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iceaxe23


Mar 1, 2006, 5:47 PM
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local gym teaching poor belaying?
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Ok I consider myself a knowledgeable and safe climber...and I go with some friends to a gym I used to go to. I had not been there since 1999. All new people. They still have me as belay qualified but not lead qualified anymore due to me not being there in some time which I thought was safe... and the rest of my group has to take a basic knot and belay test. I taught everyone that when using an ATC the ropes should never be parallel and your brake hand never leaves contact with the rope..and the standard hands down meathod... Your brake hand is always down almost like you are rappelling (ever try rapping with parallel ropes?!?) I find out later this guy makes them have the ropes totally parallel and my girlfriend tried to tell him that isn't as safe. He made her catch "surprise falls" his way and she said it hurt and she burned her hands a little as his method had the break hand at times right by your face with the ropes totally parallel and the climber fell some as he was not caught right away. whenever her and I climb I take surprise falls and she catches me instantly with the standard method. It's funny as I just read an article about the same thing in Rock and ice magazine. They said many gyms teach the rope parallel way and it is not safe. I know some do the hand up and some do the hands down....but hands up totally parallel is not safe at all...What do you do in situations like this? I felt this was not safe and he was teaching people not to be safe. I should have watched them...I was too busy in the bouldering area...One guy in the group was an old school climber and this guy had a stitch plate and the "coach" was telling the guy how to use it wrong and the guy who has used it for years correctly tried to explain to the "coach" how to use it correctly and finally gave up and just used someone else's atc. I heard the majority of this second hand from the group, but I did catch the last belay and saw the parallel ropes and was shocked...am I just freaking out over nothing?


sbaclimber


Mar 1, 2006, 6:03 PM
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In reply to:
...am I just freaking out over nothing?
No, you are perfectly correct in being very concerned about this!
There is ONE belay method commonly used in gyms that does require the brake end to be parallel to the climber's end of the rope when arresting a fall. That is when using a Munter/Italian Hitch.
When using any non-autolocking belay device that I am aware of, the brake hand should be 'down'. Even autolockers can (and often should) be used this way.
They are teaching something very dangerous at this gym! If you want to do something about it, I would suggest talking to whoever the person is who is responsible for training the staff. If they are not aware that this is incorrect and/or will not believe you, then there are plenty of books and other resources that they can be shown indicating the proper way of arresting a fall.


whoa


Mar 1, 2006, 6:10 PM
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In the questioned practice, do you mean the brake end of the rope is always parallel to the climber's end, or just when sliding the brake hand back to the ATC, as in this drawing from Princeton Univ.'s basics website:

http://www.princeton.edu/...raphics/atcbela1.gif


thetroutscout


Mar 1, 2006, 6:16 PM
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You shouldn't say it isn't safe. Is just not "as" safe. It sounds like from your interaction with the employees that they might not be open to criticism. Talk to the manager/owner and if he acts the same way, find a new gym. Palm up/parallel seems easier for people to learn. I'd rather have a belay that is good at palm up/parallel rather than ok at palm down/perpendicular, at least in the gym. Lead by example and maybe others will follow.

^^ike


luke_flowers


Mar 1, 2006, 6:28 PM
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You are definitely not freaking out over nothing. I would definitely be very careful of the technique which you are describing, and if you choose to climb further at that gym then be aware of the way any partners you climb with use their devices.

The 'hands up - rope parallel' style of belay is a relic of the old days of body belaying and is really not appropriate for use with modern belay tubes or even the older belay plate devices. Those devices rely on surface area and angle of contact between device and rope to initiate braking. If the ropes are parallel then the only surface contact is around the carabiner (no different than having a top rope go through a carabiner down to bare hands). Since this is the case, all of the friction required to slow a climber's fall will be derived from the hand holding the rope, causing in the best case scenario a burned hand, and in the worst a dropped climber.

In general the ideal situation when delaying with a modern braking device is to always default back to a braking position when not managing the rope. This means that the worst likely event is that a top roper gets a little extra slack, or a leader gets hosed if you are completely distracted. The other 'technique' will very likely result in a dropped climber if a fall occurs when the belayer is not paying attention...obviously dangerous.

Finally I would find out if the individual instructing is following gym policy or teaching his own misguided method...then act accordingly.


sbaclimber


Mar 1, 2006, 6:34 PM
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This means that the worst likely event is that ... a leader gets hosed if you are completely distracted.

Sounds like a pretty bad scenario to me!
Actually, I can't think of a much worse event....

:wink:


Partner ctardi


Mar 1, 2006, 9:43 PM
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Well, you could try talking to the owner, and ask if you can have permission to belay that way.

Basically it boils down to thier gym, their rules. If you don't think it's right, talk to the owner. There can be some cases when instructors who have been doing it that way will teach it that way, not on purpose, but out of habit. But like I said, if you have a problem, talk to the owner, they will want to hear about it. Just don't say "your belay meathod is wrong, you are an idiot!", just tell him that you dislike the belay meathod you are being shown, and ask if you can belay your way, if he/she says no, offer to show them why it's safer.

The most important thing that the owner should care about is people's safety.


joshy8200


Mar 1, 2006, 10:08 PM
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The 'hands up - rope parallel' style of belay is a relic of the old days of body belaying and is really not appropriate for use with modern belay tubes or even the older belay plate devices. Those devices rely on surface area and angle of contact between device and rope to initiate braking. If the ropes are parallel then the only surface contact is around the carabiner (no different than having a top rope go through a carabiner down to bare hands). Since this is the case, all of the friction required to slow a climber's fall will be derived from the hand holding the rope, causing in the best case scenario a burned hand, and in the worst a dropped climber.

Yet somehow for YEARS I and other climbers have arrested MANY falls without dropping or burning their hands. NOT ONCE HAVE I EVER BURNED MY HANDS OR DROPPED A FALLING CLIMBER BELAYING HANDS UP.

In reply to:
In general the ideal situation when delaying with a modern braking device is to always default back to a braking position when not managing the rope.

Yes. But when you are taking in or letting out slack...you're not in the break position because you're taking in or playing out slack.

In reply to:
The other 'technique' will very likely result in a dropped climber if a fall occurs when the belayer is not paying attention...obviously dangerous.

The 'technique' does not drop a climber. As I pointed out, hands-up, is a tried and true method. PEOPLE who do not belay properly with ANY TECHNIQUE drop people.

But hey...just felt like pointing a few things out. I totally agree with the merits of using the hands down method. At times it is cumbersome with someone climbing fast on a top-rope...then it's time for hands up. Other times hands-down is JUST as good.


lambone


Mar 1, 2006, 10:36 PM
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In reply to:
as in this drawing from Princeton Univ.'s basics website:

http://www.princeton.edu/...raphics/atcbela1.gif

This is how we teach belaying. It is how I have taught belaying for ten years. It is perfectly safe if taught properly, and as the other guy said, it is an easier method to teach and learn.

You think that is sketchy. :? Our local competing gym gives anyone a Gri-Gri and says "go-for-it" with 5 minutes training if any. Seriously, parents who bring kids for birthday parties are handed a gri-gri and belay for the party, with no training. They don't even tie in with a figure 8, they just clip in with biners pre-attache dto the rope. We get tons of belay tests at our gym with people who think they know how to belay, but can't tie a figure 8 and have never seen an ATC. Now THAT is sketchy. And it sucks because they think we are lame when we fail them on the belay test.


hugepedro


Mar 1, 2006, 11:15 PM
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I taught everyone that when using an ATC the ropes should never be parallel and your brake hand never leaves contact with the rope..and the standard hands down meathod... Your brake hand is always down almost like you are rappelling (ever try rapping with parallel ropes?!?) I find out later this guy makes them have the ropes totally parallel and my girlfriend tried to tell him that isn't as safe. He made her catch "surprise falls" his way and she said it hurt and she burned her hands a little as his method had the break hand at times right by your face with the ropes totally parallel and the climber fell some as he was not caught right away.

If you teach people that the ropes should never be parallel then you are teaching inferior belay technique. After the 3rd time you short-roped me I would ask to be lowered so I could smack you upside the head with a #2 Camalot.

There is nothing wrong with belaying with your brake hand palm-side up.

The only problem I see is that your girlfriend didn't lock off the rope to arrest the fall. So either the coach taught her incorrectly, or she didn't understand her instruction. If you've climbed with your girlfriend before, and she has held your falls, shouldn't she have known how to lock off the rope? Or is it that because you taught her to always hold the rope in the braking position, where falls were held easily, she never learned that she needed to lock off the rope, then along came the gym coach who taught her a different technigue and she didn't realize that with this technique she would still have to move the rope to the braking position?


garylogie


Mar 2, 2006, 6:46 AM
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I had a similar problem with the gym staff not being very responsive to my ideas of what is safe and what isn't a few years back. I spoke to the manager about it after a while and he finally understood what i meant after I'd shown him what I meant physically and explained that I thought that my way was better, not that theirs was wrong.

Just explain it like that and show them. A picture is worth a thousand words!


joshy8200


Mar 2, 2006, 7:21 AM
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If you teach people that the ropes should never be parallel then you are teaching inferior belay technique. After the 3rd time you short-roped me I would ask to be lowered so I could smack you upside the head with a #2 Camalot.

YEP.

In reply to:
There is nothing wrong with belaying with your brake hand palm-side up.

The only problem I see is that your girlfriend didn't lock off the rope to arrest the fall...

Exactly.


kydd76


Mar 2, 2006, 7:31 AM
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In reply to:
In the questioned practice, do you mean the brake end of the rope is always parallel to the climber's end, or just when sliding the brake hand back to the ATC, as in this drawing from Princeton Univ.'s basics website:

http://www.princeton.edu/...raphics/atcbela1.gif

I have used the slip, slap, slid method for over ten years with every kind of belay device and with a body belay. It has never failed to catch a fall. Even with iced ropes and heavy gloves on. I have never had a burn on my hands. I have never dropped a climber at any time. What I can say is that with this technique used properly, you should have no problems are concerns. I even use this method to rap, it is easier to use on double rope when there is lots of friction in the system. This is my thoughts any way, do what is comfortable, but safe, and have fun.


fracture


Mar 2, 2006, 7:31 AM
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OP: Here is a thread about that R&I article (and why it sucked).


cintune


Mar 2, 2006, 7:32 AM
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The 'technique' does not drop a climber. As I pointed out, hands-up, is a tried and true method. PEOPLE who do not belay properly with ANY TECHNIQUE drop people.
So true. I've never understood why people latch on to a single "ultimate" belay technique and then try to convince anyone who does it differently that they're going to kill someone. Belaying is a dynamic process, on long routes your hands and arms will get tired using any single robotic technique, you'll be moving around, your climber will be moving at varying rates of speed, and what you need most is versatility and experience, not a dogmatic belief in a single perfect way to do things. Hands up, hands-down, ropes parallel, ropes tangent, the only real constants are to never let go of the brake strand and always pay full attention to what's happening so you can lock off in an instant. The rest is a matter of preferences, practice, and circumstances.


kydd76


Mar 2, 2006, 7:37 AM
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Climbing does not hurt climbers, falling does.


iceaxe23


Mar 2, 2006, 1:52 PM
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thanks all for the feedback...to clear some things up...I did teach them how to break and not just keep their hands down in the break position. If you kept your hand down you could never take up/give slack. You would be fighting resistance. You have it off to the side and lock down immediately during a fall. Also I have never short roped anyone even warming up on easy climbs (well maybe way back in the day). I never said palm side up was wrong.If I am teaching inferior ways of belaying with an atc by telling them not to have the ropes parallel well I am just going by what I was taught (that has worked safely for many years) and pure mechanics of an atc (ropes parallel no friction). I was taught that way by crazy Euros about 15 years ago (via stitch plate-and been using atc for about 10 years[when I was an HRST master training in the Marines we used the Munter hitch 90% of the time and that is different]). Even using a tube devise for rapping (on a single line) you learn that if you raise the trail end of the rope up near parallel you get moving VERY quick and that is why you don't see people rapping with the ropes parallel. (double ropes, alpine climbing, ect are all differnet..this was about gym climbing for somewhat newbees)And yes at least it could have been worse as they could have just handed them GriGri's..lol

To defend my girlfriend: she just said when she got a surprise fall and had the ropes parallel that the rope and climber gained speed very quick as she started to lock down and it was much harder than the method that she was comfortable with having the brake hand off to the side and then locking down.

So after reading everyones responses, talking to other climbers, and doing some research I see this is going to be just like Coke vs. Pepsi as I got so many mixed answers.
I may be stuck in my paradigm of how to belay, but so are so many others.
As long as people do the method they are comfortable with it, and it's safe, so be it.


on a side note:
this would make a great show for the Discovery channel's myth busters to see the physics of which method is safest


lambone


Mar 2, 2006, 1:58 PM
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you know what man, you are preaching to the choir. nobody really cares that you think your way is the best way or whatever. it is a circular debate leading nowhere. They last post on the first page puts it best, in climbing there are allways more then one way to do things, some ways work best for certain circumstances. Before you call some one dangerous, or what someone is doing as dangerous, you should really have good reason.


iceaxe23


Mar 2, 2006, 2:03 PM
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In reply to:
you know what man, you are preaching to the choir. nobody really cares that you think your way is the best way or whatever. it is a circular debate leading nowhere. They last post on the first page puts it best, in climbing there are allways more then one way to do things, some ways work best for certain circumstances.

wow I thought I just said that in my last post :?:


curtis_g


Mar 2, 2006, 2:19 PM
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Climbing does not hurt climbers, falling does.

i do not agree.
three days of pulling down on rock and my fingers hurt.
and my arms hurt. climbing hurts. faling hurts MORE.
hahaha.

about the belay issue:

I WAS TAUGHT to belay by not giving any attention to the rope to the climber. like, just do a right arm curl and grab your left hand above your right to slide your break back down to your waist/hip.

i still do you my left to pull in the slack much easier through the device but i dont pull up slack up in front of me, parallel to the live end of the rope...that's just stupid.

why would you want to pull up slack parallel when you can pull it off to the side and be 2 times safer? you can take your left (guide) hand off the rope to help you slide down your break and keep your slack end off to the side and not parallel. it just seems dumb to keep the ropes parallel. I find it unnecessary I guess.


jimdavis


Mar 2, 2006, 2:47 PM
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In reply to:
In reply to:
as in this drawing from Princeton Univ.'s basics website:

http://www.princeton.edu/...raphics/atcbela1.gif

This is how we teach belaying. It is how I have taught belaying for ten years. It is perfectly safe if taught properly, and as the other guy said, it is an easier method to teach and learn.

I'll disagree. I've worked in a gym for 4 years now, teaching belay seminars every week or so...I find that beginners pick up the hands down method a lot quicker. IMO.
I think beginners usually can take slack in faster your way, but I've seen a lot of people struggle to catch falls this way, and even more people switching hands all the time.

I'd agree with most people's opinions that whatever you feel the most confident with, is best for you. However, from a instructors standpoint, and a risk management standpoint...I would teach the hands down method, and that's all I'd allow at my gym (for TR's at least).

I found myself in the same situation 3 years ago. I learned hands down (after learning the parallel way) and strongly prefered it. I went to a gym in PA, Vertical Extreem, with 4 friends. I offered to teach them all to belay, but the staff wouldn't allow me to...instead they HAD to take the VE "class". They insisted on teaching parallel technique on grigri's. Start to finish for my friends who didn't know what belaying was before the class.....20mins.

My friends had trouble using the method, so after they all got approved to belay there (yet could barely do it, not so that I felt comfortable with them) I taught them how to belay hands down....they all adopted it, and with a little coaching did just fine.

Afterwards I asked the staff why they prefered this parallel method...met with quite a bit of hostility, I was told that I was wrong, and that my way wasn't the standard way to belay. After 5 mins of dealing with her BS, I let her know she could argue standards with the AMGA or NOLS, both of whom teach this technique.

I left the gym, and 4 months later heard they had a belayer drop a climber close to 40' feet at a b-day party there....after passing their 20min belay class. I decided not to climb there anymore.

You'd be supprised how many gyms are sketchy as hell...which is terrible because these days, it's where 75% of climbers get their first exposure/ instruction in climbing.

I kinda hope some required standards are put in place soon. It sucks that we have to do this...but there are too many gyms that aren't doing a good job of teaching safe techniques.

Cheers,
Jim


roniravia


Mar 2, 2006, 2:49 PM
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I've seen so many people in the crags belaying like that that I was terrified. I don't care how many people caught a leader's fall with that "parallel rope technique" - I will never consider it safe. It's kind of like saying, yeah, I'm driving 90mph on the freeway for years and I'm still alive.


poedoe


Mar 2, 2006, 2:54 PM
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In reply to:
You are definitely not freaking out over nothing. I would definitely be very careful of the technique which you are describing, and if you choose to climb further at that gym then be aware of the way any partners you climb with use their devices.

The 'hands up - rope parallel' style of belay is a relic of the old days of body belaying and is really not appropriate for use with modern belay tubes or even the older belay plate devices. Those devices rely on surface area and angle of contact between device and rope to initiate braking. If the ropes are parallel then the only surface contact is around the carabiner (no different than having a top rope go through a carabiner down to bare hands). Since this is the case, all of the friction required to slow a climber's fall will be derived from the hand holding the rope, causing in the best case scenario a burned hand, and in the worst a dropped climber.

In general the ideal situation when delaying with a modern braking device is to always default back to a braking position when not managing the rope. This means that the worst likely event is that a top roper gets a little extra slack, or a leader gets hosed if you are completely distracted. The other 'technique' will very likely result in a dropped climber if a fall occurs when the belayer is not paying attention...obviously dangerous.

Finally I would find out if the individual instructing is following gym policy or teaching his own misguided method...then act accordingly.

This post almost says it all. However it is not surface area and angle of contact that make the difference, it is purely friction. It may come as a surprise to many, but when dealing with two essentially smooth surfaces friction does not depend on surface area. In such a case the friction depends on the force and what is known as the co-efficient of friction. In the case of the hands up rope parrallell method, the co-efficient of friction is extremely low, therefore in order to keep the rope from sliding the force applied to the rope (by your hands) must be much higher. In the other method is is completely the opposite, by bending the rope you're greatly increasing the co-efficient, thereby requiring a substantialy lower amount of force.

The hands up method is just blantently wrong. When we talk about belaying, we often refer to our "brake hand." I'm sure everyone will agree that when we say break hand we mean just that, one brake hand and not two. I am willing to bet that with two fingers nearly anyone can arrest even the harshest fall if they were to belay with the hands down method. I would like to hear anyone who is a fan of the hands up method declare with confidence that they could do the same hands up. And as for the argument that it is easier to teach beginners, and the reply to that is that is just stupid. Since when was it acceptable to teach anything the wrong way just because it was easier to understand? In the 1st grade do kids learn to add and subtract with a calculator, or by hand? The point is if you are going to do something, do it correct the first time even if it takes more time.

I have also heard that that some people just like the hands up method and that it is easier to use and I can agree to that to an extent. I myself heard that from someone who was belaying me (after I pointed out they should belay hands down) and my simple response to them was that I liked being alive, and it was easier for me not to die if I didn't hit the ground because too much rope slipped through my belayers device. Hands up is plain wrong, End of Story.


curtis_g


Mar 2, 2006, 3:03 PM
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I'll disagree. I've worked in a gym for 4 years now, teaching belay seminars every week or so...I find that beginners pick up the hands down method a lot quicker. IMO.
I think beginners usually can take slack in faster your way, but I've seen a lot of people struggle to catch falls this way, and even more people switching hands all the time.

I'd agree with most people's opinions that whatever you feel the most confident with, is best for you. However, from a instructors standpoint, and a risk management standpoint...I would teach the hands down method, and that's all I'd allow at my gym (for TR's at least).

I found myself in the same situation 3 years ago. I learned hands down (after learning the parallel way) and strongly prefered it. I went to a gym in PA, Vertical Extreem, with 4 friends. I offered to teach them all to belay, but the staff wouldn't allow me to...instead they HAD to take the VE "class". They insisted on teaching parallel technique on grigri's. Start to finish for my friends who didn't know what belaying was before the class.....20mins.

My friends had trouble using the method, so after they all got approved to belay there (yet could barely do it, not so that I felt comfortable with them) I taught them how to belay hands down....they all adopted it, and with a little coaching did just fine.

Afterwards I asked the staff why they prefered this parallel method...met with quite a bit of hostility, I was told that I was wrong, and that my way wasn't the standard way to belay. After 5 mins of dealing with her BS, I let her know she could argue standards with the AMGA or NOLS, both of whom teach this technique.

I left the gym, and 4 months later heard they had a belayer drop a climber close to 40' feet at a b-day party there....after passing their 20min belay class. I decided not to climb there anymore.

You'd be supprised how many gyms are sketchy as hell...which is terrible because these days, it's where 75% of climbers get their first exposure/ instruction in climbing.

I kinda hope some required standards are put in place soon. It sucks that we have to do this...but there are too many gyms that aren't doing a good job of teaching safe techniques.

Cheers,
Jim

well said. it seems that gyms like to teach this technique, but when i want to teach someone, or when i got taught or when I see a friend teaching a friend, the way that you and I described is the preferred method.

It's almost like the gyms just want to throw people through the classes so they figure that the most static technique (simplest/least motion/least technical) is preferred, but when people actually know the person they are teaching, they take the time to teach them the (possibly) longer or more complicated (but safer) way. The gym instructors wouldn't care because they don't own the gym and they aren't on the live end. they just want to get those n00bs away from them.
Why wouldn't you want the person belaying to be doing so with a technique that puts the slack in the safest position at all times?

p.s. im going to the gym in an hour to teach 2 or three of my friends how to belay. I'll teach them my way, forget the guide hand unless you're having trouble pulling in the slack, then use that guide hand to tighten (off to the side of course) the brake end to slide the brake hand.

but don't worry. i'll also teach them how to stand there like a slave and hold the slack, after i hold the slack for their first belay and make sure they got it down.


hugepedro


Mar 2, 2006, 4:40 PM
Post #25 of 61 (11404 views)
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Registered: May 28, 2002
Posts: 2875

Re: local gym teaching poor belaying? [In reply to]
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To defend my girlfriend: she just said when she got a surprise fall and had the ropes parallel that the rope and climber gained speed very quick as she started to lock down and it was much harder than the method that she was comfortable with having the brake hand off to the side and then locking down.


Ah, so the only real problem here is that your girlfriend wasn't paying attention. There is no excuse for not being able to lock off the rope before the leader's weight comes onto it.

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