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Multipitch Belaying off Harness vs. Anchors
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By Dave Carey
From Morrison, CO
May 23, 2011
I am trying to decide whether the pros outweigh the cons for belaying off of your harness while climbing multipitch vs. having the lead "clip" the anchors and am interested in your thoughts and experience with both.

Pros for belaying off harness: From what I understand, it is best practice for the lead to fall on the belayers harness so that the force is lessened by going through the belayers (who absorbs some forces with with slip in the belay device and body mass) and then onto the anchors. So the pros for belaying off the harness are to lessen the forces on the anchors.

Cons for belaying off harness: If someone were to fall below the belayer, it seems like it could jolt the belayer very awkwardly and make holding the leader difficult during a fall. So perhaps the force is greater on the anchors, but there is less room for belay error due to awkwardness.

Thoughts???

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By DannyUncanny
From Vancouver
May 23, 2011
Clip the highest piece. In most cases, belaying straight off of your harness will increase forces, not the other way around. The exception I guess is if you have a crappy anchor and a good stance in some kind of alpine situation.

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By Marc H
From Lafayette, CO
May 23, 2011
The Cathedral Spires in RMNP, left to right: Stile...
There's definitely no right or wrong answer. Different situations dictate different techniques. You really just have to have a good understanding of the fundamentals and then go out and try the two different options in various situations.

Personally, I use a Reverso 2 and belay off the anchor 99% of the time. Off the top of my head, the situations where I usually belay off my harness are:

  • Swinging leads and trying to move quickly
  • The last pitch of a multi-pitch route
  • I build an anchor immediately after a traverse

When I belay off my harness, I always run the rope through a point higher than my belay loop so that I'm pulled upwards instead of downwards when catching my second's fall.

--Marc

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By BobbyReno
From Larkspur CA
May 23, 2011
umm..you should never be be belaying a leader straight off the anchor...only a follower...

Leaders should always be belayed from the harness...the belayer's body provides some dynamic properties. Also, lead falls generate almost entirely an upward pull, which most anchors are not constructed for.

Clipping the top piece of the anchor will eliminate factor 2 falls so it is a good idea sometimes, especially if it is a run before the first piece.

bringing a second up from the harness will only increase the forces if the rope is redirected through the anchor creating a top-rope-like scenario, in which case the forces are increased by almost half. If the rope goes straight down from the harness to your second, the forces are diminished due to the dynamic nature of the belayers body absorbing some of the force, but it can be awkward, and unless you've got a good stance is not ideal.

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By Larry S
May 23, 2011
The wife and I road-trippin on the Connie.
Dave - Clip the master point and give a dynamic belay if you're worried about the loading, try and belay so the MP is a few feet above your waist so there's some give. If you can't get that, you can clip a high piece, but that's debatable. If you belay direct off your harness with no redirect, when your leader falls past you your belay device will flip to pointing down and your brake hand will be in the position for the lowest amount of friction; you better have a good grip on that rope.

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By Pete Spri
May 23, 2011
If I'm on a pretty big ledge, or especially behind a block, I like belaying straight off my harness down to the second. Usually going to the anchor adds too much friction with this type of belay lay out.

Belaying off of the anchor I use a Munter hitch... much easier to lower than autoblocking.

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By Dave Carey
From Morrison, CO
May 23, 2011
Perhaps I didn't clarify the situation:

Off Harness means: rope runs from lead's harness, straight to the belay device of the belayer who is tied in say 4 ft. below the anchor using a clove hitch. If the lead falls before first piece, then the belayer takes the force first, and then its transfered to the anchors on the clove hitch.

Off Anchors means: Probably should have been reworded "through anchor". Rope runs from lead's harness, through the anchor and then to the belayer's belay device (i.e. force then is an upward force).

For the situation, I mean only in the case where the belayer is belaying the lead and not the follower.

Thanks for the responses!

Cheers

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By Darren Mabe
From Flagstaff, AZ
May 23, 2011
wham bam hand jam. Wrapping up the final moves of ...
one thing to add is if you belay off your harness on multi-pitch it is best to clip the belay device to BOTH the belay loop AND the rope tie-in-loop. in the event of a factor-two fall, the the force from the leader is directly onto the belay anchor, not slingshot through it...

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By Darren Mabe
From Flagstaff, AZ
May 23, 2011
wham bam hand jam. Wrapping up the final moves of ...
and if for some reason your belay anchor is not bomber enough for a factor-two, then don't factor-two fall onto it.

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By smassey
From CO
May 23, 2011
Darren Mabe wrote:
one thing to add is if you belay off your harness on multi-pitch it is best to clip the belay device to BOTH the belay loop AND the rope tie-in-loop. in the event of a factor-two fall, the the force from the leader is directly onto the belay anchor, not slingshot through it...


This could be a good idea, but if your leader factor 2's onto this setup and is injured and needs rescue, it is very problematic to tie off the belay device. The extra slack afforded by NOT clipping into the rope tie-in loop provides you with enough room.

If there is a likelihood on taking a Factor Two fall, clip either the highest piece or the MP (or shelf). While still placing a lot of force on the anchor, it increases the possibility of you being able to actually catch the fall (by decreasing the fall factor). The potential benefits of placing less load on the anchor doesn't really work if the belayer can't hold the fall.

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By azclimbingrocks
May 23, 2011
smassey wrote:
The potential benefits of placing less load on the anchor doesn't really work if the belayer can't hold the fall.


In which case, it's best to tie off your belayer and get a new one.

smassey wrote:
If there is a likelihood on taking a Factor Two fall, clip ... the MP

I'm trying to figure out how you guys tie into MP. Do you take a laptop along ? Or will an Iphone work ? Will it hold an F2 fall or does that require an IPad2?

But either way, do I tie that into my harness first, the belay loop second and the anchor last, or vice versa.

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By smassey
From CO
May 23, 2011
Touche, sir. Well played. I of course make sure that I am always tied into MP when I'm belaying, so as to receive the latest updates and opinions on belaying practices.
Having not caught any Factor Two falls, since I choose my partners wisely, I can only speak for the experience of practicing belay escapes with a 250lb partner hanging off my device from a hanging stance. Why would I choose such a uniquely masochistic thing to practice? Like they say, if you can dodge a wrench... (plus it's in the AMGA rescue drill for probably the same reason)

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By Darren Mabe
From Flagstaff, AZ
May 23, 2011
wham bam hand jam. Wrapping up the final moves of ...
smassey wrote:
... it is very problematic to tie off the belay device. The extra slack afforded by NOT clipping into the rope tie-in loop provides you with enough room.

how so?

and what if the belay device was a grigri2?

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By kurthicks
May 23, 2011
smassey wrote:
Having not caught any Factor Two falls, since I choose my partners wisely, I can only speak for the experience of practicing belay escapes with a 250lb partner hanging off my device from a hanging stance. Why would I choose such a uniquely masochistic thing to practice? Like they say, if you can dodge a wrench... (plus it's in the AMGA rescue drill for probably the same reason)


Smassey - we do that in the drill since there are times when you'd be belaying a client up, but not directly off the anchor. rare, but it happens! and it's one of the harder ways to get to baseline. the hardest being when you are extended from the anchor with a loop cloved back into yourself, but are more than arms length from the masterpoint. try that one for fun sometime!

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By Kevin Craig
May 23, 2011
KC on Fields (medium).  Photo (c) Doug Shepherd
kurthicks wrote:
the hardest being when you are extended from the anchor with a loop cloved back into yourself, but are more than arms length from the masterpoint. try that one for fun sometime!


You guys don't carry a rescue cordalette, a short prussik loop or have a sling handy? These don't make it "easy" of course, but they do make it fairly do-able.

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By Yarp
May 23, 2011
Darren Mabe wrote:
one thing to add is if you belay off your harness on multi-pitch it is best to clip the belay device to BOTH the belay loop AND the rope tie-in-loop


This is a new one to me. Not that I see anything wrong with it but I find it interesting you place such emphasis on clipping through the rope rather than just the belay loop considering this doesn't make your system any safer and the belay loop is the strongest part of your harness. If it gives you the warm fuzzies I guess that's cool.

Have you lost a lot of friends to belay loop failure or do you know anyone, aside from Todd Skinner, that has died from a broken belay loop? You post has got me thinking that maybe I should see how my belay loop is doing underneath all that duct tape.

...or maybe you were trolling?

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By Darren Mabe
From Flagstaff, AZ
May 23, 2011
wham bam hand jam. Wrapping up the final moves of ...
Yarp wrote:
This is a new one to me. Not that I see anything wrong with it but I find it interesting you place such emphasis on clipping through the rope rather than just the belay loop considering this doesn't make your system any safer and the belay loop is the strongest part of your harness. If it gives you the warm fuzzies I guess that's cool. Have you lost a lot of friends to belay loop failure or do you know anyone, aside from Todd Skinner, that has died from a broken belay loop? You post has got me thinking that maybe I should see how my belay loop is doing underneath all that duct tape. ...or maybe you were trolling?

nope. not trolling. and trust me, i too have duct tape on my belay loop (for abrasion resistance anyway). and i trust the belay loop as the strongest part of the harness.

but i was speaking of how if the belay loop is loaded in one direction and the rope you are tied into is loaded the opposite, then in a f2 fall, the harness gets loaded through the stitching of the waist loop.

and no i havent witnessed this. is hypothetical (but isnt it all?) who has caught a factor two fall?

EDIT: does that look like the face of an internet troll?!

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By Yarp
May 23, 2011
Darren Mabe wrote:
i was speaking of how if the belay loop is loaded in one direction and the rope you are tied into is loaded the opposite, then in a f2 fall, the harness gets loaded through the stitching of the waist loop


and this is a problem...even if only hypothetical?

What kinds of harnesses are you guys climbing on that this is even a concern with?

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By W.S.
From Montana
May 23, 2011
Most of the time when taking off on a lead I'll clip the anchor and ask my second to unclip it once I have a couple of pieces to minimize rope drag. But seriously guys, don't take factor two falls.

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By Toby Butterfield
From Portland, OR
May 24, 2011
Fear and Loathing.
Darren Mabe wrote:
nope. not trolling. and trust me, i too have duct tape on my belay loop (for abrasion resistance anyway). and i trust the belay loop as the strongest part of the harness. but i was speaking of how if the belay loop is loaded in one direction and the rope you are tied into is loaded the opposite, then in a f2 fall, the harness gets loaded through the stitching of the waist loop. and no i havent witnessed this. is hypothetical (but isnt it all?) who has caught a factor two fall? EDIT: does that look like the face of an internet troll?!


You know, I'd thought of this but wasn't sure of a good solution. I don't know if this is the ideal solution, but I like your thinking here and I think I'll start doing the same.

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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
May 24, 2011
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogsti...
Putting the belay device into the rope tie-in rather than the belay loop is common practice in the UK. Here is a link to a discussion about pros and cons: ukclimbing.com/articles/page.p....

I first learned about it many years ago from Chris Harmston, then the BD engineer and one of the most authoritative voices on climbing safety procedures I've encountered, and since then, I have always belayed this way.

It has nothing to do with mistrusting or sparing the belay loop. A factor-2 directly onto the belay loop does, however, put all kinds of opposing forces on the harness which the device on the rope tie-in eliminates.

I belay the second and the leader this way. The load goes straight to the anchor, mediated however by the rope tie-in (I absolutely never tie to the anchor with slings---the rope provides critical protection for the anchor in case of a massive load).

I find this to be the safest, most efficient, and least stressful way to belay both leader and second.

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By Richard Radcliffe
From Louisville, CO
May 24, 2011
Yarp wrote:
You post has got me thinking that maybe I should see how my belay loop is doing underneath all that duct tape.

Did something like the duct tape thing for many years too, for abrasion resistance as Darren stated (actually sliced a piece of 1" tubular vertically and resewed it back onto the loop). However, why? I think you're better off knowing precisely the condition of the belay loop instead of just the duct tape. With "normal" usage, the belay loop should last way longer than your yankering to get the latest and greatest new harness, so why bother with the duct tape?

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By Yarp
May 24, 2011
Thanks for the link RGold. I like your reasons for doing this more.

I don't actually have duct tape on my harness. That would be just silly. I just made that up to make myself feel better while taking a jab at Darren because I think his reasons for clipping the belay loop are just as silly as duct tape on your belay loop.

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By Francis Kelsey
May 24, 2011
While I found parts of this thread interesting, I must say I don't see the need to belay a second(s) off the harness. That makes no sense - use your anchors to do this, that is what they are for. ie belay directly from the belay. When belaying a leader on multi- pitch routes revert back to your harness and use the rope loop if you so desire.

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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
May 24, 2011
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogsti...
Francis Kelsey wrote:
I don't see the need to belay a second(s) off the harness. That makes no sense - use your anchors to do this, that is what they are for. ie belay directly from the belay. When belaying a leader on multi- pitch routes revert back to your harness and use the rope loop if you so desire.


There can be little question that the Western European public, now followed by the American public, seems to be adopting this position, in part because of the pervasive bolting of belay anchors on climbs. These bolts are always in just the right position for setting up a belay off the anchor.

Once you get off the beaten bolted track, things are a little different. Anchors may be too low or too spread out. I've seen several parties set up inferior anchors so that they can belay off them rather than using far better options which, however, would not permit a belay off the anchor; apparently a focus on belaying off the anchor can blind the party to the best choices.

I've also seen parties belay off anchors I would consider questionable when indeed nothing better is available, but there are truly solid braced positions for what would have been a hip belay in the old days but is now a harness belay. In these cases too, a slavish commitment to belaying off the anchor resulted in a far less secure situation for the party.

Finally, I see parties setting up really awkward situations because of an insistence on belaying off an anchor. One typical scenario is an anchor on a wall behind a large ledge. The belay off the anchor devotee sets up a belay at the anchor at the wall, and the rope runs fifteen feet to the edge of the ledge and over it. Instead of sitting at the edge and being in full communication with the second, the anchor belayer is way back out of sight and out of earshot, with lots of extra friction impeding taking in because of the bend over the edge.

Belays off the harness allow for body bracing strategies and accommodate all kinds of anchor configurations that are really awkward, if not unworkable, for a direct belay off the anchor. Knowing how to do both and choosing the method most suitable to the situation at hand is way better than a one-size-fits-all approach.

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By Dave Carey
From Morrison, CO
May 25, 2011
I like the discussion and it has solidified my intuition that it is best for the lead to clip into the Master Point of the anchor/shelf etc. I am not sure about the highest piece, might as well use the equalized, multidirectional anchor. Best catch the lead vs. drop him!! As for clipping the top piece vs. the MP/shelf; statistically there is a higher probability of all 3 pieces failing if you clip just the highest piece versus the multidirectional equalized anchor (at least the way I work it out - although, each piece should be able to hold a fall by themselves).

As for belaying off the harness for a second, I definitely never would have thought to do that, but I have never had that situation. Sounds like a discretionary decision.

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