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Correcting belay errors - Part 2
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jt512


Aug 2, 2004, 4:58 PM
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Correcting belay errors - Part 2
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This is a continuation of Correcting Belay Errors - Part 1.

7. Strive to keep the optimal amount of slack in the rope. It takes practice to learn how much slack to keep in the rope when your partner is leading. The most common error I see - perhaps surprisingly - is keeping too little slack in the rope. The belayer thinks the less the slack, the shorter the fall; therefore, the less the slack, the better. However, the opposite error is also common. Some belayers are inattentive and allow a loop of slack to build up, sometimes so much so that the leader would hit the ground if he fell. The correct amount of slack, it turns out, is not constant, but rather, depends primarily on two things: (1) how close the leader is to the ground or to a ledge and (2) the angle of the climb.

When the climber is at the start of a climb, the belayer's main focus should be on keeping the leader from hitting the deck if he falls. For sport climbing, the greatest danger is before the leader clips the second (and sometimes the third) bolt. Until the second (or third) bolt is clipped, the belayer should keep as little slack in the rope as possible without allowing the leader to actually feel a pull from the rope. To accomplish this, the belayer must pay close attention to the leader's movements and continuously pay out slack as the climber moves up, never letting a loop of slack build up, but also never causing the leader to feel tension from the rope.

Once the leader passes the second or third bolt, the second criterion - the angle of the climb - takes over. The general rule is simply this: the steeper the route the more slack should be kept in the rope. The reasoning is as follows. On low-angle terrain - slabs - the leader will "cheese-grater" down the rock or possibly tumble when he falls. Such falls are dangerous, and the belayer must minimize their distance by keeping the minimum amont of slack in the rope. In fact, the belayer can even take in slack while the leader is falling to further reduce the length of the fall.

In contrast, when the route is vertical to overhanging, when there are no obstructions for the leader to hit if he falls, the belayer should keep more slack in the rope. Although the reasons why may not be immediately obvious, slack is necessary for the leader's safety. If the leader falls on overhanging terrain with little or no slack in the rope, the tension in the rope will pendulum him violently into the wall. In contrast, if there is enough slack in the rope - say a full arm's length - the leader will fall straight down for a few feet before he feels tension from the rope. This allows him to fall into clean air and reduces his swing into the wall. His fall will be longer, but so what, he's falling into air anyway. With practice, a good belayer can also lessen the leader's swing into the wall by dynamically belaying. For more information on that subject, see the excellent post here by tenn_dawg.

What about when belaying for toproping? In this case, check the landing, and if it is bad, or if there are hard moves right off the deck, keep your partner on tension until he is far enough off the ground that, should he fall, he won't hit the deck as the rope stretches. Unfortunately, if the climb is steep or traversing, keeping too much tension in the rope may pull your partner off the rock, so you may have to reduce the tension and use a spotter to protect the climber.

-Jay


Partner nextascent


Aug 2, 2004, 5:13 PM
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Re: Correcting belay errors - Part 2 [In reply to]
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hey jt...

Thx for posting this! (and part 1). I like to think I'm a decent belay but highlighting these is awesome for some "preventative" measure.!

Good Job! :D


myst


Aug 2, 2004, 6:31 PM
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Re: Correcting belay errors - Part 2 [In reply to]
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Thanks for the post, jt! You have such good advice. I'm posting just so this will stay on the front page a little longer :wink:


alpnclmbr1


Aug 2, 2004, 6:41 PM
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Re: Correcting belay errors - Part 2 [In reply to]
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Good Stuff.


In reply to:
depends primarily on two things: (1) how close the leader is to the ground or to a ledge and (2) the angle of the climb.

I would add that "Roofs" should be included in the list of primary considerations.

You do not want to slam someone's face into the lip of a roof. This can be a concern on top ropes as well. You either keep their feet above the lip or you give them enough slack to clear the roof.


musicman


Aug 3, 2004, 6:41 AM
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Re: Correcting belay errors - Part 2 [In reply to]
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great posts jay! always good to read over what other people think i should be doing, make sure i am doing it right!


overlord


Aug 3, 2004, 7:21 AM
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Re: Correcting belay errors - Part 2 [In reply to]
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nice post.

i second the roof thing.


Partner coylec


Aug 7, 2004, 1:24 PM
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Re: Correcting belay errors - Part 2 [In reply to]
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Hey, why don't you add this to your orginal list of belay error in the sticky? get all teh info in one place?

coylec


Partner rrrADAM


Aug 7, 2004, 1:28 PM
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Re: Correcting belay errors - Part 2 [In reply to]
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Jay... God stuff. You should copy and paste this into an Article, as we can feature it on the FP and in the Spray Newsletter that way, and get more exposure for this.

The Articles accept HTML, so it's easy to write a paper with pics, diagrams, and graphs if you like.


healyje


May 20, 2009, 4:21 PM
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Re: [jt512] Correcting belay errors - Part 2 [In reply to]
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Good lord it's Jay doing honest-to-god public service...

Least I can do is add probably the most important belaying correction of all in today's world of group climbing:

8. STFU and belay. Normally this would require a highly technical explanation, but I'm going to give you all the benefit of the doubt (or Jay will jump in and explain the minutiae in scurrilous detail).


PigsOnDrugs


May 20, 2009, 9:19 PM
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Re: [healyje] Correcting belay errors - Part 2 [In reply to]
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win


technogeekery


Jul 23, 2009, 8:20 PM
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Re: [healyje] Correcting belay errors - Part 2 [In reply to]
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healyje wrote:
8. STFU and belay.

I'd put this one right up near the beginning... Nothing quite like feeling nervous on lead and hearing your belayer chatting up some babe below. Dude, watch ME!

Nice information in these two posts Jay, thanks


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