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figure 8 v ATC
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By Trey M
Jul 15, 2010
1/3 the way up aeroblast

When I belay I usually use a grigri but I also have an ATC. My favorite belay device I've ever used was an old sticht plate. Is there any benefit to using a figure 8 as opposed to tubular belay devices or a locking assist belay device?

Thanks


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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
Jul 15, 2010
Bocan

No...if there were people would use them still.

You'll find them popular with rescuers etc, or those that rappel alot. I'm sure some of the SAR guys can explain their preferences.


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By Rick Blair
From Denver
Jul 15, 2010
This is a novel auto blocking belay device.  I think it works quite well, depending on rope thickness and sheath quality, it belays very smooth.  Great to lower with.  You gotta love over engineering.  $3 at a gear swap!

I keep a figure 8 around only for long rappels so I don't get bounced around, but since it is not usually on my rack, when I do a climb with a long rappel, I usually forget to bring it anyway.


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By W.S.
From Montana
Jul 15, 2010

Figure 8's are still widely used in some parts of Europe, but as far as I can tell they have no real advantages besides being cheap and relatively easy to manufacture. Stick with an ATC.


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By Buff Johnson
Jul 16, 2010
smiley face

The Rescue-8 serves as a lowest common denominator friction device capable for personal load, rescue load, and a multi-point load distributor that won't clutch rigging for a rescue-loaded anchor. The R-8 has ears for a rope lock-off, though it can lead to freezing the system if you hop an ear.

I believe the Figure-8 (w/out ears) offers you something if the rope is subjected to a crappy muddy environment that might otherwise foul up other equip. BD has theirs as the Super-8.

I prefer the Gri or the Guide, though if I had a choice for recreation.


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By Evan1984
Jul 16, 2010

8's are great for rapping in caving, ropes course, and rescue situations where they aren't called upon often for belaying.

They are great for fatter ropes and muddy ropes because you don't have to force them through the small slots.

They are a distant runner up for regular belay use. Also, to belay with them, it is best to just feed a bite through the small end and clip with a carabiner rather than try to belay in the rapping orientation.

Evan


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By Tony A. Davis
From Drake, Colorado
Jul 16, 2010
Pic

The 8 will also put the twisty kinky in your rope.


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By Rick Blair
From Denver
Jul 16, 2010
This is a novel auto blocking belay device.  I think it works quite well, depending on rope thickness and sheath quality, it belays very smooth.  Great to lower with.  You gotta love over engineering.  $3 at a gear swap!

Evan1984 wrote:
8's are great for rapping in caving, ropes course, and rescue situations where they aren't called u Also, to belay with them, it is best to just feed a bite through the small end and clip with a carabiner rather than try to belay in the rapping orientation. Evan

That is what I have heard, use the small loop like a stitch plate, I have never tried it. Anyone?


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By Tony A. Davis
From Drake, Colorado
Jul 16, 2010
Pic

Yeah used to use the 8 as a sticht plate if I had an icy rope but unless you attach the 8 to your locker via a small piece of cord (like the ATC keeper cable does), it will move all around on the rope so belaying from above the 8 will drop down the rope unless corded, also all of those rounded surfaces of the biner and the 8 don't offer a lot of friction, or I should say a lot of bite.


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By Tyson Anderson
From Las Vegas, NV
Jul 16, 2010
Rapping from the top of Cat in the hat

I saw some people belaying with one of those big rescue 8 devices in maple canyon. They weren't even belaying out of smaller circle meaning it was threaded just like it would be if they were rappelling. Not surprisingly, one guy got dropped to the ground and everybody around that whole area heard it. Luckily there weren't any major injuries and they left soon after.

Come to think of it, these were probably the same people that almost hit me on the head with a mail bag full of rope that they threw down without warning at the same place in the canyon.


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By Tozankyaku
Jul 29, 2010

Tyson Anderson wrote:
I saw some people belaying with one of those big rescue 8 devices in maple canyon. They weren't even belaying out of smaller circle meaning it was threaded just like it would be if they were rappelling.


The correct way to belay is with the small end and I find it best to clip a biner through the big end and my harness to keep it from riding up the rope while taking slack. You should never belay while in the rappel configuration.


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By TheIceManCometh
From Albany, NY
Aug 18, 2011
Chiller Pillar, Adirondacks

I use an ATC or a munter hitch (note a munter hitch will kink your ropes).

If I knew I had to do a lot of long rappells, I might take a figure 8 because it's larger and therefore will handle the increased heat generated during a rappell.


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By Austin Baird
From SLC, Utah
Aug 18, 2011
Me scaring years off my mom's life

Joe Ludlow wrote:
From my personal experience, 8's tend to be very poor for caving rappels due to the fact that they are difficult to lock off without gumming up the works (or if they are, please let me know how, I would be honestly curious). Frequently on caving you have to do a changeover from rappel to jumars, so using a rack would be preferable as far as I am concerned.


Eights are real easy to lock off. Email me if you want a diagram or pictures. bairdas AT gmail DOT com


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By TheIceManCometh
From Albany, NY
Sep 27, 2011
Chiller Pillar, Adirondacks

It is rare to see climbers belaying or rappelling with a Figure 8 these days, especially since 8s have been known to break through the sleeve of a locked carabiner (cross loading).

Guideslines...

1. To reduce the chance of cross-loading, clip your locking biner into the belay loop (never the harness & leg loops themselves).

2. Don't use a Figure 8

Here are some accident reports of Figure 8 / Locking biner failure:

Accident #1;

Accident #2


Figure Eight Descender
Figure Eight Descender


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By Nick Y.
Apr 5, 2012

I learned to climb years ago on a figure 8 and have never felt the need to switch to an ATC. I currently use a Black Diamond Super 8. That being said, they aren't for everyone. To add some clarity to a couple of statements made above:

-Rappelling on a figure 8 is ridiculously smooth. It will NOT kink your ropes, at all, if you feed it as shown in the BD instructions linked below (such that your hand is out in front of the device). If you reverse the feed and the brake-hand side of the rope comes out toward you, you will get an epic rat's nest of a rope to deal with.

-Figure 8's dissipate heat from a rappel extremely well, too, due to a large surface area.

-The figure 8, and again BD super 8 in particular are a fantastic belay device IF USED PROPERLY. It is not "best" to feed the rope through the small hole - that is the ONLY way to use it as a belay device as specifically shown in the instructions. Used correctly it actually gets enough friction that it can be difficult to release after catching a fall.

-The cross-loading risk is VERY real. If you do not maintain tension in your set-up during the rappel, you must be cognizant of this. I cross-loaded mine on the first rappel of a 3-pitch climb and my heart stopped when I noticed it 20 feet in. I was very lucky and was able to get my feet planted, get some slack, and correct the configuration.

www.blackdiamondequipment.com/uploads/black-diamond/files/M1>>>

I have no experience caving or dealing with muddy/icy ropes, so I can't comment on those. I have used one to rappel in a downpour (got caught on the wall) and it worked just fine. Bottom line, use what you have been trained to use and are comfortable with; this goes double for belaying since you're responsible for someone else.


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By Pete Spri
Apr 5, 2012

Eh, sounds like most of us are just americans that dont use them as sort of the standard default.

I've heard that some alpinists like them because they feed frozen ropes better, and that they can do better on smaller diameter ropes. If you do it right, there is also zero chance of dropping them.

I think there are some advantages. Personally, I dislike them for belaying, which is the biggest turn off, imo.


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By randy88fj62
Apr 6, 2012
Thunderbolt Peak in the Palisades

Figure 8's and similar rappel devices are used a lot in canyoneering because they are easy to rig and unclip while treading in a pool of water while wearing neoprene gloves. This is especially true in high flow water canyons. There are similar devices that offer varying friction options. These devices include the petzl pirana, sterling ats, rich carlson's totem, and others which I am not familiar with like the fisk for work at height jobs. Rock exotica has its own model as well.

In canyoneering figure 8's are also used for contingency anchors in lou of a munter mule due to the time savings during a single line rappel where the rigged 8 acts as a biner block.

I use a steel 8 specifically when canyoneering in Zion since there is a ton of sand on the ropes and a standard Al device can take a lot of wear during one trip.

I do not use figure 8's to belay people and would choose a munter instead. I would not use a munter for top roping all day as it would put a lot of wear on one section of rope that got the repeated use.


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By randy88fj62
Apr 6, 2012
Thunderbolt Peak in the Palisades

Spri wrote:
Eh, sounds like most of us are just americans that dont use them as sort of the standard default. I've heard that some alpinists like them because they feed frozen ropes better, and that they can do better on smaller diameter ropes. If you do it right, there is also zero chance of dropping them. I think there are some advantages. Personally, I dislike them for belaying, which is the biggest turn off, imo.


A friend of mine who is a guide uses a camp ovo (or Kong GiGi.) I asked why he uses it and he replied that the rope feed is a lot easier than a standard tube device, especially when belaying from above with an autoblock. I went ahead and got myself one to play with to see if he's right. This I think would be the best middle ground as the slot openings would be wide enough to handle frozen or dirty ropes while accomplishing all the needs of rope management (rapping and belaying.)


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By ConstanceM715
Feb 4, 2013

Works for larger diameter of ropes outside of climbing environment as well.


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By Brad "Stonyman" Killough
Administrator
From Alabama
Feb 5, 2013
Starting the second section of Live to climb another day

Overall=ATC


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By The Ex-Engineer
From UK
Feb 23, 2013

Trey M wrote:
Is there any benefit to using a figure 8 as opposed to tubular belay devices or a locking assist belay device?


IF (and it is a big if) you know what you are doing, there is a massive benefit to using a fig-8 - they allow you to give super-soft catches.

That said, you are unlikely to find many climbers who regularly use them for sport belaying and are expert in holding falls with them, apart from in some European countries.

I had the distinct pleasure of falling off a route in the Costa Blanca some years ago being belayed with one by an extremely capable female Dutch climber and can honestly say it was probably the best 'soft catch' I've experienced climbing outdoors.

However, despite recognising the clear benefits, I don't use one. With 17 years experience of using an ATC and a dozen years using a GriGri, I'd prefer to stick with them rather than try to learn another skill from scratch.


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By Schaps
Feb 24, 2013
Sierra East side ( South Lake )

It's best to be familiar with multiple belay options and not to be fixated on one alone. Depending upon the situation one needs to be able to transfer effortlessly from one technique/ device to another. Certainly the figure 8 affords the smoothest rappel and is an acceptable belay device. A figure 8 will always be part of my armament for alpine days because of its versatility and simplicity. With all devices, one needs to fully understand it's limitations however.


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By TomCaldwell
From Clemson, S.C.
Feb 24, 2013
Me on One Pitch Wonder at Whitesides.  Photo credits to Kyle Jones and his lucky anti-rain jacket.

Rick Blair wrote:
I keep a figure 8 around only for long rappels so I don't get bounced around, but since it is not usually on my rack, when I do a climb with a long rappel, I usually forget to bring it anyway.

Are you referring to the atc coming in contact with the biner? Have you ever tried the omega sbgII? I swear by this thing now. Smoothest device I have ever used. The clip in point makes it never bounce or jam. Works awesome on skinnys also.


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By Unassigned User
Feb 24, 2013

Nick Y. wrote:
I learned to climb years ago on a figure 8 and have never felt the need to switch to an ATC. I currently use a Black Diamond Super 8. That being said, they aren't for everyone. To add some clarity to a couple of statements made above: -Rappelling on a figure 8 is ridiculously smooth. It will NOT kink your ropes, at all, if you feed it as shown in the BD instructions linked below (such that your hand is out in front of the device). If you reverse the feed and the brake-hand side of the rope comes out toward you, you will get an epic rat's nest of a rope to deal with. -Figure 8's dissipate heat from a rappel extremely well, too, due to a large surface area. -The figure 8, and again BD super 8 in particular are a fantastic belay device IF USED PROPERLY. It is not "best" to feed the rope through the small hole - that is the ONLY way to use it as a belay device as specifically shown in the instructions. Used correctly it actually gets enough friction that it can be difficult to release after catching a fall. -The cross-loading risk is VERY real. If you do not maintain tension in your set-up during the rappel, you must be cognizant of this. I cross-loaded mine on the first rappel of a 3-pitch climb and my heart stopped when I noticed it 20 feet in. I was very lucky and was able to get my feet planted, get some slack, and correct the configuration. www.blackdiamondequipment.com/uploads/black-diamond/files/M1>>> I have no experience caving or dealing with muddy/icy ropes, so I can't comment on those. I have used one to rappel in a downpour (got caught on the wall) and it worked just fine. Bottom line, use what you have been trained to use and are comfortable with; this goes double for belaying since you're responsible for someone else.


Like most everyone here - I learned to rap on a Fig 8 in the 80's. ATC's of course were not yet invented. I liked the Fig 8 for obvious reasons listed above. I feel the ATC does a great job rapping - but it heats up quite a lot of long raps versus the Fig 8 that I think dissipates heat better being larger with more metal/surface area.
I have belayed with them using the small hole - and as stated by others - this doesn't work very well w/o either place a biner thru the large hole to your harness so it doesn't 'get away from you' or a 'keeper cord' on it attached to your harness as well (or I suppose a quick draw would work from the large hole to your harness as well to keep it from going off down the rope out of reach!

I have heard that the Fig 8 twists the rope badly and will kink it - I can't say I have even done any real 'testing' on this to verify the validity of that statement. I used to be a caver - and I would say the Fig 8 would make 'change overs' from jummaring to rapping mush easier and faster with the Fig 8 then the ATC. What I don't like about the ATC is it can be a PITA to get a fat rope thru the holes, esp if ice climbing and the rope is stiff, freezing up, etc.

That being said - I personally prefer the Fig 8 for rapping myself.
Guess I am just a 'dyed in the wool' old school climber!


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By mcarizona
From Flag
Feb 24, 2013

Rick Blair wrote:
That is what I have heard, use the small loop like a stitch plate, I have never tried it. Anyone?



anyone?.... that must have been a LONG time ago!

Steve


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By Jim Titt
From Germany
Feb 24, 2013

Sure, superceded by the Sticht plate almost straight away though since we were using half-ropes.


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