Question about belaying from anchor in the ground on top of multi pitch route?


Original Post
Shepido · Oct 28, 2015 · CO · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 0
I lead my second multi-pitch sport route this past week, which topped out on to a large slightly downward sloping area with several boulders. The fixed anchors were set in the ground lower than the lip of the cliff and about 20ft away. None of the boulders are sufficiently large to sling and belay off of, so I can see why it was set up this way. I ended up having about 20 ft of 7mm cord, and then tying a clove hitch to the locker which I extended about 5 ft so I could sit on the edge and see my second. I belayed the second directly off my harness (indirect belay). It seemed ok, however, I am wondering is this the preferred belay method for this situation? Most things I have read indicate that a direct belay is the preferred method, however faced with setup I couldn't think of how to safely (and quickly) rig anything other than what I did.

vincent L. · Oct 28, 2015 · Redwood City · Joined Jan 2005 · Points: 305
Did you incorporate the climbing rope into the belay? I would have situated myself at the edge like you did, belayed off my harness, but be tied into the anchor 20 feet away via the climbing rope, either clove hitched or tied off...

Zak Munro · Oct 28, 2015 · VT,CO, Bar Harbor ME · Joined Sep 2012 · Points: 175
The way you belayed was perfectly fine, but in a situation where you had to escape the belay for some reason or your second became unable to make it up the climb and you had to haul them you would hosed. You could still belay off the anchor with a device in guide mode when the anchor is very far back from the cliff with careful rope management ( its usually just much more difficult to feed rope through) or you can tie whats called an extended master point with the rope. Using the rope on the back side of your clove hitch measure out where you would want the master point to be then tie a bight knot (overhand/figure 8) and put your belay device here. This allows you to be closer to your device, but with this much rope out but aware of elongation (how much the rope will stretch once weighted) and any cut potential if the rope were to get weighted. When my anchor is far back from the edge of the cliff and I am belaying from the top I use this system quite often, but before taking this out on your next climb I would highly encourage you to practice this on the ground and make sure all of the important components are in place!

eli poss · Oct 28, 2015 · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136
In this situation I would have tied into the bolt anchor at the length that gets me to the edge + 6 inches. then clove a biner into my tie-in strand at the most comfortable length away from me and belay off a munter. you could probably substitute a munter with guide mode belay.

Edit to add photos:

belay diagram

What happens if the second falls. It auto blocks

And it auto-blocks if the second falls, as long as the optional biner in the above photo doesn't slide through the belay biner. Preferably use a smaller belay biner than the auto-block biner.

Shepido · Oct 29, 2015 · CO · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 0
vincent L. wrote:Did you incorporate the climbing rope into the belay? I would have situated myself at the edge like you did, belayed off my harness, but be tied into the anchor 20 feet away via the climbing rope, either clove hitched or tied off...
sorry if I did not make that clear, yes I was cloved into a locker which was attached to an equalized 7mm cord.

rgold · Oct 29, 2015 · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 40
When the anchors are very low to the ground I'd say the direct belay doesn't deserve to be "preferred" and might be quite inferior, depending on the lay of the land. If a load pulls a direct belay device into the dirt or against hard ground, various unpleasant scenarios are possible, so you were certainly right not to try that method in your situation.

What I've started to call the modern harness belay, for lack of a better term, is the way to go. You set up as you described, using the adjustability of the clove hitch to make sure that you have an absolutely taut tie-in line. You clip the belay device to the rope tie-in loop, not your harness loop, but otherwise belay as you would with an old-fashioned harness belay. If a fall happens, the belay device weights the tie-in directly and the belayer doesn't get pinched or twisted from harness involvement. It is really another form of direct belay.

There is no problem escaping this belay, assuming you have a sling or two, so no drawback in terms of self-rescue options.

If it is a long way back to the anchor, one might start to worry about how much stretch there will be in the anchor tie-in. One way to reduce the stretch is to clip the climbing rope to the anchor and bring it all the way back to the climber and put the clove hitch there. This gives a two-strand tie in that will stretch less, and also has the significant advantage of enabling fine-tuning of the tie-in length when in position. If one is concerned about belay escape (in many, perhaps most, cases it isn't really much of a concern), then tie small loop in the rope (alpine butterfly is best for this) just past the tie-in loop and clove the anchor rope to a biner clipped to that loop.

aikibujin · Oct 29, 2015 · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 135
Sounds like the top out of Black Gold? I thought the anchor was not placed so well. Sure none of the boulders look like great option to place bolts, but I also don't see the need to place them so far back from the edge. Anyway, I did exactly what you did, except I didn't even use any extra cord, I used the climbing rope to clip directly into the anchors (3 bolts if I remember correctly). For anyone who hasn't done that particular route, the top of the cliff slopes down as you move away from the edge (OP mentioned this). So not only is the anchor about 15-20 feet away from the edge, it is also about 6 feet lower than the edge. Using either re-directed belay or belay directly off the anchor means that you’re either dealing with shoulder-breaking rope drag, or you have to extend yourself over the edge for a very uncomfortable hanging belay. Sitting at the edge and belaying directly off the harness was the most practical choice.

Belaying directly off the harness was a pretty common method before any of the auto-blocking belay devices came along. Some of the other methods were redirecting the rope through the anchor (like a mini-toprope) and munter on the anchor. But when you top out on a route and your anchor points are at the ground level by your feet, belaying directly off the harness was (and probably still is) the preferred method. Escaping the belay is no problem if you know what you're doing. These days many climbers prefer to belay directly off the anchor with an auto-blocking device, so they either forgot or never learned how to belay directly off the harness. One thing to remember about belaying directly off your harness: make sure your tether to the anchor is on the same side as your brake hand (i.e., if you brake hand is your right hand, then make sure your anchoring tether is on your right side). If you normally brake by pulling the brake strand down with both hands, you need to brake by pulling the brake strand up (toward your chest) with both hands.

Idaho Bob · Oct 29, 2015 · McCall, ID · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 48
Basic setup sounds good, but direct belay is preferable. Suggest using a Grigri in this type of setup rather than an ATC since there is no problem belaying at some distance from the Grigri, something that is not possible with the ATC. This is one of the reasons to consider carrying both an ATC and a Grigri.

Shepido · Oct 29, 2015 · CO · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 0
It was the top out of black gold actually. Great guess based on the description. Previously I had climbed Furlough Day and linked up with Playing Hookey to top out about 20ft away. I just assumed the anchor situation was going to be similar on Black Gold.

I've belayed from the top in guide mode before in Ouray, however generally the routes tend to roll gradually over, as a result you can get yourself into a decent stance at the top and not have to hang to much to belay.

Medic741 · Oct 29, 2015 · Red Hook, New York · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 85
^^^ if your belay device is really far away a grigri is a worse choice than an atc in guide mode, especially if the grigri is on an anchor in the ground and therefore pressed against the ground when weighted. Pressing up against rock can keep the gri gri cam from engaging, something to be careful of and aware of that makes it a poor choice if it's far away and on a ground anchor pressed against a rock

Medic741 · Oct 29, 2015 · Red Hook, New York · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 85
^^^ if your belay device is really far away a grigri is a worse choice than an atc in guide mode, especially if the grigri is on an anchor in the ground and therefore pressed against the ground when weighted. Pressing up against rock can keep the gri gri cam from engaging, something to be careful of and aware of that makes it a poor choice if it's far away and on a ground anchor pressed against a rock

Medic741 · Oct 29, 2015 · Red Hook, New York · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 85
^^^ if your belay device is really far away a grigri is a worse choice than an atc in guide mode, especially if the grigri is on an anchor in the ground and therefore pressed against the ground when weighted. Pressing up against rock can keep the gri gri cam from engaging, something to be careful of and aware of that makes it a poor choice if it's far away and on a ground anchor pressed against a rock

aikibujin · Oct 29, 2015 · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 135
Idaho Bob wrote:Basic setup sounds good, but direct belay is preferable. Suggest using a Grigri in this type of setup rather than an ATC since there is no problem belaying at some distance from the Grigri,
Not in this case. What you propose is actually dangerous in this anchor set up. To belay directly off the anchor with a Grigri or an autoblocking device, the device should be away from anything that might interfere with its autoblocking operation. For this particular route, if you clip the Grigri directly to the anchor, it would be sitting on the ground. A fall from the second may very well push the cam against the ground and disable its braking ability. And if you’re belaying away from the Grigri as you suggest (maybe leaning over the edge to see your second), then by the time you get back to the Grigri to fix it, it may be too late (the anchor is 15-20 feet away from the edge). In fact, even though it’s possible to belay away from a Grigri or an autoblocking device hanging directly off the anchor, I would still recommend staying within an arm length distance from the device just in case something interferes with its braking operation.

Shepido wrote:It was the top out of black gold actually. Great guess based on the description.
When you see an anchor that makes you go "WTH?!", it's not too hard to spot its description from more than a mile away.

Parker Wrozek · Oct 29, 2015 · Denver, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 63
Shepido wrote:It was the top out of black gold actually. Great guess based on the description. Previously I had climbed Furlough Day and linked up with Playing Hookey to top out about 20ft away. I just assumed the anchor situation was going to be similar on Black Gold. I've belayed from the top in guide mode before in Ouray, however generally the routes tend to roll gradually over, as a result you can get yourself into a decent stance at the top and not have to hang to much to belay.
Black gold was my guess based on the thread description.

Belay off the harness is the best choice and it is nice to move yourself to the ledge but honestly the last pitch is like 5.4 climbing so depending on your partner you can probably just belay by the anchors. That is what I did just standing there.

The hardest part of that route is getting to the rap anchors on playing hooky.

jkd159 · Oct 31, 2015 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 0
rgold wrote:You clip the belay device to the rope tie-in loop, not your harness loop, but otherwise belay as you would with an old-fashioned harness belay.
Rich, doesn't this ring load the tie-in loop? I've always thought that was a bad idea, since the eight knot can roll. This is especially true if the climber used a Yosemite tuck on the eight knot, which increases the ease with which the knot rolls.

rgold wrote:One way to reduce the stretch is to clip the climbing rope to the anchor and bring it all the way back to the climber and put the clove hitch there. This gives a two-strand tie in that will stretch less, and also has the significant advantage of enabling fine-tuning of the tie-in length when in position. If one is concerned about belay escape (in many, perhaps most, cases it isn't really much of a concern), then tie small loop in the rope (alpine butterfly is best for this) just past the tie-in loop and clove the anchor rope to a biner clipped to that loop.
This is what I will always do assuming there is enough rope to reach the anchor and back to the edge. It is quick, solid and straightforward.

Jeff

rgold · Oct 31, 2015 · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 40
jkd159 wrote: Rich, doesn't this ring load the tie-in loop? I've always thought that was a bad idea, since the eight knot can roll. This is especially true if the climber used a Yosemite tuck on the eight knot, which increases the ease with which the knot rolls. Jeff
I should have said something about this. For an upper belay, it doesn't ring-load the tie-in loop unless the belayer somehow falls off the stance. When belaying the leader, it is more likely to ring-load the tie-in loop since the load is trying to raise the belayer.

In either case, an appropriate safeguard is to have a finishing barrel knot on the main rope strand backing up the tie-in loop. This will make rolling impossible if a situation arises in which it might possibly happen.

I tie in exclusively with bowlines, which absolutely have to be backed up in some way, and in particular have to be protected against ring loading as just described.

bearbreeder · Oct 31, 2015 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 25
rgold wrote: One way to reduce the stretch is to clip the climbing rope to the anchor and bring it all the way back to the climber and put the clove hitch there. This gives a two-strand tie in that will stretch less, and also has the significant advantage of enabling fine-tuning of the tie-in length when in position. If one is concerned about belay escape (in many, perhaps most, cases it isn't really much of a concern), then tie small loop in the rope (alpine butterfly is best for this) just past the tie-in loop and clove the anchor rope to a biner clipped to that loop.
use a munter at the anchor carabiner ...

allows for more safety if the anchors are right at the edge

same as above in every other aspect

;)

Ted Pinson · Nov 1, 2015 · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 40
Yeah, it's frustrating how little information there is on indirect belays. I almost always belay off the anchors, but this is not ideal in top-out situations. Does anyone have a good guide/video showing how to do an indirect belay with an ATC? I know that you have to reverse the device (obviously), but proper safety checks, breaking techniques, etc would be useful for reference.

Ted Pinson · Nov 1, 2015 · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 40
Yeah, it's frustrating how little information there is on indirect belays. I almost always belay off the anchors, but this is not ideal in top-out situations. Does anyone have a good guide/video showing how to do an indirect belay with an ATC? I know that you have to reverse the device (obviously), but proper safety checks, breaking techniques, etc would be useful for reference.

bearbreeder · Nov 1, 2015 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 25
Ted Pinson wrote:Yeah, it's frustrating how little information there is on indirect belays. I almost always belay off the anchors, but this is not ideal in top-out situations. Does anyone have a good guide/video showing how to do an indirect belay with an ATC? I know that you have to reverse the device (obviously), but proper safety checks, breaking techniques, etc would be useful for reference.
http://tv.thebmc.co.uk/videos/how-to-belay-at-the-top-of-a-climb/

;)

rgold · Nov 1, 2015 · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 40
That video gives an excellent example of a situation in which you do not want to use a guide belay off the anchor, since the plate could easily get pulled into the crack, where it either might not lock up or, if it does lock, might not be releasable. The crack makes this an extreme example, but I still think any time the belay anchor is so low that the device will be pulled to the ground by a load, the direct guide belay is contraindicated.

The only difference between the set-up in the video and what I suggested (besides the fact that I'd probably have used just the rope to rig the anchor) is that I'd have the device clipped to the rope tie-in loop rather than on my harness belay loop.

People with sharp eyes might notice that the (standard) British belay handling technique would have the practitioner drummed out of the corps by the US belay police.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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