Forums: Climbing Information: Technique & Training:
Safest belay technique
RSS FeedRSS Feeds for Technique & Training

Premier Sponsor:

 
First page Previous page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ... 16 Next page Last page  View All


nolan_fox


Oct 24, 2006, 3:01 AM
Post #1 of 387 (16273 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Nov 9, 2005
Posts: 6

Safest belay technique
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Hello everyone,

I am after the safest belay technique. I have been climbing just over a year. I asked experienced climbers for their opinions, performed Google searches for the safest technique, and just now read probably 35 threads on belay technique on this forum. I know this topic has been discussed in a number of threads, but never have I read about all these methods being discussed in the same thread. I am an attentive and conscientious belayer, and so are my climbing partners. We are not attempting to teach beginners safe technique, nor are we trying to determine which device is safest. All we want to know is which belay technique has the most elements of safety.

That having been said, here’s my story: I am American and learned to belay using what has been referred to here as the hands/palm up technique. Using this method, I never remove my hands from either side of the rope. I pull slack rope through the device with my brake/right hand, then using my right hand I move the brake side of the rope up to my feed/left hand, grasp both the feed/climber and brake sides of the rope with my left hand, slide my right hand down the rope towards the belay device, then release the brake side of the rope from my left hand, and move my right hand and the brake side of the rope back to my side in a locked position.

I moved to New Zealand recently, and my climbing partners are British and Canadian. The British climbers use a hand over hand method, where they pull rope through the device with their brake/right hand, release their feed/left hand from the climber side of the rope, then hold the brake side of the rope with their left hand halfway between the device and the right hand, remove their right hand, move it over the left hand to a rope position closer to the belay device, grasp the rope with the right hand, and move the left hand back to the feed/climber side of the rope.

The Canadian climber uses a palm down technique, which seems to be a hybrid of the palm up and hand over hand technique. He pulls rope through the device with his brake/right hand, drops his left/feed hand from the climber side of the rope and repositions his left hand beyond his right/brake hand on the brake side of the device (distal to the right hand from the device - so from left to right, it goes device, right hand, left hand), then he slides his right hand up the rope towards the belay device, and returns his left hand to the feed position on the climber side of the rope.

The pros and cons of these techniques seem to be: Palm up – hands never leave the rope, but the rope is not in a locked position when taking up slack. Hand over hand – rope always stays in a firm grip locked position, but the brake hand shuffles between left and right hands. Palm down – rope is in a locked position, but the extended reach with the left hand is awkward.

So what do you think? Is one of these methods safer than the others and why? Is there another method than these three which is even safer?

Thanks much,
Nolan

PS. For other readers/researchers, this thread had a good debate of palm down vs. palm up belay: http://www.rockclimbing.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=58848&highlight=brake+hand, this thread had a good discussion of the hand over hand technique: http://www.rockclimbing.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=1404581#1404581, and this site describes the palms down method well: http://www.climbing.com/print/techtips/ttsport225/index.html.


blueeyedclimber


Oct 24, 2006, 5:31 AM
Post #2 of 387 (16271 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Nov 19, 2002
Posts: 4602

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

I don't think we need another argument about this, but I will say this. It pays to be versatile and know a variety of ways to belay, but the bottom line is this. Never remove your brake hand while belaying and catch EVERY fall. No exceptions. If you ever drop a climber, then you suck and have no business climbing.

The way you belay is usually referred to as the pinch and slide method. I use this to belay a leader because it is the fastest way to pay out and take in slack. When toprope belaying, I go back and forth. If you can effectively and safely belay, then any of the three will work.

Josh


joshy8200


Oct 24, 2006, 6:00 AM
Post #3 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Sep 30, 2002
Posts: 646

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

"You hook'em. I'll clean'em and fry'em."


bill413


Oct 24, 2006, 6:11 AM
Post #4 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Oct 19, 2004
Posts: 5674

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

The safest technique is the safe one that the belayer can do unconsciously, consistently, without thought.
I'm ok with my partners belaying me with whatever technique they are most comfortable with (provided it is basically safe). I'd rather they use one that they are secure in than one that they don't really know.

That said....

I think that the emphasis on always being locked off is incorrect. It is funny to hear people insisting on always being locked off, and then touting the benefits of soft catch, or giving slack, or jumping when the climber falls.

When the climber falls, even if I don't have the belay locked off, I am going to catch them. Maybe a bit more rope will slip, but I've never failed to catch, no matter where in the belay cycle I am. The device (or your hips) provide the friction to initiate the catch. If I know the climber is about to fall, I will try & assume the locked-off position, but the system should catch them regardless.


joshy8200


Oct 24, 2006, 7:05 AM
Post #5 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Sep 30, 2002
Posts: 646

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

In reply to:
The safest technique is the safe one that the belayer can do unconsciously, consistently, without thought.
I'm ok with my partners belaying me with whatever technique they are most comfortable with (provided it is basically safe). I'd rather they use one that they are secure in than one that they don't really know.

I know what you mean by this statement of doing something unconciously...But I wouldn't want my belayer doing anything unconciously or 'in their sleep.'


bill413


Oct 24, 2006, 7:14 AM
Post #6 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Oct 19, 2004
Posts: 5674

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

In reply to:
In reply to:
The safest technique is the safe one that the belayer can do unconsciously, consistently, without thought.
I'm ok with my partners belaying me with whatever technique they are most comfortable with (provided it is basically safe). I'd rather they use one that they are secure in than one that they don't really know.

I know what you mean by this statement of doing something unconciously...But I wouldn't want my belayer doing anything unconciously or 'in their sleep.'
On some routes I've taken so long that it might be a choice between a sleep deprived belayer or a sleeping one.... :lol:

Yes, agreed - I do want the belayer attentive. However, especially on routes where the climber goes out of sight of the belayer, it can be hard to remain focused continuously. And most of us have experienced the situation where passers-by start an interesting conversation that attracts the belayer's attention.


daithi


Oct 24, 2006, 8:18 AM
Post #7 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Jul 6, 2005
Posts: 397

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

In reply to:
So what do you think? Is one of these methods safer than the others and why? Is there another method than these three which is even safer?

In my opinion the safety of a belay is almost entirely dependent on the competence of the person providing it and how comfortable they are with their chosen method. I'm not convinced one method is intrinsically safer than any other provided the person knows what they are doing.


devils_advocate


Oct 24, 2006, 9:44 AM
Post #8 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: May 18, 2006
Posts: 1823

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

I hereby present you with the technical n00b award. For not only figuring out how to use the search functions and finding several discussions of your question, but, in addition, correctly posting (2 out of 3 isn't bad) URL links to the threads that "answer" your forever debatable question. And then, asking the question anyway. Here's to you, Mr. Technically Inclined n00b Guy.


fluxus


Oct 24, 2006, 10:27 AM
Post #9 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Apr 2, 2003
Posts: 947

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Before you can talk about what counts as the "safest" belay technique you need to establish the goals of a good and safe belay.

If your goal is to neve have a break hand off the rope then there are a number of equally good methods but if your goal is to be responsive to the climber, provide them the right kind of fall for the situation they are currently in, be able to take and hold extremely fast, help them dog through a tough section, flawlessly feed out slack for clips without short roping them, etc then the answers begins to change.

bill413 wrote:
In reply to:
The safest technique is the safe one that the belayer can do unconsciously, consistently, without thought.

I will say that I think this is dead wrong. my belayer sure as hell better be activly assessing my need and adjusting their belay to meet them. I hate getting an "unconscious belay."


csproul


Oct 24, 2006, 10:57 AM
Post #10 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Jun 4, 2004
Posts: 1767

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

I think you're getting hung up on the word "unconsciously". I read that to mean that the chosen technique should be second nature and performed without having to think about how to perform it.
In reply to:
activly assessing my need and adjusting their belay to meet them
this is different than having to actively think about the simple mechanics of how to get that done


devils_advocate


Oct 24, 2006, 11:06 AM
Post #11 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: May 18, 2006
Posts: 1823

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

In reply to:
In reply to:
The safest technique is the safe one that the belayer can do unconsciously, consistently, without thought.

I will say that I think this is dead wrong. my belayer sure as hell better be activly assessing my need and adjusting their belay to meet them. I hate getting an "unconscious belay."

I think now your crossing from discussing belay technique (i.e. style) to the duties of belaying. Being an actively conscious belayer is a whole other topic than whether you choose to belay palms up or palms down. Although, that is a discussion that for the most part I think we're all going to agree on. This one however is moot: Although I believe that palms down is a slightly safer method, fact is that people can and have for some time, belayed palms up safely... and many of those people you will never convince that palms down is better.


dan2see


Oct 24, 2006, 12:05 PM
Post #12 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Mar 28, 2006
Posts: 1497

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

This summer I've gone group-cragging, with climbers of any background, ability, and attitude. 99/100 times I'm confident with the the belayer.

But one sloppy belayer made me really nervous. I think he didn't want to be there, and he sure was not paying attention. Add this to my natural fear of heights, and I'm attempting a 5.10 or worse face climb...



So I figure, as long as his hand is on the tail of his belay rope, I'll probably live.
I hope.
I did.


bill413


Oct 24, 2006, 12:34 PM
Post #13 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Oct 19, 2004
Posts: 5674

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (1 rating)  
Can't Post

In reply to:
The safest technique is the safe one that the belayer can do unconsciously, consistently, without thought.
Yes, it seems several people have gotten caught up in that word "unconsciously."

A good belayer should not have to think about technique. It should be automatic. An analogy: When I drive a standard transmission car, I don't have to conciously think about pressing down on the clutch - I've done it so much that it is an automatic response. I don't have to think - "now turn the steering wheel left and hold it...shuffle your hands..." I'm concerned, not with the mechanics of driving the car, but of the larger picture of piloting the vehicle safely and responsively. When you observe someone learning to drive, they tend to wander all over the road because they can only focus on the immediate 10 yards ahead of the vehicle. Once they have ingrained the basics, they can drive in a much safer manner - looking further ahead & responding to a wider range of stimuli.

With belaying, if I have to think and concentrate on the basic mechanics of the process, it will be much more difficult to give a responsive, adaptive belay. If the majority of the mental processing is occupied with basic belay technique, there is no way to observe & repond to the needs of the climber. Rather, the technique used should be natural enough that all the other things folks have mentioned can be attended to.


Partner cracklover


Oct 24, 2006, 1:34 PM
Post #14 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Nov 14, 2002
Posts: 10000

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Hello Nolan_fox,

Many people here are saying that the best belay is the one you can do well. Of course, being able to correctly and fluidly carry out a belay technique is important, but that simply sidesteps the question the OP asked.

So is one technique actually better than another?

BEC is correct, it pays to be versatile. But with that said, IMO, in any given situation, there *is* a "best" way to belay, especially if you are a beginner. The best way varies, depending on a few parameters.

The parameters are: 1 - What type of belay device are you using; 2 - are you belaying a leader, or a toproper; and 3 - if you are belaying a toproper, are you doing a slingshot (belaying from the bottom) or second (belaying from the top) belay.

Each of these has a "best" (again, IMHO) belay technique. So before I can answer your question, please explain who you're belaying (leader or TRer), from what angle, and with what device.

GO


nolan_fox


Oct 24, 2006, 3:30 PM
Post #15 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Nov 9, 2005
Posts: 6

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Hello all,
Thank you for your responses to a thread that has been discussed before. I started it because I hadn't seen one yet comparing different belay techniques just on technique (not experience or attention of belayer). As for the "technical nOOb award," thanks, I'm sure I can find a place on my mantle for it...

So, it seems the answer I am getting is that the safest belay technique depends on the climbing situation (keeping in mind that we are conscientious belayers). Seems completely reasonable, and I would agree with that. Also, it has been stated that the safest technique is the one you are most comfortable with. Fair enough, but if comfortable with all three methods, there must be advantages to one over another in previously mentioned different climbing situations (as indicated by cracklover).

In response to your questions, I currently I do most of my belaying standing on the ground with an atc for toprope climbers. However, I also belay with a grigri, for leaders, and second. I would be quite interested to know which technique is safest for each of these situations.

Thanks!
Nolan


paganmonkeyboy


Oct 24, 2006, 5:04 PM
Post #16 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Apr 29, 2003
Posts: 663

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Also - Don't short rope the leader ! I did that *once* - man, g was pissed, and I felt *horrible*...

I remember looking down once at my belayer while I was on a wet 5.8 - he had both hands up in the air waving around while talking passionately to his wife.

I asked him nicely to keep at least one hand on the brake strand...


Partner jammer


Oct 24, 2006, 5:10 PM
Post #17 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Jun 25, 2002
Posts: 3468

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Learn as many ways to belay as possible and decide for yourself.


Partner cracklover


Oct 25, 2006, 7:36 AM
Post #18 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Nov 14, 2002
Posts: 10000

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

In reply to:
In response to your questions, I currently I do most of my belaying standing on the ground with an atc for toprope climbers.
Palm down, pinch and slide, always move "guide hand" AKA "feeling hand" from climber-side rope to brake-side rope when pinching. Using this method you avoid ever having the strands parallel while pinching them both.

In reply to:
However, I also belay with a grigri, for leaders
Palm up, follow the method that came with your gri-gri.

In reply to:
, and second.

Same as above, though for slingshot toproping with the gri-gri, the palm-down is fine, too.

In reply to:
I would be quite interested to know which technique is safest for each of these situations.

Thanks!
Nolan

You're very welcome!

GO
[edited for clarity]


mistertyler


Oct 25, 2006, 8:46 AM
Post #19 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Dec 9, 2003
Posts: 197

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

For me, being a good belayer means catching my partner at least 51% of the time; anything less is just unacceptable.

Serious answer: I like Fluxus' response about there being good techniques for different situations.


drfelatio


Nov 1, 2006, 12:31 PM
Post #20 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Sep 15, 2004
Posts: 475

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

For me, the exact belay technique that I use sometimes depends on the belay device that I am using.

When using an ATC or the Munter Hitch I use the palm up technique that nolan uses. While this feels very comfortable and natural, it oftentimes doesn't feel entirely secure. I occasionally feel as though the rope is trying to pry itself out from under my fingers. This typically occurs if I'm belaying some of my "wider" friends. When the rope is weighted, I usually rotate my brake hand around so the palm is facing down. This feels much more secure.

When I'm using my Cinch, however, I use a palm down grip. This is a direct result of the way in which the Cinch is supposed to be held while lead belaying. When taking up slack, I simply bring my brake hand up to my left hand, grab both strands with my left, and slide my right hand back down. In the case of a fall, my hand is already palm down.

Overall, though, I'd say neither technique is significantly safer than the other. Use what you feel is most comfortable.

On a side note: With regards to the whole "unconscious belaying" discussion, I do believe the original poster meant "SUB-conscious". I really hate it when my belayer goes unconscious...


jimfix


Nov 1, 2006, 1:18 PM
Post #21 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Aug 18, 2004
Posts: 314

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Im surprised this hasn't made it here yet

In reply to:
A few of us here in AZ went out for a bouldering session last Saturday and then decided to top-rope a few taller routes out at Queen Creek. We did not have any harnesses, belay devices or webbing with us. So, tying into the rope with a bowline-on-a-coil is no problem, but how to best belay? Body belays are tried and true, but lowering someone with a body belay sucks--big time.

So, using ourselves as guinea pigs, we decided to experiment with new alternative belay methods. And, Lo and Behold! We found something that works really well.

http://www.rockclimbing.com/...p.cgi?Detailed=45382

A foot belay. Think of a body belay, with the rope running through the arch of one of your feet, instead of around your waist. Apparantly, this basic technique has been used by riggers to lower heavy items from beams for some time. Here is a close-up photo:

http://www.rockclimbing.com/...p.cgi?Detailed=45383

My initial concern was that it might be hard to keep my weight centered over the foot with the rope running under it, but that turned out to not be the case. Also, I thought the rope might try to work its way out from the middle of my foot. This also turned out to not be a problem--probably because both the heel and toe areas of most shoes are wider than the arch, so the rope tends to stay there. We found this belay method to be.....

1) Very easy to use--to hold and lower the climber
2) Very easy to learn
3) Very safe
4) Very comfortable for the belayer

Curt

P.S. There is even a Video to show how a pro does it.


c4c


Nov 1, 2006, 2:12 PM
Post #22 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Jun 18, 2006
Posts: 1279

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

a grigri would be fool-proof except that fools are so ingenius!


gunkiemike


Nov 1, 2006, 2:14 PM
Post #23 of 387 (16267 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Oct 1, 2002
Posts: 2263

Re: Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

There is no "safest" in this sport.

Also no "best", and no "never" or "always".

(Of course if everyone understood this, rc.com would largely disappear) :D


squamishdirtbag


Nov 14, 2006, 8:16 PM
Post #24 of 387 (14960 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Jul 17, 2005
Posts: 115

Re: [gunkiemike] Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Wow alot of big posts for a what i thought to be a simple technique. Dont let you brake hand off the rope, and I can't see a way of fucking it up.


sbaclimber


Nov 14, 2006, 8:24 PM
Post #25 of 387 (10036 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Jan 21, 2004
Posts: 3071

Re: [squamishdirtbag] Safest belay technique [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Just to add another variable (I didn't see anyone mention it, may have missed it though).....
If you are using the Munter/Italian-hitch, "locked-off" is actually having both 'sides' of the rope parallel.

Not only does it come down to what type of belaying you are doing (toprope, lead, second), but also what device you are using (ATC/plate/etc, Gri-Gri, Munter-hitch).
...and sometimes what position you are in as well (I am right handed, but sometimes have to belay lefty).....

First page Previous page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ... 16 Next page Last page  View All

Forums : Climbing Information : Technique & Training

 


Search for (options)

Log In:

Username:
Password: Remember me:

Go Register
Go Lost Password?



Follow us on Twiter Become a Fan on Facebook