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Correcting belay errors - Part 1
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jt512


Jul 25, 2004, 4:35 PM
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Correcting belay errors - Part 1
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The following is a list of very common belay errors, each of which I observed yesterday at the crag; not that yesterday was anything out of the ordinary, as you can probably observe these any busy weekend at any crag. These are mistakes made by beginners and veterans alike; however, the old-timers don't listen, so I'm posting in the Beginners forum. Please feel free to post comments and questions.

  1. Keep a hand on the brake side of the rope at all times. This seems pretty basic, but I see this rule violated frequently. When you say "Belay on" you are making a contract with your partner to not let go of the brake side of the rope, even for an instant, until he says "Off belay." Even if you don't go through the formalities of using these commands, the principle is the same.

  2. Never grasp both sides of the rope simultaneously with your brake hand. Some climbers make this mistake when taking in or paying out rope. It is as serious a mistake as taking your brake hand off the rope. If your partner falls while you are holding both ropes in your brake hand, you will have to let go of his side of the rope while not letting go of the brake side, and then lock off. Good luck doing that quickly and correctly.

  3. Lower with both hands on the brake side of the rope. Running the rope through one hand is dangerous enough to require a back-up; namely, the other hand. Running a kink in the rope through your hand can knock your hand off the rope (it's happened to me twice, but using a grigri), as can a shard of glass or other sharp debris in the rope. The other day, my partner found an open staple sticking through his rope(!), though he had no idea how it got there.

  4. Stand up while belaying a leader. You need to be able to dodge rockfall, position the rope out of your partner's way, dynamically belay, etc.

  5. Generally, the best place to stand while belaying a leader is up close to the rock and just enough off to the side of the climber so that he won't fall directly onto you. This is especially true at the beginning of a climb, when the impact force on you will be the greatest and your partner could hit the ground if he falls. If your partner falls and you are not standing up close to the wall, you will be pulled into the wall. This increases the distance your partner will fall (not a good thing close to the ground), and you could also lose control of the belay. After your partner gets higher up and clips several pieces of protection, there will be more rope in the system and thus less impact force transmitted to the belayer in a fall. Then, you can move back a little to get a better view of your partner, and relieve your neck somewhat.

  6. Run the rope correctly through the belay device. Clip your belay device into your belay loop (as opposed to the tie-in points). This orients the slots in the belay device vertically. Then, put the rope into the belay device so that the rope going to the climber is coming out the top of the slot, and the brake side of the rope is coming out of the bottom. Then, when you lower the climber, lower with both hands (on the brake side of the rope) in front of you, not at your side. This keeps the rope from running over the side of the belay device, which twists the rope. When lowering, do not shuffle your hands up and down the rope, giving the climber a nauseating, bouncy ride to the ground. Instead, keep your hands in one place, let the rope run smoothly through them, and adjust your grip and the angle that you run the rope through the device to lower your partner at a safe, comfortable speed.

    Click here for Part 2.

    (This post was edited by jt512 on Sep 19, 2008, 1:45 PM)


curt


Jul 25, 2004, 5:08 PM
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Correcting belay errors - Part 1 [In reply to]
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OK, I'll play along............

1) Agreed
2) Agreed
3) not a big deal, but not a bad idea
4) not a big deal
5) Agreed
6) Agreed

Curt


musicman


Jul 25, 2004, 5:24 PM
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thank you SO much for #6, i dont' know how many times i see people i know putting the 'biner through the tie in points, they say 'it'll be stronger, there's more of it there, blah blah blah' they built a belay loop for a reason, and i'm sure they named it the BELAY LOOP for a reason too!! as far as always stand while belaying, thats not that big of a deal i think, except right at the start of a climb, other than that, as long as your paying attention and can belay just as well, go ahead and sit.


caughtinside


Jul 25, 2004, 5:30 PM
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In reply to:
thank you SO much for #6, i dont' know how many times i see people i know putting the 'biner through the tie in points, they say 'it'll be stronger, there's more of it there, blah blah blah'

Clipping through the tie ins is fine. I do that because I almost never take the device and the biner out. It's always there. I will take it out for hard leads, but that's about it. If you leave a device in the belay loop it will constantly be thwapping you in the crotch. Which some days I am in the mood for.

Someone posted just the other day about all the tragic deaths resulting from belay biner cross loadings... Hopefully I won't be next. :cry: :lol:


jt512


Jul 25, 2004, 5:40 PM
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In reply to:
thank you SO much for #6, i dont' know how many times i see people i know putting the 'biner through the tie in points, they say 'it'll be stronger, there's more of it there, blah blah blah' they built a belay loop for a reason, and i'm sure they named it the BELAY LOOP for a reason too!! as far as always stand while belaying, thats not that big of a deal i think, except right at the start of a climb, other than that, as long as your paying attention and can belay just as well, go ahead and sit.

Can you dynamically belay while seated? With a grigri? Can you dodge a falling rock while seated? I think it's a really big deal.

-Jay


Partner nextascent


Jul 25, 2004, 5:49 PM
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Thx for posting. I've been shown several ways to belay...but is there any safety differences on if you place your brake hand palm up vs palm down? Or is this a comfort thing? I am guilty of not giving the most smooth rides down so I'll try your "correction" point.

Thx again! :D

Lisa


jt512


Jul 25, 2004, 6:01 PM
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In reply to:
...but is there any safety differences on if you place your brake hand palm up vs palm down?

Executed correctly, both ways are safe. When I teach a beginner to belay, I teach the palms up method. It is the more difficult of the two methods to learn, and hence requires more practice. However, the advantage of the palms-up method is that most people find that they can pay out rope faster for a fast-moving leader this way. Belaying palms down, they find that they can't get rope out fast enough, and "short rope" their partners. Hence, they eventually switch to palms-up belaying out of necessity. I find that if they've learned palms-down belaying first, they are hesitant to make the switch. Palms-down belaying, on the other hand, works well for top-roping, or when the climber is moving slowly. Most experienced climbers, who learned palms-up belaying when it was basically the only method taught, naturally switch between the two methods: palms up to feed slack fast when the leader is moving and clipping fast; palms down for TRing or when the climber is resting frequently.

-Jay


alpnclmbr1


Jul 25, 2004, 6:02 PM
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In reply to:
Can you dynamically belay while seated? With a grigri?

Yes. On a long fall on a big route, you do not need to jump to provide a dynamic belay.


Beginners should not sit down while they are belaying. They make enough other mistakes to warrant not allowing that luxury.


That said, an experienced climber is not necesarily being unsafe by belaying while seated.

It is polite to ask the leader if he/she minds that you sit.
If the leader is looking sketched, the belayer should stand.


jt512


Jul 25, 2004, 6:09 PM
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If the leader is looking sketched, the belayer should stand.

If it is important to stand when the leader looks sketched, why is it unimportant when he doesn't look sketched?

-Jay


alpnclmbr1


Jul 25, 2004, 7:21 PM
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In reply to:
In reply to:
If the leader is looking sketched, the belayer should stand.

If it is important to stand when the leader looks sketched, why is it unimportant when he doesn't look sketched?

Because it can be mentally reassuring to the leader to see the belayer standing and paying attention.(gf beta)

My last GF insisted for a long time, that I always "stand and watch me, no matter what." She eventually learned that sometimes it doesn't matter, and she is still the conservative type.


nirvana


Jul 25, 2004, 7:51 PM
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My BF is much heavier than I, so I usually anchor myself when we're outside and conditions permit. I leave some slack so I can move around (for rockfall, dynamic belay, etc.) One day, though, I decided a nice option was to sit, anchored. Left the usual bit of slack between my harness and the anchor. He took a whipper, and my resulting slide across the nice boulder I'd found to sit on was rather unpleasant and difficult to control. So I like to belay standing. Better to take flight a bit than to get dragged across a rock.


dontjinxme


Jul 25, 2004, 8:33 PM
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Thanks for #6. I was taught to run the belay loop through both tie in points. And confirmed by others. Even in books, I have read that the belay loop is an option. You had a very good point. Next time I am at the crag, I will give it a shot and see how I feel about it.

Just for general F.Y.I. I the other day, through a post on this site, I was told to connect my webbing together with carabiners while setting up Top Rope anchors. I tried it today, and was much more comfortable with that set up, than the way I was doing it by girth hiching the webbing together.

Sometimes these posts are redundant, boring, or insulting, they do serve a very important purpose if people are learning from them.

Also, I did attempt a key chain carabiner rappell off my kitchen chair


corpse


Jul 25, 2004, 9:12 PM
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(1,2) This is why I've changed my belay technique (for the most part) from the gym taughter pinch and slide method, to where I shuffle my hands.. Ya know, pull the guide rope down when they move up, pull the slack with the brake hand, and then switch hands - and then reposition them as necessary. This way, I ALWAYS have a hand gripped on the rope, not sliding on the rope - and to me sliding is just as bad as resting, if not worse - a fall while your hand is sliding (I'd *think*) would be bad (if your reaction time isn't good enuf - but do you really want to find out?)

On point 6 - There's another reason.. If you are using a smaller size belay biner, and are using both loops, you are causing more stress on the biner.. Now, I really don't think it's going to break though :) If a harness has the belay loop, use that - if you want to make that rendudant, use a sling thru your 2 tie in points (girth hitch) and clip to the biner, now you backed up your belay loop. I should just get a nice titanium belay biner, and never have to worry about how I do it :-)


climb_plastic


Jul 25, 2004, 9:44 PM
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In reply to:
In reply to:
In reply to:
If the leader is looking sketched, the belayer should stand.

If it is important to stand when the leader looks sketched, why is it unimportant when he doesn't look sketched?

Because it can be mentally reassuring to the leader to see the belayer standing and paying attention.(gf beta).

Yeah, it is more reassuring to look down and see the belayer standing versus looking down and seeing him sitting. I wonder why.

I think JT is trying to make the point that you should be standing all the time.


climb_plastic


Jul 25, 2004, 10:01 PM
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In reply to:
(1,2) This is why I've changed my belay technique (for the most part) from the gym taughter pinch and slide method, to where I shuffle my hands.. Ya know, pull the guide rope down when they move up, pull the slack with the brake hand, and then switch hands - and then reposition them as necessary. This way, I ALWAYS have a hand gripped on the rope, not sliding on the rope - and to me sliding is just as bad as resting, if not worse - a fall while your hand is sliding (I'd *think*) would be bad (if your reaction time isn't good enuf - but do you really want to find out?)

You're right about this and some people have recognized it and use hand over hand techniques just as you describe to always have a locked brake hand. This isn't a very commonly known problem though and most people that do know about it still call it knitpicking.

In reply to:
On point 6 - There's another reason.. If you are using a smaller size belay biner, and are using both loops, you are causing more stress on the biner.. Now, I really don't think it's going to break though :)

This is another good point. and the biner can break this way. It's another thing that people know about but most will call it knitpicking.


overlord


Jul 25, 2004, 10:51 PM
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i vote for sticky.


beesty511


Jul 25, 2004, 11:25 PM
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6)...Instead, keep your hands in one place, let the rope run smoothly through them, and adjust your grip and the angle that you run the rope through the device to lower your partner at a safe, comfortable speed.

...and if the climber starts dropping too fast the belayer could burn their hands or worse-- they could lose control and drop the climber to the deck. When lowering a climber, there is no justification for letting the rope slide through your hands when a simple and safer method exists.

A safer method for lowering a climber is to put both hands on the brake strand below the belay device with your hands about 2 feet apart. Clamp down with your bottom hand, relax the upper hand so it's still circling the rope, and while bringing your bottom hand up towards your top hand, feed the rope through your top hand. When your bottom hand meets your top hand, clamp down with top hand, loosen your grip with your bottom hand and slide it back down the brake strand towards the ground. Then, clamp down with your bottom hand, relax your top hand, and repeat. With very little practice, you will be able to lower the climber smoothly and safely. Itís also a safer way to rappel.


highminded


Jul 26, 2004, 1:26 AM
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In reply to:
Generally, the best place to stand while belaying a leader is up close to the rock and just enough off to the side of the climber so that he won't fall directly onto you.

BOTH these are important. I saw someone get smacked into a wall once and split his sclap open because his leader fell and he was standing too far away from the wall. I also know somebody who suffered a concussion, broken nose and lost his two front teeth because his leader fell on him while starting a climb.

Also important: WEAR YOUR HELMET WHEN BELAYING -- both these injuries could have been avoided if the belayer had done so (okay, well maybe not the broken nose and knocked-out teeth part, but certainly the concussion.)


vegastradguy


Jul 26, 2004, 8:26 AM
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thanks, Jay...thats always good stuff to post...its good for both experienced and beginners to refresh themselves every so often.

I remember coming down from the Great Red Book in RR and passing through the Black Corridor (walls are about 15'-20' apart) and this guy was belaying a leader up a 5.9 and she was two clips up and he was sitting down with his back against the far wall...and 15' of rope b/w him and the first bolt. I was really glad she didnt fall, but it was still unnerving. I see that all the time in the corridor, actually...its the one belay habit that just scares me...someone is going to get hurt one day in there.


jt512


Jul 26, 2004, 9:41 AM
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In reply to:
In reply to:
6)...Instead, keep your hands in one place, let the rope run smoothly through them, and adjust your grip and the angle that you run the rope through the device to lower your partner at a safe, comfortable speed.

...and if the climber starts dropping too fast the belayer could burn their hands or worse-- they could lose control and drop the climber to the deck. When lowering a climber, there is no justification for letting the rope slide through your hands when a simple and safer method exists.

There is essentially no risk that the climber will burn his hands and/or lose control while lowering by letting the rope slide though their hands. The belayer starts with the rope locked off, and gradually increases the angle that the brake side of the rope makes going through the belay device. There is no problem controlling the speed. If you want to reduce the speed, you simply decrease the angle.

Usually, you need very little hand strength to control the speed of lowering; the belay device does almost all the work. However, with a heavy partner, a skinny rope, and minimal friction in the system, it may be difficult to lower smoothly without gripping the rope tightly. In such a case, the belayer can wear a glove and lower smoothly without resorting to shuffling his hands back and forth on the rope.

Using the method you suggest, it is hard to lower without some bouncing occurring. I especially disagree with your recommendation to rappel that way, since rappelling occasionally must be done from marginal anchors, where any bouncing must be avoided.

-Jay


timstich


Aug 3, 2004, 7:47 AM
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Can you dynamically belay while seated? With a grigri? Can you dodge a falling rock while seated? I think it's a really big deal.

-Jay

If the belaying area allows you to stand, then I always stand. If I'm on a little precipice and can get half a butt cheek on it, well... Like you say, the control is much better. In addition, as the person climbs you can back away from the cliff to see them and better react/communicate.


Partner j_ung


Aug 3, 2004, 8:01 AM
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jt512, I agree with every one of your points, with only the most rare of exceptions. Good thread!


yanqui


Aug 3, 2004, 9:07 AM
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Can you dodge a falling rock while seated? I think it's a really big deal.

-Jay

Except on multi-pitch routes with hanging or semi-hanging belays, I typically stood while belaying, but I didn't make this a firm rule until I suffered the following experience about 10 years ago. That afternoon, I went climbing to a seldom traveled 60 foot wall on the shore of Lago Puelo in the north of Patagonia with a strong, but much younger and less experienced Argentine climber named Diego.

After doing some easier lead climbs and some 'deep water' boulder traverses, we decided to top rope a harder looking line to the right. It was a beautiful, sunny aternoon and the belay stance was on a comfortable flat rock right next to the peaceful lapping water of the lake. Diego wanted to try the line first (which may have been virgin) and I couldn't resist laying down on the rock while belaying. About 40 feet up Diego began to struggle, and instead of hanging on to recover, he suddenly launched an all-out dyno to a large blocky hold about 3 feet higher up. This hold instantly dislodged, and before I had time to respond, the 5 pound block impacted my right thigh. Man, was I lucky the rock hit me there. Except for a deep cut that wanted to keep bleeding and a seriously sore thigh muscle, I basically escaped unscathed. And in spite of the direct hit, I held the fall with a figure eight and safely lowered Diego to the ground, although I have to admit I was seriously pissed at Diego for dislodging the rock and not carefully testing the holds. In order to get medical attention, I had to go limping about a mile or so and then take a bus, but all I needed was some stitching up to close the cut. On the other hand, if the rock had impacted my knee, or worse my head, it would have been way serious.

At least one conclusion to draw is the following: always stay on your feet (if possible) and always stay alert while belaying.


Partner j_ung


Aug 3, 2004, 9:23 AM
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Re: Correcting belay errors - Part 1 [In reply to]
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When can we expect Part 2?


jt512


Aug 3, 2004, 9:28 AM
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When can we expect Part 2?

Yesterday. :)

Part 2.

-Jay

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