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Belaying


Original Post
beth bennett · · boulder · Joined May 2007 · Points: 5

I finally have to post something after my 3rd injury following a lousy belay. We all know that belaying is incredibly important and everyone has different desires about how to belay- and you should communicate them. you should also pay attention to what the climber wants. I'm lighter than most of my partners and I ask them to jump if I fall. Hitting the end of the rope with a big loop means I hit hard with a long loop- i.e. NOT a dynamic belay. Similarly, bigger partners can pull in a lot of slack when i fall and slam me into the rock Not a good outcome either. Grigris exacerbate the problem. Take home message, each climber needs an individual style of belaying, something that should be discussed and attended to. People love my belays because they get soft falls. I wish I could get the same.

Ryan Watts · · Bishop, CA · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 25
beth bennett wrote:I finally have to post something after my 3rd injury following a lousy belay.
It strikes me that there may be a common denominator here...
jellybean · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 0

Beth, were all 3 from the same belayer? I personally find belaying more stressful than climbing. I only trust three belayers for hard climbing on lead. All three have made mistakes and learned from them. If I feel shaky about someone's belay then I'll just top-rope or climb easy stuff with them. My "redpoint" belayers have proven themselves worthy and are precious. Talk about the belay before climbing, like are there any ledges or hard 2nd or 3rd clips, to be especially attentive on and how best to deal with them. Nobody is perfect. If the person belaying you can understand how the belay could have been better then you could form a better belay partner. My 3 are awesome, when I am climbing I don't even trip on my belay at all. I am confident that they will give me the belay they think I need , not so much the belay I might want. Having a belay that I trust is so key to me climbing hard. Be careful how you approach your shitty belay because with experience they might end up being your perfect belay.

Be safe JB.

rging · · Salt Lake City, Ut · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 210

Maybe you should try using a dynamic rope.

Alexander Blum · · Charlotte, NC · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 132
rging wrote:Maybe you should try using a dynamic rope.
Have you considered attempting to not be a jerk in every thread?
Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 877

Hi Beth. Thanks for bringing this up. These are valuable discussions that most people are too arrogant to think they should be discussing. The ass clowns above don't realize you have been climbing for a long time and climb way harder than they ever will.

Myself, I'm on the other end of the spectrum with belay needs. I tend to out way my partners by 50 to 80 lbs. So I always get a soft catch. I ask my partners to keep me close because I fall a long way even when only a short distance above my gear due to stretch and lifting my partners. Sometimes this is ok and sometimes it is not.

Can you tell us more about the causes of your injuries. Are you getting ankle injuries from lead falls? What is it that you need more from you belays? Softer catches? More attentiveness?

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 579

I'm with Greg- not only is Beth an excellent climber, she's one of the nicest, most positive folks you'll be around.

To the engineer/technical folks, would a stretchier rope make enough of a difference to be worth it?

bearbreeder · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 3,065

Beth

- get a beal rope ... Look for one with ~40% dynamic stretch and ~7kn impact force ... It makes a difference

- only accept belays from folks using ATCs or perhaps an assisted locker with some slip like a smart

- its actually pretty hard to jump into a catch with much lighter climbers, the timing needs to be perfect ... Get then to walk into it instead

- make sure your partner knows the "long belay" method with an atc ... He holds the brake strand further down the rope ... Then as you fall his brake hand slides up ...

- or refuse to climb with folks much heavier than u

teece303 · · Highlands Ranch, CO · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 596

I'd love to hear some more specifics, too, beth. The basic mechanics of a belay we tend to master, but all of the subtleties of giving a great belay in every situation are much more complex, and some folks rarely even think about them.

It's good to talk about!

highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 35
bearbreeder wrote: or refuse to climb with folks much heavier than u
In such a male sport, this is hard to come by for the woman under 100, at least regularly. It is probably a reason why women like their women partners so much. That and the pillow fights at the bivvy.
bearbreeder · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 3,065
nicelegs wrote: In such a male sport, this is hard to come by for the woman under 100, at least regularly. It is probably a reason why women like their women partners so much. That and the pillow fights at the bivvy.
Out in vancouver/squamish there are quite few women climbers ... At least for sport

There are also quite a few skinny men of smaller stature ...
Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,724

I think it's situational dependent- as far as mechanics are concerned with regard to belay device. When you're anchored in on multi- especially if you have something to protect you from getting yanked above your anchor, then yes, an ATC will offer a bit of slip, and thus a more dynamic belay.

To those that think that you can't give a dynamic belay using a "lock assist" device like a Gri or Cinch, you're just plain wrong. The problem is that some people do not learn that belaying is just as much of an essential skill, if not more so, than climbing. As a result, they do not pay particular attention to the necessary and specific skills of belaying properly.

For example, it is certainly possible to not short rope your leader while using either a tube or an assist device, but both require different methods for feeding, and both require being attentive. Yet I continuously get short roped on both, by different belayers, even when the clip is at my abdomen/chest level. Unacceptable.

Also, with regard to giving a soft catch, I'm in Greg's realm. I typically outweigh my climber, so I'm forced to be very attentive and time hops accurately so as to dissipate force at the end of a fall. One of my regular partners is about 40-45 lbs lighter than me, and I'm the only person he'll let belay when he's going for a redpoint. There's a flip side as well. If you're significantly lighter, you need to know how much because there are times where you'll have to actually brace a little, knowing that you'll be yanked up anyway as a counterweight. If you hop when your climber outweighs you, you'll likely go all the way to your first piece, and that's never fun.

There's a pet peeve of mine that I hear ALL THE TIME. People thinking that more rope out means a soft catch. Not only is this incorrect, but it's a belief which fosters a habit of laziness and complacency while belaying. I give my climber just enough rope to move freely and not feel it- and no more. I pay attention. The only time my timing is off is when a hold breaks, or when the fall is as much a surprise to the climber as it is to me.

I think you see hard catches much more from people that don't lead climb all the time, or lead belay, or folks that are just getting into it. The habit learned learned while top-rope belaying- to yard on the rope and tense up, is completely the opposite of lead belaying and it's a tough one to break for some people.

I guess my point in all this long winded post is that to me, it depends less on the device or the rope, and more on the learning process of belaying, or lack thereof. I think overall, belaying isn't taken as seriously as climbing regarding skill development, and it should be. There's more to it than keeping someone off the ground. Much more. Good post Beth. I couldn't agree more.

bearbreeder · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 3,065

- some slack (not a ton) allows for reaction time ... If your lighter climber is always tigh on the rope you may not react quickly enough especially if you cant see her (over a roof, etc)

- the stretchier ropes and atc helps especially if you screw up

Yes we know everyone is a perfecr belay and belays awwwsum on da intrawebs ...

A good hard sport climber will often take 5-10 falls or more a day, climbs hard sport for at least 100 days a year in and outside

Thats 1000 falls a year ...

Any belayer who says they can give perfect soft catches everytime to their much lighter partners over several years, or several thousand falls is simply lying or in denial

All it takes is one not so soft one for a broken ankle ...

Eric Engberg · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 0

My pet peeve is the often stated belief that a soft catch is the holy grail - one size fits all. Mention a "Stone mountain running belay" and you'll get blank stares or at best get dismissed with a "that's an edge case". For lots of people in lots of contexts the soft catch is the edge case.

The bottom line is that there is no bottom line. The right technique is context specific and the soft catch zealots are just like any other religious fanatics..

Short Beta · · Troy, MI · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 45

If you can't competently lead belay with a Grigri, you shouldn't be climbing...it's not that hard. Grigris have saved lives in the event of accidents (I can attest to this) and giving soft catches with it should never be an issue if you know what you're doing.
If someone gives you a shitty catch and they are being a jerk about it, then dump them. Move on. Watch how people belay in the gym and try to stick to the people whose belay techniques makes you comfortable.

Chris Massey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 5
Short Beta wrote:Watch how people belay in the gym and try to stick to the people whose belay techniques makes you comfortable.
I guess we have reached the point where it is just assumed that everyone spends time climbing in a gym. Oh how this sport has changed...
Short Beta · · Troy, MI · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 45

If you actually read what I posted , you'll see that I never said that everyone climbs in the gym. I offered a suggestion, because it's pretty common to train and meet friends at a gym. And if you don't climb in the gym, then it doesn't apply to you and don't worry about it.

rging · · Salt Lake City, Ut · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 210
Alexander Blum wrote: Have you considered attempting to not be a jerk in every thread?
So all climbing ropes are created equal? The average rope is around 30% elongation while the UIAA certifies all the way up to 40%. Equipment acts more consistently than a human can so my first choice of improvements would be to get a 40% elongation rope.
Ryan Watts · · Bishop, CA · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 25
Short Beta wrote:If you can't competently lead belay with a Grigri, you shouldn't be climbing...it's not that hard. Grigris have saved lives in the event of accidents (I can attest to this) and giving soft catches with it should never be an issue if you know what you're doing. If someone gives you a shitty catch and they are being a jerk about it, then dump them. Move on. Watch how people belay in the gym and try to stick to the people whose belay techniques makes you comfortable.
I think the point of the post is that there is a difference between "competent" and "good" and it can mean the difference between getting injured and not.

Like someone said above anybody who thinks they are a "perfect" belayer every time is delusional.
Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,724

Absolutely. No one is perfect every time. Especially in those moments where your climber goes to clip, gets sketched, readjusts quickly, then quickly clips. Also, it's difficult to give a good soft catch when the climber falls almost immediately above a bolt or piece. Less reaction time. Then there's long wandering pitches where you can't see or hear shit, and that's another story entirely.

My point was simply that if more people took belaying more seriously, you'd probably experience much less of what I think we all have at one point or another- shitty belaying and/or injury from shitty belaying. Sure, accidents happen and no one is perfect, but you can look around while at any densely populated crag or gym and see some heinous bullshit going on that can in no way be construed as proper belaying, and that sucks IMO.

David Gibbs · · Ottawa, ON · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2
rging wrote: So all climbing ropes are created equal? The average rope is around 30% elongation while the UIAA certifies all the way up to 40%. Equipment acts more consistently than a human can so my first choice of improvements would be to get a 40% elongation rope.
Yes there is. But that's not what your post said.

rging wrote:Maybe you should try using a dynamic rope.
30% and 40% dynamic elongation are both dynamic ropes. Suggesting that she use a stretchier rope might have been reasonable. Suggesting that she was leading on a static rope (so leading is an idiotic thing to do) is being a jerk.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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