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Is belaying a leader without gloves an accident waiting to happen?


Scott McMahon · · Boulder, CO · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 1,425

I caught a factor 45....that's right and I've NEVER lost a man!!

P LaDouche · · CO · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 15
Tony B wrote: That's just strange... Given that I've caught two ~factor-2 falls in my life when my partners (July 1995, John Cioci Fiddler on the Roof, & Spring 1996, Gary Stetler, on Over The Hill), went right past me and past the belay... and that I've never worn a belay glove in my life or used a grigri free climbing... And that I've never been burned by the rope or hurt while belaying or dropped the climber... I think it is quite a bit less cut-and-dried that you make it out to be. I think that your reduction of the probabilities is way way off.
I'll second that.

Maybe its the old school thing, people used to use figure 8s(I started with one) and those things are a different story. I've caught some HUGE falls with an old school ATC, no gloves, no burn.
Rick Blair · · Denver · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 268

Anyone else like using their gloves for coiling the rope?

Scott McMahon · · Boulder, CO · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 1,425
Rick Blair wrote:Anyone else like using their gloves for coiling the rope?
Is that what they are calling it nowadays?? "Coiling the Rope"???

I prefer a sock myself!! (Friday humor! Don't be offended!)
Suze Slezinger · · Tucson AZ · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 20

My climbing partner is about 70 lbs heavier than me. I have never had an issue catching a fall on lead without gloves, but when lowering him off of the chains, I almost always use gloves. It provides a much smoother lower and saves my skin. Up to you, I think you have to weigh the situation. When belaying people closer to my size, I don't always wear them.

Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,110
tomtom wrote:When I'm belaying a climber much bigger than me, I like to have a glove. Especially if they expect to be lowered off from the anchors.
Agree that for lowering someone much heavier, I use a glove. Belaying is never a problem if device is properly used. Often you lose dexterity and rope management with a glove on your hand for belays.
slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,088

i guess a question that i would have to ask rgold is - was the glove actually the reason that the rope slipped through your hands (ie due to a slippery glove)? i have caught several very violent falls (not FF2 but probably getting in the FF 1.7'ish range, my partner went past me on one, and on another fell with no piece in as he was starting above the belay) and have never had the rope slip through my hands. either that or you need to add some wheaties to your diet and work on that grip strength! :)

mcarizona · · Flag · Joined Feb 2007 · Points: 180

Haven't needed gloves for a figure 8, or an ATC....... now coiling the rope....

Tony B · · Around Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 23,205
Scott McMahon wrote:I caught a factor 45....that's right and I've NEVER lost a man!!
Who do you think you are?
Mark Nelson?
Oh, wait, sorry, wrong thread.
kBobby Hanson · · Spokane, WA · Joined Oct 2001 · Points: 1,265
Tony B wrote: Who do you think you are? Mark Nelson? Oh, wait, sorry, wrong thread.
Mark Nelson doesn't use gloves for protection.

Gloves use Mark Nelson for protection.
Jan Tarculas · · Riverside, Ca · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 808
Bobby Hanson wrote: Mark Nelson doesn't use gloves for protection. Gloves use Mark Nelson for protection.
I think you guys meant Chuck Norris. He doesn't even use a belay device, let alone gloves. He IS the belay device.
Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 14,449
spencerparkin wrote:Long question short, when and where do you use gloves when climbing, if ever?
I wear gloves when my hands are cold, ie, usually in the winter usually ice climbing or alpine.

Feel like I have more control feeding the rope and reacting quickly without a glove on. More tactile.

I've caught a bunch of falls, some long, some quite hard (and fairly recently - last week for instance). Probably never a true whopper of a factor two right onto a belay anchor, though. Longest fall caught was on a hip belay, though (which I barely felt, as my partner plummted for more than 50 feet, pulling gear, slamming into the rock, breaking ribs and ankle. Good times.).

Some folks don't catch well. Some folks don't rappel well, either, for some reason, having trouble controlling their friction. Not sure a glove really helps in that situation, just really avoiding the real issue of need to learn to manage the friction better.

What I see and suspect happens out there, in the field, is some people don't pay that much attention to their climber. Or, their attention is overly focused on the mechanics of their belay rather than on the whole enchalada. I check, double check my belay start, usually middle and finish, a few times over the course of belaying a partner who's leading, and, on a follow too. Usually just make sure the locking biner has the proper orientation, my position is optimal, I consider the "what if they fell right now" options all the time during the course of their travel. I move to better my belay position. I keep an eye on my partner and anticipate the rope needs. I glance down occasionally to make sure the remainding rope on the ground is feeding ok.

Situational awareness. Much more important to be in the game and react quickly than whether or not to wear a glove. Most folks who I see wearing gloves belaying do so to keep their hands from getting schredded from all the rope handling they do, including repeated lowering of parnters from top anchors.

You really should be part way to locking the rope off (or ready to lock after some slippage depending on the climber position and fall) when you see and/or hear your climber start to come off. You shouldn't really be reacting to "feeling" the rope pull from a falling partner. That short little delay can be really bad...

Anyhoo, a good, solid belayer is hard to find. Not many people have the focus over time to do it well.

As the man says:

Edward Whymper wrote:Do nothing in haste, look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end.
Tony B · · Around Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 23,205
RNclimber wrote: I think you guys meant Chuck Norris. He doesn't even use a belay device, let alone gloves. He IS the belay device.
People quit talking about Chuck Norris earlier this year when Mark Nelson kicked his ass.
Perin Blanchard · · Orem, UT · Joined Oct 2005 · Points: 8,300
Tony B wrote: That's just strange... Given that I've caught two ~factor-2 falls in my life when my partners (July 1995, John Cioci Fiddler on the Roof, & Spring 1996, Gary Stetler, on Over The Hill), went right past me and past the belay... and that I've never worn a belay glove in my life or used a grigri free climbing... And that I've never been burned by the rope or hurt while belaying or dropped the climber... I think it is quite a bit less cut-and-dried that you make it out to be. I think that your reduction of the probabilities is way way off.
There is no doubt things aren't as cut-and-dried as I stated; see in particular rgold's mention of fall severity. However, the OP is essentially looking for a rule-of-thumb; my own rule of thumb, based not on personal experience but rather on data from various sources (primarily controlled studies of belay devices from Italian and German alpine clubs) is that I will not be able to catch a high factor fall without significant slippage.

That said, in the service of improving my understanding of such things, I'd like to learn more about some of the parameters of the falls you caught (particularly since yours are real world experiences, different from the controlled studies performed by the Europeans).

If you remember the details of those falls, would you be willing to share the following?

What was the belay device?

What was the rope diameter?

Approximately how much did the leader weigh? (the weight used in the drop tests to which I referred was an 80kg iron weight, which is not the best representation of a floppy human body).

Was the fall free? (I.e., did the leader fall only through the air or did he slide and scrape a bit at some point during the fall?)

Was the rope clipped into an anchor piece, or did you catch the fall directly on your harness?

Did you use the somewhat unusual "wrap the rope around your brake hand" method that I've seen you describe elsewhere?
Eric Krantz · · Black Hills · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 420

I don't wear gloves. My partner doesn't fall, so I can probably get rid of my belay device too.

Allen Hill · · FIve Points, Colorado and Pine · Joined Jun 2004 · Points: 1,410

I only started using a belay device ten years ago. Before that I caught plenty of falls with a hip belay and certainly no gloves. I'm not sure what all the fuss is. Do what makes you and your partner most comfortable.

Kevin Stricker · · Evergreen, CO · Joined Oct 2002 · Points: 575

I'm more of a convenience glove wearer. For sport climbing I wear gloves to belay because I don't like getting my hands all grimy. For big wall/aid climbing I wear gloves for protection( and to keep from getting grimy).

I feel I give a better belay without gloves. Sure I may get a rope burn if the fall is bad enough, but I will be giving more friction to the system with my bare hands than with a glove on. I also feel I have more dexterity without gloves, and it seems to me that fumbling with the rope is more likely to cause an accident than not having gloves.

Also any time I have gotten a rope burn I did not know it until after the fact. I find it hard to believe someone would let go of the rope because of it, but what do I know.

Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,110

Jim Ebert never wore gloves and used a hip belay for most long falls. On a goldline.

Tony B · · Around Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 23,205
Perin Blanchard wrote: I'd like to learn more about some of the parameters of the falls you caught (particularly since yours are real world experiences, different from the controlled studies performed by the Europeans). If you remember the details of those falls, would you be willing to share the following? What was the belay device? What was the rope diameter? Approximately how much did the leader weigh? (the weight used in the drop tests to which I referred was an 80kg iron weight, which is not the best representation of a floppy human body). Was the fall free? (I.e., did the leader fall only through the air or did he slide and scrape a bit at some point during the fall?) Was the rope clipped into an anchor piece, or did you catch the fall directly on your harness? Did you use the somewhat unusual "wrap the rope around your brake hand" method that I've seen you describe elsewhere?
I'll try, situation (1) was John on Fiddler on the Roof, (2) was Gary on Over The Hill.

What was the belay device?
1&2 both -An old school ATC or something similar- like DMM Bug, Trango Pyramid, Lowe "square tuber", the Tuber is actually most likely at that time.

What was the rope diameter?
1&2 both: 10.5 or 10.2, I climbed exclusively on Bluewater ropes back then, and on 60M bicolors (before 70m was really available), so it would have been a model offered as such.

Approximately how much did the leader weigh?
1) John weighed just over 160 and had a full rack on him.
2) Gary is not very tall, I'd guess 150 or maybe a little under, + rack.

Was the fall free?
1) Hell yeah, but with a sideways swing as the rope went tight.
2) Luckily yeah, he missed the ledge.

Was the rope clipped into an anchor piece, or did you catch the fall directly on your harness?
1&2) I belay off my harness but ALWAYS "slingshot" clip a point above me in the anchor, so it was clipped through a piece a few feet up above me, and I do get picked up a bit by large falls.

Did you use the somewhat unusual "wrap the rope around your brake hand" method that I've seen you describe elsewhere?

1) I don't think so, as I was feeding OUT rope to get him clear of the big roof below on his swing, so he wouldn't get pasted into it. I doubt I got it wrapped after locking it off. But it all happened pretty fast. I sagged down and locked off and got jerked upward into the anchor (as I expected).
2) Yes. That's how I leave the rope. Gary was up above placing his first piece in the crack after traversing outward from the corner and maybe 10-15' feet up (the crack on P3, if you know the route). His foot popped and all the sudden he was flying past me. I had him locked off and wrapped the whole time, so I just sagged down (slumped) and waited for the upward jerk.

Hope that helps.
Lessons? Maybe so: always slingshot the belay, always be ready.
no1nprtclr · · Front range Colorado · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 55

My partner caught me on about a 30 foot whipper and caught me with no problem using a 9.8mm rope.

Oh, and she wasn't wearing gloves....

Juan

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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