/ Safety tests, obscure nitpicking

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teh_mark 04 Nov 2019

I had to redo a safety test at a well-known climbing wall today, as I haven't climbed there in yonks and my details seemed to have disappeared into the ether. Passed, as you'd expect, but I was criticised for using the slot of the belay device furthest away from the spine of the krab.

Errr...have I missed something? Has anyone in the history of climbing ever had an accident based on the slot of the belay device they chose to use? If I belay on a single rope I always use that slot as it means you dont have to unclip the belay device from the krab, and so there's less chance of fumbling and dropping it 200m down a multipitch. Am I unsafe? Are my climbing partners all still alive only by the grace of God?

It was also mentioned that the rope loop should be smaller than my belay loop. Quoi? I just about butt the knot up against my tie-in point before I rethread it, it can't practically get any smaller.

Where do these people come from?

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JoshOvki 04 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

I pick the slot at random, I cannot imagine there be a situation where the hole would make a difference, if you are just using one the device will just orientate itself 5mm over. Both slots can be done without unclipping it from your harness. For the tie-in loop yeah it should be smallish to stop you accidentally getting it caught, but smaller than your belay loop sounds odd, as you can just get your belay loop caught. I imagine they were told as a rule of thumb it should be the same size as your belay loop and miss-remembered?

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john arran 04 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

A small amount of 'knowledge' and an official 'cap' is a potent combination.

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Jack B 04 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

I think for some combinations of plate and krab, the which slot you use can change the way it sits when locked off.  Inner slot -> the plate sits on the top bar of the krab. Outer slot -> it sits on the corner of the krab. The second case can be stickier/less consistent. 

I fixed that problem by not using that plate with that krab...

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rgold 05 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

Adherence to pointless minutiae is a sign of general ignorance. 

Inadequate though you are with your slots and knots all bollixed up, at least they somehow let you squeak through!

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CrawfMatt 05 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

I did my RCI training recently and was told the rope loop should be smaller than the belay loop.

It's not a safety issue especially in indoor or sport climbing but more of a potential comfort thing for trad. Imagine you build your anchor with rope, clip everything back to the rope loop, and also belay from the rope loop. If you clipped any karabiner through the belay loop as well then if the rope loop is smaller it won't pull on the harness. This makes everything a bit more comfortable and a little bit easier to escape the system if need be. If the rope loop is bigger and you clipped through both then you're harness can get twisted and it's just a little bit more uncomfortable.

Hope that made sense?

I think the main benefit for me is it keeps everything out of the way when clipping a draw. I don't understand how people manage with the loop and "stopper" below their knees.

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Snyggapa 05 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

>Are my climbing partners all still alive only by the grace of God?

thiests would argue that this is the correct answer

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teh_mark 05 Nov 2019
In reply to CrawfMatt:

But:

  1. Why would I clip both the rope loop and belay loop when I could just clip the rope loop?
  2. It's not possible to make my rope loop much smaller; the knot is nigh on touching my lower tie in point when I rethread it. If it were any smaller my harness would be crushing my nads by default.
  3. This is at an indoor wall.

It just doesn't make sense.

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teh_mark 05 Nov 2019
In reply to rgold:

The reason it annoys me is that among all the noise, genuine points of safety may well be lost on the less experienced novice who isn't yet able to filter the stupidity.

At best they'll spend the next n years convinced they're only safe using their belay device in one specific way, and at worst they'll realise it's it's bollocks and assume the advice to tie a stopper on their bowline is equally nonsensical.

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jezb1 05 Nov 2019
In reply to CrawfMatt:

The belay loop is that size on purpose. The designers have made it that way.

If I was going to be super pedantic I reckon we should aim for our knot loop to exactly match it. But as long as its broadly similar who cares?

I wouldn't want it smaller than the belay loop as it pinches the harness points together, but I wouldn't want it massively oversized as it's just a pain then. 

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Howard J 05 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

I use either a Reverso or ATC.  In neither case does the manufacturer's instructions specify which slot to use.  Black Diamond's instructions for the ATC Guide seem to show the slot closest to the spine in one diagram and furthest in another. but neither are very clear except after close study.  It certainly does not indicate that it matters which one to use or that it is wrong to use the other slot (which these instruction sheets usually do if something is potentially unsafe).

https://eu.blackdiamondequipment.com/on/demandware.static/-/Sites-bdel/default/dwc035a6a1/instructions/S16_Instructions/M10798_B_ATCGuide_IS-WEB.pdf

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AlanLittle 05 Nov 2019
In reply to CrawfMatt:

I thought belaying from the rope loop was a discredited idea these days? Significant risk of ring loading, which rethreaded eights and most bowline variants tend to handle rather badly.

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CrawfMatt 05 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

Totally agree on why it's an issue indoors, was just trying to come up with a case why someone might say it needs to be smaller. It's definitely not commonly taught that it needs to be smaller in my experience. For trad, it was explained to me as more of a "just in case" you clip both. I think it's best to just clip the rope loop too. 

To get it to stay smaller than the belay loop when weighted you do need to to pull it pretty tight. In practice I aim for about the size of the belay loop too.

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GHawksworth 05 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

Ask what the staff member in question has done on grit.

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krikoman 05 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

I didn't think size mattered, I'm always conscious of which slot I'm using though.

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r0x0r.wolfo 05 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

> I had to redo a safety test at a well-known climbing wall today, as I haven't climbed there in yonks and my details seemed to have disappeared into the ether. Passed, as you'd expect, but I was criticised for using the slot of the belay device furthest away from the spine of the krab.

> Errr...have I missed something? Has anyone in the history of climbing ever had an accident based on the slot of the belay device they chose to use? If I belay on a single rope I always use that slot as it means you dont have to unclip the belay device from the krab, and so there's less chance of fumbling and dropping it 200m down a multipitch. Am I unsafe? Are my climbing partners all still alive only by the grace of God?

> It was also mentioned that the rope loop should be smaller than my belay loop. Quoi? I just about butt the knot up against my tie-in point before I rethread it, it can't practically get any smaller.

> Where do these people come from?

It doesn't matter what side the rope is through the belay. The rope will center itself naturally and won't be any further away from the spine in either configuration, a couple of grams of metal on the left or right doesn't change this fact.  

The only way this might be affected is if something external was pushing on the belay device to force the rope over to one side. 

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Iamgregp 05 Nov 2019
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

I always use the slot on the right as I'm right handed, gate on the left. Is that right or wrong then?!

I was told the rope loop should be be no bigger than the belay loop so make it quite small.  Yes it does pinch the tie in points together a little but doesn't seem matter?

But yes, this is nitpicking rather than a safety issue.  I would have expected the instructor to confirm that what you were doing is perfectly safe, but that what they were suggesting would be better (albeit an opinion).

Next they'll be telling you whether to tie in top to bottom or bottom to top!

(not really, everybody knows only weirdos tie in top to bottom)

Post edited at 14:08
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LastBoyScout 05 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

There's a limit to how small you can tie the loop. I always use a bowline when wall climbing, as it's easier to untie after being loaded, as when lowering off. That means I need at least a certain size of loop to get the stopper knot on.

On the other hand, when I'm teaching groups, usually kids, I always use a re-threaded fig-8 - in that case, you want the loop small, so that the stopper knot can't smack them in the face.

Incidentally, my Dad failed his first assessment at our local wall on a technicality on belay practice, but passed on his bowline tie-in. On the second attempt, he passed the belay part, but failed the tie-in, as the wall seems to have changed it's policy and now doesn't allow bowlines!

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LastBoyScout 05 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

Incidentally, I always find it amusing that no wall I've ever been to has accepted my SPA qualification as evidence of belaying competence and I ALWAYS have to do their assessment!

I'm quite happy to do it, I just try it out of interest.

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Phil79 05 Nov 2019
In reply to krikoman:

> I didn't think size mattered, 

Yeah, so you've been told...

;)

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john arran 05 Nov 2019
In reply to krikoman:

> I didn't think size mattered, I'm always conscious of which slot I'm using though.

But everyone agrees it's much better if the stopper is snug ;-)

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AlanLittle 05 Nov 2019
In reply to Iamgregp:

> (not really, everybody knows only weirdos tie in top to bottom)

Yeah, they're probably gates-out losers too.

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Rob Parsons 05 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

> I had to redo a safety test at a well-known climbing wall today,

Which wall?

> It was also mentioned that the rope loop should be smaller than my belay loop. Quoi?

My harness doesn't have a belay loop - so the problem is solved.

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Neil Williams 05 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

> I had to redo a safety test at a well-known climbing wall today, as I haven't climbed there in yonks and my details seemed to have disappeared into the ether. Passed, as you'd expect, but I was criticised for using the slot of the belay device furthest away from the spine of the krab.

> Errr...have I missed something?

I thought it made sense on a regular harness to use the slot on the side you are handed (i.e. the right hand slot if right handed) as it just sits nicer.  Being right handed that then means I clip the krab right to left, so it is near the spine.  It had never occurred to me to do otherwise.  On an alpine harness (where it's horizontal) I've never considered it to make any difference at all.

Interesting.  I suppose the argument is that the nearer the gate it is the more likely it is to rub on and undo the gate?

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Neil Williams 05 Nov 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

> I thought belaying from the rope loop was a discredited idea these days? Significant risk of ring loading, which rethreaded eights and most bowline variants tend to handle rather badly.

It's not often done at walls, but on the crag isn't the idea that it makes it easier to escape the belay if you need to do so for whatever reason?

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John Stainforth 05 Nov 2019
In reply to john arran:

Once you have got the slots sorted, better starting thinking about what protection you might need.

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krikoman 05 Nov 2019
In reply to John Stainforth:

> Once you have got the slots sorted, better starting thinking about what protection you might need.


Lately I've not been bothering about protection, I have been soloing a lot though.

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Iamgregp 05 Nov 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

Those people ;0)

Post edited at 15:56
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brianjcooper 05 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

> It's not often done at walls, but on the crag isn't the idea that it makes it easier to escape the belay if you need to do so for whatever reason?

Outdoors, belaying from the rope loop means any force of a falling climber goes through the rope and back to the belay point. Using the belay loop the force comes directly onto the belayer first.

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brianjcooper 05 Nov 2019
In reply to brianjcooper:

To the 'dislike'.  RTFM 

By rope loop I mean the tied into the harness loop and knot.

Post edited at 17:04
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teh_mark 05 Nov 2019
In reply to Rob Parsons:

Westway.

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AlanLittle 05 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

> It's not often done at walls, but on the crag isn't the idea that it makes it easier to escape the belay if you need to do so for whatever reason?

How's that supposed to work then? If you were talking about a separate rope loop as the master point of the belay, American style, then I could concede the "ease of escape" point. But if you're talking about your tie-in loop as I thought we were, then I don't see that it makes blind bit of difference.

Presuming you don't want to just untie your loop and drop your partner to his or her doom - assuming you even could untie it under load - then you still need to get the load off onto a prusik in order to unload the belay device. And the process for doing that is the same whether the device is on your belay loop or a loop of rope.

Post edited at 17:13
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tom_in_edinburgh 05 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

It is a lifetime ambition of mine to get good enough at the trick where you make a fig-8 by whipping the rope around in a fancy pattern then throw the end through the loop which you've formed in mid-air that I can use it in a wall safety test.

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teh_mark 05 Nov 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

> Presuming you don't want to just untie your loop and drop your partner to his or her doom...

Sometimes, when they've been faffing at the crux for hours while a savage wind blows at the top of the crag...

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rgold 05 Nov 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

> > It's not often done at walls, but on the crag isn't the idea that it makes it easier to escape the belay if you need to do so for whatever reason?

> How's that supposed to work then? If you were talking about a separate rope loop as the master point of the belay, American style, then I could concede the "ease of escape" point. But if you're talking about your tie-in loop as I thought we were, then I don't see that it makes blind bit of difference.

> Presuming you don't want to just untie your loop and drop your partner to his or her doom - assuming you even could untie it under load - then you still need to get the load off onto a prusik in order to unload the belay device. And the process for doing that is the same whether the device is on your belay loop or a loop of rope.

The escape problem does arise without a separate rope loop as the belay master point if the climber has rigged the belay anchor  entirely with the climbing rope.  Yes, there is no difference in the transferring of load to the anchor, but you don't have a rigged anchor if you are clipped back to the rope tie-in loop and then untie your tie-in as the next stage of the rescue process.  You could presumably transfer the load to one piece of your anchor directly, but wouldn't be able to use the load-distributing rigging set up for the belay.  These considerations do not arise if the anchor has been rigged with a cordelette or slings.

All that said, I think way too much attention is directed to belay escape.  It is an exceptionally rare situation that truly requires it and on-the-spot improvisations may suffice anyway.

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wbo2 05 Nov 2019
In reply to brianjcooper: you're still going to need to explain it to me

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Frank R. 05 Nov 2019
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

> It is a lifetime ambition of mine to get good enough at the trick where you make a fig-8 by whipping the rope around in a fancy pattern

I got pretty good at making very difficult to do (especially to undo...) knots in the rope seemingly just by throwing it down on the rope tarp at the crag, although probably that's not exactly what you had in mind, right? 

Post edited at 22:45
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AlanLittle 06 Nov 2019
In reply to rgold:

> All that said, I think way too much attention is directed to belay escape.  It is an exceptionally rare situation that truly requires it and on-the-spot improvisations may suffice anyway.

Couldn't agree more. Haven't been climbing as long as you - only 40 years - but I've never had to do it, & don't know anybody who has either.

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fred99 06 Nov 2019
In reply to LastBoyScout:

> Incidentally, I always find it amusing that no wall I've ever been to has accepted my SPA qualification as evidence of belaying competence and I ALWAYS have to do their assessment!

But you see they're WALL qualified, and you're not, so they do know better than you. (And the "children" testing us do so like to show off their "superiority").

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tjin 06 Nov 2019

I alternate the left and right slot to spread the wear on the belay device. 

As for the rope loop, I have seen people with giant loops that are 3 feet long, in that case, I can certainly see how it can be caught on a hold/bolt. A little bigger or small then your belay loop, whatever. 

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Neil Williams 06 Nov 2019
In reply to fred99:

> But you see they're WALL qualified, and you're not, so they do know better than you. (And the "children" testing us do so like to show off their "superiority").

>


Of note is that SPA is a logbook award - you can pass it and not go near a wall or rock in 20 years and forget everything - it should always be reviewed in conjunction with a logbook of experience and has little or no value on its own.

It's probably quicker to do a belay check (which takes all of 5 minutes) than read through your logbook, particularly when using the awful piece of software that is DLOG.

Post edited at 13:56
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Hat Dude 06 Nov 2019
In reply to krikoman:

> I didn't think size mattered,

I used to think that until my wallpaper fell off!

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Presley Whippet 06 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

You are at climbing wall. There are pretty girls in tight vests there. For your partners sake, use a gri gri rather than a belay plate. 

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teh_mark 06 Nov 2019
In reply to Presley Whippet:

My climbing partner is a pretty girl in a tight vest. No one could possibly accuse me of being an inattentive belayer.

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Presley Whippet 06 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

There is always someone better off than you. 

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Planeandsimple 06 Nov 2019
In reply to brianjcooper:

Which can be beneficial if you are on really poor anchors and wish to give the most dynamic belay possible it's surprising how much force you can take out of a fall by resisting a pull with your body, slowly transferring the weight of the second from you to the anchor. 

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Planeandsimple 06 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

Had it before where some jobsworths told me that my DMM Sentinel HMS wasn't suitable for belaying! I can agree that it's a little too grabby on some belay devices like the edelrid mega jul but with a standard ATC it functions the same as almost any other HMS.

No wonder the braehead ice wall is always empty. 

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teh_mark 06 Nov 2019
In reply to Planeandsimple:

Presumably they were hoping for one of those belay krabs with some clever way of preventing cross-loading?

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Planeandsimple 07 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

Nope. I was just given a 'normal' HMS and a 5 minute lecture along the lines of why you don't risk it when winter climbing... I thought this quite unnecessary as I had been trad climbing over 10 years, had a few winter seasons under my belt, and was qualified to a higher level in instructing climbing than SPA. 

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brianjcooper 07 Nov 2019
brianjcooper 07 Nov 2019
In reply to Planeandsimple:

> Which can be beneficial if you are on really poor anchors and wish to give the most dynamic belay possible it's surprising how much force you can take out of a fall by resisting a pull with your body, slowly transferring the weight of the second from you to the anchor. 

Agreed.  

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zimpara 08 Nov 2019

What are these slots you all speak of? 

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AlanLittle 09 Nov 2019
In reply to zimpara:

Try this simple approach to answering your own question.

  1. Get any ATC-style belay device out (a picture will suffice if you don't have one to hand)
  2. Look at it
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Robert Durran 09 Nov 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

> Couldn't agree more. Haven't been climbing as long as you - only 40 years - but I've never had to do it, & don't know anybody who has either.

I've had to escape from the system three times in about 37 years of climbing. So not very often, but at least one of those times would have been very serious if I had not known how to do so. If you've got an injured, incapacitated partner hanging off your harness without other help immediately avavilable, you're pretty stuffed if you don't know how to do it. 

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Robert Durran 09 Nov 2019
In reply to Iamgregp:

> Next they'll be telling you whether to tie in top to bottom or bottom to top!

It does make sense to teach novices to tie in top to bottom so that if only one thing is looped it is the bit that matters.

I never do so myself though.

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TonyB 10 Nov 2019
In reply to teh_mark:

I think the problem here is that most climbing walls presumably would like the users to belay in the way in which they teach their beginners. I've not really thought about the two issues that you mention. Although I thought that people who climb offwidth/squeeze chimneys liked big tie in loops to prevent the chance of the not getting wedged and impeding upward progress. I think I read this on an American website - so it might not be so common. 

I was recently criticised for the way in which I was with belaying with a grigri at a local wall. I didn't challenge the floor walker in front of the other customers, but did email the manager. They agreed that I was using the device exactly as was shown it the Petzl instructional videos. They said that this is not how they instruct people, and that their concern was that beginners could copy what I was doing using a different device. I suspect that the same might be true with the two things you bring up. If they specify to the beginners that the loop should be a designated size, it probably looks contradictory if experienced climbers deviate from this.  

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teh_mark 10 Nov 2019
In reply to TonyB:

I don't think that could apply here. You'd have to be really looking to see which hole of the device someone was using, and it's entirely inconsequential even when applied to other devices designed for double ropes.

I can't make my rope loop any smaller without pinching my harness together, which is clearly incorrect.

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AlanLittle 10 Nov 2019
In reply to TonyB:

> They agreed that I was using the device exactly as was shown it the Petzl instructional videos. They said that this is not how they instruct people

I wonder what's the wall's legal situation would be if it were emerge in court that they were teaching use of a safety device differently from the manufacturer's instructions.

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