device, I think that does demand a name for them as a class of device.

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Robert Durran 28 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

> Manual ASSISTED Locking devices are things like the Grigri, the belayer manually assists them to lock and after that all the braking is done by the device.

That is exactly what my click-up does. The manual assistance required, depending on the rope, is pretty minimal.

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jimtitt 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> That is exactly what my click-up does. The manual assistance required, depending on the rope, is pretty minimal.


As I wrote, it does some things like a GriGri. It doesn't however do everything which is why it doesn't get certified the same.

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jimtitt 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

> Though they are clearly different devices and offer additional safety over a tube-type device, I think that does demand a name for them as a class of device.


The problem is to define the characteristics so there can be a certification standard and test for three different type of device. As most of the devices in question actually have worse braking over the full range of usage than conventional devices "assisted" is unlikely to be the correct term.

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Neil Williams 29 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

Fair point.  Though the end user does not overly care which test was used, so does a term have to be based on that?

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jimtitt 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

The user should be interested in which tests the device passes though as this will tell them what it's capabilities and limitations are. The problem comes in actually giving devices names which attempt to describe their functionality, all belay devices "assist"  the belayer and as an ATC XP may assist more than say a MegaJul clearly some other term is needed.

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JimR 29 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

Personally I’m more interested in devices which assist the belayed than the belayer😀

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Neil Williams 29 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

But in practice they won't be, they'll be interested in what it does, and will trust the UK and EU's regulatory framework (CE mark etc) to ensure that means it has been tested to do what it says it will.

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Howard J 29 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

This article could save a life. Could it please be 'pinned' so it doesn't drop off the radar?  It's certainly caused me and my friends to reconsider what we do.  Whilst I'm entirely confident in my ability to hold a fall with a tube device, I buddy-check, and I try to stay focussed, this has reminded me that the real risk comes from complacency, and a moment's inattention at the wrong time could have serious, if not fatal, consequences.  Directly as a result of this article I've just bought a Click-up.

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jimtitt 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

> But in practice they won't be, they'll be interested in what it does, and will trust the UK and EU's regulatory framework (CE mark etc) to ensure that means it has been tested to do what it says it will.


In reality many people think their device does things the EN/CE says they don't!

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Robert Durran 29 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

> In reality many people think their device does things the EN/CE says they don't!

And maybe they're right.......

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jimtitt 29 Jan 2020
In reply to JimR:

> Personally I’m more interested in devices which assist the belayed than the belayer😀


That is another difficulty writing the standard, the directive says safety equipment must function without input from the user (and in fact worn or attatched to the person it is protecting) which is why belay devices have to be tested as a stand-alone object. Neither the belayer nor belayed are considered.

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jimtitt 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> And maybe they're right.......


I wasn't aware that any devices have been incorrectly certified.

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neilh 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Howard J:

Just bought 2. 1 for my daughter and one for Mrs H after we talked about it. 
 

So yes a thought provoking article. 

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Robert Durran 29 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

> I wasn't aware that any devices have been incorrectly certified.

I was just thinking of the fact that it is pretty normal and safe to take both hands off when some devices are locked even though the instructions say not to do so.

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danm 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

> Fair point.  Though the end user does not overly care which test was used, so does a term have to be based on that?

They should care. Currently the only devices which have their belay performance tested to any standard are "Braking devices with manually assisted locking." That includes the Grigri, Eddy and Birdie but not the Smart, Click Up, various Jul's and ATC Pilot and its clones. The latter are all tested as Manual devices, which only includes a basic strength test i.e will it remain structurally sound under a certain load. Work is just beginning at the CEN working group to formulate a standard for this newer category of device, which as Jim Titt correctly suggests, is going to be no mean feat given the various factors in play and the restrictions of the PPE Regulation (which replaced the Directive in 2018).

It's rather concerning to read people asserting that an ABD of any kind will bail them out if they make a mistake when belaying. These devices bring some risks with their additional complexity and seem to confuse people regarding how they function. That isn't to say that there aren't some good devices on the market, but they should not be regarded as a panacea.

What is really important is that belayers are well drilled in the use of their combination of device and rope, and by that I mean have trained their autonomic reflexes in holding falls. Colleagues at the DAV suggest it takes around 100 simulated falls before these reflexes become hardwired in, and no doubt there is some deterioration without regular practice.  Posters earlier in the thread have mentioned how to do this training - and much greater focus should be attached to doing this training than to the choice of device.

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Rick Graham 29 Jan 2020
In reply to danm:

Thanks for a considered informative response , Dan .

Out of interest , will the new or does the existing testing quantify or test the ultimate holding power or ability of devices in long factor one plus falls ?

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Misha 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

FTFY. Will the device hold with no hands holding the dead rope? Probably but not definitely. I’d like a ‘definitely’ level of certainty when it comes to my life and avoiding preventable accidents. Lots of things in climbing can never be entirely safe but there is no need to deliberately create potentially dangerous situations.


> I was just thinking of the fact that it is pretty normal and safe to take both hands off when some devices are locked, as long as you put a knot in the dead rope next to the device. 

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Neil Williams 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Misha:

With you on that.  A Grigri will hold if it's cammed unless the rope is too thin for it.  However, if the climber climbs up a bit then peels off, it won't necessarily.

Don't let go of the dead rope on any device without doing something to secure it separately.  It's that simple.

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Neil Williams 29 Jan 2020
In reply to danm:

> What is really important is that belayers are well drilled in the use of their combination of device and rope, and by that I mean have trained their autonomic reflexes in holding falls. Colleagues at the DAV suggest it takes around 100 simulated falls before these reflexes become hardwired in, and no doubt there is some deterioration without regular practice.  Posters earlier in the thread have mentioned how to do this training - and much greater focus should be attached to doing this training than to the choice of device.

Why not both?  That is a bit like saying "you should train not to crash your car rather than wearing a seatbelt".  Clearly you should learn defensive driving AND wear a seatbelt.

Post edited at 12:36
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Coel Hellier 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Al Randall:

> So if they are no longer recognised/defined as "Assisted Braking Devices" what should we be calling them? 

We should call them "Assisted-LOCKING belay devices". 

That's what they do, the mechanism assists the user in locking the device (where the word "assists" does not imply that they will auto-lock by themselves).

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galpinos 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Coel Hellier:

The standards working title is "Braking Devices with amplified braking".

> We should call them "Assisted-LOCKING belay devices". 

> That's what they do, the mechanism assists the user in locking the device (where the word "assists" does not imply that they will auto-lock by themselves).

Locking, to me, implies once they are "locked" there is no input required from the belayer. That is certainly not the case.

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danm 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Rick Graham:

Hi Rick,

I hope you're well and enjoying winter in the Lakes. Currently the only dynamic test is for type 1 devices (GriGri etc) which is a fall factor 2 test. Slippage has to be equal to or less than 1.5m. Rope tension on the braking side is only provided by 2m of free hanging rope. It is this extremely brutal test that the type 2 devices (Jul's and Smart's) cannot pass.

Hi Neil,

A seatbelt is a poor analogy, because a seatbelt works without user intervention (assuming you remember to wear it). One of the reasons the type 2 devices are going to be so hard to test is that the performance of them is very sensitive to brake rope angle, exactly the same as for type 3 (manual  or tube devices). It's also a reason why reaction drilling is important. A better analogy would be a seatbelt that only works if you have both feet pressed to the floor. It's not a fail safe system and if you aren't trained to react correctly the device will not supply the required braking force, similarly to a manual device.

Going back to you Rick - I think they'll avoid building a dynamic test into the type 2 device standard if possible. I've seen a draft and my feeling is that any test will specify an acceptable force multiplier at several defined brake rope angles, using minimum and maximum device specified rope diameters. This can be measured using a long stroke tensile test machine. The crux will be getting it to work reliably and be reproducible for the range of devices on the market. 

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jimtitt 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Rick Graham:

> Thanks for a considered informative response , Dan .

> Out of interest , will the new or does the existing testing quantify or test the ultimate holding power or ability of devices in long factor one plus falls ?


The only test for braking power is a hands-free 2m FF2 for locking assisted devices. No other tests for braking power are performed and are exluded under the directive/regulations.

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Coel Hellier 29 Jan 2020
In reply to galpinos:

> Locking, to me, implies once they are "locked" there is no input required from the belayer. That is certainly not the case.

It is the case with the ClickUp.  Once it is locked and holding the climber you can let go put your hands in your pockets and it will stay locked.   

(Presuming your rope diameter is within the allowable -- and fairly wide -- range, I guess.)

It's not guaranteed to lock in the first place, in the hands-off-and-in-pockets scenario. 

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neilh 29 Jan 2020
In reply to galpinos:

With a standard including the name " amplified braking"  it looks as though there are already some political battles going on within the working group.

It illustrates how far removed these things can get from what a consumer is looking at.

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danm 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> It's not guaranteed to lock in the first place, in the hands-off-and-in-pockets scenario. 

Neither is it guaranteed if you are holding the rope (no matter how firmly) at an unfavorable angle. That's why they developed the Click Up+ with the V-Proof system, in an attempt to make it operate more like a type 1 device. 

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galpinos 29 Jan 2020
In reply to neilh:

> With a standard including the name " amplified braking"  it looks as though there are already some political battles going on within the working group.

> It illustrates how far removed these things can get from what a consumer is looking at.

No political battles, just trying to be accurate I believe. A tube is already an assisted belay device and it could be argued it's an amplifying device too. Part of the standard will be defining what makes a "Type 3" device.

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neilh 29 Jan 2020
In reply to galpinos:

Maybe heads should be banged together to create one uniform standard on all belay devices.

It was done on the industrial machinery I am involved with which has more variations.

Takes more work, but from a consumer point of view it makes sense.

Post edited at 15:01
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galpinos 29 Jan 2020
In reply to neilh:

It's one standard, EN15151, just in three parts.......

EN15151-1, EN15151-2 and now EN15151-3. There are common tests across all parts and then specific tests depending on which type of device they are. These standards were originally written before the grigri. Part 1 (Tube/manual devices) might even be updated with a performance test on the back of the creation of Part 3.

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neilh 29 Jan 2020
In reply to galpinos:

Thanks for that, its appreciated.

It is of course interesting that retail outlets have different practises on this. For example V12 have 2 categories- belays plates and assisted belay devices. Others just put them all under belay devices or just belay - for example Rock and Run or Outside.

It is all very vague from the reatil side, only a thought.

Maybe its time for a clearer categorisation on their websites...

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galpinos 29 Jan 2020
In reply to neilh:

No problem. There has been growing concern in "the industry" about confusion between the different devices, what they do/how they work and how they are catagorised/sold.

Hopefully the creation of the standard will allow that to happen, though standard writing is a slow process.

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jimtitt 29 Jan 2020
In reply to neilh:

> Maybe heads should be banged together to create one uniform standard on all belay devices.

> It was done on the industrial machinery I am involved with which has more variations.

> Takes more work, but from a consumer point of view it makes sense.


Well they (UIAA) have been working for the last 3 decades on it!

It's somewhat complicated though, partly due to the restraints of the directive, the difficulty of reproducable tests (and of course the associated costs) and, unlike industrial machines, there is no defined acceptable performance. If the powers that be decided to take the worst-case scenario the number of devices left on the market could be counted on one hand. This is also a route we don't nescessarily want to go down as then the same principle could justifiably be extended to other pieces of equipment. We (climbers) already enjoy hard-won exemptions from the regulations and upsetting this might not be a good idea.

It's also to be remembered that the EN 's are not standards produced for consumers, they are to tell the industry what to produce,

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Al Randall 29 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

> It's also to be remembered that the EN 's are not standards produced for consumers, they are to tell the industry what to produce,

Dare I suggest that is what is causing the confusion among users.  Should we care if something is classified as "assisted", "amplified" or what ever else the testing authorities come up with.  As users perhaps we should be coming up with our own descriptions. In my eyes a Click-Up essentially does the same as a GriGri, the fact that it does it in a slightly different way is of interest but in practice irrelevant to me.  I'm far more interested in the handling characteristics. Neither assisted nor amplified are suitable for what they are attempting to describe as both could apply to ALL devices if taken literally. 

Al

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galpinos 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Al Randall:

> Dare I suggest that is what is causing the confusion among users.  Should we care if something is classified as "assisted", "amplified" or what ever else the testing authorities come up with. 

The "testing authorities" are made up of climbers, guides, testing houses, and gear manufactures, not exactly faceless bureaucrats!

> As users perhaps we should be coming up with our own descriptions. In my eyes a Click-Up essentially does the same as a GriGri, the fact that it does it in a slightly different way is of interest but in practice irrelevant to me.  I'm far more interested in the handling characteristics. Neither assisted nor amplified are suitable for what they are attempting to describe as both could apply to ALL devices if taken literally. 

The names don't really matter, I agree, but it needs to be clear to the uninformed consumer exactly what they are buying, and how it works and performs. A Click-Up and an ATC Pilot are being spoken of in the same breath in this thread, but they are very different beasts.

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Al Randall 29 Jan 2020
In reply to galpinos:

Perhaps Type A, Type B, Type C etc. would be the simplest most pragmatic and open ended solution. IMO "Assisted" and "Amplified" simply don't cut it.

Al

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jimtitt 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Al Randall:

> Dare I suggest that is what is causing the confusion among users.  Should we care if something is classified as "assisted", "amplified" or what ever else the testing authorities come up with.  As users perhaps we should be coming up with our own descriptions. In my eyes a Click-Up essentially does the same as a GriGri, the fact that it does it in a slightly different way is of interest but in practice irrelevant to me.  I'm far more interested in the handling characteristics. Neither assisted nor amplified are suitable for what they are attempting to describe as both could apply to ALL devices if taken literally. 

> Al


Thereby lies one of the problems, the perception of users is different to that of manufacturers and researchers due to the appalling misinformation that is widespread in the advertising, tests and reviews and then reinforced by lovers of device X who post their opinions on climbing forums. The media could do better and do real testing (and tell it as it really is) but that would take time, money, efforts and an understanding of the issues.

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neilh 30 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

Other industry  sectors and products face similar scenarios, for example medical devices. I would suggest it’s not particularly unique to have those sort of hard fought exemptions. In a way that is a positive thing.

clearly price point comes into play here. For example £20 or thereabouts for a tube device you may only buy every few years. Not a lot money to throw round on funding the safety standards.  
 

Anyway thanks for the info. 

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Rog Wilko 30 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Although some have been a bit uncomplimentary about this article I think it has served a useful purpose. Apart from the over 300 posts on this thread it ha set up a lot of discussion on our club Facebook page. That is, Lancashire Climbing & Caving club if anyone's interested to read it.

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Chuckbhoy 30 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

I am not  knocking the thrust of the article.   However, while it is possible to fall without any warning, it is rare.  I feel that the climber does have a responsibility to shout before lobbing or going for a fall off move when possible.

Also having a brief discussion and plan before doing a lead is important. 

Climber and belayer are a team.  

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Michael Gordon 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Chuckbhoy:

> Also having a brief discussion and plan before doing a lead is important. > 

like "Think I'll try this yellow one now"?

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scott titt 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Chuckbhoy:

It's no use you using a device that relies on you being forewarned when your partner falls unexpectedly. 

What we need is belay devices that work all the time. Last year I fell unexpectedly, and despite the best efforts of an alert and brave belayer I hit the ground. The badly burnt hands of my belayer showed how hard they tried. The problem was the belay device, a simple tube style, it had the braking power of a dog on a frozen pond. This device is still on sale despite its poor performance because of the vacillation of the standard setting bodies coupled with the disregard of the manufacturer for climber safety.

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Rob Parsons 31 Jan 2020
In reply to scott titt:

>... The problem was the belay device, a simple tube style, it had the braking power of a dog on a frozen pond. This device is still on sale despite its poor performance ...

Which device was it?

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scott titt 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Rob Parsons:

If I name the device a horde of UKC users, all claiming to be experienced, will tell me that my belayer was at fault as they (the horde)have held many similar falls using that device; they haven't, and they couldn't.

There's a lot of "it must be good, I chose to buy it" going on in people's heads.

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stevevans5 31 Jan 2020
In reply to scott titt:

That's true, but there might be a load more people who have the device and might have a think about whether they could actually hold a fall on it... 

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Rick Graham 31 Jan 2020
In reply to scott titt:

It might focus manufacturer mindset if the MD had to personally demonstrate a device before it could be sold.

Nice video of a fifty footer.

Worked well for mark vallance on tomorrows world back in the day.

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Rick Graham 31 Jan 2020
In reply to stevevans5:

> That's true, but there might be a load more people who have the device and might have a think about whether they could actually hold a fall on it... 

I am surprised that rgold had not put in a comment or two .

Iirc he had a ballpark test for deciding if a rope and belay device are  a suitable combination  to hold a fall.

Try a long free abseil on them. 

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jimtitt 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Rick Graham:

> I am surprised that rgold had not put in a comment or two .

> Iirc he had a ballpark test for deciding if a rope and belay device are  a suitable combination  to hold a fall.

> Try a long free abseil on them. 


No, get the person you are going to belay to try it. We don't all weigh 50kg.

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AlanLittle 31 Jan 2020
In reply to scott titt:

OK, I'm going for original ATC. Free hanging abs into the Verdon on those, in the days before autoblocks were in common use, felt awfully close to failing the rgold test.

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jimtitt 31 Jan 2020
In reply to AlanLittle:

There's worse out there!

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Rick Graham 31 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

> No, get the person you are going to belay to try it. We don't all weigh 50kg.

Neither do I .

Obviously the rgold abseil test indication assumes equal partner weight.

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Rick Graham 31 Jan 2020
In reply to AlanLittle:

> OK, I'm going for original ATC. Free hanging abs into the Verdon on those, in the days before autoblocks were in common use, felt awfully close to failing the rgold test.

And presumably that would be on two half ropes. You would have to try it out on one half rope to cater for if only one rope took the fall.

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neilh 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Rick Graham:

Well a figure of 8 descendeur or a stichplate with springs would pass that test..and we have moved on from those.....even though they could burn your legs if you were in shorts.....lol

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jimtitt 31 Jan 2020
In reply to neilh:

> Well a figure of 8 descendeur or a stichplate with springs would pass that test..and we have moved on from those.....even though they could burn your legs if you were in shorts.....lol


But those two outperform a good number of modern devices anyway.........

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neilh 31 Jan 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

No comment ......

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jimtitt 31 Jan 2020
In reply to neilh:

Yeah, I think followers of a "newer is better" doctrine would be suprised exactly how far we haven't progressed in the last half century. And how little difference there actually is between what we would normally consider good and bad.

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Rob Parsons 31 Jan 2020
In reply to scott titt:

> If I name the device a horde of UKC users, all claiming to be experienced, will tell me that my belayer was at fault as they (the horde)have held many similar falls using that device; they haven't, and they couldn't.

> There's a lot of "it must be good, I chose to buy it" going on in people's heads.

Why should you care what other Internet warriors say? If you reckon the device is poor, it'd be helpful to name it so that other people who use one can possibly check how it's working (or not) for them.

But it's up to you.

Post edited at 16:17
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Lankyman 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Chuckbhoy:

> I feel that the climber does have a responsibility to shout before lobbing or going for a fall off move when possible.

I'm sorry but I couldn't disagree more. Your leader has more things on his mind than whether or not you're paying attention enough to expect the unexpected - sh*t happens in the real world of dodgy holds, rockfall, disco-leg etc.

> Also having a brief discussion and plan before doing a lead is important. 

Yes, but planning and reality often diverge with horrible results.

> Climber and belayer are a team.  

Yes - we agree on that. But I'd want a belayer whose watching me attentively - that's his/her main responsibility.

One of the reasons I retired from climbing was the growing occurrence of poor belaying that I often came across. I'd be strung out on a traverse and find sagging loops of slack between runners - Jesus! If I'd come off I'd be 20 feet below the line swinging in space. I'd be on a sport route and my 'belayer' (loose term) would have so much slack out the live rope would be on the floor - come off next to a bolt even and I'd have been flying through space or scraping down the wall more likely. The last of several straws for me was the last sport trip I did with my main partner (usually an attentive/safe belayer) at the time and several people I hadn't really climbed with much or at all. These climbers have/had decades of experience and yet .... I saw the same kinds of problems with belaying - inattentiveness and too much slack out most of the time. When my mate had to leave early I had to team up but was so demoralized that I just seconded. I said nothing but pretended I was too tired to lead. No-one was hurt or had a bad experience but I just thought FTFAGOS I'm out of this game before the odds stack up against me.

Once, I was belaying an acquaintance on Sunlover Direct. When we were sorting kit out later he actually paid me the highest compliment possible for a belayer. He said he'd felt safe - I'd watched him all the way, paid out at the right time (as he was about to clip not before) and kept all the slack out of the system. Poor belayers are a liability. I was also once a very active caver and we would not have allowed anyone we thought of as a liability to rig a pitch.

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jimtitt 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Rob Parsons:

You don't think my brother couldn't give a shit what the UKC masses think but is protecting the belayer from an unjustified whitchhunt then?

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TobyA 31 Jan 2020
In reply to AlanLittle:

I think I said somewhere up thread, after a good few years of using an original ATC with no problems that I remember, in 2001 I was abseiling down the South Face of the Midi and found that I was having to hang on to the rope far harder than I wanted to. That day when back down in Chamonix I went into a shop and bought a Reverso which was better. A few years after that I got an ATC guide which I found even better than the Reverso.

What is the rgold test?

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Rick Graham 31 Jan 2020
In reply to TobyA:

I had best try to answer this as I mentioned it first earlier.

Rgold posted it on here the other year , but he is such a prolific ( and knowledgeable) poster that to do a search could be quite a task.

It goes something like this.

To estimate if a rope and belay device combo  is going to perform satisfactorily to catch a leader fall, try a long free abseil on it. It should be comfortable to grip the rope without extra raps around a leg or other tricks. 

As jim pointed out , problems occur using this test for assessing belaying partners of differing weight to you. Might have to abseil together on separate ropes but hold the others rope? Could get very messy.

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jimtitt 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Rick Graham:

And of course it only means you might stop moderate falls, bigger ones are going to be difficult.

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Rob Parsons 01 Feb 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

> You don't think my brother couldn't give a shit what the UKC masses think but is protecting the belayer from an unjustified whitchhunt then?

There can no question of a witchhunt since your brother (who knows his stuff) has clearly identified the device as the problem, rather than the person who was using it. For my own benefit I'd like to know what the device was, however I certainly did not intend to pick a fight, and am happy to drop the subject.

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rgold 01 Feb 2020
In reply to Rick Graham:

> I am surprised that rgold had not put in a comment or two .

> Iirc he had a ballpark test for deciding if a rope and belay device are  a suitable combination  to hold a fall.

> Try a long free abseil on them. 

Haha, the "rgold test" is a long free abseil on a single strand.  And if you're a lightweight and you're partners are significantly heavier, then you need to carry some extra weight down.  My ballpark claim (sorry for the Americanism there) is that only the middle third of the manufacturer's rope diameter rating is likely to be any good.  Ropes at the thinner end will have inadequate braking and ropes at the thicker end will have miserable handling.

I haven't contributed much to this discussion out of weariness with seeing the same issues recur over and over again.  But I'll add this one very general observation.  All the "automation" engineered into contemporary belay gadgets is supposed to mitigate human failure, the way antilock brakes make most drivers safer on slippery surfaces.  The trouble with most of the solutions so far is that you have to deactivate braking in order to pump out slack quickly.  A thumb on the cam with Grigris, traction on thumb catches with BD Pilot, Mammut Smart, and the whole lot of family Juls.  Then the automatic clenching reflex people experience during dramatic events works against the necessity to release the applied pressure in order to get the brake to function, and the leader is on the ground.

Tubes don't have this braking release requirement to the same extent.  Yes, bringing the brake strand parallel to the lead strand mostly deactivates the braking mechanism, but only a truly unschooled beginner would keep their brake hand up in that position (it isn't at all comfortable assuming a palm-down grip), and it is easy and not contrary to some primitive instinct to bring the brake hand down during a fall.  I'm not necessarily arguing for tubes, they to require a very high level of attention (having been designed when the belayer was a solitary figure on a desolate landscape) and if they are mismatched to the rope (and/or the linking carabiner) can be quite dangerous.

On the other hand, the idea that the human race is going to be saved by full or semi or assisted or whatever further hair-splitting terminology precedes "braking" is, up to now, a fantasy belied by the  discovered and as yet undiscovered "gotcha's" lurking in the modern gadgets, with the necessity of disabling braking mentioned earlier as one of the root concerns.

Meanwhile, the gyms are making rules about devices, but they're still blaring music and generally striving for an environment somewhere between Jim's bouncy castle and a hot nightclub.  Everything they do minimizes awareness of the underlying dangers of "working at height" and presents the activity as some kind of social fitness class.  Maybe they need to look beyond belay gadgets if they want to improve accident stats.

Ending now on belay gadgets, at the moment I think the Click-Up and Alpine Up are the only devices that function as effectively as tubes when it comes to pumping slack without disconnecting the brake function, but that's just me. When it comes to half ropes, I think the Alpine Up is the only decent-handling game in town, which is not to say it doesn't have drawbacks as well.

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neilh 01 Feb 2020
In reply to rgold:

Thanks for that. Great place the gunks, been a couple of times. 
 

I had come to the same conclusion but in a more roundabout way.

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AlanLittle 01 Feb 2020
In reply to rgold:

> Meanwhile, the gyms are making rules about devices, but they're still blaring music

Might be an American thing. Don't recall ever hearing music played at a European lead wall (and personally don't generally find it too intrusive at bouldering walls)

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wbo2 01 Feb 2020
In reply to rgold: in a gym the quickest way to pump in, pump out slack is to walk backwards and forwards.  And a good belayer should be moving around , particularly lower down.   

Alan Little - I'm a bit disappointed if there isn't music . And that includes lead walls

Post edited at 10:02
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Rog Wilko 01 Feb 2020
In reply to AlanLittle:

> > Meanwhile, the gyms are making rules about devices, but they're still blaring music

> Might be an American thing. Don't recall ever hearing music played at a European lead wall (and personally don't generally find it too intrusive at bouldering walls)

"Music" played all the time at Kendal. Presume still in Europe for this purpose?

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Neil Williams 02 Feb 2020
In reply to jimtitt:

> But those two outperform a good number of modern devices anyway.........

The issue with Sticht plates isn't grabbiness/braking force, though, is it?  It's more that they tend to be slightly less than smooth in use?

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Neil Williams 02 Feb 2020
In reply to rgold:

> Tubes don't have this braking release requirement to the same extent.  Yes, bringing the brake strand parallel to the lead strand mostly deactivates the braking mechanism, but only a truly unschooled beginner would keep their brake hand up in that position (it isn't at all comfortable assuming a palm-down grip), and it is easy and not contrary to some primitive instinct to bring the brake hand down during a fall

I'd agree with that, *but* don't a lot of people in the US belay palm-up and do not take the braking position by default?  (I don't like that method of belaying as it's fail-dangerous rather than fail-safe, as in you have to do something active to brake rather than braking being the default, but it is I believe quite common).

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Neil Williams 02 Feb 2020
In reply to Rog Wilko:

> "Music" played all the time at Kendal. Presume still in Europe for this purpose?

Most UK walls do at least some of the time.  I quite like it personally, to me music goes very well with physical activity (e.g. in gyms[1], running etc).  But then the UK is often a halfway house between the US and mainland Europe in many different areas of life, politics, business practices etc.

[1] I mean the sort of gym with weights and stuff.  I can't quite bring myself to call a climbing wall a "gym" even if it is probably a better description.

Post edited at 13:14
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Al Randall 02 Feb 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

The problem with playing music in climbing walls is what to play.  Person A may not like what person B likes and if music is playing that you do not like it could be a distraction.  I would rather have no music than constant rap music for example.  It's a real problem for us older climbers who don't think there has been a decent piece of music since the 70's

Al

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IceBun 02 Feb 2020
In reply to Al Randall:

Sticking with the original broad theme of this thread, I’ve nothing against music as long as it doesn’t hinder good communications between leaders and belayers. Much less of an issue in a Bouldering only venue.

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Michael Gordon 02 Feb 2020
In reply to scott titt:

> It's no use you using a device that relies on you being forewarned when your partner falls unexpectedly. 

> What we need is belay devices that work all the time. Last year I fell unexpectedly, and despite the best efforts of an alert and brave belayer I hit the ground. The badly burnt hands of my belayer showed how hard they tried. The problem was the belay device, a simple tube style, it had the braking power of a dog on a frozen pond. This device is still on sale despite its poor performance because of the vacillation of the standard setting bodies coupled with the disregard of the manufacturer for climber safety.

With all due respect, what was the point in this anecdote if you weren't going to name the device? It's like saying there was an accident on the hill with some useful lessons to be learned from it, then refusing to describe the incident.

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IceBun 02 Feb 2020
In reply to scott titt:

So just for clarity. So you will happily let folk continue to use it when you know it to be unsafe and someone else could have a fall like yours? When naming it could make someone reassess or change their usage. And all because you are concerned what people on here will post. Interesting.🤔

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Robert Durran 03 Feb 2020
In reply to IceBun:

> I’ve nothing against music as long as it doesn’t hinder good communications between leaders and belayers. 

My issue is when it affects the grade I can climb. I mean, who can possibly climb hard to jingly Christmas stuff? it's enough to enforce a winter layoff.

Post edited at 12:20
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Robert Durran 03 Feb 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

> I can't quite bring myself to call a climbing wall a "gym" even if it is probably a better description.

Quite?! I could never bring myself to do so in a million years. It's absolutely essentially a place where you climb up walls. How could "gym" with all its connotations possible be a better description? It's plain wrong.

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rgold 03 Feb 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

> I'd agree with that, *but* don't a lot of people in the US belay palm-up and do not take the braking position by default?  (I don't like that method of belaying as it's fail-dangerous rather than fail-safe, as in you have to do something active to brake rather than braking being the default, but it is I believe quite common).


I'm always surprised when people seem to know what "most" or "alot" of other people do.  I don't feel I know what "a lot" of US climbers do with their brake hand, but I haven't seen a palm-up belay with a tube for at least ten years now.

However, I personally use the palm-up position with the Alpine Up and half ropes all the time because of facilitated handling.

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rgold 03 Feb 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> With all due respect, what was the point in this anecdote if you weren't going to name the device? It's like saying there was an accident on the hill with some useful lessons to be learned from it, then refusing to describe the incident.

I don't know what device was involved in Scott's brush with belay failure, but I believe the original BD ATC (not the XP!) is dangerously obsolete, having been designed ages ago when a standard climbing rope was 11 mm in diameter and there were no slippery waterproofing treatments.  Maybe ok on a worn fat fuzzy gym rope but that's about all.  I think the original Petzl Reverso, no longer sold but still in circulation, is similarly inept with modern ropes.   And as I mentioned earlier, I'm doubtful about the performance of all the devices with ropes at low end of the manufacturer's recommended range.

One of the problems with low-friction devices is that their weak performance is easily masked by high-friction low impact climbing situations, so that a person can be lulled by relatively common circumstances into a false sense of security.  The situation isn't helped by reviewers who focus primarily on handling and rarely subject the device to the kinds of high loads that may be infrequent but which also have catastrophic consequences.

Post edited at 16:53
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TobyA 03 Feb 2020
In reply to rgold:

> I don't know what device was involved in Scott's brush with belay failure, but I believe the original BD ATC (not the XP!) is dangerously obsolete, having been designed ages ago when a standard climbing rope was 11 mm in diameter and there were no slippery waterproofing treatments. 

I noted earlier that I gave up on an original BD ATC after finding it hard to hold abseiling on probably relatively thin for the time double ropes - but BD still sell them 18 years after I swapped and maybe 25 years after they first came out. I swapped for a Reverso which was definitely much grippier but the first ones made out of bent sheet, sharpened off at the back quite significantly with use.

We always used dry treated ropes in the 90s for winter climbing, so do you mean a new type of waterproof treatment makes ropes slippier now? Or that all dry treated ropes are too slippy? I don't remember having issues using the ATC with dry treated double ropes, including free hanging abseils and the like. Clearly ropes have got significantly thinner over the last 10 to 15 years though.

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Rick Graham 03 Feb 2020
In reply to TobyA:

A lot of manufacturers now have several sizes of tube device in their range to try to cater for different rope diameters .

In the absence of standard tests , the best advice may be to use the smallest / tightest device that you are happy with the handling  .

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Neil Williams 03 Feb 2020
In reply to rgold:

> I don't know what device was involved in Scott's brush with belay failure, but I believe the original BD ATC (not the XP!) is dangerously obsolete

And yet the very similar DMM Bug still works fine, albeit I wouldn't use one on very skinny ropes.

On that basis it would be sensible to name it!

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TobyA 03 Feb 2020
In reply to Rick Graham:

Yes, or in the case of BD, various different designs of belay tubes but I wondered if the original ATCs have shrunk at all from the first ones. Their website claims it handles down to 7.7 mm ropes...

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Neil Williams 03 Feb 2020
In reply to TobyA:

I don't know if this applies to the ATC as I've never used one, but with the Bug you can get substantial extra friction by putting it on the krab the other way round, i.e. on the narrow end, and this used to be fairly common practice.  I've not done it but I've seen it loads.

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Rick Graham 03 Feb 2020
In reply to TobyA:

> Yes, or in the case of BD, various different designs of belay tubes but I wondered if the original ATCs have shrunk at all from the first ones. Their website claims it handles down to 7.7 mm ropes..

I am fairly sure the size of the ATC has not changed at all over the years , just the fixing method for the wire loop. 

Imho 7.7mm ropes /ATC combo  would only be suitable for flyweight climbers using twin rope technique.

Edit . on reflection of some fairly substantial fall holding , 13 stone climber, 15m,0.5 fall factor onto single 8mm, ATC xp . there is also the fact that thinner ropes have far less impact load due to greater stretch. So its not that simple, lots of extra factors.

Post edited at 19:53
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TobyA 03 Feb 2020
In reply to Rick Graham:

> I am fairly sure the size of the ATC has not changed at all over the years , just the fixing method for the wire loop.

I got one of the first ones in the country (maybe 94? About the same time as the hotwire krabs) and quickly snapped the wire. When I complained to the rep from First Ascent (the BD importers back then) he said something like "you lot up in Scotland - always getting the gear wet and cold!"

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rgold 04 Feb 2020
In reply to Rick Graham:

> Edit . on reflection of some fairly substantial fall holding , 13 stone climber, 15m,0.5 fall factor onto single 8mm, ATC xp . there is also the fact that thinner ropes have far less impact load due to greater stretch. So its not that simple, lots of extra factors.

Sure, as I mentioned, system friction can (and I suspect frequently does) make up for inadequate device friction.  Whether thinner ropes stretch significantly more and consequently have significantly lower impact forces is, I think, questionable.  Some manufacturers like Beal produce ropes with generally lower impact forces, but that isn't a simple function of diameter.  In any case, the ATC-XP is one of the highest friction tube devices out there and is not comparable to the outmoded ordinary ATC.

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SteveX 14 Feb 2020
In reply to rgold:

> I don't know what device was involved in Scott's brush with belay failure, but I believe the original BD ATC (not the XP!) is dangerously obsolete, having been designed ages ago when a standard climbing rope was 11 mm in diameter and there were no slippery waterproofing treatments.  Maybe ok on a worn fat fuzzy gym rope but that's about all. 

Just for clarity, is this the original BD ATC https://www.gooutdoors.co.uk/15898368/black-diamond-atc-belayrappel-device-15898368/?istCompanyId=c2ec8a5d-93c1-4850-a97a-f4d89d7c99c8&istFeedId=caf85954-1122-4d0b-81df-b8aba2f58e49&istItemId=wapiwitrl&istBid=t&msclkid=f8329cf14296139d5396c2b7c3d8d25f&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=*NEW%20-%20%233%20-%20Catch%20All%20-%20%5BGS%5D&utm_term=4582214713639837&utm_content=Catch%20All%20-%20Outdoor%20Activities%20-%20%5BGS%5D&gclid=CNmi0pj10OcCFdWAGwodS7UMHg&gclsrc=ds

Post edited at 11:20
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Wry Spudding 14 Feb 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

A disappointingly superficial article, yes it is an important subject worthy of discussion, but this is just an opinion-piece; it is not a rigorous investigation and doesn't stand up to scrutiny. The author makes an assumption that because an accident occurred when belaying using a tube device, then an 'assisted braking device' must be better/safer. One of the problems with more automation is that users become less skilled and less attentive. The author's arguments are based on anecdote, opinion and misuse of statistics/data which doesn't distinguish the actual causes of ground falls.  As such the article is unhelpful and potentially dangerous.

Post edited at 17:39
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Max factor 14 Feb 2020
In reply to Wry Spudding:

I don't get your point. It's not a review of the best belay device; it's illustrating both the factors that could lead to a belaying accident and the fallout that follows one.  Increased attentiveness and guarding against complacency are given equal weighting to the use of ABDs in preventing an accident. 

But if you want to overlook all of that: there are ABDs out there that do add a layer of safety over tube devices. It's not entirely a one way street - some are more prone to user error - but used right I know which I'd prefer to be belayed with. 

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