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Which belay device should I get?
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By Jon Powell
From LAWRENCEVILLE GEORGIA
Feb 13, 2013
stone depot
Safety is the number one thing in climbing. Good advice from above but if you have a gym in the area that teaches belay skills then take the class. Most are $25.00-$50.00 which is well worth it especially if it could keep someone from being injured. I weight 170 and have been belayed by people 90 to 100 lbs safely. Just remember don't get in a hurry and learn things properly. And beware if your a new climber. Climbing is addictive and will change your life :)

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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Feb 13, 2013
Stabby
tylerevelyn wrote:
My husband and I are just learning to climb and belay, but were not planning to go out on our own for a while. We go with a group that are all fairly advanced, experienced climbers. So, I've been talked through a few easy belays.

So learn from them. No point listening to all the clucking hens here.

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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Feb 13, 2013
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogstick Ridge link-up.  Photo by Myriam Bouchard
Mike Lane wrote:
So learn from them. No point listening to all the clucking hens here.


Ah, a condundrum. By posting here, Mike Lane becomes one of the clucking hens, in which case his advice is to ignore his advice.

Which is probably a good idea. John Wilder, in particular, has given a lot of helpful information. In any case, the OP has no way to evaluate the expertise of the climbers she is with and so has no reason to believe they are either more or less knowledgeable and reliable than the clucking hens.

If you ask for information from any large group of people, you will get a range of responses, usually from expert and useful to uninformed and possibly downright dangerous, with the distinctions often open to debate. At the end of the day, you'll have to make decisions based on what seems to be the most rational opinions and review those decisions as you require experience.

Here are my clucks:

1. Good for you for being nervous about the process. Most of the problems start when nervousness ends.

2. Weight differences are about more than being lifted. A belayer's hand strength is in some rough proportion to their weight. A light person belaying a heavy person will be more challenged than if the positions are reversed, so a light person belaying a heavy person needs devices and/or strategies that will provide enough friction.

3. Belay practices should be adapted to the worst-case scenario, and should not be merely adequate for what happens most of the time. Failure to understand this leads to dropped leaders and burnt hands.

4. Handling motions have to be practiced in controlled environments until they are absolute second nature.

Some elaborations:

Re 1: There seems to be a pendulum mental process in which people go from being fearful to complacent. It isn't all that hard to hold typical leader falls, which are relatively short, with relatively low fall-factor, and involve decent system friction. I believe there are quite a few belayers out there who would find they can't hold a much more serious fall but have no idea this is the case. This issue is compounded by the use of ever-thinner ropes.

Re 2: Different devices have differing amounts of friction. The highest-friction ATC-style device I know of is the Metolius BRD. It is also among the worst for handling, meaning that your management skills have to be especially good or you will short-rope the leader. At the other end, the original non-toothed ATC is inadequate for most of today's thinner ropes.

I think there is a lot to be said for using assisted-locking devices, especially when there is a weight mismatch for the climbers. In addition to the Grigri 2, there is the Mammut Smart Alpine and the Alpine Up. From a handling perspective, I think the Alpine Up is superior. If the ropes are fat, the Grigri is the only choice, however.

Unfortunately, listening to opinions, whether from internet poultry or local climbers---who may or may not be real live turkeys themselves---is of limited value. By far the best thing to do is to try to test out a bunch of devices (borrowed for the purpose, one hopes) in a controlled situation and see for yourself which works best.

Re 3: Wear gloves when belaying the leader. Pay no attention to the fact that not many people do this.

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By bearbreeder
Feb 13, 2013
Cluck cluck cluck ;)

If your worried about "safety" go hire a guide specifically to teach you how to belay

Or find the most experienced safe person you can and offer them beer, gas money, etc

Beware that there are plenty of people out there with "lots of experience" belaying who arent competent belayers

They dont know how to give soft catches when needed, or shorten the rope, or tie someone off in an emergency, etc ...

Unless a person has caught alot of lead falls and does so regularly to stay in practice, they arent "competent"

Belaying is more than just locking off the rope and praying =P

Its also not something you learn off the intraweb forums ... I was almost killed by someone who did that

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By Adam Block
From Tucson, AZ
Mar 15, 2013
The first time I went out climbing I was with a friend that said "see this" as they showed me the ATC, he took the rope, set it up on my harness, said "get how this works" to which I said "yep" and before he started climbing he just said "keep me off the ground". Man, he was either nuts or really trusted me!

I have used an ATC, Grigri, figure 8 and a munters and they all do the same thing. If you're new, I would have some concern about a leader falling, pulling you into the rock and you letting go or the rope as an involuntary reaction. In this case I would go with a grigri and a newer rope so you can feed slowly (inform the leader they may get shorted) and learn what you're doing without any additional risks.

If you're only belaying top rope I would use an ATC and get very used to doing so until the muscle memory is there. Most people that have been climbing for awhile would have to get knocked out to take their brake hand off the rope, that just comes with time.

Also, don't belay with it but learn the munter, it's something every climber should know as an "in case" option.

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By SDY
Mar 15, 2013
PPPPSSSSSSShhhhhhhhhh.... hip belay. Belay devices are gimmicks.

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By kilonot
Mar 15, 2013
IMO, The Mammut Smart is by far the best belay device out there. Whichever device you use, read and reread the manual. Practice indoors and on the ground. Rap off a pull up bar or similar a bunch to get comfortable with how the device responds to your input.

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