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tenn_dawg


Aug 20, 2003, 8:59 PM
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Learn about DYNAMIC BELAYS!
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It is apparent that the "Dynamic Belay" is one of the most misunderstood techniques in climbing. I find this kind of unnerving. I have had the good fortune to climb with experienced belayers who understand the dynamics of belaying (play on words there, eh?) and explaining the concepts of proper belaying have never been necessary.

Let me make this one point real quick. Gyms teach you only what they and their insurance companies think is best FOR THE GYM. This does not mean that how they instruct belaying, is the best way to belay. Hell, I'd be suprised if more than 50% of gym instructors could have a legit conversation about dynamic belaying beyond the standard "Gri-Gri's are more static than ATC's."

My point is, belaying is not a simple, or easy task. Being a good belayer takes practice, experience, and a good attitude. As you progress in the sport, your belaying should progress as well. If you find you have been climbing for 4 years, and you still belay the same way the instructor in the gym explained 4 years ago, you may need to do a little research.

For nearly a year, I was of the school that "the shorter the fall, the better" and me and my partner always crouched down when catching a fall. This was fine for less than vertical, easy trad and sport climbs, but as the rock got steeper, and the falls more frequent, we found a huge problem with belaying this way. Falls from less than about 4 feet above a bolt on steep rock resulted in slamming HARD into the rock 5 feet below the bolt. One day while working an easy .11 (far beyond my RP ability at the time), I heard my ankle crack, and knew we had better rethink how we were belaying.

In the same situation, we found that if Jeff jumped as I was weighting the rope at the end of the fall, I would keep an even trajectory toward the ground, rather than swinging into the rock. We experimented a little by pitching off the route over and over (what can I say, we didn't believe in teachers) and with a little practice, we could catch feather soft falls, that we previously would have hurt ourselves on.

The belayer would end up about 4 to 10 feet off the ground depending on the severity of the fall, and the strength of his jump. Conversely, the climber would end up 4 to 10 feet lower after his fall. If the route is steep however, and there is little to hit, there is no harm done due to the extra lengths of the falls. In fact, falling, and belaying falls became a bit of a challenge in it's self. My eyes were opened to a new kind of climbing, where falls are okay!

We had no idea what the technique was called (or even that it was a technique for that matter), but used it all the time. We still do when the situation warrants it.

Now, lets take a little road trip. We're headed east to North Carolina. There is a crag there known as Stone Mountain. It's a pretty lame and generic name, that's for sure, but the mountain is home to a belay technique of the same name.

The Stone Mountain Running Belay

This technique is the polar opposite of the Dynamic Belay. It is done by placing an omnidiretional placement (such as a slung tree) at ground level, and running the rope through it after the belay, then to the climber. When the climber falls on lead, the belayer takes off running through the woods at break neck speed (Gri-Gri's Helpful) with the intention of shortening the climbers fall as much as possible.

You may wonder why this technique is any good, since I just explained a good reason for having a dynamic belay. Well here's a little info. Stone Mountain is a 600' Granite dome, the majority of which is completely devoid of all features and holds, and FAR less than vertical. Having been equipt by North Carolina climbers of the era of bold climbs, big balls, and puckering assholes, the routes are less than ideally bolted. It is not uncommon for a 150' route to have 3 bolts.

Now it doesn't take much math to figure that if you blow the second clip, the ground will catch you before the first bolt if your belayer simply locks off, and watches the show. Hence the running belay. Since the climbing is very slabby, your terminal velocity in a fall will be far less than through the air. (Picture a guy in a motorcycle crash) By running through the woods, your belayer is taking in slack at (hopefully) the same speed as you are falling. If your belayer is really fast, he will catch you at the first bolt, having run 50' as you fell 50'. Good stuff huh?

Now, to make my final point. There is a reason I have covered these two completely different belay techniques in a post about "Dynamic Belays". One reason is that I wanted to expose everyone to aspects of belaying they may have had no idea existed. If you have never heard of the "Running Belay" or the "Dynamic Belay" then you really should consider learning a bit more about belaying in general. There is much more to it, than "Keep your break hand on the rope at all times".

It is easy to become complacent and grizzled as you become a competent climber. It is even easier to assume you know all there is to know about something as seemingly simple as belaying a leader. Remember that there is always more to learn, and stay open to the advice of others. At a bare minimum at least know why YOU disagree with what someone says about a new technique. Don't simply disagree because you've never heard of it before.

And Second, there are many, MANY, contributing factors to a belay. Many (most) of them have been covered here.

Anchoring in, or not. GriGri's or ATC's. Jumping or Running. Locking off, or letting the rope slide.

These are all techniques that are to be used when the situation warrants it. It is your duty to be educated enough in the plethora of belay techniques to make sound decisions about which of them you use. You should never do something just because that's the way you learned, or it's the only way you know how. Branch out, and be open to the knowledge of others. Learn all you can, and make the right decision not out of luck, but because of forethought and knowledge.

Climbing is all about making decisions when the life of yourself or your partner lies on the outcome of your actions. Do all you can to make the right decisions.

Travis


overlord


Aug 21, 2003, 5:57 AM
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a man displaced hes hips about 4 months ago on an overhanging climb because hes belayre belayed staticly. he slammed hes knees into the face and pop... had the belayer payed slack or just jumped he would only get a few bruises.


nnichols


Aug 21, 2003, 6:10 AM
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Travis,

Thanks so much for the important information! Having gained 85% of my very limited knowledge in the gym, dynamic belays was one of those obscure terms that was overheard in other conversations. These are the most useful types of posts that us "newbies" need - it gives me a good base to start asking informed questions from those more experienced.

Nancy


howdidshedothat


Aug 21, 2003, 7:10 AM
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Awesome info Travis!!
:D


drucasinoble


Aug 21, 2003, 7:35 AM
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Thanks for the info Trav. :D


pehperboy


Aug 21, 2003, 7:47 AM
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A fine reason, if you don't have the time and resources (and resourcefulness) of Travis, to take a course in lead climbing before doing it. I took a risk at the crag last night I probably shouldn't have, leading a climb with a partner who has no experience in belaying a leader. Did my best to explain to him about dynamic belaying and hoped for the best... It was a 5.7 which I've led a number of times so I wasn't worried. Still sh*t happens, and was glad to run into someone with more experience when I led my next climb. But good times.


bandycoot


Aug 21, 2003, 8:02 AM
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You truly are a resource for this site Travis. While I understand these concepts, it tooks 3 years for me to even hear of them since I LEARNED IN A GYM WITH A GRIGRI. I've slowly learned that the Gri Gri isn't the best starter belay device for this and other reasons. Keep up the good posts and prevent people from carrying around ignorace for 3 years like me. Thanks!

Josh


paganmonkeyboy


Aug 21, 2003, 8:04 AM
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In reply to:
For nearly a year, I was of the school that "the shorter the fall, the better" and me and my partner always crouched down when catching a fall. This was fine for less than vertical, easy trad and sport climbs, but as the rock got steeper, and the falls more frequent, we found a huge problem with belaying this way. Falls from less than about 4 feet above a bolt on steep rock resulted in slamming HARD into the rock 5 feet below the bolt.

oh yeah - my main partner has this habit he picked up of dropping down when the leader pops, which just ends up slamming me into the rock at or above the nearest bolt. i'll have to show him yer post - thanks for the info !
-t


keinangst


Aug 21, 2003, 8:37 AM
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Good info! One thing, though--I had heard of the running belays at Stone Mountain, but I thought that was at SM in Georgia, not NC...(??)


fredrogers


Aug 21, 2003, 8:53 AM
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You've got some great info here about dynamic belays. However, for the newer climbers out there, the Running/Stone Mountain belay is a useful tool that you will probably never ever use. Everyone should be aware of the dynamic belay but the Running/Stone Mountain belay is used by almost noone. I'd hate to see newbies out there practicing it.


pirate


Aug 21, 2003, 8:55 AM
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Hey Travis good work.
you've touched on an important concept necessary for anyone that wants to be a good climber. We all know climbers that never excel or only climb harder gardes the same way (that does not make a good climber) yet others seem to go from sport to trad to alpine ice aid etc. Whats the difference between these types of climbers? What makes a good climber? Well its the innate ability to think outside of the box and to not merely learn a technique but to fully comprehend it.
Hell its not just technique either, good climbers want to comprehend everything thier doing, combine that with ever expanding info and accumulated experiences ....well now your dealing with a recipe to make a good climber.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of both comprehending and thinking outside of the box.
Once you become a good climber you'll know what it takes to be a great climber.:wink:
cheers


renobdarb


Aug 21, 2003, 9:39 AM
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It's fantastic to see someone actually posting something constructive, with the good intention that someone else may actually learn something... this site is filled with far too many members spewing egotistical bullsh-t and others who pick fights for no good reason... Way to go, Travis... you've really gotten back to what this site's supposed to be about...


djnibs


Aug 21, 2003, 9:42 AM
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Hey. Thanks so much for the info. It has help me come to understand a little more about belaying. And yes, i am in that 50% of gym instructors who could carry a conservation!!!!! lol thanks again.


tenn_dawg


Aug 21, 2003, 9:58 AM
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In reply to:
Hey. Thanks so much for the info. It has help me come to understand a little more about belaying. And yes, i am in that 50% of gym instructors who could carry a conservation!!!!! lol thanks again.

Heh, not intended as a low blow to the Gym Instructors out there. I've seen some goobers though.

As recently as 2 months ago, I took out 2 climbing wall instructors from a summer camp and taught them how to top rope. They were tragically inexperienced climbers, and we really had to start at square one.

Really it's important to realize that Gym instrutors are just that, instructors. They are not nessessarily experienced, well rounded climbers. It's their job to teach you to belay and climb exactly as the Gym's insurance company sees fit. Anything more is just bonus.

There are certainly some great instrutors out there, with lots of practical experience. In a Gym environment however, you have to learn to distinguish between the substance and the spray, if you know what I mean.

TRavis


Partner rgold


Aug 23, 2003, 4:54 PM
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According to this study done in 1999, for a 154 lb climber experiencing a 0.375 fall-factor fall (e.g. falling from 7.5 feet above pro when 40 feet out), the average impact at the belayer's harness when using a gri-gri is

873 lbf when the belayer drops backwards,

734 lbf when the belayer attempts no movement,

468 lbf when the belayer jumps up.

Because the friction over the carabiner at the top bolt reduces the force by about 1/3, it can be inferred that the forces felt at the leaders harness would have been 1310 lbf, 1100 lbf, and 702 lbf respectively.

The figure for the belayer dropping backwards was nearly the same as just tying the rope to an anchor and thereby effecting a totally static belay.

(These figures depend on the characteristics of the rope used. The abstract referenced above does not mention the impact force of the rope, nor does it mention whether a new rope was used for each trial or, if not, how long the rope was allowed to "recover.")


Partner coldclimb


Aug 23, 2003, 5:11 PM
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This is a really cool post, so I'd like to add this really cool story that I read somewhere on this site months ago. :)

"The most extreme version of this I have seen myself was at a mountain crag near by.
The crag is on the side of a steep mountain and there is a wide rock ledge at the bottom that you stand on to belay from.
This particular climb only had one good gear placement about a third of the way up.
We did the maths...
And found the only way the leader could be saved if he fell above above half height was by the belayer and and jumping off the rock ledge, towards a 200m, sheer drop!
The leader climbed up and was nearing the top when he slipped.... the brave belayer(who really deserves a medal) took a deep breath and jumped.
And both lived happily ever after.
Which proves it works! "


tenn_dawg


Aug 23, 2003, 5:26 PM
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Coldclimb,

JUH-HEESUSSSss!

No need to jug back up after the jump if I was belaying. I'm sure my heart would explode.

It reminds me of 4 alpine climbers traveling together roped on an icy ridge. The lead climber falls, dragging the second soon after, the third looks at the puny ice ax in his hand, then grabs the fourth and throws him off the other side of the ridge, jumping behind him. 7mm rope baby.

My hands are sweating...

Travis


Partner coldclimb


Aug 23, 2003, 11:20 PM
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hehe, gotta love stories like that. Just one more reason why I climb, though I have no clue why nearly dying seems awesome to me. :shock: :lol:


coclimber26


Aug 24, 2003, 6:21 AM
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After reading the 2002 accidents in North American climbing publication I was baffled. There was an Aid-Climbing accident in El-Cap using a Gri-Gri. I can understand using a gri-gri on a long climb (days) when you might become inattentive but look at the numbers. On a factor 1 fall the Gri-Gri put almost twice the force on the top piece of pro than an atc. On a thin climb where the pro looks dicey you deffinately need a more dynamic belay to put less stress on the pro. The gri-gri puts around 3.5-4 Kn at the belay point in a normal fall. My suggestion is a belay system that you can vary the resistance. It's nice to be able to jump to relieve some force but not always possible at some belay points. I recommend the munter hitch. If the pro is good and everything looks fine you can belay with full force 2.5Kn with the ropes close together. If the pro looks sketchy and you need a softer catch (more rope slippage) You can open the ropes up (like an atc brake) for 1.5-2.0Kn. The atc gives around 2.0kn and a figure 8 is around 1.2 (not reccomended to catch a leader fall.) On a very large fall it's possible to put over 9kn of force on your top piece of pro, dangerous on a thin aid climb. with a different belay you can bring the force down to a manageable 6-7kn and possible avoid a disaster....


leapfrog


Aug 24, 2003, 6:47 AM
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Nice post Travis.
To continue the discussion, it seems to me that the belayer jumping as the leader weighs the rope serves two purposes. One is to reduce the impact forces on the equipments, another is to change the trajectory of the leader from swinging into the rock to a more vertical fall. To be able to reduce the impact forces the belayer must be able to time his jumping precisely, which takes practices and requires the belayer to be at high alert at all times (not to argue that he shouldn't). When the protections are bomber and reducing impact forces are less important, can the belayer just blindly pay out slacks when the leader passes a protection, giving there's no danger of decking? For example after the leader passes a protection, the belayer pays out 4 feet of slacks and keeps the slack as the leader climbs on. If the leader falls at 4 feet above the protection, he'll fall 12 feet which would produce a more vertical trajectory compared to the 8 feet fall would produce without the 4 feet extra slack.
I have too little experience to speak from so this is all in my head. Does this sound reasonable to you guys?


tenn_dawg


Aug 24, 2003, 8:55 AM
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In reply to:
Nice post Travis.
To continue the discussion, it seems to me that the belayer jumping as the leader weighs the rope serves two purposes. One is to reduce the impact forces on the equipments, another is to change the trajectory of the leader from swinging into the rock to a more vertical fall. To be able to reduce the impact forces the belayer must be able to time his jumping precisely, which takes practices and requires the belayer to be at high alert at all times (not to argue that he shouldn't). When the protections are bomber and reducing impact forces are less important, can the belayer just blindly pay out slacks when the leader passes a protection, giving there's no danger of decking? For example after the leader passes a protection, the belayer pays out 4 feet of slacks and keeps the slack as the leader climbs on. If the leader falls at 4 feet above the protection, he'll fall 12 feet which would produce a more vertical trajectory compared to the 8 feet fall would produce without the 4 feet extra slack.
I have too little experience to speak from so this is all in my head. Does this sound reasonable to you guys?

I'm with you.

Okay, here's my take. When I am belaying someone on a steep sport route, and they have just clipped a bolt, the first thing I do is see what they are going to do. Often times, in sport climbing, they will want to hang right after clipping. If not, then I pay out an arm full of slack.

For the first few moves off the bolt, it is important to have a little slack in the system, because a 150lb weight with a 3' fulcrum will hit the wall at bone breaking velocity. This is even more critical down low on a route where the dynamic properties of the rope are less pronounced.

However, as they get higher above the bolt, I keep less slack in the system, and rely mostly on jumping. The reason being, I really like soft catches when I'm sport climbing. Keeping extra slack in the system once they are a good distance above the bolt serves only to lengthen the fall, without the added benefit of reducing fall forces. (The only added benefit I can think of, is the extra rope out will result in a slightly more dynamic belay due to properties of dynamic ropes.)

For the first 3 or so moves off a bolt though, I think it's necessary to either have a really "on the ball" belayer, or a few feet of slack in the system.

Another benefit of keeping some slack in the system, is it allows the climber more freedom for sudden or dynamic climbing.

Case in point: Yesterday I was working a route that has a mandatory dyno. It is probably a 5 foot dyno, and is all points off, and really fun. The bolt that protects the move is about 1 1/2 feet above the hold you throw from. The finishing hold is ~ 3 feet above the bolt. This is a perfect example of a time when there should be slack in the system. If the rope was held tight, 2 major things could happen, both bad.

First, you could be short roped during the dyno. The throw, and resulting swing of the body probably consumes 5 feet of rope in a second. I doubt a belayer could pay out slack that fast.

Second, if you fall off the move (which I did, repeatedly :) )your waist will be only about 2 feet above the bolt, with a tight rope that would really slam you into the wall hard.

As it was, I took about a 10 foot cushy fall straight down into space, and the only hassle was pulling back up the rope. My belayer used a combination of slack in the system, and jumping when I weighted the rope.

As strange as it may seem, a 10 foot fall from 2 feet above a bolt is WAY better than a 4 foot fall in the same situation. This is a climb that I would not have attempted without faith in my belayer's abilities.

But it sure was a fun climb!

Travis


puma


Aug 24, 2003, 12:34 PM
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In reply to:
When the protections are bomber and reducing impact forces are less important, can the belayer just blindly pay out slacks when the leader passes a protection, giving there's no danger of decking?

For sure, if fact I would prefer you do, unless I'm gripped in which I'll let you know. I usually have my belayer maintain a nice "half-moon" shape of slack in the rope. Not too much that it's touching the ground and if the rope is going almost straight from the device up to me, that's way too tight.

In reply to:
For example after the leader passes a protection, the belayer pays out 4 feet of slacks and keeps the slack as the leader climbs on. If the leader falls at 4 feet above the protection, he'll fall 12 feet which would produce a more vertical trajectory compared to the 8 feet fall would produce without the 4 feet extra slack.

Right. Which is what I was describing above, which saves the belayer from having to jump, which you won't always be able to do. It might be good to learn other ways to give dynamic belays in case you're not able to jump, ie. multi-pitch. But I guess that is more of a sport climbing method. Doesn't anybody give dynamic belays through the device anymore? Or am I just old school? I'm only 35 geez. Anyway I'm not putting down jumping. Just that, IMO, a proper belay (I guess what I consider proper) can alleviate the need to have to jump. If the pro is a concern then dynamics can be introduced by letting rope slip through the device. But I'm sure you all will think I'm crazy for saying that. peace~

Lg


tenn_dawg


Aug 24, 2003, 1:02 PM
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In reply to:
If the pro is a concern then dynamics can be introduced by letting rope slip through the device. But I'm sure you all will think I'm crazy for saying that. peace~

When I'm climbing trad, I will use an ATC and let the rope slip for a dynamic belay if the situation warrents it. This is especially useful if you are at a hanging belay, or even if it just isin't possible to jump.

Oh, and yes, some people will think you are crazy for mentioning that. I brought it up in a thread titled "trad, a big no no" a month or so ago, and it was very apparent that few people knew what I was talking about.

I'll describe it for anyone who dosen't know what we are talking about.

For simplicities sake, lets say that we are on a single pitch trad climb. I'm standing on the ground, and the leader is up pretty high on the climb.

It is nessessary to have a belay device like an ATC, or similar. When the leader falls, you hold your belay hand with the rope in it, out in front of you, and allow the rope to slide through the ATC and your hand as the falling climber comes onto the rope. Then quickly, you bring your handback to the lock off position, arresting the climber.

The action is very similar to stopping yourself while rappeling quickly. The ATC will absorb a significant ammount of the energy of the falling climber, slowing him some before you lock off. When you lock off, the climber is brought quickly, but dynamically to a gentle stop.

Gloves are important.

This technique is a bit more advanced than simply jumping, but comes into it's own on hard multipitch trad climbs. Rope management is very important as well, as a kink could possibly knock your belay hand off the rope before locking off.

I'll confess, I rarely use this technique. I prefer to jump if I am standing on the ground, and I really don't climb that much HARD multipitch trad stuff. Still, it's in my bag of tricks, and that's what really matters.

Anyone that has more practical experience with this, feel free to call my BS, if there is any...haha!

Travis


ikefromla


Aug 24, 2003, 1:03 PM
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Re: Learn about DYNAMIC BELAYS! [In reply to]
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Puma, when using a gri-gri, it is impossible to allow rope to slide through the device to give a dynamic belay... this is where the jumping comes in. with an atc on the other hand, you can allow rope to slide through the device. imho, it is much better to use an atc on multi-pitch for the reason you described above.
- ike


puma


Aug 24, 2003, 6:44 PM
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Re: Learn about DYNAMIC BELAYS! [In reply to]
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In reply to:
Puma, when using a gri-gri, it is impossible to allow rope to slide through the device to give a dynamic belay...

Hmm, you mean you can't keep it open with the handle and let some slip before you pulled the rope back (braking) over the curled metal. That's two 180 degree bends and should stop the rope without the cam. Seems like it should work but I don't know, I've never tried that with a grr-grr before, but I will check it out for fun.

In reply to:
Gloves are important.

Well, more likely someone would probably only have taped hands, which would help. But if possible, putting two hands on the rope would be key. Also in my experience, having the rope at an angle (about 2 o'clock) as opposed to directly out in front of you would be more ideal an initial position. Seems to me that if it were straight out in front, on steep terrain, a fall may become harder to control, hence braking sooner than you'd (and your partner) would like. It really is one of those techniques that should be practiced (preferably not with your kid sister falling on the rope) to understand what to do and how to react. It kind of goes against the grain of everything we've been taught, like falling in the gym to get your lead climbing card.

Climber asking for a dynamic belay:

"YES!, I want you to let me fall for a little bit BEFORE you brake, okay?"


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